The Early Years – 1939 – 1940
At the start of the Second World War in 1939, Bomber Command faced four problems. The first was lack of size; Bomber Command was not large enough effectively to operate as an independent strategic force. The second was rules of engagement; at the start of the war, the targets allocated to Bomber Command were not wide enough in scope. The third problem was the Command’s lack of technology; specifically radio or radar derived navigational aids to allow accurate target location at night or through cloud. The fourth problem was the limited accuracy of bombing, especially from high level, even when the target could be seen by the bomb aimer.
Bomber Command comprised a number of Groups. It began the war with Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Groups. No. 1 Group was soon sent to France and then returned to Bomber Command control after the evacuation of France. No. 2 Group consisted of light and medium bombers who, although operating both by day and night, remained part of Bomber Command until 1943, when it was removed to the control of Second Tactical Air Force, to form the light bomber component of that command.
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.
Stunning piece of work. Bomber crews were “family”. You picked your flying partners by looking at them and wondering if they had the right stuff and would fit in. All of them did!!
2 years from applying to flying and then maybe no more than one sortie. Bravest people in the history of WW2 and sadly their leader Bomber Harris not really recognised until too late. He loved “his boys” and was proud of their achievements – we should be too.
“They have sown the wind. Now we will reap the whirlwind” 5* Ray Underwood
(2) Some good interviews with Bomber Command veterans, e.g. including a survivor of the Augsburg raid, so not just the most familiar stuff, and also some German interviewees
(3) Bomber Harris’s newsreel appearance in full (I’ve never seen this complete elswhere, its always a few clips)
(4) It does cover the whole of the period 1939 to 1945 including 1943 and 1944
So if you are interested in the history of Bomber Command, this is a good addition to your collection…4*