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New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force (Vol. II)

CHAPTER 3 — Bomber Command and the Battle of the Ruhr

page 40

Bomber Command and the Battle of the Ruhr

At the beginning of 1943 the British bomber force was still the main offensive weapon in the hands of the Allies. Indeed, for some four years after the withdrawal of the British Army from Dunkirk, the bomber aircraft remained the only means of attacking Germany since the Mediterranean campaigns, although invaluable in bleeding Germany of some of her best manpower and material, were until the later stages essentially defensive. Throughout all those years, apart from the bomber offensive, British forces could do no more than nibble at the fringes of German-occupied territory.

The operations of Bomber Command, however, passed through many different phases before they became a potent factor in the achievement of victory. The earlier years were a long-drawn-out struggle to build up an effective force and to overcome the difficulties associated with night bombing. Frequently the offensive was checked by the diversion of the bomber force to defensive tasks and there was uncertainty both in policy and its application. Many were the authorities who found what they considered ‘essential’ jobs for the bombers to carry out. Experts in economic war thought out one class of industrial target after another, the destruction of which would, they argued, cripple the German war effort. The experts in maritime war called for attacks on the enemy ports, on ships in harbour, on U-boat bases and shipbuilding yards. The experts in land warfare called for attacks on tank factories, on fuel dumps, ordnance depots and so on; even the experts in air warfare had their own target systems as part of their campaign for air superiority. In fact, nearly everyone had vital jobs for the bomber force which, small as it was, could not do all the many things regarded as ‘essential’ but which were otherwise impossible.

Unfortunately the accuracy of the early bombing had been greatly overestimated. Economic intelligence had been seriously at fault, and the ability of the Germans to counter the bombing raids and to repair damage was not fully appreciated. And when the spectacular results which some had been led to expect failed to materialise there were doubts, criticisms, and even opposition in some quarters regarding the whole bombing campaign. The early enthusiasm faded and the bomber offensive became a hard-fought battle in which new and ever-changing tactics had to be hammered page 41 out by hard-won experience. Weather, phases of the moon, distance of targets, enemy fighter strength and tactics, defence organisation for guns, searchlights, radar and fighter control; ever-changing techniques of navigation, target marking and bombing — all these factors had played a part in the development of the campaign. The ‘thousand bomber’ raids of mid-1942 and the formation, in August of that year, of the special pathfinder force for target finding and marking were two outstanding achievements of the early period. Nevertheless, to develop the equipment and technique and to train the aircrews to attain a high degree of accuracy in the face of enemy opposition and under all weather conditions continued to be a long and difficult struggle fought at great cost, and it was not until the middle of 1943 that it became possible to deliver a heavy attack in Germany with real precision.

Like the blockade by the British Navy in the First World War and by the German U-boats in the early stages of the second, the effects of the bomber offensive were only gradual, slowly cumula- tive, and therefore difficult to discern. There were no spectacular advances over large tracts of enemy territory; no towns or fortresses were captured with large numbers of the enemy made prisoner. Only by degrees was the enemy's industrial capacity and his ability to make war undermined. Yet the damage inflicted by the bombing was not confined to that which could be seen and photographed. It was reflected with equal significance in the way the German Air Force was driven from the offensive to the defensive both in its operations and in new construction, and compelled to concentrate more and more of its resources on the protection of Germany against bombing attacks from the west to the benefit of the Allied forces engaged on other fronts.

A force of over 600,000 in 1943 and nearly one million in 1944 was maintained to man the anti-aircraft defences – not far short of the peak total strength of the RAF all over the world. Anti-aircraft guns took an ever-increasing part of Germany's total weapon pro- duction,1 while the German night-fighter force which had grown from virtually nothing to 150 in November 1940 and 250 by July 1942 now rose to 550 by July 1943, 800 by the spring of 1944, and 1250 by the end of 1944.

A vital battle – the battle for air superiority, for the initiative in the air – was also to be fought out in the skies over German terri- tory. This battle against the German Air Force and the attack on the enemy's production resources and communications were closely interlocked, for as the Allies gradually gained air superiority so

1 A United States post-war survey calculated that the strength of the artillery provided for the German Army might have been doubled if it had not been necessary to provide AA guns in quantity for the defence of the home front against air attack.

page 42
Black and white map showing targets in West Germany


automatically was the power of the bomber force increased for destroying the enemy's means of production and the communications on which they depended. Herein lay the essence of a successful air offensive. And now in the fourth year of war, when the Allies at last possessed the means to put it into greater effect, an attack, massive, sustained and compelling, began to fall upon Germany. To Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force it had fallen to lead the way and blaze the trail in this great but hazardous page 43 venture of war. The path which it had opened was soon to become a busy highway along which powerful forces would advance resolutely towards their goal.

* * * * *

Appalling casualties had been suffered in the land battles of the First World War. Of one single day's fighting on the Somme in July 1916 it is recorded that when ‘Night closed over the still-thundering battlefield …. nearly 60,000 British soldiers had fallen, killed or wounded, or were prisoners in the hands of the enemy.’ In the first five days of the Somme battle nearly 100,000 of our best troops were lost and ‘the ground conquered was … so limited both in width and depth as to exclude any strategic results.’1 It was partly to avoid the repetition of such loss and slaughter as took place at Passchendaele, Verdun, and the Somme that the Allied leaders meeting at Casablanca in January 1943 had decided to postpone an invasion of the Continent and to intensify the air offensive from the United Kingdom. The ultimate object of this aerial onslaught was stated as ‘the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system and the under- mining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened.’ Europe was a fortress which must be subjected to vigorous bombardment before a final assault by the Allied armies could be practicable. To make that assault before the time was ripe would be suicidal for the Allied cause and of no assistance to Russia.

The bomber offensive planned at Casablanca was to be a joint Allied effort in which the operations of the RAF night bombers would be supplemented by American day bombers. But the American bomber force in Britain was still small and the combined offensive did not really begin until June 1943 when the American forces had been substantially augmented and detailed plans had matured. Meanwhile the operations of the American 8th Air Force continued to be essentially experimental, with its bombers gradually extending the scope of their effort to Germany, adjusting their tactics and techniques, and feeling out the quality of German opposition. There- fore, during the first half of 1943, the main effort against Germany was undertaken by Royal Air Force Bomber Command under Air Marshal Arthur Harris.

Harris had been in charge of the British bomber force for less than a year. Appointed at a time when Bomber Command was at a most difficult period in its development, he was both by training and temperament well fitted to fill this hard post, for he was an

1 Churchill, The World Crisis, 1916–1918 (Thornton Butterworth), Part I, pp. 179–80.

page 44 expert in air matters and much of his twenty-five years' experience with the RAF had been gained in operating bombers both by day and by night. He sincerely believed that the bombing could shorten the war and save terrible casualties in land battles. His fierce honesty of purpose and singleness of mind drove him to demand the utmost of his crews, but at the same time, with equal vehemence, he strove to move mountains on their behalf and get the weapons and aids they required. He was accused of ruthlessness and frequently blamed for shortcomings of a policy that was not altogether of his making. Yet the respect and admiration which this grim and formidable leader won from his men was well demonstrated not only at various gatherings both during and after the war but also by the confidence with which his directions were followed even when they involved heavy casualties. He bore heavy responsibilities which imposed a strain different from that imposed upon naval and land commanders, for the bombing offensive was continuous and involved the committal to action night after night of a force of some five or six thousand highly trained and skilled men, in machines whose value might well exceed fifty million pounds.

The declarations of the combined Allied Chiefs of Staff at Casablanca regarding the bomber offensive from the United Kingdom were more a statement of policy than a specific directive, and even the subsequent orders to Air Marshal Harris were in the broadest terms. Bomber Command was to proceed with ‘the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system’, giving priority to certain aspects of it, such as U-boat and aircraft construction, transportation, oil production, and targets in the enemy war industry. This was interpreted by Harris as meaning the destruction of principal industrial centres in Germany, and since the Ruhr was by far the most important, he regarded it as a principal objective.

However, for tactical reasons, Harris was forced to conduct the offensive more in accord with the general aim than with any special type of target laid down. Among the factors which affected his choice of targets were the weather in different parts of enemy territory, the disposition of the enemy defences, the radio aids available and their limitations, together with intelligence gained of the effect of operations and the relative importance of various targets. Up to 1943 the choice of target on any particular night had been severely limited by the weather, but with improvement in pathfinder and bombing techniques following the introduction of new radar aids, the weather over the target area became less important. Operations could now be carried out on a greater number of nights and, since moonlight and clear skies were not so essential, it was possible page 45 to operate in conditions less favourable to the enemy night fighters. All the same the skill with which the enemy directed his defences and the steady increase in their strength meant that frequent changes of tactics and targets had to be made.

The planning of each bombing raid was a complex affair. Early in the day the Commander-in-Chief would meet his staff officers in the Operations Room of Bomber Command's headquarters on the outskirts of London. The weather forecasts for the Continent and also for bases in England would be considered along with intelligence reports before the night's target was finally chosen. Then the route for the bombers was decided upon, special attention being given to the time that the aircraft would spend over enemy territory, the avoidance of heavily defended areas, and methods of deceiving the German night-fighter force. The Commander-in-Chief finally fixed the aiming point, the size of the force to be despatched, and the bomb load to be carried. After discussion with the groups concerned an operation order was passed to them; then further instructions went to the stations where the detailed plans were worked out according to the pathfinder tactics that were to be used.

During the earlier years the results of bombing had been assessed from crew reports which in the enthusiasm of the moment had often proved inaccurate. By 1943, however, large numbers of night photographs were being taken showing the actual release of the bombs by each aircraft. From these photographs an assessment of the bomb concentration and of the area attacked could be made and immediate lessons drawn as to the advantages of different tactics. For example, it was soon found that aircraft reaching the target in the later stages of a raid tended to undershoot on the markers owing to the large area of fire usually visible by then. This was corrected either by varying the direction of approach of the later waves or by instructing the later marker aircraft to place their target indicators behind the aiming point. Daylight reconnaissance was usually made within a few days of a raid and the interpretation of the photographs taken gave a fair assessment of the damage done. It was then possible to judge whether further attacks on the same target were necessary. Yet owing to the extraordinary speed with which repairs were effected by the Germans, even this judgment was, as post-war investigation reveals, frequently too optimistic.

The British bomber force, with a long-deferred expansion of strength at last becoming effective, was now better equipped for its avowed task of ‘beating the industrial life out of Germany’. During 1942 there had been no significant increase in the number of aircraft but a major part of the force had been re-equipped with heavy bombers. Moreover, subsequent expansion was such that, by the beginning of March 1943, the front-line force included 380 heavy page 46 and 160 medium bombers.1 Within another three months there was a force of nearly 800 aircraft, of which just over two-thirds were heavy four-engined bombers, Lancasters, Halifaxes and Stirlings. Yet while this increase in numerical strength was impressive, the outstanding feature of the period was the substantial rise in bomb lift following the change from medium to heavy bombers, with the Lancasters, superior in both operational height and bomb capacity at long range, emerging as the mainstay of the force. The Lancaster was to prove a magnificent machine. It was subsequently employed in many different roles, in massive saturation raids, in precision attacks such as that which sank the Tirpitz, for low-level raids on German power supplies and the Moehne Dam; it supplied the underground armies of Europe, supported the Allied armies, and in the final stage fed starving Holland and carried home British prisoners of war. Pilots liked the Lancaster's manoeuvrability, the excellent all-round vision from its cockpit, its instant response to the controls, and the rugged construction which enabled it to absorb much punishment in combat and yet bring its crew home. Altogether it was to prove a worthy successor to the faithful Wellington which had been the mainstay of Bomber Command in the earlier years and which, in fact, was still employed on operations until October 1943.

* * * * *

A considerable contribution to the expansion of Bomber Command during 1943 was made by the Commonwealth countries, notably by Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Canada now provided a whole bomber group which was completely maintained by the Canadian Government. The substantial part played by both Australia and New Zealand was less evident, for although certain squadrons were identified with each country the majority of their men were scattered among RAF units. Had the New Zealanders who flew with Bomber Command during 1943 been more concentrated in squadrons, their numbers would have been sufficient to provide crews for more than 200 bombers in any one raid. As it was they were to be found in almost every unit, usually flying in crews made up of men from various parts of the Commonwealth. And in addition to the men engaged in flying duties, there was a substantial number who shared in vital maintenance work on the airfields. New Zealanders were also employed in a wide variety of posts in the vast and complex bomber organisation – of planning,

1 There was also the considerable force of light bombers in No. 2 Group but their operations were essentially different from those of the heavier bombers and are therefore discussed in a later chapter.

page 47 operational control, technical development, training and various staff duties. Several veteran pilots were in command of RAF bomber stations and squadrons, notably Air Commodore A. McKee who was in charge of the large operational airfield at Downham Market in Norfolk, Group Captain S. C. Elworthy who now became Station Commander at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, from which three squadrons of Lancasters operated, and Wing Commander Dabinett1 who continued to lead No. 12 Lancaster Squadron.

