Low level daylight attack on the Philips plant, Holland

6 December 1942:Low level daylight attack on the Philips’ plant, Holland

It was midday, a lovely sunny day, virtually no cloud, so I set off across the Dutch countryside at high speed. I decided not to follow the given route out which was towards the coast of Holland and out into the North Sea. I decided that that’s where the fighters would be and therefore, I turned north, to the Zeider Zee. The fighters would all be directed to the main formation.

Operation OYSTER, the daylight attack on the Philips radio and valve works at Eindhoven, Holland, by No. 2 Group. De Havilland Mosquito crews gather for a final briefing at Marham, Norfolk, before take off. Standing second from left is Wing Commander H I Edwards VC, Commanding Officer of No. 105 Squadron RAF and leader of the Mosquito force on the raid.
Wing Commander H I Edwards VC (left), leader of the De Havilland Mosquito B Mark IVs of Nos. 105 and 139 Squadrons RAF on the raid, and his navigator approach their aircraft before taking off from Marham, Norfolk.
Ground crews prepare De Havilland Mosquito B Mark IV, DK336, of No. 105 Squadron RAF for the raid at Marham, Norfolk.
A De Havilland Mosquito B Mark IV of No. 105 Squadron RAF taking off for Eindhoven from Marham, Norfolk.
Mosquito B Mark IV Series 2, DK338, in flight after completion. DK338 served with No. 105 Squadron RAF as ‘GB-O’, and took part in the successful low-level raid on the Phillips radio factory at Eindhoven, Holland.

On 6th December 1942 the RAF mounted Operation Oyster, a daylight low level bombing raid on the Philips electronic company in Eindhoven, Holland. It was hoped that this approach would minimise casualties amongst Dutch civilians. It also provided the opportunity to build a well photographed publicity exercise around the whole raid. The Mosquito was developing quite a reputation for [permalink id=23050 text=”this low level work”], although only a small proportion of the aircraft on the raid were of this type.

Squadroner Leader Charles Patterson was one of the more experienced pilots taking part, his observers seat was occupied by Flying Officer Jimmy Hill from RAF Film Unit – the footage from this raid can be seen be seen in the video below:

There were no more fighter interceptions. Ahead of me I saw the front formation of Mosquitoes in the distance already climbing up to 1,500 feet so I immediately took my formation up as fast as I could to 1,500 feet to catch Edwards’ formation. We caught up about two-three miles south of Eindhoven.

He banked over to port and started to dive down on the Philips works in the centre of the town. The moment I turned to port I could see this factory standing out unmistakably, very prominently, right in the centre of Eindhoven.

We all went down in this shallow dive, full throttle, and at the appropriate moment, dropped the bombs. As I went across the Philips works the whole factory seemed to erupt in a cloud of smoke and flashes. It looked as though the whole thing was completely eliminated.

In the distance I could see masses of Bostons whizzing about across the trees at low level to port. I came straight down to ground level. Now the Mosquitoes all split up and we all had to come home separately.

Low-level oblique photograph showing incendiary bombs dropped by Lockheed Venturas bursting on the roof of the Emmasingel lamp and valve factory.
Low-level oblique photograph showing many bursts of 30-lb incendiaries and high-explosive bombs enveloping the Emmasingel lamp and valve factory. Photograph was taken from a Lockheed Ventura of No. 21 Squadron RAF as it cleared the target area.
Douglas Bostons fly over the burning Emmasingel lamp and valve factory at the height of the raid. The works were so severely hit that full production was not resumed for six months.
Smoke and incendiary bombs cover the target area at the height of the attack. Note the Lockheed Ventura at top right.

It was midday, a lovely sunny day, virtually no cloud, so I set off across the Dutch countryside at high speed. I decided not to follow the given route out which was towards the coast of Holland and out into the North Sea. I decided that that’s where the fighters would be and therefore, I turned north, to the Zeider Zee.

The fighters would all be directed to the main formation. Pilot Officer J. E. O’Grady, who was on his first trip, latched on to me to see him home. He followed me all the way up the Zeider Zee and I knew we’d made it when we whizzed over the Causeway at about twenty feet.

I turned to port to come out between Den Helder and Texel. This was a mistake on my part because the flak from Den Helder and from the southern tip of Texel were sufficiently close together that if you flew between the two you were within range of light flak.

