Entries are listed chronologically. The first line (in bold) is the term used to describe the subject, which is also a hyperlink to every item in the IBCC Digital Archive described with that tag. The second line (in italics) contains alternative forms, such as spelling variants, abbreviations, colloquialisms or equivalences in other languages. Each entry is supplemented with background information and links to related concepts.
Indentations are used to denote a parent/child structure, in which the main entry is a broad category followed by sub-categories. This allows for users to either narrow or expand the focus of their searches.
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The MAN Diesel engine manufacturing workshops were attacked in daylight after a 1000 mile (1600 kms) flight over enemy territory. The aim of the operation was to reduce the supply of German submarine engines. 12 Lancasters were used; six from 44 Squadron and six from 97 Squadron. Four Lancasters were lost to Luftwaffe fighters over France and three Lancasters were lost to anti-aircraft fire over the target. 37 aircrew were killed and 12 were made prisoners of war.
bombing of Cologne (30/31 May 1942)
Used for: Operation Millennium
In May 1942 Arthur Harris had been in command of Bomber Command for only a few months and had about 400 front line operational aircraft. However he wanted to make a statement about the potential effectiveness of Bomber Command. To do so he planned to use 1000 aircraft for the attack on Cologne with the extra aircraft coming from Operational Training Units and squadron conversion flights. The attack used the concept of the bomber stream for the first time with the aim of overwhelming German defences by getting as many aircraft over the target in the shortest possible time. 1047 aircraft took off, 41 were lost and 152 aircrew killed. Just under 500 people were killed in Cologne. Up to 150,000 inhabitants left the city afterwards.
Eder, Möhne and Sorpe operation (16/17 May 1943)
Used for: Operation Chastise, Dam Busters raid, Dam Busters op, Dam Busters operation
The concept of destroying German dams using bouncing bombs was developed by Barnes Wallis. Guy Gibson formed 617 Squadron in March 1943 at RAF Scampton and, guided by Barnes Wallis, developed the method for the attack. 19 modified Lancasters, each carrying one bouncing bomb codenamed Upkeep, participated in the operation. The attacks on the Möhne and Eder Dams required an approach perpendicular to the dam at a height of 60 ft (18 m) controlled by angled spotlights and a speed of 232 mph (373 kph). The bomb was spun backwards before release at a point determined by the two towers on the dams. Both dams were breached. The Sorpe was attacked by flying parallel to the dam and dropping the bomb without backspin. The Sorpe was damaged but not breached. The Ennepe, Diemel and Lister Dams were secondary targets. Eight Lancasters were lost, 53 aircrew killed and three became prisoners of war. 1294 people were killed.
Rome was bombed for the first time on 19 July 1943. The targets were the Littorio and San Lorenzo railway marshalling yards which, between them, handled almost all the rail traffic between northern and southern Italy. The Ciampino airfield was also targeted. The attack was carried out by the United States Army Air Force with 390 aircraft comprising B-17s, B-24s and B-26s which dropped about 1000 tons (900,000 kgs) of bombs. 1700-2000 civilians were killed.
bombing of Hamburg (24-31 July 1943)
Used for: Operation Gomorrah
The bombing of Hamburg 24 July – 3 August 1943 was the first time Bomber Command undertook repeated heavy attacks on the same target within a few days. Under the codename Operation Gomorrah the first Bomber Command attack took place on 24/25 July with an attack by 791 aircraft. The first use of Window helped restrict losses to 12 aircraft. Over the next two days the USAAF also flew about 250 sorties to Hamburg. Bomber Command returned 27/28 July with 787 aircraft of which 17 were lost. This attack resulted in a firestorm in which most of those killed during Operation Gomorrah died. Over a million inhabitants of Hamburg left the City after this attack. On 29/30 July Bomber Command returned with 777 aircraft of which 28 were lost. The final raid in the ‘Battle of Hamburg’ was mounted on 2/3 August 1943 by 740 aircraft but this attack failed due to thunderstorms with 30 aircraft lost. The severe destruction and loss of over 40,000 lives in this series of attacks on Hamburg was unprecedented at the time.
bombing of Peenemünde (17/18 August 1943)
Used for: Operation Hydra
The existence of the German V-2 development facility at Peenemünde was confirmed during the summer of 1943 by reconnaissance photographs. The raid on 17/18 August 1943 was the only full scale night time precision attack by Bomber Command during the war. The operation involved 596 aircraft consisting of 324 Lancasters, 218 Halifaxes and 54 Stirlings. The first wave comprised 3 Group and 4 Group which attacked the living quarters of the scientists, the second wave by 1 Group targeted the rocket factory and in the third wave 5 Group and 6 Group attacked the experimental station. It was the first time a Master Bomber was used for a full scale operation and it also required the 8 Group Pathfinders to drop target indicators for each new aiming point. 5 Group used a time-and-distance bombing technique. Bomber Command lost 40 aircraft, many from the third wave. German night-fighters used their upward firing cannons, known as Schräge Musik, for the first time during this attack. The V-2 programme was delayed by about two months with the first operational launches occurring in September 1944.