The New Zealand Stirling Squadron was to play a prominent part in the bomber offensive during 1943 and further increase the reputation it had gained in the earlier years. Flying under the apt motto, Ake Ake Kia Kaha – ‘For ever and ever be strong’ – No. 75 was now led by Wing Commander Lane,2 an Englishman with considerable experience in bombing operations. His flight commanders were Squadron Leader Allcock,3 a New Zealander who had joined the Royal Air Force before the outbreak of war and served in the Middle East before returning to win further distinction with a Stirling squadron, and Squadron Leader Fowler4 of Chellaston, Derbyshire, who had previously completed his first tour of operations with No. 75 Squadron. During 1943 just over 300 New Zealanders, aircrew and ground staff, served with the squadron, and while New Zealanders were predominant among the aircrew, the presence of men from Britain, Australia, and Canada preserved the Empire character of the unit which had been a pleasant feature of the earlier years.

At the beginning of 1943 No. 75 Squadron was emerging from a very trying period of three months in which there had been a move to a new base, a change in aircraft and, in relation to the number of operations, heavy casualties, including the loss of a popular commanding officer. But the aircrews were now more familiar with the four-engined Stirling bombers that had replaced the Wellingtons with which the squadron had been associated since its formation. Initial mechanical failures in the new machines, the cause of so much disappointment and frustration to all members of the unit, were being overcome by the ground crews, after much persistent effort, and the men were more accustomed to surroundings which were in

1 Group Captain H. I. Dabinett; RAF; born Taranaki, 11 Jul 1905; joined RAF 1930; commanded No. 115 Sqdn, 1940; No. 12 Sqdn, 1942–43; No. 82 OTU, 1944, and No. 27 OTU, 1945.

2 Wing Commander G. A. Lane, DFC; born Clapham, London, 13 Apr 1916; joined RAF 1937; CFI No. 22 OTU, 1942; commanded No. 75 (NZ) Sqdn, 1943; served RAF Delegation, USA, 1944–45.

3 Wing Commander G. M. Allcock, DFC and bar; born Wellington, 14 Dec 1916; joined RAF Aug 1939; CGI No. 1651 Conversion Unit, 1942–43; No. 7 Sqdn, 1945.

4 Squadron Leader G. E. Fowler, DFC; born Chellaston, Derbyshire, 22 Jun 1911; joined RAF Sep 1939.

page 48 direct contrast to those at the peacetime stations of Feltwell and Mildenhall, their previous bases.

There were good reasons for the feeling of strangeness which had been experienced. Indeed, it is doubtful whether any other operational squadron flew from an airfield less warlike than that now occupied by the New Zealand Squadron at the Rowley Mile on the famous racecourse at Newmarket. Some of the aircrew were billeted in a wing of the Jockey Club and their mess was a mile away in the grandstand of the racecourse where the ground staff were accommodated. The grandstand itself was, as a senior officer put it, ‘a rabbit warren of a building with three floors housing billets, dining rooms, kitchens, recreation rooms and workshops. All windows were blacked out and it was quite easy to lose oneself in the labyrinth of rooms, passages and stairs.’ The briefing room was at first in the saddle room, which still retained the large brackets on which saddles had been hung, while the operations room was located in the cream and gilt weighing-in room. When the briefing room was later moved to what had been a lavishly equipped cocktail bar, the serious business of briefing a bomber squadron for action provided a sharp reminder of the gulf which existed between the days of peace and war.

After a quiet beginning in January, when severe winter weather restricted activity, No. 75 Squadron was to operate intensively during the following months, and by the end of July a total of nearly seven hundred sorties had been despatched in eighty-seven raids, during which the Stirlings dropped 1285 tons of bombs and laid 604 mines. Unfortunately the unit again suffered heavy casualties, thirty-five aircraft being lost during these seven months.

When the squadron resumed full-scale operations in February, Nuremberg, Turin, and the Rhineland city of Cologne were among the targets attacked. But the main effort, in common with that of most other squadrons in Bomber Command, was concentrated on enemy U-boat bases in Occupied France and on construction facilities in German ports. By the end of the month aircrews had more confidence in their new aircraft, while the ground staff, in mastering the technical difficulties which had beset them with the introduction of the Stirling, succeeded in maintaining a high level of aircraft serviceability. The squadron was then ready to take a leading part in the offensive against German industry in the Ruhr and Rhineland which was to be the principal feature of Bomber Command's operations during the first half of 1943.

With RAF squadrons in Bomber Command, many New Zealanders were to win distinction during 1943 as captains of air- craft, navigators, bomb aimers, wireless operators and air gunners. page 49 Several men were outstanding, notably Squadron Leader Thiele,1 as flight commander and captain of a Lancaster in No. 467 Australian Squadron; Squadron Leader St. John2 in similar duties with No. 101 Lancaster Squadron, and Squadron Leader Silcock3 with No. 44 Rhodesian Squadron, also flying Lancasters. Special commendation for his part in difficult and hazardous missions of which little was heard at the time was won by Squadron Leader Boxer,4 who led a flight in No. 138 Halifax Squadron. His unit was one of several engaged in supplying the underground armies of Europe and dropping and picking up Allied agents, missions which often involved long flights over enemy territory. Boxer was later to command a squadron engaged in these ‘special duties’, as they had come to be known.

Other bomber captains who established a particularly fine record of achievement at this time were Squadron Leader Starky5 with No. 115 Lancaster Squadron and Squadron Leader B. G. Wallace6 with No. 214 Stirling Squadron; Flight Lieutenants D. C. MacKenzie7 and J. B. Smith8 and Pilot Officer C. M. Wallace9 were also prominent as captains with an Australian squadron and Squadron Leader D. W. S. Clark10 with a Canadian unit.

Few brothers probably shared war experience to the same extent as Flying Officers Anthony11 and Peter Singer,12 twin brothers from Gisborne, each of whom now captained a Lancaster in No. 57 Squadron. They had joined up at the same time, trained together in New Zealand and England and then piloted aircraft in the same squadron, very often flying over the same target within a few

1 Squadron Leader K. F. Thiele, DSO, DFC and two bars; born Christchurch, 25 Feb 1921; journalist; joined RNZAF Dec 1940; commanded No. 3 Sqdn, 1945.

2 Wing Commander J. R. St. John, DSO, DFC and bar; RAF; born Nelson, 13 Mar 1917; dental mechanic; joined RAF 1937; CI No. 1656 CU, 1943–44; commanded No. 103 Sqdn, 1944–45.

3 Squadron Leader C. K. Silcock, DFC and bar; born Brightwater, Nelson, 4 May 1915; engraver; joined RNZAF Mar 1941.

4 Wing Commander A. H. C. Boxer, DSO, DFC, Virtuti Militari (Pol.); Bronze Star Medal (US); RAF; born Hastings, 1 Dec 1916; joined RAF 1938; commanded No. 161 Sqdn, 1944–45.

5 Squadron Leader J. B. Starky, DSO, DFC; born Gisborne, 10 Nov 1916; farmer; joined RNZAF 1940.

6 Squadron Leader B. G. Wallace, DFC; born Invercargill, 6 Nov 1914; salesman; joined RNZAF Sep 1940.

7 Squadron Leader D. C. MacKenzie, DFC; born Wellington, 26 Aug 1921; clerk; joined RAF Jun 1940; killed on air operations 12 Jun 1943.

8 Flight Lieutenant J. B. Smith, DFC; born Dunedin, 23 Aug 1916; optician; joined RNZAF Aug 1941; killed on air operations, 10 May 1944.

9 Flying Officer C. M. Wallace, DFM; born Cooktown, Queensland, 20 Nov 1915; metal polisher; joined RNZAF May 1941.

10 Wing Commander D. W. S. Clark, DFC and bar; born Surbiton, Surrey, 18 Jan 1916; joined RAF 1939; transferred RNZAF Aug 1944; commanded No. 77 Sqdn, 1944–45.

11 Flight Lieutenant A. M. Singer, DFC; born Weybridge, Surrey, 25 Nov 1918; agricultural student; joined RNZAF Jun 1941.

12 Flight Lieutenant P. L. Singer, DFC; born Weybridge, Surrey, 25 Nov 1918; agricultural student; joined RNZAF Jun 1941.

page 50 minutes of one another. They both flew on twenty-nine raids and finished their first tour of operations by bombing Dortmund in May 1943. Both brothers were then awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and went on to take the same instructors' course. Subsequently, they returned to operations with a Lancaster squadron and survived the war to return together to New Zealand.

Navigators to achieve distinction during 1943 were Flying Officer Sheild1 with No. 149 Squadron and Flight Lieutenant Fowler2 with No. 90 Squadron, while among the New Zealand air gunners, Flight Sergeant de Joux,3 who was credited with the destruction of five night fighters, continued a most successful operational career with No. 102 Halifax Squadron. He was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal in November 1943. Pilot Officer Florence,4 who flew many sorties with No. 214 Lancaster Squadron, was among those who distinguished themselves as bomb aimers. Towards the middle of the year he joined No. 617 Squadron – ‘The Dam Busters’ – only to lose his life in a November attack against the Antheor Viaduct on the Riviera route into Italy. The Lancasters had flown on to land in North Africa and it was during the return flight that Florence's aircraft was lost.

New Zealanders also continued to be prominent in the pathfinder squadrons, which contained picked crews specially trained in target location and whose aircraft were equipped with the newest aids to navigation and bombing as they became available. Among those who were to achieve particular distinction during 1943 were Squadron Leader Barron5 and Flight Lieutenant Kearns,6 who captained heavy bombers, Squadron Leader Ball,7 Flight Lieutenants Gray,8 Hilton,9 Martin,10 and Flying Officer Barclay,11 who flew as navigators, and

1 Flight Lieutenant H. J. Sheild, DFC and bar; born Patea, 30 Sep 1916; commercial artist; joined RNZAF Dec 1940.

2 Squadron Leader L. G. Fowler, DFC; born Auckland, 20 Nov 1912; clerk; joined RNZAF Mar 1941.

3 Flying Officer E. E. de Joux, CGM, DFM; born Edinburgh, Scotland, 27 Jan 1921; joined RAF May 1940; transferred RNZAF Jun 1944.

4 Pilot Officer R. Florence, DFM; born New Plymouth, 15 Dec 1921; clerk; joined RNZAF Jan 1941; killed on air operations, 18 Nov 1943.

5 Wing Commander J. F. Barron, DSO and bar, DFC, DFM; born Dunedin, 9 Jan 1921; clerk; joined RNZAF Jul 1940; commanded No. 7 Sqdn, 1944; killed on air operations, 20 May 1944.

6 Squadron Leader R. S. D. Kearns, DSO, DFC, DFM; born Reefton, 9 Mar 1920; student; joined RNZAF Dec 1940.

7 Squadron Leader W. A. C. Ball, DFC; born Palmerston North, 14 Sep 1916; insurance clerk; joined RNZAF Oct 1939; killed on air operations, 9 Mar 1943.

8 Flight Lieutenant E. McL. Gray, DFC; born Cambridge, 22 Mar 1920; clerk; joined RNZAF Dec 1940; killed on air operations, 4 May 1943.

9 Flight Lieutenant F. Hilton, DFC; born Coventry, Warwickshire, 15 Dec 1918; carpenter; joined RNZAF Jan 1941; killed on air operations, 25 Jun 1943.

10 Flight Lieutenant B. Martin, DFC; born Waiau, 23 Nov 1911; diesel engineer; joined RNZAF Sep 1940; killed on air operations, 2 Feb 1943.

11 Flight Lieutenant W. J. M. Barclay, DFC, DFM; born Dunedin, 13 May 1921; clerk; joined RNZAF Nov 1940.

page 51 Flying Officer Marshall1 and Warrant Officer Barnham,2 wireless operators and gunners. All these men had been with the Pathfinder Force during the pioneering period in 1942. Only four of them survived the war.

Others who won commendation as captains of pathfinder aircraft were Flight Lieutenant Moore3 of No. 83 Squadron, Flight Lieutenant Petrie4 of No. 7 Squadron, and Flying Officer Matich5 of No. 35 Squadron. Moore survived many hazardous missions to complete a long period of operations with the Pathfinder Force; Petrie lost his life whilst leading an attack on Berlin in December; Matich was also shot down towards the end of the year but he escaped serious injury, evaded capture, and got back to England.

