30th March 1944. Lest We Forget.
Altogether 9,000 aircraft were lost in World War II.
Today in 1944, Air Chief Marshal ‘Bomber’ Harris announced the target for that night as Nuremberg, deep in south-eastern Germany.
From English air-fields departed 795 planes including 572 Lancasters, 214 Halifaxes and 9 ‘Pathfinder’ Mosquitoes.
The raid was announced despite a Meteorological Office briefing stating that weather over Germany, with minimal cloud cover, might favour German air defences and strong winds could splinter the bomber stream.
Flight Sergeant Tony Fogarty of 115 Squadron would later remark: ‘We were assured that there would be ten-tenths cloud cover for most of the way.’
The RAF crews were puzzled and not surprising as Nuremberg didn’t suffer the effect forecast as many planes were off course, fighters were ready for them and the bright moon made them sitting targets. Ironically there was cloud over the target.
The stakes were high as control over German air-space was essential bearing in mind the forthcoming Normandy invasion, especially as 190 aircraft had been lost in the past week after the onslaught on Berlin.
The 70 mile long, bomber stream would follow a route that would take it near to what the British called ‘Flak Alley’, a thick concentration of Luftwaffe night-fighter bases around the Ruhr, the Reich’s industrial heartland.
The stream was to pass close to German fighter radio beacons, and our bomber aircraft ‘contrails’ were apparent even at 25,000 feet.
Pilots recollect the German fighters, with up-firing guns, circling ready to pick the bombers off, when their escorts had to turn back.
It was the worst night for Bomber Command as 95 failed to return, ten more were written off and 59 were damaged. Intelligence documents disclosed that 53 bombers had crash-landed in England bringing total losses to 161. This represented a 12.1% loss.
Over 700 crew were killed or wounded and 160 others bailed out of damaged planes, becoming POW’s.(1)
Many have seen this as the collapse of Harris’s policy to defeat Germany by razing its cities. Now the aim was to concentrate on Normandy.(2)
It is little surprising that morale suffered after sustained operations for the last year with few crews completing the 30 obligatory missions.
There were more early mission returns and charges of Low Moral Fibre (LMF). ‘Cookies’, four thousand pound ‘Blockbusters’, were ‘pickled’-dropped- over the North Sea to give a safer altitude.
(1) Captured POWs had reported also that German Intelligence Officer had said they knew of the raid four hours before take off.
(2) Losses from 1943-March 1944 were 5881. The number of aircraft written off in 1944 was 3220.
Ref: ww2talk.com/pic of planes.
Ref: warhistoryonline.com/remembering_nuremberg_raid/Pic of briefing.
Ref: Daily Mail. Robert Hardman. 29.3.2014. We still insult their memory.