And so I had to cross a belt of light flak and weaving tracer as I went through between the two islands. But I was untouched. I took the usual evasive action and the Mosquito behind appeared to be perfectly all right but when we were about six minutes out into the North Sea, Hill said, ‘He’s gone into the sea!’.

At first I could not believe what he was saying because we were thirty miles out to sea now but I turned round to go back and I’m afraid it was only too true. There was a big boiling cauldron of water.

O’Grady was a very nice, cheerful, young Canadian. I’d known him as a pupil at OTU at Upwood when I was an instructor. He only looked about sixteen. I suppose he was about twenty. I had a moment of guilt that if I’d done something different and he hadn’t followed me, he’d still be alive.

This and many other similar stories from Mosquito veterans can be found in Martin Bowman: The Men Who Flew the Mosquito.

Low-level photographic-reconnaissance aerial taken over the Stryp Group main plant 30 minutes after the attack, showing extensive damage to the radio assembly shop and fires still burning at several points. Full production of electrical material at the factory was not reached again until 6 months after the raid. The bombers suffered a loss rate of 15 per cent for the whole force.

Amazing pilots eye view film of the raid:

15 thoughts on “Low level daylight attack on the Philips plant, Holland”

  1. My father in the Royal Signals went to the Philips factory after the Nazis scarpered. All the radios it produced for the Dutch population were only capable of receiving one station, and it wasn’t the BBC!

  2. As a retired danish policeofficer my main “look back i time” goes on policestories. But I’m also is a writer of novels. Right now I’m working on a novel “The Tulip”. The story comes much around Celle (Germany), Copenhagen, Ukraine – and no Holland and Eindhoven.
    I have a few questions, if sombody could help me with a answer.
    How many RAF airplanes took part i the first attack on Philips-factory. And how many were lostr?
    In the second attack 4 months later – the same questions.
    After the second attack – did the deliverence of radiomateriel to Germany stop completely?

  3. My father H John Whittingham was on this raid as a pilot flying a Ventura with 21 squadron

  4. My grandparents had a business and lived across the street from the Philips factory and my father worked at the Philips factory. My father worked in this factory at the time of the raid. My mom lived across the street. My parents have told me horror stories about the war and this particular raid.

  5. My Grandfather Adrianus van Ham (51 years), my Grandmother Petronella van Ham (de Jong, 48 years), my Uncle Hubertus Petrus van Ham (just 16 years of age) were all Dutch civilians killed in this raid. Their bodies were found in the ruins of their home. While this was a great feat of arms by the RAF, it is well to remember the 148 Dutch civilians killed in the raid. Their lives were suddenly and violently taken, martyred for their country by their allies. Rest In Peace dear family.

  6. Really interested in all of this – I have this morning been going through my father’s log book and he records this raid on 6th December 1942 flying with Wing Commander Hughie Edwards VC, flying in Mosquito DZ 365. The pictures that I have of both of them at Marham before and after this raid show some of the effects of stress of the raid and flight, which lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes.
    The ‘Old Man’ was Hughie Edwards’ navigator on this and many other raids. Hughie was my god-father and ended up as Governor of Western Australia.
    What remarkable people all these airmen were – we all owe them all hugely!

  7. If anyone book is interested there is a book out all about this raid price 15.99 – contact Pen and sword 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2AS
    Telephone – 01226 734222

  8. So pleased this book of the raid is being published.
    My father Flt Lieut Frank Thomas Coxall was on this raid flying D for Donald Douglas Boston of 88 Squadron out of Oulton, Norfolk.
    Such losses.

  9. Anyone have a record of Nathan Cohen( my uncle) who was on this raid and never returned

  10. My father took part in this raid. His friend Flight Officer J.E. O’Grady died during the attack. My father’s squadron mates say that as a result my father ate all of his meals alone, from that night on until the end of the war. I wish that I could have asked him about all of that, but he passed away when I was very young. I hope that he and Flt. Offcr. O’Grady are having a pint on us tonight…

  11. And my dad was on the ground watching, on his day off from Philips, trying to work out who were the friends and who was the enemy.

  12. I am pretty sure that my Dad was on this raid – he has just passed away at the age of 93 – so proud of him!

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