There was now a relatively large group of New Zealanders with No. 156 Lancaster Squadron, where Squadron Leader Mandeno,6 Flight Lieutenants Sullivan,7 Thomson8 and Wright9 were prominent as captains, Squadron Leader Hall10 and Flight Lieutenant Kelly11 as navigators, and Pilot Officer Crankshaw12 as air gunner. In No. 35 Squadron Flying Officers Jamieson13 and Robson,14 Warrant Officer Dowman,15 and Flight Sergeant Ridings16 won distinction as wireless operators and air gunners.

The Pathfinder Force, whose formation and early operations have been described in the previous volume, was now organised as a

1 Flying Officer J. Marshall, DFC; born London, 1 Aug 1920; engraving apprentice; joined RNZAF Dec 1939.

2 Warrant Officer J. E. Barnham, DFC; born Christchurch, 5 Nov 1920; salesman; joined RNZAF Apr 1941.

3 Flight Lieutenant V. S. Moore, DSO, DFC, DFM; born New Plymouth, 15 Dec 1912; diesel engineer; joined RNZAF Dec 1940.

4 Flight Lieutenant J. R. Petrie, DFC; born Foxton, 11 Aug 1917; labourer; joined RNZAF Jul 1941; killed on air operations, 16 Dec 1943.

5 Flight Lieutenant N. Matich, DSO, DFM; born Te Kopuru, 25 Jul 1917; shop assistant; joined RNZAF Aug 1941.

6 Squadron Leader G. L. Mandeno, DSO, DFC and bar; born Frankton, 5 Jun 1914; engineer; joined RAF 1940; transferred RNZAF Jul 1945.

7 Flight Lieutenant M. A. Sullivan, DFC; born Whakatane, 28 Jan 1920; timber yardman; joined RNZAF Aug 1941; killed on air operations, 20 Dec 1943.

8 Flight Lieutenant J. F. Thomson, DFC and bar; born Auckland, 31 Aug 1918; clerk; joined RNZAF Jun 1941.

9 Squadron Leader J. L. Wright, DSO, DFC; born Tirau, 24 Feb 1914; clerk; joined RNZAF Dec 1940.

10 Squadron Leader H. R. Hall, DFC; born Palmerston North, 21 Oct 1913; bank officer; joined RNZAF Dec 1939.

11 Squadron Leader C. W. B. Kelly, DSO, DFC; born Christchurch, 11 Jun 1920; porcelain enameller; joined RNZAF Sep 1940.

12 Flying Officer K. A. Crankshaw, DFC, DFM; born Greymouth, 12 Dec 1921; garage storeman; joined RNZAF Nov 1940.

13 Flight Lieutenant H. A. Jamieson, DFC; born Pukekohe, 18 Aug 1918; truck driver; joined RNZAF Nov 1940; p.w. 12 Jun 1943.

14 Flying Officer T. A. Robson, DFC; born Christchurch, 12 Mar 1914; window dresser; joined RNZAF Aug 1941; killed on air operations, 20 Dec 1943.

15 Warrant Officer M. G. F. Dowman, DFM; born Inglewood, 5 Oct 1916; labourer; joined RNZAF Mar 1941; died 2 Jan 1948.

16 Flight Sergeant D. G. Ridings; born Auckland, 12 Sep 1921; grocery assistant; joined RNZAF Apr 1941; killed on air operations, 4 May 1943.

page 52 separate group in Bomber Command under its original leader, the Australian pilot Air Commodore Bennett,1 and to the initial five squadrons a further Halifax and Lancaster squadron were added in April; then three months later came two more Mosquito squad- rons. There was also a gradual re-equipment of the original units with Lancasters.

The pathfinder crews, it will be remembered, preceded the main force in order to mark the target by means of flares and ground markers. But their early operations had revealed an urgent need for devices that would enable them to find targets on moonless nights or in cloud and then mark them so unmistakably that a large main force could follow and deliver heavy and concentrated attacks. Before the end of the previous year ‘Gee’, of which so much had been expected, had been reduced to a valuable aid to navigation on which limitations of range could be imposed by enemy jamming, but trials with various other bombing aids had so progressed that they were now ready for use on operations. The first, known as ‘Oboe’, had already been tried out towards the end of December 1942 in an attack against the power-station at Lutterade. Then, on 16 January during a raid on Berlin, the long awaited TI ground markers were introduced, followed by a second new radar aid known as ‘H2S’2 on the night of 30 January when Hamburg was the target.

These new technical aids which began to reach Bomber Command at the beginning of 1943 were of even greater importance to the success of its operations than the increase in its size. The bomber force could now be concentrated both in time and space to produce the maximum effect with a minimum of loss, for it had long been known that the saturation of the German defences – night fighters, anti-aircraft guns and searchlights – was the secret of economy. Moreover, with this concentration, effective radio counter measures could be taken. Specially equipped aircraft and ground stations were now better able to jam the signals of enemy fighters and their control and thus screen the British bombers from identification for part of their flight towards Germany.

Oboe was a system for guiding a pilot to his target along a radio beam, and was so named because the tone of the guiding radio beam was similar to that of the musical instrument. Briefly, its operation depended on the re-radiation by the aircraft of radar signals sent

1 Air Vice-Marshal D. C. T. Bennett, CB, CBE, DSO, Order of Alexander Nevsky (USSR); born Toowoomba, Australia, 14 Sep 1910; served RAF 1931–35 and transferred RAAF 1935; a founder of the Atlantic Ferry, 1940–41; rejoined RAF Sep 1941; commanded No. 77 Sqdn, 1941; No. 10 Sqdn, 1942; AOC No. 8 Pathfinder Group, Bomber Command, 1943–45.

2 A code name apparently derived from ‘Home Sweet Home’, because it helped bombers to home on to their targets.

page 53 out to it, and from the echoes the position of the machine flying along a certain beam could be calculated. There were two ground stations. One controlled the aircraft by signalling a system of dots and dashes whenever it deviated to the left or right of a given course. Simultaneously, the second station measured at intervals how far the aircraft had proceeded, and when it was directly over the target a special signal would be sent for bombs or markers to be released.

The chief disadvantage of Oboe was that each pair of ground stations could handle only one aircraft at a time, and then the aircraft had to fly on a steady course for a considerable distance as it approached the target. This made the machine extremely vulnerable. Further, the range of the system was limited by the height at which the aircraft could fly because, owing to the curvature of the earth, the transmissions from the ground stations followed a straight line and had therefore to be received at an ever greater height as the aircraft's distance from the station increased. The first difficulty was dealt with by gradually increasing the number of ground stations to control at least sufficient aircraft for marking a target, whilst the risks entailed by the necessary straight and level approach were reduced by using the fast and high-flying Mosquito aircraft.

Oboe had developed out of the methods used by the RAF to interfere with the beams used by the German bombers as navigational aids for the attacks on Britain during the second winter of the war. In the early stages of its development the device had been considered simply as an aid to blind bombing, and the fact that only a handful of aircraft could be guided by it in any one attack seemed a fatal objection. But by the end of 1942 Bomber Command was no longer thinking in terms of thousands of bombers, with each crew finding the target by themselves, but of a smaller force being directed to an area which had been marked by very few aircraft. Thus a navigational and bombing aid which could be used by no more than a single squadron seemed likely to change the whole course of the bomber offensive, which indeed it certainly did.

From the beginning of 1943 No. 109 Mosquito Squadron of the Pathfinder Force which had been experimenting with Oboe from the initial stages was used whenever possible to mark the bomb-release point for the main force. Another Oboe-equipped unit, No. 105 Mosquito Squadron, was added in July, but for the remainder of the year those two squadrons provided the sole Oboe force of Bomber Command. Flying Officers Dray1 and Leigh2 were pilots

1 Flight Lieutenant A. A. Dray, DFC; born Cambridge, 1 Nov 1917; grocery manager; joined RNZAF Aug 1941.

2 Flying Officer R. E. Leigh; born Auckland, 3 Mar 1921; clothing cutter; joined RNZAF Apr 1941; killed on air operations, 10 Feb 1944.

page 54 and Flight Lieutenant Patrick1 flew as navigator with No. 109 Squadron during the pioneering period with this new device.

H2S, the second radar aid, was an entirely different device from Oboe in that it was quite independent of ground stations, the apparatus being carried wholly within the aircraft. It was, in fact, similar to the radar equipment already in use by Coastal Command for the detection of submarines and other vessels at sea. For some time it had been known that radar impulses transmitted from an aircraft gave back varying echoes from water, open country or built-up areas, and the picture given on the screen by these echoes was gradually improved until it was possible to identify coastlines, rivers, towns, and eventually even individual factories; thus targets and navigational pinpoints could be identified in total darkness or through cloud. Nor was this system limited by range. But on the other hand, its operation required far greater experience than did the Oboe and its effectiveness in Bomber Command was therefore not so immediate. Indeed, a considerable period was to elapse before the aircrew operators acquired the necessary experience and before the definition of the reflected picture was sufficiently improved for it to be both accurate and reliable.

H2S largely depended for its eventual success upon the magnetron valve, which was capable of producing far higher power than any other contemporary valve. It was one of the most brilliant inventions of British science and indispensable for many forms of airborne radar, since it enabled a powerful transmission to be made from a piece of equipment small enough to be easily carried in an aircraft. There was at first much alarm at the prospect of it getting into enemy hands for it was proving invaluable in the Battle of the Atlantic. Indeed, a serious controversy which extended to both sides of the Atlantic over the release of the equipment to Bomber Command was settled only by the British War Cabinet Chiefs of Staff Committee meeting under the Prime Minister towards the end of December 1942.

At first the supply of H2S sets was restricted and Bomber Command was unable to take advantage of the fact that this device could be used by an unlimited number of aircraft at the same time. It was not until September 1943 that all the heavy bombers of the Pathfinder Force were so equipped. In the meantime H2S, like Oboe, had to be employed as a pathfinder device and tactics based on its use by a small number of aircraft.

Unfortunately, in the early stages of its use the apparatus was liable to fail even more often than the Oboe equipment, and with

1 Squadron Leader G. A. Patrick, DSO, DFC and bar; born Dunedin, 25 Nov 1919; clerk; joined RNZAF Mar 1941.

page 55 so few aircraft equipped with H2S this meant that far too few target indicators were burning at any given moment during an attack. Another cause of early failure was that the special target maps were found in some cases to be out of date. These special maps had been prepared with the built-up areas drawn to look as far as possible like the actual image that would appear on the radar screen in the aircraft, but on several occasions the Pathfinders mistook a newly built-up area which was not marked on their maps for the actual target. Moreover, it was found that the relation between the real shape of a town and the image of it that appeared on the H2S apparatus varied according to the angle or direction from which the town was viewed. Indeed, it was most difficult to predict exactly how any particular town was going to show up on the screen so that only the most experienced and skilful navigators were able to achieve real accuracy. It was soon found that the difference between land and water showed up far more clearly than the difference between built-up areas and open country, which meant that coastal targets could be more easily identified than those inland. Targets in small towns were also more readily found than in large cities because it was fairly easy to identify a town as a whole but much more difficult to distinguish any particular area in a large city from the city as a whole. Altogether it was some time before H2S was used effectively and its tactical development during 1943 was a slow process marked by many disappointments.

Oboe, on the other hand, proved its value immediately. During January, when only a few Mosquitos were equipped with the necessary apparatus, the period when marking could be maintained was limited. Therefore a series of small experimental raids was launched in which these Oboe-equipped aircraft marked the target for a following force of fifty to sixty heavy bombers. Essen was the principal objective of these raids. This large industrial city, home of the huge Krupps armament works and an important centre of the German mining industry, had been the most frequently bombed town in Germany up to this time. Yet because of the industrial haze and smoke which almost invariably covered the Ruhr area and made identification of landmarks extremely difficult, the attacks had caused little damage. This difficult target was therefore an ideal one on which to experiment with the Oboe bombing aid.

The eight small attacks which took place in January 1943 were remarkable for it was estimated that by the despatch of 418 sorties and the loss of only eighteen machines better results were achieved than in all the raids against Essen in the previous year. After the attack on the night of 9 January the photographs revealed that sixty per cent of the bombs had fallen within three miles of the centre of the city, a percentage that was three times greater than page 56 the best hitherto recorded. Attacks on Dusseldorf and Duisburg showed similar promise.

