Hamburg Fires Lit up RAF Bombers



Hamburg Fires Lit up RAF Bombers


A newspaper article on an RAF operation to Hamburg. It is annotated 'No 3 24/7/43'.

Temporal Coverage




One newspaper cutting


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[inserted] No 3 24/7/43 [/inserted]

Hamburg Fires Lit Up RAF Bombers

HAMBURG was hit on Saturday night by a greater weight of high-explosives and incendiary bombs than was dropped on Düsseldorf on the night of June 11, it was officially stated last night.

First reports from crews show that the results matched the effort. There were vast fires in Germany’s largest seaport, where more submarines are built yearly than in any other town in German Europe. Dense black smoke rose four miles into the air, and there are many reports of violent explosions.

The navigator of a Lancaster – Flight-Lieutenant J.D. Henderson of Auckland, New Zealand – described the effect of an explosive fire.

“From my table,” he said, “I could not see what was happening below. I thought we were caught in a cone of searchlights.

“A yellow light lit up the whole aircraft. I looked up and saw the light reflected on the wing, and then I left my position and looked down at the fire below. It was like a huge mushroom of flames.”

Other crews engaged in a light attack on the Ruhr saw fires of Hamburg, 200 miles away.


THE first aircraft reached Hamburg a minute or two before zero hour – one o’clock. Their first bombs went down to the second, and the whole load, the heaviest yet dropped by any bomber force was dropped in 50 minutes.

The bombers flew through thick cloud over the North Sea as they gained height for the attack but once they reached land the cloud broke up.

The attack was a record for speed as well as for weight. In recent attacks on Dortmund and Dusseldorf 2,000 tons of bombs were dropped on each target in about an hour. The still greater weight of 2,300 tons in 50 minutes on Saturday night seems to have swamped and scattered the ground defences of Hamburg.


SERGEANT A.E. NEWMAN, of Redhill, a flight-engineer, who took part in the last seven attacks on the Ruhr thought there were even more searchlights over Hamburg than around the Ruhr targets.

“The gunners were using a type of flak I haven’t seen before,” he said. “It burst like a rocket with a bright flash and then scattered a fine spray of red fragments over 50 yards. It was different from the chandelier type, which sends out greenish-coloured stars.”

The casualties were extraordinarily light in proportion to the great force which was sent to attack one of the most heavily defended places in Germany.

Few encounters with night fighters are reported, but a Stirling collided with a German fighter over the target.

“We had bombed the target and were dodging round to avoid the searchlights,” said the pilot, Flying-Officer G. Turner, of Winnipeg.

“Suddenly I saw the slim wing and fuselage of a fighter about 25 yards dead ahead of us. I had just time to warn the crew over the intercomm of the fighter ahead when it hit our starboard wing with a bump. It tore away 4 ft. of the starboard wing and about 5ft. of the starboard aileron, the aileron control being damaged.

“The fighter turned over on its back and went straight down.

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to England, bombing the port of Leghorn, on the north-west coast of Italy, on the way. Leghorn is an important harbour with large ship-building yards and many industrial plants.

There was some cloud over Italy, but crews were able to see the docks and mole of Leghorn very clearly and make an accurate attack.

“We could see the mole illuminated by the flashes from bombs.” said Flight-Lieutenant J.L. Munro, D.F.C. of Gisborne, New Zealand. “We saw what seemed to be a 4,000-pounder burst on a big oil-storage depot on a quay. There was a terrific burst of flame, very red and then black smoke going up high into the sky.”


FLIGHT-LIEUTENANT R.A.P. Allsebrook D.S.O., D.F.C., of Cark-in-Cartmel, Lancashire, came in rather later than the rest. One of his engines had failed over the Mediterranean, but he flew on to bomb, and then made the long journey home on the remaining three engines.

“As we approached Leghorn,” he said, “I saw some bright red fires which looked like oil fires. We saw our first stick of bombs start another fire, and when we put our second stick of bombs across this it must have set off something. More red flames and quantities of black smoke came up.”

The Lancasters made the long flight without incident and without loss, though one crew reported an electrical storm over the Alps.


“Hamburg Fires Lit up RAF Bombers,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 19, 2024,

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