Churchill: “severe, ruthless bombing of Germany” needed

Winston Churchill makes a radio address from his desk at 10 Downing Street, wearing his ‘siren suit’, June 1942.

A bomber crew of No. 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF study a map, while sitting on 250-lb GP bombs which are about to be loaded into their Vickers Wellington Mark IC at East Wretham, Norfolk.

In July 1942 a high level United States military delegation was in London to discuss war strategy. There were tense discussions with the British about the prospect of invading the continent. The American view was the war could only be won by a direct attack on Germany. The British view, often forcibly expressed by the Chief of the General Staff, Alan Brooke, was that a premature invasion without sufficient forces, or the capacity to rapidly reinforce them, would be a recipe for disaster.

It was in this context that Winston Churchill reviewed the overall progress of the war for the benefit of the War Cabinet. The British were winning the argument that an invasion in the near future was impossible. A precondition for such an attack would overcoming the U-boat threat – so that sufficient troops and munitions could be brought into Britain preparatory to an invasion.

That meant that Bombing continued to have a high priority – as the only real means of hitting back. There remained the hope that by these means alone Germany could be broken:

It might be true to say that the issue of the war depends on whether Hitler’s U-boat attack on Allied tonnage, or the increase and application of Allied Air power, reach their full fruition first.

The growth of U-boat warfare and its spread to the most distant waters, as well as improvements in U-boat design, in a formidable degree must be expected. Against this may be set the increase of Allied anti-submarine craft and improvement in methods. But here is a struggle in itself.

On the other hand, we Allies have the Air power. In the days when we were fighting alone, we answered the question : “How are you going to win the war ?” by saying: ” We will shatter Germany by bombing.”

Since then the enormous injuries inflicted on the German Army and man-power by the Russians, and the accession of the man-power and munitions of the United States, have rendered other possibilities open. We look forward to mass invasion of the Continent by liberating armies, and general revolt of the populations against the Hitler tyranny.

All the same, it would be a mistake to cast aside our original thought which, it may be mentioned, is also strong in American minds, namely, that the severe, ruthless bombing of Germany on an ever-increasing scale will not only cripple her war effort, including U-boat and aircraft production, but will also create conditions intolerable to the mass of the German population.

It is at this point that we must observe with sorrow and alarm the woeful shrinkage of our plans for Bomber expansion. The needs of the Navy and of the Middle East and India, the shortfall of our British production programmes, the natural wish of the Americans to fly their own bombers against the enemy, and the inevitable delay in these machines coming into action, all these falling exclusively upon Bomber Command, have prevented so far the fruition of our hopes for this summer and autumn.

We must regard the Bomber offensive against Germany at least as a feature in breaking her war-will, second only to the largest military operations which can be conducted on the Continent until that war-will is broken. Renewed, intense efforts should be made by the Allies to develop during the winter and onwards ever-growing, ever more accurate and ever more far-ranging Bomber attacks on Germany.

In this way alone can we prepare the conditions which will be favourable to the major military operations on which we are resolved. Provision must be made to ensure that the bombing of Germany is not interrupted, except perhaps temporarily, by the need of supporting military operations. Having regard to the fact that Allied aircraft construction already outnumbers Axis aircraft construction by between two and three to one, these requirements should not be unattainable.

See TNA CAB 66/26/41 ‘A Review of the War Position’

Two Avro Lancaster B Mk Is, R5509 ‘EM-G’ and R5570 ‘EM-F’, of No. 207 Squadron RAF based at Bottesford, Linclonshire, in flight. Both aircraft were eventually lost on operations, R5509 while minelaying in the Baltic on 17 August 1942, and R5570 which crashed near Milan while on a night bombing raid to Turin on 9 December 1942.

30-lb incendiary bombs, just released from an attacking aircraft, fall over the southern suburbs of Nuremberg during the night raid of 28/29 August 1942.

Tiredness etched on the face of a young Halifax pilot of No 405 (Vancouver) Squadron, RCAF, after returning from an operation over Germany, July/August 1942.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Duco Bergsma March 3, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Hi Martin,

Just found out that there where at least 14 registered ‘EM-G’ Lancasters in the 207nd squadron. The one that crashed in Hilversum NL was the ‘ED418 EM-G’. I can’t read the serial on the photo, but it doesn’t look like ED418.
See: http://www.bomber-command.info/207sc.htm and ./sqdncodes.htm

Duco

Editor March 3, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Duco

Many thanks for pointing that out and for including the link, which is a fascinating story. I reproduced the original caption for the photograph which would have been written either by RAF staff or the Air Ministry. Experience of other ‘official’ captions from the period suggests that they are not always infallible, so I think that you are more likely to be correct about ‘EM-G’.

Martin

Duco Bergsma March 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm

You mention that the Lanc with the name ‘EM-G’ was lost “while minelaying in the Baltic on 17 August 1942.
According to my information EM stands for 207nd squadron and G stands for George. This plane was lost in Holland above Hilversum on 13 May 1943. Can this be the same plane? See: http://www.207squadron.rafinfo.org.uk/ED418_Hawkes_Ravenhall.htm

Editor January 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm
Huub January 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Can someone inform me about the original source of the Churchill photo on this page? I would like to use it in a scientific (historical) journal.

Thanks in advance.

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