Among the New Zealanders to take part in the repeated attacks on Essen was Flight Sergeant Rowsell1 of No. 207 Squadron who distinguished himself during the first operation on the night of 3 January. The Lancaster in which Rowsell flew as wireless operator was intercepted by night fighters, and during their attacks he acted as fire controller from the astro-dome with good effect and the enemy aircraft broke off the attack. The rear gunner had been wounded and was trapped in his damaged turret but with the aid of an axe Rowsell managed to get him free. As the elevators had been damaged and the Lancaster was difficult to control through being excessively tail heavy, he then helped to rig up the spare trailing aerial on to the control column so that the bomb aimer could pull on the aerial and relieve the pilot of some of the strain. Rowsell then returned to his wireless set to obtain a diversion to an airfield where there was good visibility, and the bomber finally landed safely.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to follow up the success against Essen immediately with further attacks on the Ruhr as for the next two months the effort of Bomber Command was devoted mainly to the U-boat war with attacks on the submarine bases in the Biscay ports and construction facilities at Hamburg, Wilhelmshaven, and Bremen. The reasons for this diversion of effort and the results achieved have already been related in the previous chapter. How- ever, on several nights when weather did not favour the offensive against the U-boats, it was possible to deliver attacks on Cologne and Nuremberg. Cologne, scene of the first ‘thousand bomber’ raid and an important commercial and industrial centre in the Rhineland, was attacked on three occasions during February, altogether 831 sorties being despatched for the loss of twenty-four bombers.

The early months of 1943 were also notable for the resumption of raids against Berlin, which had not been heavily attacked since the end of 1941 owing to the serious casualties suffered by Bomber Command in the early raids. Berlin had been allotted high priority throughout 1942, and in the autumn of that year the Commander- in-Chief was continually pressed to renew the attack as soon as the nights lengthened sufficiently to bring the city within range. But Harris had consistently resisted these proposals for he considered that little damage would result and that there was a serious risk of incurring heavy casualties. He maintained that, with several

1 Flight Lieutenant A. R. Rowsell, DFM; born Rawene, 7 Mar 1917; timber worker; joined RNZAF Oct 1940.

page 57 hours' flying over strongly defended areas, a certainty of strong night-fighter activity and the size of the German capital, not only were heavy bombers needed for a successful raid but also that only Lancasters could be sent there with any reasonable degree of safety and economy of force. In the last attack in December 1941, out of 140 bombers despatched only half of them had reached the target and twenty-one had been lost.

But now that the Command's expansion was becoming a reality it was possible to raise a substantial force of Lancasters; therefore, on two consecutive nights in January, Berlin was attacked by forces of 201 and 187 Lancasters. Unfortunately haze and snow, which always made it more difficult to see the outlines of a built-up area, prevented the Pathfinders from identifying the aiming point, and although several important factories were hit the damage was scattered. On the first night the enemy's fighters made scarcely any interception, and though the flak was heavy and the force too small to saturate it, only one Lancaster was missing. The next night the weather and the light proved favourable to the enemy; night fighters operated in strength and twenty-two bombers were lost.

Flight Lieutenant Keith Thiele captained a Lancaster from No. 467 Australian Squadron on both these raids against Berlin. On the first night during the approach to the target his rear gunner lost consciousness through lack of oxygen. Thiele went on to attack whilst two of his crew endeavoured to assist the rear gunner out of his turret and render first aid. As soon as the bombs had been dropped, Thiele took the Lancaster down through the flak and searchlights in an attempt to save his gunner's life. This action did not succeed in reviving the gunner so Thiele carried him to the pilot's seat, no mean feat in a Lancaster in flight. Artificial respiration was then continuously applied during the return flight which Thiele maintained at low level. Unfortunately the crew's efforts were unsuccessful and the squadron diary records ‘an unfortunate loss to a very gallant crew after a very successful sortie.’

Among the aircraft which returned damaged that same night was a Lancaster of No. 101 Squadron captained by Sergeant Ralph.1 Over Berlin his bomber was hit by flak and the starboard petrol tanks holed but Ralph got clear and completed the long flight back, landing the damaged machine safely, despite very poor visibility. Ralph had already completed twenty sorties with his squadron. Early in the previous December when returning from an attack on Frankfurt, he had displayed outstanding skill and airmanship in landing his machine safely at base with both port engines failing.

1 Flight Lieutenant J. C. Ralph, DFM; born Christchurch, 26 Dec 1919; motor-parts salesman; joined RNZAF Jul 1941; killed on air operations, 3 Jan 1944.

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Three further heavy raids on Berlin were made during March 1943 in an effort to follow up victories on the Russian front and, with the effort of the Lancasters supplemented by Stirlings and Halifaxes, a total of just over eight hundred sorties was despatched. In the second attack on 27 March one of the Stirlings from No. 15 Squadron carried a ‘National Savings’ bomb from London. The captain was Pilot Officer Renner,1 a twenty-six-year-old New Zealander who had been a farmer in Hawke's Bay before the war. His bomb aimer, wireless operator, and gunner were also New Zealanders, and a Canadian navigator and a flight engineer from London completed the crew.

‘I think this trip to Berlin, our twenty-second “op” on Stirlings, gave us most satisfaction,’ writes Renner. ‘A Wings for Victory week had been held in London's Trafalgar Square during which three large bombs had been plastered inches thick with Savings Stamps by the British public on the promise that they would be duly delivered with the bomb. At the end of the week two of the bombs were hurried to our Station and one found its way into our aircraft which we had named Te Kooti, after the famous Maori chief. Three times the raid was postponed. We became quite attached to our bomb and each day the bomb-aimer would go round to make sure it was still loaded on Te Kooti. The third night we were actually on the move when the red light shot up from the control tower and we rolled off the runway and back to dispersal unable to express our feelings of frustration. The next night, amid rain and sleet, we got off. Icy clouds kept us down to two thousand feet until we got over Denmark where we were able to sneak a little more height. Then over the Baltic the clouds broke up and we were able to reach Berlin at a reasonable height to deliver our bomb. The German defences, although formidable, did not seem so concentrated as those we knew so well in the Ruhr, but the searchlights made us feel awfully bare.’

New Zealanders also flew on each of the four major raids that were launched against Italy during the early months of 1943, when the principal objectives were the industrial centres of Milan and Turin and the naval base at Spezia where units of the Italian fleet, including three battleships, were sheltering. A few hours before the first attack on Spezia Flying Officer Pethick2 of No. 1409 Meteorological Flight carried out a reconnaissance of the area and also took photographs of great value. ‘He flew an unarmed Mosquito and displayed determination and skill in avoiding inter- ception,’ says an official report. ‘On reaching the French coast on the return flight his aircraft developed engine trouble and there was complete failure of all electrical and wireless equipment, but he landed safely in England. His information led to the heavy and successful raid on Spezia that night.’ Between June 1942 and October

1 Flight Lieutenant I. W. Renner, DFC; born Gisborne, 26 Jan 1917; farmer; joined RNZAF Jul 1941.

2 Flight Lieutenant A. F. Pethick, DFC; born Hastings, 19 Apr 1920; retail manager; joined RAF Apr 1940.

page 59 1943 Pethick made almost ninety long-range ‘met’ flights, many of which involved deep penetrations of enemy territory in unarmed aircraft.

Although casualties were light the missions to Italy were not without incident. After the raid on Milan in mid-February one Lancaster had just crossed the Alps on its return flight when an engine suddenly caught fire. The pilot, Flight Sergeant Whyte,1 put the bomber into a dive in an effort to extinguish the fire by the rush of air. Unfortunately, however, this proved unsuccessful and the flames began to envelop the wing; Whyte was just able to control the aircraft sufficiently for the crew to leave by parachute. He then followed them out and came down in hilly country to the west of Dijon. With the help of the French partisans Whyte was able to evade capture, and after many adventures finally made his way back to England, where he returned to operations and completed a second tour.

Early in March 1943 Bomber Command was able to turn its attention to the Ruhr and the next four months saw one of the most dramatic battles of the air war – a battle in which a veritable fortress was assaulted from the air in a series of short but intense actions of almost incredible ferocity.

* * * * *

The relatively small but compact area of the Ruhr was of vital importance to the German war machine, for within its boundaries lay a great many of the factories that forged the guns, tanks, and engines of war upon which the enemy forces depended. Moreover, as the largest centre of heavy industry and coal-mining in Europe, the Ruhr not only provided finished products of all kinds but almost the whole of the coal and steel needed by other industries in Germany for the production of war material. It was indeed ‘the smithy of the German Reich’, and as such it had always been regarded as an objective of prime importance for the British bomber force. However, in the early years, with small and relatively weak forces lacking reliable navigational aids, the odds had been heavily against successful attacks. Apart from the distance to be flown over enemy territory and the strong ground defences in the Ruhr, the hundreds of factory chimneys continuously belching smoke produced a thick and persistent haze which made it almost impossible for crews, even on a moonlight night, to pick out a given aiming point. Moreover, in the important target of Essen situated in the centre of the Ruhr, there was not one prominent landmark, and the

1 Flying Officer J. H. F. Whyte, DFC; born Greymouth, 11 Jan 1917; clerk; joined RNZAF Apr 1941.

page 60 city itself was very similar in appearance to others in the valley. Indeed, it was difficult at night, even in clear weather, to see where one Ruhr town ended and the next began because of the many settlements and industrial buildings which covered much of the intervening ground. The Germans also went to considerable trouble to produce effective decoys and to camouflage what few distinctive landmarks there were.

The introduction of Gee as a navigational aid early in 1942 had led to optimistic hopes of achieving a higher degree of accuracy in raids on the Ruhr, but these hopes had been disappointed for at that extreme range and in the face of strong defences its accuracy proved considerably less than expected and the bombing was still very scattered. But now, in March 1943, with Pathfinder Mosquitos equipped with the Oboe device to lead a stronger bomber force, there was better prospect of finding and accurately marking targets so that a large proportion of the bomb load would be concentrated near the aiming point.

This renewed Battle of the Ruhr, as it may well be termed, opened in the first week of March and continued until the end of July. During that period the towns heavily attacked included Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Mulheim and Ober- hausen; the great Rhineland centres of Cologne and Dusseldorf, which although not in the Ruhr were part of the same industrial complex; Krefeld, Munster, Remscheid and Wuppertal, not primarily concerned with heavy industry but important for the manufacture and transport of vital war materials. Altogether 15,504 sorties were flown in major raids against these towns and 42,348 tons of bombs were dropped for the loss of 718 aircraft.

The initial attacks on Essen were more or less typical of those which followed throughout the Ruhr and Rhineland. In the first raid on the night of 5 March a total of 442 bombers was despatched. In the main force there were 140 Lancasters, 89 Halifaxes, 52 Stirlings and 131 Wellingtons, while the Pathfinder marking force consisted of 22 heavy bombers and 8 Oboe-equipped Mosquitos on which, and on the equipment they carried, the success of the raid almost entirely depended.

The attack, by far the most important carried out by Bomber Command up to this time, followed a carefully prepared plan. After making a landfall at Egmond on the Dutch coast, the bombers flew directly to a point 15 miles north of Essen, which point Pathfinder heavies marked with yellow route markers on the ground as a guide to the main force. From there the crews began the run-up to the target which they were to reach at the rate of eleven a minute, the whole attack being planned to last thirty-eight minutes. Flying page 61 in ahead the Oboe Mosquitos dropped red target indicators on the aiming point before the bombing began and then at intervals during the attack. This renewal of the marking was limited by the fact that the Mosquitos could only be guided over the target at the rate of one every five minutes by the ground stations with which they were in communication. There were as yet only two pairs of ground stations in operation and, while they could guide twelve Mosquitos over the target in an hour, there was the risk that there would be intervals when no target indicators were burning on the ground. Therefore, the twenty-two heavy bombers of the Pathfinder Force acted as ‘backers-up’ throughout the attack, dropping a large number of green indicators aimed at the red ones which the Mosquitos had dropped. Thus the bomb aimers of the main force, if they could not see the more accurately placed red target indicators, could at least aim at the more plentiful green ones. In this way it was hoped that there would be a clearly distinguishable mark at which to aim at every moment during the attack.

In the event the marking was most accurately done by the Pathfinders and the bombing which followed was well concentrated. Soon innumerable fires sprang up around the markers until there was an almost solid ring of flame two miles in diameter. The municipal archives of Essen afterwards revealed that half of the bomb load had, in fact, fallen in the centre of the city, and such was the concentration of the bombing force that only fourteen aircraft were missing from this raid.