Kassel was bombed on the night of 22/23 October 1943 by 569 Bomber Command Lancasters and Halifaxes. Over 1800 tons of bombs were dropped including nearly half a million incendiaries. As a result of effective target marking 86 per cent of the attacking aircraft dropped their bombs within three miles of the aiming point. A firestorm was created, the city centre was destroyed, more than 100,000 inhabitants were made homeless and around 10,000 people were killed. Factories producing V-1s were damaged delaying their deployment. 43 aircraft were lost and 240 aircrew were killed.
The bombing of Nuremberg (30/31 March 1944) resulted in the highest number of casualties for Bomber Command in a single night. 545 aircrew were killed, more than Fighter Command lost in the Battle of Britain. 795 aircraft were dispatched to Nuremberg comprising 572 Lancasters, 214 Halifaxes and 9 Mosquitos. Of these 95 were missing and a further 11 crashed or were written off in England. Failure was caused by multiple factors including the Germans ignoring diversionary operations allowing night fighters to get into the bomber stream early and the moonlit long outward leg but cloud at the target negating Pathfinder attempts to mark the aiming point. The operation produced scattered bombing, including some on incorrect targets. Subsequently Bomber Command changed tactics and it was the last occasion a single large bomber stream was used.
On 5/6 April 1944 an aircraft factory in Toulouse was attacked by 5 Group with 144 Lancasters and one Mosquito. The marking was carried out by 617 Squadron with Leonard Cheshire conducting the first low level Mosquito marking of the war. Following this successful attack Arthur Harris ordered that 5 Group could operate independently from the rest of the Main Force. One Mosquito and two Lancaster squadrons were subsequently transferred from the Pathfinders to 5 Group.
The operation was part of the preparation for the Normandy campaign and the target was a German military camp near to the French village of Mailly-le-Camp. 346 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitos of 1 Group and 5 Group plus two Pathfinder Mosquitos took part in the operation. A delay in coordinating the attack took place due to radio signals being blocked by another broadcast. This resulted in the main force being heavily attacked by Luftwaffe night fighters and 42 Lancasters were lost and 243 aircrew were killed. German tanks and other vehicles were destroyed. 218 German soldiers were killed and 156 injured.
Normandy campaign (6 June – 21 August 1944)
Used for: Normandy landings, operation Neptune, D-Day, DDay, Overlord
The Normandy campaign was the Allied land forces invasion of Occupied Europe from the beaches on D-Day itself to the breakout from the Normandy region towards the rest of north west Europe. The campaign was the result of co-ordinated effort by Allied forces including American, British and Canadian Armies, the Royal Navy, The United States Army Air Force and the Royal Air Force. The Second Tactical Air Force provided air support for the land forces. From April 1944 Bomber Command was used in a more tactical role to prepare for and then support the invasion. Transport links were targeted as were coastal gun emplacements. Deception flights using Window to simulate phantom naval fleets were carried out by Bomber Command. Tactical bombing raids continued post-invasion on ports to prevent German torpedo boats from engaging the Allied fleet off the Normandy coast. Tactical bombing also helped delay German reinforcements as well assisting Allied land forces overcome pockets of resistance.
Bomber Command was tasked both before and during the Normandy Campaign with disrupting the railway system in France and Belgium. The first attack on the railways occurred on 6/7 March 1944 and the last on 18/19 August 1944. Multiple targets were attacked throughout the campaign, some repeatedly. Typical of such operations were the attacks on the Paris marshalling yards at Juvisy, Noisy-le-Sec and Le Bourget on 18/19 April 1944. Five aircraft were lost.
Bomber Command carried out three deception operations the night before the Allied invasion. Stirlings of 218 Squadron and Lancasters of 617 Squadron used Window to simulate on German radar slow moving sea convoys approaching the coast between Boulogne and Le Havre. Precise navigation and timing was required over several hours to achieve success. Dummy parachutists carrying explosives, nicknamed Rupert, were also dropped as invasion diversions by 90, 138, 149 and 161 Squadrons.
During the night before the Allied invasion Bomber Command attacked coastal gun batteries at ten sites along the Normandy coast: Fontenay, Houlgate, La Pernelle, Longues, Maisy, Merville, Mont Fleury, Pointe-du-Hoc, Ouisterham and St-Martin-de-Varreville. Of the 1012 aircraft dispatched three were lost. Because of cloud cover Oboe marking was required on eight of the targets. More than 5,000 tons of bombs were dropped during these operations, more than in any single night up to that point.
