Newspaper cutting - Bombers over Hamburg



Newspaper cutting - Bombers over Hamburg


Retrospective historical account of results of operation on Hamburg dated 3 August 1943, Gives size of operation, casualties and account four bomber command attacks, resulting fires, damage to port and city. Includes b/w photograph of destroyed buildings.

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One newspaper cutting


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[black and white photograph of a Lancaster in the air]

[symbol] Bombers over Hamburg! [symbol]

[black and white photograph of ruined buildings in Hamburg]
THIS WAS HAMBURG a few hours after the R.A.F. had made its fourth raid in a week.

WHEN dawn broke over the great German port of Hamburg on August 3, 1943, it revealed a city of the dead. Hamburg – a city the same size as Melbourne – had been the target for 8600 tons of Royal Air Force bombs. In four mammoth raids RAF Bomber Command almost wiped out the city. About 42,000 people were killed in this most terrible air blitz of the European war – more people than in the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki two years later.


NEARLY 60 per cent of the living accommodation in Hamburg was destroyed in the raids. A million refugees fled from the ruins to spread despair through northern Germany.

The Nazi Propaganda Minister, Herr Goebbels, wrote in his diary: “It was a catastrophe before before [sic] which the mind reeled . . . a city destroyed in a manner absolutely unparalleled in history.”

In such a way did the Royal Air Force wreak vengeance for the German raids on Coventry, London, Liverpool and Bristol.

The Hamburg blitz came at the end of months of preparation by Bomber Command: months in which its strength gradually grew as new squadrons of Lancasters rolled out of the British war factories.

The tide had already begun to turn against Hitler and his generals. On July 10, 1943, British and U.S. troops stormed ashore on the beaches of Sicily.

Three days later the Red Army launched its summer offensive from the Moscow front to the Black Sea, beginning the steady and hopeless German retreat from Russia.

Then Bomber Command unleashed its fury on the Nazi war machine. In one raid on Essen, 2000 tons of bombs almost obliterated the Krupps factories. Cologne, Aachen, Dusseldorf were hammered night after night.


THESE were really mere curtain-raisers. The main target was Hamburg – second city in Germany – with 1 1/2 million people, 5000 industrial plants, oil refineries, electrical and chemical works, and shipyards that turned out 40 per cent, of the U-boat fleet.

Hamburg, the Nazis boasted, was the best-defended city in the world. It was ringed by thousands of anti-aircraft guns.

Its air raid organisation was the most elaborate in Germany. Squadrons of Germany’s best night fighter planes were based nearby.

Bomber Command estimated it would take 10,000 tons of bombs and the loss of 200 aircraft to knock the city out of the Nazi production line. The blitz was planned as a major aerial operation.

Two new devices perfected by the RAF were to be tested on a major scale for the first time in the Hamburg raids.

One – known as H2S – was a type of radar screen on which pilots could see the target area beneath them. It was particularly suited for use over Hamburg, which was built round a harbor [sic] and laced by a network of canals.

The other was the aerial release of thousands of strips of tin foil which showed up in clouds on the German radar screens, confusing their night-fighters and making it almost impossible to direct ground guns and searchlights.


JUST before midnight on July 24, 1943, waves of Lancaster, Stirling and Halifax bombers took off from Lincolnshire airfields – on the first of the four great attacks that lit the in- [missing words]

HAMBURG seemed to be dissolving into one huge lake of flame, from which individual fires erupted like volcanoes.

That night the city suffered three attacks, each heavier than the original raid two days earlier.

With mechanical precision, 800 planes unloaded 2417 tons of bombs on one section of the city after another.

The result was a nightmare – a wind-whipped furnace in which more than 40,000 people died.

The worst destruction was in the crowded tangle of narrow, old streets round the docks; a teeming huddle of tall buildings threaded by alleys and canals that dated back to Hamburg’s great trading days of the Middle Ages.

Here a carpet of bombs caused almost complete destruction.

Raging unchecked through the congested area, the fires quickly merged.

From the cauldron, a mass of air heated to nearly 1000 deg. Centigrade roared into the sky, creating a vacuum beneath it.


THE vacuum, in turn, sucked fresh air into the city to feed the fires, so that a fantastic gale raged through the streets at 100 miles an hour – uprooting trees, battering down the walls of gutted buildings, rolling cars and buses before it.

The luckiest victims were killed outright by bomb blast or crashing debris. Hundreds were blown into the flames by the wind.

Panic-stricken crowds tried to run for safety through streets in which the melted asphalt flowed like lava.

Thousands were trapped in the huge underground shelters.

“Speech is impotent to portray the extent of the horror,” reported Hamburg’s police chief Major General Kehrl. “ . . . the howling of the fire storms, the crash of exploding bombs, the death cries of the victims . . . all human resistance was useless.”

Many – finding escape cut off – jumped into the canals, where a haze of steam covered the oily, soot-covered water.

The most agonising fate was suffered by the victims of phosphorus bombs, who were plastered by burning globules that ate into their flesh. For them, the canals were only lingering death traps.

The water temporarily quenched the flames. But every time their bodies were exposed to air as they dragged themselves from the canals, the fire on their bodies burst out again.


EVENTUALLY police and troops drove [missing words]

of bombs into the blackened, smouldering heart of what had once been the greatest port in Europe.


DAWN broke over Hamburg on August 3 in an unearthly and terrifying silence. The city was a vast, ash-covered desert.

Everywhere the streets were littered with dead – many charred beyond human resemblance.

For weeks it was impossible to estimate the number of the victims.

“The heat was so intense,” said the official report to Nazi headquarters, “that literally nothing remains of many of the victims. Even days later, some of the shelters burst into flames as soon as they were opened and exposed to oxygen.”

The dead totalled the staggering figure of 42,000, and the injured 37,349, many of whom died later from burns, wounds and carbon-monoxide poisoning.

In one week, Bomber Command had poured into Hamburg 1200 huge land mines, 25,000 high explosive bombs, three million incendiaries and nearly 100,000 phosphorus bombs.


POLICE chief Kehrl’s official report said that 40,000 houses and 275,000 flats had been totally destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. Six city districts were shapeless heaps of rubble.

Nearly 3000 shops, 24 hospitals, 277 schools, and 83 banks have disappeared.

The Hagenbeck Zoo – one of Europe’s most famous – was wiped out in the first raid.

For six months after the raids, the industrial output of Hamburg was cut by 30 per cent. Shipping using the port fell from 200,000 to 15,000 tons a month.

U-boat production – a main objective – never recovered from the devastating blow.

By the end of August, Bomber Command had switched the full weight of its offensive to Berlin. It did not return to Hamburg until July, 1944 – six weeks after the Allied landings in Normandy.

The city was then struggling back to normal, though huge sections still lay in ruins and the population was down by about 20 per cent.

The “fire typhoon” of Hamburg had written a terrible chapter in the closing days of Nazi tyranny – rivalled only by the atomic holocausts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


“Newspaper cutting - Bombers over Hamburg,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 28, 2023,

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