Five more attacks were launched against Essen in the next few months, and by the end of July both the huge Krupps works covering several hundred acres in the centre of the city and the town of Essen itself contained large areas of devastation. There was also serious damage to gas, water and electricity facilities.1 This had been brought about by 3260 sorties with the loss of 138 aircraft, as against 3720 sorties despatched during 1942 with the loss of 201 aircraft which did no significant damage to Krupps and little to the town of Essen. After the 1943 attacks, although repairs were pushed forward vigorously, some factories never resumed production. Among them was the largest single unit in the whole Krupps works, the huge Hindenburg Hall where locomotive construction ceased after the second attack in March and was never restarted in spite of the fact that this work then had equal priority with aircraft, tanks and submarines. Other major war requirements whose production was seriously reduced as a result of Bomber Command's attacks at this time included shells, fuses, guns and aero-engine parts.

1 ‘The last raid on Essen,’ records Goebbels in his diary on 28 July, ‘caused a complete stoppage of production in the Krupps works. Speer is much concerned and worried.’

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But Essen was only one of many targets, and from the middle of March to the end of July the attack on the Ruhr was pressed with the greatest vigour, all the chief industrial areas being attacked in turn. Many of the raids were remarkably successful in causing widespread destruction but they did not always go according to plan. Although provision had been made for the unexpected arrival over the target of cloud thick enough to hide the ground markers, there were occasions when even the use of ‘skymarkers’ – a kind of firework which floated slowly down and made a point of aim above the clouds – was not enough to save an operation from failure. This was when the tops of the clouds were so high that the skymarkers fell into them and were quickly lost – as happened one night towards the end of May when there was cloud up to 20,000 feet over Dussel- dorf. Bomber Command was, in fact, not yet wholly independent of the weather.

* * * * *

The Battle of the Ruhr was fought by Bomber Command with mounting casualties in the face of an opposition which grew steadily in strength and skill, for the arsenal of the Ruhr was exceptionally well defended by guns, searchlights, night fighters, observation and radar posts, and decoys of various kinds. By the summer of 1943 the area had well over one-third of the total anti-aircraft guns available in Germany. British crews called it ‘Happy Valley’ – a grim euphemism for a region which could become a better reproduction of Dante's Inferno than any of the other well-defended parts of Germany.

As the battle developed it became a colossal battering match between air and ground, with the ground defences trying to blast the invaders out of the sky and the bombers trying to smother the defence under the weight of their attack. As the first aircraft approached, hundreds of searchlights would come on at once and soon the whole sky would be filled with bursting shells, so that the bombers had to drive forward through a barrage of fire and steel. ‘The searchlights, in huge cones, made a wall of light through the Valley,’ declared one Lancaster captain after the second heavy raid against Essen. ‘Intense flak was being directed into the centre of each cone and one got the impression that the defences were being very intelligently directed. They were certainly ready for us and as we flew in I saw other bombers twisting and turning in the searchlight beams.’ Outside the circle of light night fighters waited to pounce upon crippled machines or the unwary crew. Many bombers returned with parts of their wings or fuselage torn to shreds, flying back, as a popular song of the period put it, ‘On a page 63 Wing and a Prayer’. Others were shot down over the target or, mortally damaged by flak and night-fighter attack, crashed on enemy territory; a few struggled gamely back over the enemy coast only to be forced down in the North Sea.

During the attack on Remscheid one Lancaster of No. 50 Squadron was just turning away after dropping its bombs when it was coned by searchlights. The pilot, Flight Sergeant Cole,1 succeeded in getting clear but a few minutes later the bomber was again caught in the blinding glare of the lights and then hit by flak. The rear gunner was killed. The Lancaster turned over on its back and petrol poured out of one of the tanks. Cole managed to regain control, but shortly afterwards an engine caught fire and became useless. The bomber then proved so unstable in flight that he ordered his crew to stand by to bale out while he struggled with the damaged controls. Eventually, by lashing back the rudder pedal with a leather strap and by careful piloting, Cole managed to keep his machine airborne and get back across the Channel to make a forced landing in England.

Typical of many other eventful flights was the experience of Squadron Leader Thiele and his crew in the attack on Duisburg early in May. When nearing the city their Lancaster was severely damaged by a shell bursting right underneath the fuselage. Thiele carried on to bomb his target, but during his final approach the aircraft was caught in a cone of searchlights. Shells began to burst all around but Thiele maintained his straight run. Then just as the bomb aimer let the bombs go the machine was again hit, one burst completely destroying the starboard outer engine. Almost immediately afterwards the starboard inner engine was hit and put out of action and the side of the aircraft ripped open along the pilot's and bomb aimer's compartments. Although dazed by a shell splinter which had struck him on the side of the head, Thiele managed to keep control and complete the long homeward flight. Unable to maintain height after crossing the British coast, he made a masterly crash-landing without injury to his crew. This was the second occasion on which Thiele had brought his aircraft back on two engines.

There were occasions during the battle when the fury of the onslaught temporarily overwhelmed the German defences. After the attack on 26 April against Duisburg – the largest inland port in Germany – the Air Ministry reported: ‘The Germans seem to have packed the area with heavy anti-aircraft guns and searchlights. Outside the town there was a belt of lights with others inside it,

1 Flying Officer M. M. Cole, DFM; born Carterton, 29 Oct 1914; joined RAF Jun 1941.

page 64 while hundreds of guns put up one of the heaviest barrages which our bombers had encountered. But in spite of their great strength the defences were unable to cope with the attack. Pilots who went in towards the end of the raid reported that the barrage had fallen off considerably.’ By that time the port was ablaze with large red fires and looking, as one observer described it, ‘like a cauldron bubbling with angry molten metal which spurted up every now and then as more and more bombs exploded.’

In the attack against Dortmund on 23 May more than two thousand tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped within an hour, and the effect of this terrific onslaught was to crush most of the life out of the defence. ‘Flak was fairly intense at the beginning of the raid,’ said the RAF bulletin issued the following day, ‘but as the attack developed the flak died down considerably, cones of searchlights split up and single lights appeared to be waving aimlessly about the sky.’ Nevertheless, thirty-eight of the eight hundred bombers despatched were lost. Clear weather in the target area had assisted co-operation between guns and searchlights in the early stages of the raid, and on the return flight from Germany intense fighter activity persisted well out over the North Sea.

Four nights later just over five hundred bombers swept in ten waves over Essen within the space of fifty minutes. Crews reported that the anti-aircraft fire was particularly violent and to reach the target they had to penetrate a thick curtain of searchlights and bursting shells; it was estimated that the intense flak was responsible for at least three-quarters of the 107 aircraft damaged on the raid. This was in addition to the twenty-two bombers which failed to return.

As the battle continued, British crews encountered stronger opposition from the ground defences while the onset of summer, with shorter and lighter nights, gave the German fighters better opportunities for interception. On 24 June, when the industrial centre of Elberfeld was the target for 630 bombers, scores of night fighters were in action and many bitter duels were fought. In addition, the British crews met a very heavy barrage and more searchlights than ever as they approached their objective. ‘Great belts of searchlights, twenty to thirty in each cone, tried to pick us up and intense anti-aircraft fire came up the beams,’ reported one Stirling captain. ‘The defences of Dusseldorf and Cologne appeared to be co-operating in a desperate attempt to beat off the raiders.’ Throughout the return flight the enemy defences were active, and altogether eighty-seven of the bombers came back damaged while a further thirty-three did not return at all.

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Night fighters were particularly active a few nights later when another heavy attack was launched against Cologne. There was much cloud over the Rhineland and the searchlights therefore were at a disadvantage, although the guns maintained a powerful barrage and heavy flak came up through the clouds. It was above the cloud bank that the most bitter fighting occurred. The Northern Lights lit up the sky and many of the bombers were silhouetted against the cloud surface below. For the German fighters the conditions were almost ideal and they attacked in strength. One pilot declared that he saw nine combats going on almost simultaneously. Twenty-five British bombers were lost in this raid and a subsequent analysis of crews' observations of aircraft shot down indicated that seventeen of these fell victim to German fighters.

Flight Lieutenant Mandeno and his crew of No. 156 Pathfinder Squadron were in action this night. Just after leaving Cologne their Lancaster was intercepted by a German night fighter and in a typical sudden attack the elevators and tail plane were damaged, one of the engines was hit and a petrol tank punctured. Rear guns were out of action but the fire of the mid-upper gunner and evasive turns by Mandeno were successful in shaking off the fighter. Only a few nights earlier Mandeno had displayed a similar skill when his bomber was attacked on the outward flight. He had then carried on to his target.

The Lancaster of No. 101 Squadron captained by Squadron Leader St. John narrowly escaped destruction towards the end of June. Caught in searchlights over Holland while on the outward flight to Mulheim, the bomber was first attacked by a Junkers 88 which inflicted extensive damage. Then, after diving to 3000 feet, it was again attacked, this time by a Dornier. The German got in a short burst but the Lancaster replied and scored hits. Meanwhile the Junkers which had followed the Lancaster down continued to fire and set the starboard outer engine alight. With his machine still losing height, St. John was forced to jettison his bomb load in order to make good his escape. He then set course for base with one rudder, both turrets unserviceable, and the fuselage and both petrol tanks badly holed. In addition, one of the elevators was partly shot away and the controls almost severed and jammed. This made it impossible to bring the control column further back than the central position. ‘Despite this situation,’ says an official report, ‘Squadron Leader St. John, with great skill and ability, brought his aircraft back and landed it safely.’ When the crew came to leave their machine they found a gaping hole where the door had been and most of the tail unit shot away.

There were many such incidents in which the enemy fighters were cheated of their prey. That same night, for example, Flight Lieu- page 66 tenant Wilkie1 and his crew of No. 15 Stirling Squadron succeeded in evading persistent attacks by a German night fighter and flew on to complete their mission. Only a few days previously when attacking Dusseldorf, they had seen the propeller of one engine shot away. When Pilot Officer Robinson,2 a captain with No. 158 Squadron, returned from the attack on Bochum he told how, whilst evading continuous attacks by two Messerschmitts, ‘one cannon shell had zipped down the fuselage between his legs, struck the air gunner a glancing blow on the head – literally parting his hair – and then passed out through the perspex nose.’

Inevitably some crews were less fortunate in their encounters with night fighters over Germany. Of those who survived when their machines were driven down, the experiences of Flight Sergeant McLeod3 are fairly typical. Early in May while flying out to bomb Dortmund, the Lancaster of which he was captain was attacked by a night fighter shortly after crossing the Dutch coast:

The aircraft's electrically operated equipment and inter-communication were completely put out of commission. The starboard motors both lost all power, the elevators would not respond and consequently the plane went into a dive. It was soon clear that the machine was out of control and being unable to jettison our bomb load did not help matters. At approximately 9000 feet, I roared to the bomb-aimer, who was sitting next to me in the second pilot's seat, to pass the word back to bale out. Unfortunately he had been wounded in the shoulder but managed to pass the message to the crew. Our load, which consisted of incendiaries and 1000 lb. bombs, had been straffed. This caused the cockpit to be filled with smoke which made the abandoning of the aircraft rather difficult. I was eventually assured that the rest of the crew had parachuted out and so, without hesitation, I made the plunge into the darkness. It was only a matter of seconds before I felt the sudden jar and the relief of knowing that the chute had opened – a moment of stress I certainly would not like to happen again in a lifetime.

During my descent I was unfortunate enough to get caught in a searchlight, an experience I should imagine similar to walking down the Strand in the nude. My first thoughts were of being put out of my misery by the night fighter, but luck was with me and the glare passed over. I landed in a Dutch canal and what with endeavouring to find my footing, parachute cords and equipment, I threshed the water for some time before I realised that it was just slightly over my shoulders. At last I waded out on to the bank but unfortunately I had lost my escape equipment in my efforts to reach dry land.

The night was dark and overcast, so I was utterly confused with direction. After about two hours' walking I noticed that further over there seemed to be a small village on the edge of the canal. Everything was in quietness so

1 Flight Lieutenant H. C. Wilkie, DFC; born Raetihi, 11 Jan 1923; farmhand; joined RNZAF Sep 1941; killed in flying accident, 18 Apr 1944.

2 Pilot Officer C. H. Robinson; born Christchurch, 16 Dec 1917; civil engineer; joined RNZAF Oct 1941; killed on air operations, 22 Jun 1943.

