bombers

Sep

30

1941

An airman’s first and last operational flight

The crew of a Whitley bomber preparing for an operation. The Whitley was the backbone of RAF Bomber Command until more modern four engined bombers acme into service.

During the early morning of the 30th of September 1941 the crew were well into their return leg of the flight and was more or less on course for their home base at Topcliffe. They crossed the Yorkshire coast at around 03.30hrs in the Middlesbrough area and a course was set for base at Topcliffe, at a height of 2000 feet to avoid striking the high ground they would have to cross over. There were no problems up to then in the flight.

Jul

25

1941

Bomber Command target Hanover

An RAF Whitley bomber undergoing maintenance earlier in the war.

Our Whitley leapt about 200 feet with the release of tons of high explosives. Now we flew straight and level for 30 seconds, the longest 30 seconds anyone will ever know, so that we could get the required photo of the drop for the intelligence officer back at base. Picture taken – now let’s get the hell out of here.

Jul

21

1941

First German Air Raid on Moscow

A Russian Anti Aircraft position in Moscow, July 1941.

The main objectives were apparently the railway station, industrial areas and aerodromes. Several large fires were caused by enemy aircraft which flew over at a medium height. The Soviet A.A. defences, of which a large proportion were light anti – aircraft guns, put up what was described as ” an impressive show.”

Jul

7

1941

Jimmy Ward climbs out on the wing – mid flight

Sergeant James Allan Ward of No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron RAF, the first New Zealander to win the Victoria Cross during the Second World War, standing in the cockpit of his Vickers Wellington Mark IC, L7818 'AA-V', at Feltwell, Norfolk.

The squadron leader said, “What does it look like to you?” I told him the fire didn’t seem to be gaining at all and that it seemed to be quite steady. He said, “I think we’d prefer a night in the dinghy in the North Sea to ending up in a German prison camp.” With that he turned out seawards and headed for England.

Jun

17

1941

Rommel counter-attacks in the desert

Crusader tanks moving to forward positions in the Western Desert, 26 November 1941. The Mk I only had a two pounder gun and was unreliable.

Next morning, the 17th June, the 5th Light Division set off at the appointed time [4.30am] and after a headlong advance reached the neighbourhood of Sidi Suleiman at 06.00 hours. The 15th Panzer Division had become involved in heavy fighting against an armoured force which the British had sent to parry the danger menacing their army. But it soon reached is objective. Great numbers of destroyed British tanks littered the country through which the two divisions had passed.

Jan

12

1941

Bombing attacks on Italian targets

Wellington bombers

On the night of the 12th/13th, five Wellingtons, also operating from this country, attacked the oil refineries at Venice. One large building was seen to collapse and another was hit by a heavy bomb. The last aircraft reported the target area to be a mass of flames. During these operations a large liner in the vicinity of Venice and hangars and workshops at Padua were machine-gunned.

Nov

22

1940

Condor Base at Bordeaux bombed

Wellington night bomber, moonlit flight 1940

On the night of the 22nd/23rd twenty-four heavy bombers attacked the aerodrome at Bordeaux; twenty-nine tons of high explosive and two thousand eight hundred incendiaries were dropped. The attack appears to have been most successful. Direct hits were obtained on hangars and barrack blocks, and many aircraft on the aerodrome were seen to be on fire. The hangars on the south-west side of the aerodrome were completely burnt out.

Nov

21

1940

Night Bombing of Britain intensifies

A Heinkel He III Bomber undergoing maintenance using a captured RAF airfield crane, November 1940.

During the week the enemy made a greater number of long-range nightbomber sorties than during any other week of the war. On the 19th/20th. approximately 500 aircraft were employed; this is the highest number recorded in operations on any night against this country. Attacks also showed greater concentration, and on the nights of the 14th/15th, 15th/16th and 19/20th heavy attacks were made on Coventry, London and Birmingham respectively; 350 aircraft attacked Coventry, under ideal weather conditions, and 340 were used against Birmingham.

Nov

13

1940

Leonard Cheshire wins the DSO

Damaged Whitley bomber

He decided to attack the railway marshalling yards at Cologne instead and while he was approaching this target his aircraft was suddenly shaken by a succession of violent explosions. The cockpit filled with black fumes and Cheshire lost control of the aircraft, which dived about 2,000 feet, with its fuselage on fire. Cheshire regained control, the fire was extinguished and the Whitley, with a gaping hole in its fuselage, was brought safely back to base after, being in the air for 8 1/2 hours.

Sep

19

1940

Improved Anti-Aircraft defences help morale

In the days following the start of the Blitz large numbers of additional Anti-Aircraft guns were brought into the London area.

Enemy operations were chiefly confined to London and South-East England, although single attacks were reported in other districts and larger formations bombed Portland and Southampton on the 15th September. Several aerodromes were attacked, but none suffered damage of any importance. The main objectives appear to have been railways, public services and industrial targets : details of damage are set out in the Home Security Section. Attacks were, however, largely indiscriminate, particularly at night.