New Beginnings – 1942
In 1942, the main workhorse aircraft of the later part of the war came into service. The Halifax and Lancaster made up the backbone of the Command – they had a longer range, higher speed and much greater bomb load than the earlier aircraft. The Stirling and Wellington bombers were not taken out of service but used on less demanding tasks such as mine-laying. The classic aircraft of the Pathfinders, the de Havilland Mosquito, also made its appearance.
The Area Bombing Directive of 14 February 1942, ordered Bomber Command to target German industrial areas and the “morale of… the industrial workers”. The directive also reversed the order of the previous year to conserve its forces – this resulted in a large campaign of area bombardment against the Ruhr area. Professor Frederick Lindemann’s “de-housing” paper of March, identified the expected effectiveness of attacks on residential and general industrial areas of cities.[/vc_column_text]
After 67 years since the end of the Second World War, the bravery of the men and women that formed RAF Bomber Command were finally recognised. When on the 28th June, the Queen unveiled a memorial in Green Park, London, to highlight the heavy price paid by those young airmen. Nearly half of the entire force was killed in action.
The morality of the destruction and loss of life caused by the mass raids on German cities, has long been the subject of controversy, with almost 600,000 civilians killed as a result of the campaign; and it’s architect, Air Marshall Sir Arthur ‘Bomber ‘Harris has been branded by some as a ‘mass murderer.’
But Lest We Forget the price paid by those young airmen. In the first two years of the war, with Germany on the offensive, and Britain in it’s darkest hour, waiting for the assault on the British mainland, the morale of the British people was lifted by Bomber Command. They were their only force that was taking the fight back to the enemy.
From the very first hours of the war until the final flights above a totally ruined Nazi Germany, the men of Bomber Command had never flinched from their given tasks. Those tasks required a unique form of courage and determination, returning night after night in the deadly skies over Europe.
Of the 125,000 men and women that served in Bomber Command, 55,573 were killed either in combat or training, a further 8,403 were wounded and 9,838 became prisoners of war
In terms of operations flown and machines, the command had under-taken 364,514 individual sorties by day and night. They dropped over 1,000,000 tons of explosives.Some 8325 aircraft were lost in action.
The ‘Bomber Boys’ were astonishingly young men – any man in his late ‘twenties’ was considered ‘old’ by his comrades. Yet they bore a mature responsibility upon their shoulders. Bomber captains, so many still below the age of majority, coolly, cheerfully, and skillfully led their crews into the heavens, knowing too well that their chances of survival were slim. They seldom faltered.
We produced a series of six one hour films on Bomber Command.
Illustrated with gripping and dramatic combat footage, Bomber Command contains all of the major operations undertaken from 1939 through to the final victory in 1945.
In 1939, small groups of airmen, set out, day after day, night after night, from airfields all over Britain.
Their Destinations..The towns and cities, factories and docks, rail yards and oil refineries of Germany; and the lands it had occupied.
Their Mission…To destroy the power of Nazi Germany to wage war against Britain, as effectively and intensively as possible.
The Men…Were the men of RAF Bomber Command. Almost half of them never returned.
This is their story..Told in graphic detail by the few remaining survivors; and by their former enemies.
the personal point of view is presented by several talking heads, both British and German, and they cover not just individual experience but the opinions of the speakers as well regarding the whole enterprise of area bombing.
Some of the experiences described are so hair raising I wouldn’t believe them if I saw them in a feature film. A Wellington (I think) is struggling to reach its base in England. One engine is leaking oil and finally catches fire. They’re not going to make it. So a crew member volunteers to climb out on the wing and place a canvas cover over the engine, hoping to smother the flame. They manage to smash a hole in the perspex just large enough for him to crawl through — but not if he’s wearing a parachute. So they tie a line around his body and as he crawls out onto the crippled and bent wing, the pilot lowers his landing gear and flaps to slow the airplane down to just above stalling speed. The fellow inches towards the flaming engine, punching holes in the wing fabric between the geodesic spars and — mission accomplished, he crawls back into the airplane. He’s awarded the VC but comments that he didn’t think it was such a big deal.