17th February 1945. Grand Slam
The release of an Associated Press despatch from SHAEF Today 17th February 1945 reported that ‘Allied Air Chiefs’ had at last embarked on ‘deliberate terror bombing’.(1) The report was suppressed by the Public Censor.
Popular concern would have been greater if it had been widely known that the entire Allied bomber force of 3,500 along with fighters, was committed to Operation Clarion in February 1945, targeting docks, bridges, barges and stations.
It was a period when airmen and politicians felt the hand of history’s judgement, for Churchill on 25th March in a memo, questioned a review of bombing cities simply for sake of increasing the terror, ‘otherwise we shall come into control of an utterly ruined land’.
The Chiefs of Staff formally decreed the ending of area bombing on 16th April 1945. But it was thought intolerable that the airmen should sit out the remaining weeks of the war, so Berchtesgaden and a few remaining oil plants were bombed.
One of the last attacks was carried out on 16th April against the German island fortress of Heligoland More than 900 planes were despatched, a force great enough to level three cities.(2)
The next day thirty three Lancasters of 5 Group were despatched, six of which were carrying Grand Slams, designed by Barnes Wallace, and Tallboys, to flatten anything left standing.
‘Grand Slam’ was the largest conventional bomb used, at 22,400 lb, the normal load being 12,000lbs, and was accompanied by ‘razzles’, phosphorous coated strips carried in milk churns in water to avoid spontaneous combustion, used to set fire to corn fields under the terms of Western Air Plan 11. ‘W’ Mines were also used, intended to drift down and explode against locks and small boats. The means which were for so long lacking to fulfil the airmen’s great ambitions had at last overtaken the ends.
Bomber Command was to reach its zenith between that winter of 1944 and May 1945, with a force which included: 1087 Lancasters, 353 Halifaxes, and 203 Mosquitoes.
Sir James Grigg, (3) Permanent-under-Secretary at the War Office (later Army Minister), said in the Commons on the Army estimates in 1944: ‘We have reached the extraordinary situation in which the labour devoted to heavy bombers alone is believed to be equal to that allotted to the production of the whole equipment of the army’. (4)
(1) SHAEF: Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force.
(2) This was where naval radar first detected Wing Commander Kellett’s, Wellingtons, before their terrible defeat 5 ½ years earlier.
(3) Grigg was later Chairman of Prudential Insurance and Bass Brewers.
(4) Hansard Commons Records.1944.
Ref: dailymail.23.1.2014.Hugo Gye/article on Grand Slam/Pic Image.