RAF Wipe Out Heligoland 'Exercise'



RAF Wipe Out Heligoland 'Exercise'


A newspaper cutting about the destruction of Heligoland by the RAF.

Temporal Coverage




One newspaper cutting


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News Chronicle Reporter

METHWOLD (Norfolk), Friday.
HELIGOLAND, fortified island which the Germans called “the Gibraltar of the North Sea,” last night ceased to exist as anything but an island of barren sandstone rocks.
Aircraft of Bomber Command, in the largest and most realistic exercise since the war ended, wiped out all that remained of the Nazi naval base.
On April 18, 1945, nearly 1,000 R.A.F. bombers smashed most of the port installations, but they left a group of buildings in the south-east corner of the dockyard area. Those buildings were the target last night for 88 aircraft, 71 Lancasters and 17 Mosquitos.
It was the nearest possible approximation to a real operational sortie except that there were no enemy fighters, no flak, no searchlights.

In “F” for Fox
I was an additional member of the crew of “F” for Fox, a Lancaster from 149 group, and with the skipper, Flt.-Lt. “Johnny” Goodrum, I attended the two briefings, first of the navigators and then of the whole crews.
Two hours after the briefing we went out to “F” for Fox, tested the engines, and stood by to wait for the signal to start.
It was getting dark as we taxied out on to the runway and received permission to take off. The great aircraft, with a 500-pounder in the bomb bay, climbed upward to a height of 3,750ft., circled the aerodrome and made for the rendezvous.
Steadily we flew across the North Sea through a perfect night with a blaze of starshine in which thick cloud was visible below us.

Don’t bomb
Then the navigator, through the inter-com, told the pilot that in about ten minutes we should be over the target, and the crew stood by ready for action.
Suddenly there was a shower of brilliant lights in the sky – a glare which showed every detail of Heligoland. Then came the green target indicators; finally the red indicators, which fell dead on the target.
We straightened out for our bombing run. The aimer, with his thumb on the release, called to the pilot, “Port a little. A little more. Steady. I’m bang on.”
Then came anti-climax. The master bomber, in a Mosquito, who was controlling the attack, suddenly yelled over the radio-telephone, “Do not bomb. Do not bomb. Wait until I tell you to bomb.”
The delay was a short one before permission was given – but by that time we had passed the target.

Radar test
By the time we were again in position for the run-in the order came to stop bombing, and we set course for home – by way of Hamburg, the Ruhr and Amsterdam, still carrying our bomb.
On the way back across the North Sea we threw out hundreds of thousands of strips of silvered paper, which are used to interfere with radar detection, so that an exact check could be made on their effect on the most modern instruments
After landing we were interrogated, and a full report on the operation will be made to the Air Ministry.
While the bombing was in progress a party of scientists and military observers watched the operation from Dune, a tiny island about a mile and a half from Heligoland.


“RAF Wipe Out Heligoland 'Exercise',” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 14, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/23311.

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