3 Warrant Officer W. M. McLeod; born Waimate, 24 Jun 1919; livestock clerk; joined RNZAF Aug 1941; p.w. 4 May 1943.

page 67 I stayed about trying to locate a suitable place for cover. Then towards the direction I had come I saw several lanterns moving about so decided to chance knocking on the door of the nearest house. I was rather surprised at the prompt response. A man fully dressed in working clothes called out. I replied “Anglais” and he then went in and after a minute or two returned and gestured to me to enter. This bucked me up considerably as I was sure I had struck help. They offered me a cup of coffee and slice of black bread which were very acceptable. After much waving of the hands I managed to convey to them that I was an airman. It was then that they awoke their son who would be about 12 years old and able to speak a few words of English. Eventually he produced the school atlas. I then pointed from England to Holland but they shook their heads and the boy disappeared to return with a Dutch policeman who could speak fluent English. It was then that my hopes were dashed to the ground; he informed me that they would very much like to assist me but owing to the prevailing control by the Germans and the bad time they had recently undergone, they regretted that they would have to give me over. About an hour later the Germans arrived and that was that.

Fate was kinder to Flight Sergeant Hodge,1 who flew as wireless operator in a Stirling of No. 149 Squadron. He was the sole survivor when his machine burst into flames after an attack by night fighters during the outward flight to Cologne early in July. Hodge landed in a field near a small village in Holland. He was badly burned and had sprained his ankle. Hearing somebody coming towards him he attempted to run away, but was overtaken by a man who proved friendly and took care of him at his home. Thereafter he received further assistance which enabled him, after a series of adventures, to return to England three months later.

* * * * *

During the Ruhr battle heavy attacks were made against other German towns in order to keep enemy anti-aircraft and fighter defences dispersed. Had attacks been directed solely against the Ruhr the Germans would have been able to concentrate more of their defences in that area and the losses sustained by Bomber Command would have been proportionately heavier. Therefore, in addition to raids on Berlin and the German ports and U-boat bases, targets in southern Germany were attacked, among them the industrial centres of Frankfurt, Mannheim, Stuttgart and the cities of Munich and Nuremberg, both of which had strong political associations with the German Nazi Party. In addition, there were two major raids against the huge Skoda armament works at Pilsen in Czechoslovakia.

Typical of many eventful flights during these raids was the experience of Flight Lieutenant Scott2 and his crew of No. 90

1 Flight Sergeant R. A. Hodge; born Wellington, 16 Jun 1918; cabinetmaker; joined RNZAF Jul 1941; killed in flying accident, 17 Mar 1944.

2 Squadron Leader A. R. Scott, DFC and bar; born Auckland, 21 Nov 1919; physical instructor; joined RNZAF Aug 1941.

page 68 Squadron in mid-April. Eight miles short of the target their Stirling was attacked by two enemy fighters; one engine was damaged, the rear turret was put out of action, and a flare ignited in the flare chute. But eventually Scott managed to shake off his assailants and make good his course to the target. Then just after the bombs had fallen the Stirling was hit by flak; the controls were damaged and the propeller and part of the damaged engine fell off. After a few hectic moments Scott steadied his machine, got clear of the target area and, after a difficult flight, brought the crippled bomber safely in to land at his base. More unusual was the experience of a New Zealand wireless operator, Flight Sergeant Sibbald,1 who flew with No. 35 Squadron of the Pathfinder Force. Whilst flying back from the raid against Nuremberg early in March, his Halifax was hit and set on fire and the crew forced to escape by parachute. Sibbald outwitted the enemy search parties, made good his escape, and returned to the United Kingdom seven weeks later. Another successful evader at this time was Sergeant Morley2 of No. 7 Squadron whose Stirling was shot down during its homeward flight from Stuttgart in mid-April. Morley landed safely by parachute in France and after an adventurous journey, partly on foot and partly by train, reached Switzerland three weeks later.
A young air gunner, Sergeant Wilson,3 who flew with No. 214 Squadron, played a gallant part in an episode early in March when his Stirling, while taking off for the attack on Munich, was unable to gain height and crashed near the airfield. The bomber was completely wrecked and burst into flames. Most of the crew were able to scramble clear when the aircraft broke up but the mid-upper gunner was trapped against the main spar, unconscious and hanging head downwards. He was found by the captain of the bomber, who was unable to move him, so Wilson went to assist him. The aircraft, loaded to capacity with high-explosive bombs, was now burning furiously with bullets exploding in rapid succession, but eventually they succeeded in extricating the injured man. In so doing both Wilson and his captain, who had so far escaped with only gashes and bruises, were badly burnt about the face and body. Nevertheless, they succeeded in carrying their comrade through fences and over a deep ditch to a safe distance just before the aircraft blew up. Then, although dazed from the shock of the crash and almost exhausted by his rescue efforts, Wilson staggered off across ploughed fields in search of help and eventually, by blowing the whistle attached to his tunic, succeeded in bringing rescuers to the scene. Only a

1 Flying Officer D. A. Sibbald, DFM; born Christchurch, 14 Jun 1922; clerk; joined RNZAF Feb 1941.

2 Pilot Officer N. Morley; born Otane, 23 Dec 1912; driver; joined RNZAF Jul 1941.

3 Flight Sergeant H. A. Wilson, GM; born Thames, 13 Dec 1920; farmer; joined RNZAF May 1941.

page 69 fortnight previously Wilson had been involved in an incident which necessitated his baling out. He now received the award of the George Medal.

These attacks on more distant targets in southern Germany were led by Pathfinder aircraft using H2S but, because of limited experience with this device, the marking was less accurate and the attacks themselves less spectacular than those against the Ruhr, which was within Oboe range. Nevertheless, they caused considerable destruc- tion. At Nuremberg, for example, in the early March raid by three hundred aircraft, the main weight of the bombing fell upon the industrial districts to the south-west of the town. Serious damage was done to the large MAN factory which made diesel engines; in the Siemens electrical works two-thirds of one workshop, covering five acres, was destroyed and other buildings in the factory were gutted. At the railway workshops one large repair depot covering several acres was destroyed and another area of devastation was revealed in the neighbouring railway siding. In addition, a number of establishments manufacturing tools and engineering supplies were severely damaged, many of the buildings being completely burnt out. Fires were still smouldering when the town was photographed from the air two days after the raid.

Unfortunately, at both Nuremberg and Munich, there was also considerable damage to historic and cultural buildings from scattered bombing. This was regrettable not only for the intrinsic loss but also because it provided material for the German propagandists, whose cries had become much louder as the damage to their war industries increased. Yet both cities had been regarded as legitimate targets because of their important war industries. At Munich there were factories which constructed both submarine and aero engines, tanks, armoured cars, grenades and motor tires. The city was also an important communication centre. Whether these cities could have been left unmolested on account of their particular historic and art treasures is doubtful in view of the considered policy of the Allied leaders.

At the time, the Germans made the most of such damage and the casualties caused by the RAF and, in an effort to restrict the attacks, their propaganda machine was turned on at full blast. The Italian radio also joined in the chorus of misrepresentation and vilification and shrill voices were raised in protest at what were described as ‘terror raids’ having no object but the destruction of cities and the slaughter of women and children. All this was not without its effect in Britain, where it aroused considerable discussion regarding the ethics of bombing and some misgivings as to its use. But the responsible leaders remained firm in their conviction that, however much page 70 the sufferings of the civilian population were to be deplored, it was essential for Britain to use her air power – her only weapon capable of hitting Germany directly – to end the war as soon as possible.

And whatever may be thought in these later years, it is well to remember that the German conversion to humanitarian sentiment had come rather late. It should have taken place four years earlier before the bombing of Warsaw, before the massacre of 20,000 Dutch folk in defenceless Rotterdam or the wreaking of a cruel vengeance on Belgrade. It is also worth recalling that in those early days German propaganda films were wont to show rows of their great bombers being loaded up with bombs, then flying in the air in battle array and finally casting down showers of bombs upon towns and villages, choking them in smoke and flame. Glorying in devastating violence, the Germans had sought to impress upon the world that resistance to their will was impossible.

Among the men of Bomber Command many felt deeply on these matters, but they were realists. They knew that the conflict could not be waged without suffering and regarded the loss of life in German cities as a regrettable but inevitable consequence of aerial bombardment under prevailing conditions. Certainly they were far less bloodthirsty than some whose activities were far less intimately concerned with the tragic realities of modern war.

* * * * *

During the five months in which the Battle of the Ruhr was fought the New Zealand Squadron was represented in all the principal raids, with Essen, Duisburg, Dortmund, and Dusseldorf among the targets most frequently bombed. With a third flight of eight aircraft now operational, the squadron was also able to increase its contribution to the offensive. There was a change of command early in May when Wing Commander Lane was succeeded by Wing Commander Wyatt,1 an English pilot with long experience in bombing operations. After one early raid on Italy he had made a forced landing in Spain, evaded internment, and made his way back to England.

The three flight commanders were Squadron Leaders Andrews,2 Broadbent,3 and Laud.4 Unfortunately Laud, who had served with

1 Group Captain M. Wyatt, DFC; born High Barnet, Hertfordshire, 24 Nov 1911; joined RAF 1936; commanded No. 75 (NZ) Sqdn, 1943; No. 514 Sqdn, 1944; Asst Director of Navigation (Met.) 1945 and 1946–47; Air Attache, Stockholm, 1948–50.

2 Squadron Leader F. A. Andrews, DFC; born Auckland, 17 Feb 1919; school teacher; oined RNZAF Nov 1939.

3 Squadron Leader R. Broadbent, DFC; born Wanganui, 23 Aug 1919; clerk; joined RNZAF Nov 1939.

4 Squadron Leader R. H. Laud; born Auckland, 20 May 1916; joined RAF 1938; killed on air operations, 12 Jun 1943.

page 71 the RAF from the beginning of the war, was lost during a raid on Dusseldorf towards the middle of June. He was succeeded by Squadron Leader Joll,1 who was on his second tour of operations with No. 75 Squadron. Andrews had also carried out his first tour with the squadron while Broadbent had previously flown with No. 40 Squadron. A move from Newmarket to RAF Station, Mepal, at the end of June was not allowed to interfere with operations, and by the close of the Battle of the Ruhr No. 75 Squadron had despatched 225 aircraft on eighteen major raids to drop 566 tons of bombs. Seventeen Stirlings were missing from this series of missions but three German fighters were claimed destroyed.

The Squadron was particularly unfortunate during attacks against Wuppertal at the end of May and on Mulheim in June when, on each occasion, four aircraft failed to return. Among the crews lost were twenty-eight New Zealanders including six captains, Flying Officer Vernazoni,2 Pilot Officer Bennett,3 Pilot Officer F. M. McKenzie,4 Flight Sergeants Burbidge,5 Carey6 and Thornley.7 Other crews had difficult return flights after encounters with enemy night fighters or when their machines had been damaged by flak.

On the night of 26 April, the second of the squadron's three visits to Duisburg, the Stirling captained by nineteen-year-old Pilot Officer Buck8 was approaching the target when an enemy fighter made a skilful surprise attack. There was a sharp explosion, which Buck took to be flak, and he was for the moment unaware that the rudder and tail of the bomber were damaged and his rear gunner mortally wounded. A few seconds later, however, he realised his mistake when a stream of tracer hit both mainplanes and the upper turret. Buck then found the rudder controls useless, but he managed to evade further attack and jettison his load of incendiaries when he suspected they had caught fire. Without rudder control it was difficult to turn, but with help from his second pilot Buck got the Stirling on course for base some 300 miles away. Then the starboard outer engine failed, the oil pipes having been cut by

1 Squadron Leader J. Joll, DFC, DFM; born New Plymouth, 10 Apr 1920; mechanician; joined RNZAF Jan 1940.

2 Flying Officer R. B. Vernazoni; born Auckland, 20 Feb 1923; clerk; joined RNZAF Nov 1941; killed on air operations, 30 May 1943.

3 Pilot Officer R. F. Bennett; born Otahuhu, 20 Oct 1913; clerk; joined RNZAF Sep 1941; killed on air operations, 30 May 1943.

4 Pilot Officer F. M. McKenzie; born Dannevirke, 18 Nov 1916; printer; joined RNZAF Jan 1941; killed on air operations, 23 Jun 1943.

5 Flight Sergeant K. A. Burbidge; born Byfleet, Surrey, 15 Apr 1921; assistant surveyor; joined RNZAF Apr 1941; killed on air operations, 23 Jun 1943.

6 Flight Sergeant J. H. R. Carey; born Westport, 2 Jul 1915; electric welder; joined RNZAF Nov 1941; killed on air operations, 30 May 1943.

7 Flight Sergeant S. R. Thornley; born Invercargill, 1 Feb 1918; upholsterer; joined RNZAF Jan 1940; killed on air operations, 30 May 1943.

