The Road to Victory – 1945
The peak of Bomber Command operations occurred in the raids of March 1945, when its squadrons dropped the greatest weight of bombs for any month in the war. Wesel in the Rhineland, bombed on 16, 17, 18 and 19 February, was bombed again on 23 March, leaving the city “97% destroyed”. The last raid on Berlin took place on the night of 21/22 April, when 76 Mosquitos made six attacks just before Soviet forces entered the city centre. Most of the rest of the RAF bombing raids provided tactical support. The last major strategic raid, was the destruction of the oil refinery at Vallø in southern Norway by 107 Lancasters, on the night of 25/26 April.
Once the surrender of Germany had occurred, plans were made to send a “Very Long Range Bomber Force” known as Tiger Force to participate in the Pacific war against Japan. Made up of about 30 British Commonwealth heavy bomber squadrons, a reduction of the original plan of about 1,000 aircraft, to be based on Okinawa. Bomber Command groups were re-organised for Operation Downfall but the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred before the force had been transferred to the Pacific.
In Europe Bomber Command’s final operation was in flying released Allied prisoners of war home to Britain in Operation Exodus[/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.
‘This is compelling viewing, especially taking into account the period covered. I think the whole RAF has less squadrons now than Bomber Command started the war with, (but that is something else). Good to see that Churchill’s distancing from Harris was shown, a point often overlooked when the subject of area bombing is shown……….5* Shamrock 747