8 Flight Lieutenant P. J. O. Buck, DFC; born Wellington, 19 Nov 1923; clerk; joined RNZAF Jun 1941.

page 72 bullets. The aircraft began to lose height steadily and a crash-landing in the Channel seemed likely. However, Buck ordered the crew to jettison everything movable and by skilful handling of his crippled machine succeeded in maintaining sufficient height to reach base and make a safe crash-landing.

Flight Sergeant Whitehead1 and his crew had a similar experience when they flew to Dortmund towards the end of May. They had just bombed the target when flak hit the port outer engine and set it alight. By the time Whitehead regained control the bomber had lost 5000 feet. The burning engine acted as a beacon for a cone of searchlights but fortunately the propeller flew off, the engine stopped, and the flames died away. Nevertheless, it was only after prolonged evasive action that Whitehead succeeded in getting clear of the searchlights and heavy anti-aircraft fire.

Pilot Officer H. C. Williams2 and his crew were in action with night fighters towards the end of July. Their Stirling, one of sixteen bombers sent by No. 75 Squadron to attack Essen that night, was suddenly set upon during the outward flight. However, by following the directions of his gunners, Williams was able to manoeuvre his machine into a favourable position. Then, after several accurate and prolonged bursts, there was a violent explosion in the German fighter and it was seen to fall away in flames. A few moments later a second fighter approached, but on meeting sustained fire from the Stirling's guns it turned away. Williams and his crew appear to have had more than their share of such experiences. During an earlier attack on Dortmund they had been simultaneously engaged by two Ju88s, but had evaded their attacks and claimed one as damaged.

While the main part of No. 75 Squadron's effort against Germany was devoted to the Ruhr, the aircrews also operated on various missions which called for deeper penetration into enemy territory. In March Stirlings flew in the three raids against Berlin, a total of twenty-one aircraft attacking the German capital without loss. On the first raid the Stirlings encountered only slight opposition from anti-aircraft batteries and although enemy fighters were seen there were no combats. But in both of the later raids the defences put up stronger resistance. After being damaged by flak over Berlin, the bomber flown by Pilot Officer French3 was intercepted on the return journey by a night fighter which scored hits in one of the port engines. Fire was exchanged for some minutes before the enemy

1 Flying Officer W. D. Whitehead, DFM; born Matamata, 5 May 1922; farmer; joined RNZAF Nov 1941.

2 Flight Lieutenant H. C. Williams, DFC and bar; born Pahiatua, 20 Feb 1917; driver; joined RNZAF Nov 1941.

3 Flying Officer R. O. French, DFC; born Feilding, 11 Nov 1910; farmer; joined RNZAF Oct 1941; killed on air operations, 4 Sep 1943.

page 73 machine broke off the engagement. Sergeant H. J. Dalzell had a lucky escape when a fragment of flak tore into his cockpit. It penetrated his flying kit but was deflected by the cigarette case in his breast pocket. Another crew were fortunate when, after the long flight to Berlin, their Stirling was so short of petrol that two engines failed just as it touched down.

No. 75 Squadron also took part in the series of attacks directed against cities in southern Germany in order to prevent the enemy adding to his defences in the Ruhr. The first two targets were Nuremberg, scene of many of Hitler's great party rallies, and Munich, headquarters of the Nazi movement and an important railway and armament centre. The seven crews who bombed Nuremberg saw large explosions and the glare of fires was still visible when they had covered more than one hundred miles of the homeward flight. During the flight back one Stirling was attacked by an enemy fighter over Saarbrucken. Cannon fire streamed into the cockpit and a shell exploded near the second pilot, Flying Officer Eddy,1 wounding him in the leg. Then followed seven minutes of violent evasive action before the enemy aircraft was finally shaken off. Another bomber captained by Sergeant Davey2 did not return.

Experienced crews reported the attack on Munich as one of the most successful they had seen. Describing a terrific explosion in the target area Squadron Leader Allcock said: ‘Suddenly there was a terrific pillar of flame in front of me. Then we flew through a smoke ring about a mile and a half in diameter caused by the explosion.’ Another captain, Pilot Officer D. L. Thompson,3 said the explosion lit up the whole of the inside of his Stirling and that ‘the entire town below us was floodlit by fire.’

The April raids on Frankfurt and Stuttgart were particularly eventful for No. 75 Squadron. In the first attack against Frankfurt twelve Stirlings were despatched. All reached their objective, but one was hit by flak when over the target and then pursued by night fighters. A message sent to base brought Spitfires out to escort the ‘lame duck’ from the French coast, but it finally came down in the Channel three miles from the English coast and the crew transferred to their dinghy. A Walrus flying boat which had been standing by to pick the men up collided with their dinghy and threw them into the sea, but they were eventually able to clamber aboard little the worse for their experience.

1 Flight Lieutenant C. Eddy, MBE; born Hamilton, Victoria, 31 Jul 1914; joined RNZAF Sep 1939; killed on air operations, 19 Apr 1944.

2 Sergeant C. R. Davey; born Dargaville, 4 Apr 1921; insurance clerk; joined RNZAF Jul 1941; killed on air operations, 8 Mar 1943.

3 Pilot Officer D. L. Thompson; born Auckland, 21 Mar 1922; bank clerk; joined RNZAF May 1941; killed on air operations, 29 Apr 1943.

page 74

In a second attack against Stuttgart towards the middle of the month Pilot Officer McCaskill1 and his crew were lost, and two nights later the aircraft captained by Pilot Officer Groves2 and Pilot Officer Debenham3 failed to return from Mannheim. From these three crews only one man survived – Debenham's flight engineer. The rest were all killed when their machines crashed in enemy territory. Another crew got back from Mannheim after their bomber had been badly shot up by flak, but when about to land the English pilot, Flight Lieutenant Lowe,4 found the throttle controls had jammed. On crash-landing the aircraft hit a hangar and caught fire but the crew were able to hack their way out of the wreckage. During the homeward flight particular fortitude had been displayed by the navigator, Pilot Officer Carswell,5 who was badly wounded in the leg. Although weak from loss of blood and in considerable pain, he had remained at his post and guided the aircraft back to base.

One of Bomber Command's most successful raids of this period, apart from those against the Ruhr, was that on the Schneider armament works at Le Creusot, now of greater importance to the Germans following the damage to Krupps at Essen and the Skoda plant at Pilsen. Halifaxes and Stirlings made up the bulk of the force of 290 bombers which made the attack in mid-June – a full moon period when operations against more distant and strongly defended targets would have meant prohibitive loss. As it was, only two machines were lost in this raid and, into the bargain, a Messerschmitt was shot down over the Channel by a Halifax on the outward flight. Although the Schneider plant at Le Creusot was a relatively small target, it was severely damaged and ceased production for a considerable period.

Thirteen Stirlings from the New Zealand Squadron took part in the raid and crews reported a successful attack. One of the bombers lost a propeller as it approached Le Creusot but carried on to drop its bombs and returned safely. Another Stirling, with Squadron Leader Joll at the controls, received a direct hit from a light anti-aircraft shell which burst inside the port mainplane. Shrapnel severed the petrol cock control cables and oil pipelines and oil began to flow into the fuselage. While Joll continued on over the target,

1 Pilot Officer D. G. McCaskill; born Wellington, 11 Oct 1923; student; joined RNZAF Jun 1941; killed on air operations, 15 Apr 1943.

2 Pilot Officer K. H. G. Groves; born Waverley, 3 Jan 1913; farmer; joined RNZAF Oct 1941; killed on air operations, 17 Apr 1943.

3 Pilot Officer K. F. Debenham; born Oxford, 3 Jan 1917; shop assistant; joined RNZAF Apr 1941; killed on air operations, 16 Apr 1943.

4 Squadron Leader D. C. Lowe, DFC, AFC; RAF; born London, 14 Mar 1922; aircraft research laboratory assistant; joined RAF Nov 1940.

5 Flying Officer F. C. Carswell, DFC; born Invercargill, 4 Jul 1916; assistant company secretary; joined RNZAF Dec 1940.

page 75 his Canadian flight engineer, Sergeant G. Falloon,1 took an axe, hacked his way through the fuselage and crawled inside the wing. There he investigated the damage and, working by torchlight, made temporary oil repairs which enabled the bomber to return safely.

Another of No. 75 Squadron's targets at this time was the Rhineland town of Aachen. Aachen was on the fringe of the Ruhr and could be reached without deep penetration of the enemy defences; nevertheless, the city itself was well defended by anti-aircraft batteries and night fighters. Several crews reported encounters with night fighters, one of which was probably destroyed. The gunners saw their target emit a flash, spin round and go down through the clouds, after which there was an explosion on the ground. On the other hand, two Stirlings were badly damaged by flak over Aachen. One made an emergency landing and the crew escaped injury but the other crew were not so fortunate. When they crash-landed at Oakington, the undercarriage collapsed and the aircraft turned over and caught fire. The mid-upper gunner was mortally wounded and four other members of the crew badly hurt, including the captain, Flying Officer Eddy. He remained in the aircraft to assist his bomb aimer from the overturned second pilot's seat. Then, finding that the dying mid-upper gunner was trapped in his turret, he went back into the burning aircraft to try to free him. Unfortunately the heat, fumes, and smoke finally drove him back to the ground, where he collapsed as a result of his exertions and injuries.

Meanwhile No. 75 Squadron had continued to play its part in the Battle of the Ruhr. The Stirlings flew in the massive raid against Dortmund on 23 May when over 830 bombers had caused widespread destruction. ‘No district and few industries escaped unscathed,’ says a contemporary report. ‘Two-thirds of the great Hoesch steel plant were damaged and one area of devastation in the centre of the city covered 115 acres.’ Two nights later New Zealand Stirlings were among the 610 bombers which attacked Wuppertal where, following the best concentration of marking yet achieved by the Pathfinders, immense damage was caused.

Then followed the heavy raids on Oberhausen, Krefeld, Mulheim and Dusseldorf in all of which No. 75 Squadron took part. Dusseldorf was the leading commercial city of western Germany and the home of the administration departments of practically all the important iron, steel, heavy engineering and armament industries of the Ruhr and Rhineland, as well as a very important engineering centre in itself. It received two attacks, each by about seven hundred aircraft. The first, on the night of 25 May, was marred by thick cloud which largely obscured the markers. The second attack a

1 Flying Officer G. Falloon, DFM; born Strasbourg, Canada, 28 Oct 1916; joined RCAF Jun 1940.

page 76 fortnight later was made in good weather and achieved a very heavy concentration of bombs around the aiming point. The German ARP services were overwhelmed and an immense conflagration raged almost unchecked over the main part of the city. Many engineering, armaments and rail targets were included in the widespread devastation and some were still smouldering a week after the attack.

* * * * *

The climax of the Ruhr battle came on 25 July 1943 when seven hundred Lancasters, Halifaxes, Stirlings, and Wellingtons made their last attack of the year against Essen. For the loss of twenty-three machines, it was estimated that more damage was inflicted in this raid than in all previous attacks against Essen put together. Photographic reconnaissance revealed that the bombing was concentrated within a relatively narrow strip about one and a half miles wide, stretching back from the aiming point in the centre of the town and including the whole of Krupps Works. Havoc, wrought by fire, was great and some buildings were still burning two days later. A few nights later the industrial centre of Remscheid which specialised in machine tools was raided by 270 bombers, and reconnaissance the next day showed uncontrolled fires sweeping the town, the whole centre of which appeared gutted. A contemporary German report shows that over one hundred industrial concerns, including two steel mills, were affected.

Altogether, the Battle of the Ruhr had given an impressive demonstration of the growing power for destruction of Bomber Command. Not only had a hitherto invulnerable area been severely damaged for the first time but there seemed no reason why this success should not be repeated indefinitely on targets within Oboe range. This had never been the case before. Every previous success had been dependent on a caprice of the weather and had only been won by seizing some opportunity which might never recur. Never- theless, Air Marshal Harris himself regarded his victory in the Ruhr as only the beginning of a serious bomber offensive; not before a very much larger number of cities elsewhere in Germany had been reduced to the same condition and not before the wrecked cities of the Ruhr and elsewhere had been attacked once and even twice again to prevent recovery could there be any decisive effect.1

A spectacular incident in the Battle of the Ruhr must now be noted. This was the attack on the night of 16 May 1943 against the dams in the Ruhr and Weser valleys, which supplied water and hydro-electric power for many cities and industries in these regions.

page 77

Of some twelve dams the Moehne was the chief. Built to control the River Ruhr, it was 105 feet high, 2100 feet long, increasing in thickness from 25 feet at the top to 112 feet at the base, and its capacity was just over 130 million tons of water. Second in importance was the Eder Dam which protected and fed the large manufacturing centre of Kassel and neighbouring industrial areas. Other large dams were the Sorpe – unusual on account of its earthern construction round a concrete core – the Lister, and the Schwelme.

To attack such formidable targets successfully was an extremely difficult and hazardous task involving months of careful planning, preparation, and training. A special unit, No. 617 Lancaster Squadron, had therefore been formed under Wing Commander Guy Gibson1 and the crews carefully chosen. Gibson himself had already completed three tours of operations, and after pressing strongly to be allowed to remain on operations he had, on account of his outstanding character and achievements, been selected to command No. 617 Squadron. This unit, first under Gibson and later under Wing Commander Cheshire2 – both men won the Victoria Cross – was to establish a splendid record during the second half of the war in carrying out various special missions, of which this successful attack on the Ruhr dams was but the first.

The raid on the dams was made by nineteen Lancasters using specially designed weapons that were detonated by hydrostatic fuses at a chosen depth. Two New Zealanders were among the bomber crews: Flight Lieutenant Munro,3 who was later to become deputy leader of the squadron, captained one Lancaster, and Flying Officer Chambers,4 who had been with No. 75 Squadron the previous year, flew as wireless operator in another. Both men were among the eleven crews which survived their mission. The whole gallant action is vividly portrayed in the last chapters of Enemy Coast Ahead, written by Wing Commander Gibson shortly before he was killed in action.

The Lancasters were despatched in three waves, and it was the first wave of nine aircraft, led by Gibson, which achieved the greatest success. Taking off soon after moonrise, these bombers flew low into Germany on a carefully planned course to make the initial attack on the Moehne Dam. Gibson went in first, descending to

1 Wing Commander G. P. Gibson, VC, DSO and bar, DFC and bar, Legion of Merit (US); born Talland, Simla, 12 Aug 1918; joined RAF 1937; commanded No. 106 Sqdn, 1942–43; No. 617 Sqdn, 1943; Deputy Director Personnel (A) 1944; killed on air operations 19 Sep 1944.

2 Group Captain G. L. Cheshire, VC, DSO and two bars, DFC; RAF (retd); born Chester, 7 Sep 1917; permanent commission RAF Oct 1939; commanded No. 76 Sqdn, 1942–43; No. 617 Sqdn, 1943–44; served with RAF Delegation, USA, 1944–45.

3 Squadron Leader J. L. Munro, DSO, DFC; born Gisborne, 5 Apr 1919; farmer; joined RNZAF Jul 1941.

4 Flight Lieutenant L. Chambers, DFC; born Karamea, 18 Feb 1919; carpenter; joined RNZAF Sep 1940.

page 78 within a few feet of the water and taking the full brunt of the anti-aircraft defences; then the following Lancasters attacked in turn and as each aircraft swept down the valley Gibson drew the enemy fire in order to give it as free a run as possible. Already during the approach one machine, its pilot blinded by searchlights, had ‘reared up like a stricken horse, plunged on to the deck and burst into flames; five seconds later his mine blew up with a tremendous explosion.’ Then, over the Moehne lake, a second Lancaster was hit in one of its petrol tanks; it caught fire, staggered on apparently trying to gain height so that the crew could bale out, let fall its bomb on the power-house below the dam and then, says Gibson, ‘there was a livid flash in the sky and one wing fell off; his aircraft disintegrated and fell to the ground in cascading, flaming fragments.’ But meanwhile other bombers had reached the dam and in the pale moonlight the crews caught glimpses of the whole valley below beginning to fill with fog from the stream of gushing water. Gibson then led the remaining Lancasters over the treetops, up and down valleys to the Eder Dam where, after their attack, two separate breaches appeared and crews saw a wave of water sweeping down the valley below ‘swiping off power stations and roads as it went. We saw it extinguish all the lights in the neighbourhood as though a great black shadow had been drawn across the earth.’ But two more Lancasters had been lost, one of them blown up by the detonation of its own bomb as it attacked; another damaged bomber crashed into the North Sea during the return flight.

The effects of the breaching of the two dams are described in contemporary German reports. A gap ‘76 metres wide and 21 to 23 metres deep’ was torn in the Moehne Dam, the main power-station below it was destroyed, and all road and rail bridges in the Moehne Valley were swept away. There was further widespread damage to power-stations, waterworks, industries and railways in the Ruhr Valley and ‘the effects of the attack were felt far into the Dusseldorf district.’ Similar destruction and dislocation were reported by the Germans as a result of the breaching of the Eder Dam, below which the whole valley was flooded for 16 miles, including parts of the town of Kassel.

The bombs used in the attack on the Ruhr Dams had been specially designed by B. N. Wallis of Vickers Armstrong, and after the war the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors gave him £10,000. He put it into a fund to educate children of men who died in the RAF, quoting David in Samuel II, Chapter 23: ‘Is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?’ It was a worthy gesture. The finest bombs ever invented would have been useless without young men of sufficient courage to fight through bitter opposition to drop them and sufficient skill to put them in the page 79 right place. The aircrews of Bomber Command were young enough and courageous enough, and this raid on the Ruhr dams was but one of many episodes in which their almost incredible bravery was fully demonstrated.

* * * * *

By the middle of 1943, with Bomber Command sending large forces deeper into Germany and the United States 8th Air Force making an impressive display of its newly acquired strength in daylight attacks, the Allied air offensive was steadily gaining momentum. The advent of the American bomber forces over Germany was to prove a major turning point in the strategic air attack on the enemy war machine. However, as yet, coincidence of effort and objectives was rather fortuitous and for some time the two Allied bomber forces continued to operate along lines not nearly so parallel as had been assumed.

The British and American forces were, in fact, engaged in bombing the enemy in accordance with widely divergent theories. Whereas the RAF still hoped to bring about the general disorganisation of the German economy by area attacks on cities, the Americans preferred precise attacks on selected industries. Moreover, the Americans considered that the key to a successful bombing offensive was air superiority, which meant the destruction of the Luftwaffe, while in the RAF policy of night bombing the tactics demanded were the evasion rather than the defeat of the German fighter force.

This fundamental difference of opinion as to the best method of conducting the strategic bombing offensive had been recognised at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, but it had not been bridged in the subsequent statement of policy issued after that meeting. The commanders of the two Allied bomber forces, Air Marshal Harris and Lieutenant-General Eaker, had been left to interpret an extremely wide directive in their own different ways. As a result subsequent efforts to achieve a common strategy and tactics were to meet with little success until well into 1944.

On the tactical side there was much discussion of the relative merits of day and night bombing. At first the RAF tended to be rather sceptical and the Americans boldly optimistic regarding the efficacy of daylight attacks, but soon both sides had cause to modify their views. It was realised that complementary attacks by day and night had certain advantages as both sides could draw to the full on their previous training and experience, while the enemy fighter force would be kept at full stretch and Germany subjected to a more continuous assault.

The Americans, however, had to pass through a hard school in developing their daylight attacks. Like Bomber Command, they page 80 found that penetration over Germany by day without fighter cover was prohibitive in cost; they also discovered that on many days the weather over Northern Europe produced conditions similar to those prevailing at night and thereby rendered precision attacks very difficult.1 But eventually the Americans triumphed over the obstacles to effective daylight attacks, and by mid-1944 tightly packed formations of Fortress bombers under strong escort by long-range fighters were bombing Berlin at high noon.

American ideas on air strategy exerted a strong influence in the discussions that took place during 1943 in an attempt to develop a combined plan for the bombing of Germany. In May of that year General Eaker, in command of the United States 8th Air Force, produced a plan based on the proposition that ‘it was better to cause a high degree of destruction in a few really essential industries than to cause a small degree of destruction in many industries.’ American intelligence experts working in close co-operation with the British suggested six target systems whose destruction it was believed would ‘fatally weaken the enemy's capacity for armed resistance.’ These systems were the submarine construction yards and bases, the aircraft industry, the ball-bearing industry, oil, synthetic rubber pro- duction, and the production of military and transport vehicles. Since the destruction of these targets could only be achieved by a force of considerable size, the RAF could co-operate in the plan by attacking cities by night which were related to the target systems being bombed by the 8th Air Force. However, Eaker pointed out that before his plan could be put into effect it was essential to reduce the growing strength of the German fighter force. This, in fact, was the most important feature of the plan.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff who, acting under the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, were the supreme military authority, accepted this point and signified their approval of the general plan. The defeat of the German Air Force now became mandatory and the achievement of air superiority was accepted as the indispensable prelude to successful strategic bombing operations. A revision, or rather an interpretation, of the Casablanca directive was now called for.

The new directive, which came to be known as the ‘Pointblank’

1 An American air historian records that ‘On the 11th June 1943 … after being frustrated during ten days of bad weather over European targets the 8th Air Force despatched 252 heavy bombers to attack Bremen and Wilhelmshaven. Finding Bremen obscured by clouds 168 of the bombers attacked Wilhelmshaven and 30 bombed Cuxhaven, a target of opportunity …. Things went very much as expected which is not to say that they went well. As on previous AAF missions to those parts, the German fighters appeared in force but reserved their attacks until the bombing formations were committed to the bombing run …. Bombing accuracy at Wilhelmshaven was consequently poor, few bombs of the 417 tons dropped did serious damage and none hit the target (the U-boat building yards). – A. B. Ferguson in The Army Air Forces in World War II, Volume II, p. 669.

page 81 plan, was sent to the Commander-in-Chief Bomber Command and the Commanding General of the 8th Air Force on 10 June 1943. Unfortunately, however, while it stated that ‘first priority was to be given to the attack of the German fighter force and the industry upon which they depended,’ the wording of the directive was rather vague and obviously an attempt at compromise with British views. In particular, it made only very informal provision for what was essential to the success of the plan, namely, the close integration of British and American operations. On this point the directive simply stated: ‘while the forces of the British Bomber Command will be employed in accordance with their main aim in the general disorganisation of German industry their action will be designed as far as practicable to be complementary to the VIII Air Force.’

The result was that the so-called ‘combined bomber offensive’ continued more or less along its already divergent lines. While the 8th Air Force went ahead with daylight attacks upon the more precise sources of German air strength, Bomber Command continued to concentrate mainly on area attacks against German cities.

Air Marshal Harris was, in fact, determined to carry on the attack against German cities and as far as possible to avoid all diversionary activities. He remained convinced that the enemy's capitulation could best be brought about by the destruction of most of his principal towns. As Bomber Command became better equipped for concentrated attack, the British Air Staff argued the merits of attacks on key industries in Germany, but Harris persisted in his view – not without strong political support. As late as 7 December 1943, in a review of the RAF bomber offensive, he declared: ‘it is not possible to dogmatize on the degree of destruction necessary to cause the enemy to capitulate but there can be little doubt that the necessary conditions will be brought about by the destruction of between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of the principal German towns.’

By the end of 1943, however, the British Air Staff, already inclined to the American view, was finally convinced that the area bombing offensive was not the best way to win the war. But it was not until February 1944 that, by insisting on an attack against the controversial target of Schweinfurt, they made this clear to Sir Arthur Harris. The official British policy, if not the practice, of area bombing was then discarded. The impending invasion of the Continent for which air superiority was regarded as vital had provided the final and decisive argument in favour of the American policy of attacking the German fighter force and the aircraft industry upon which it depended.

The combined bombing effort did not, however, achieve close integration until late in the campaign when the greater accuracy of the British bombing and the heavier weight of the American attack page 82 made the distinction between pinpoint and area bombing a shadowy one, and when the importance of enemy oil and transport had become so apparent as to leave little doubt regarding the primary objectives. Nevertheless, the early stages of the Allied air offensive were not negligible in terms of strategic effects. In particular, they reduced the cushion of potential productive capacity in Germany which had at first absorbed the shock of strategic bombardment. But until 1944 German industry was not fully mobilised. Many industries had surplus space, machine tools, and stocks of raw materials. Some plants had yet to be converted to full war production, while the capabilities of the occupied territories were not fully developed. Moreover, owing to the fact that the Allied attacks were not fully co-ordinated or repeated quickly enough, the enormous recuperative power of German industry had not yet been taxed to the full. In this connection it is well to emphasise that the air offensive did not achieve major power and significance until the spring of 1944. Indeed, of the total tonnage of bombs dropped in the European War by the RAF and the USAAF, no less than 83 per cent was dropped subsequent to 1 January 1944. Perhaps even more significant is the fact that, of all the tonnage dropped on Germany itself, 72 per cent was after 1 July 1944. If the bombing of Germany had relatively little effect on production prior to that time, it is not only because she had idle resources upon which to draw but also because the major weight of the air offensive had not yet been brought to bear.