The attack on the Saumur railway tunnel and nearby railway bridge over the River Loire 8/9 June 1944 was the first time the Tallboy bomb was used operationally. The tunnel and bridge were on the main railway route from central France to the invasion beachhead at Normandy 125 miles to the north. The raid was arranged at short notice to prevent a German Panzer column known to be moving north from reinforcing the German defences. The attack was carried out by 617 Squadron using three marker Mosquitos, 19 Lancasters with Tallboys to attack the tunnel and six Lancasters with 1000 lb bombs to attack the railway bridge. Four Lancasters from 83 Squadron illuminated the targets with flares. Direct Tallboy hits were obtained on the railway at the south end of the tunnel as well as one on the hill above the tunnel itself which caused it to collapse. No aircraft were lost.
The attack on Le Havre 14/15 June 1944 was the first daylight raid by Bomber Command for over a year. It was successful at negating the threat posed by the fast German motor-torpedo boats at Le Havre to the Allied shipping supporting the Normandy beachhead only 30 miles away. The attack was carried out in two waves and involved 221 Lancasters and 13 Mosquitos. 8 Group Pathfinders marked both waves. The first wave in the evening comprised mainly 1 Group. 617 Squadron from 5 Group also attacked the harbour area and concrete boat pens using three marker Mosquitos and 22 Lancasters carrying Tallboy bombs, the most Tallboys used in single raid. The second wave at dusk comprised mainly 3 Group. Spitfires from Fighter Command provided fighter escorts. In the port area 76 civilians were killed and 150 injured. 700 houses and a factory were destroyed. One Lancaster was lost.
The bombing of Boulogne on 15/16 June 1944 was aimed at negating the threat posed by the fast German motor-torpedo boats in the harbour to the Allied shipping supporting the Normandy beachhead. The operation was carried out by 155 Lancasters, 130 Halifaxes and 12 Mosquitos from 1, 4, 5, 6 and 8 Groups. Included in this attack was 617 Squadron with one marker Mosquito and 22 Lancasters carrying Tallboys only some of which were dropped due to thick cloud. Despite the conditions the operation was considered successful with many torpedo boats sunk and severe damage to the dock facilities. The town was also severely damaged and 200 people killed. One Halifax was lost.
Between 14/15 June and 14 August 1944 Bomber Command conducted eight tactical attacks to support ground troops during the Normandy Campaign. The attacks used up to 1019 aircraft and were focussed in the Villers-Bocage, Caen, Falaise and general battlefield areas. Objectives were to facilitate Allied ground attacks or prevent German counter-attacks. With Allied troops nearby accuracy was essential so the operations were conducted at medium or low level and marked by Oboe and/or controlled by a Master Bomber.
The massive concrete blockhouse at Watten in the Pas-de-Calais area was originally intended as a V-2 assembly and launch site but by June 1944 damage in the surrounding area from previous bombing raids resulted in the plans being changed to producing liquid oxygen for V-2s to be launched elsewhere. The daylight attack on 19 June was conducted by 617 Squadron using two marker Mosquitos and 18 Lancasters with Tallboys. Nine 8 Group Pathfinder Mosquitos equipped with Oboe provided initial marking. Conditions were difficult and the raid was unsuccessful with the nearest Tallboy 50 m away. 617 Squadron repeated the attack on 25 July 1944 with one P-51, one Mosquito and 16 Lancasters carrying Tallboys. Two direct hits were achieved. No aircraft were lost from either operation.
The V-2 assembly and launch site at Wizernes in the Pas-de-Calais area was an enormous complex of tunnels and chambers built underground in a chalk quarry and capped with a concrete dome 72 m in diameter and 5.5 m thick. The site was undamaged by previous conventional bombing attacks. Cloud cover prevented 617 Squadron attacks on 20 and 22 June 1944. On 24 June 1944 the Squadron used two Mosquitos and 16 Lancasters with Tallboys to attack the site. Several near misses were reported. One Lancaster was lost. 617 Squadron attacked Wizernes again on 17 July 1944 with one P-51, one Mosquito and 16 Lancasters with Tallboys. A number of very near misses put the site out of action.
Bomber Command’s campaign against V-1 launch sites in the Pas de Calais region began on 16/17 June 1944 and continued until 28 August 1944. Numerous attacks were conducted during this period, usually on multiple launch sites. The operations on 24/25 June 1944 were typical of such occasions when 739 aircraft were dispatched to attack seven different sites. The attacking force comprised 535 Lancasters, 165 Halifaxes and 39 Mosquitos. 22 Lancasters were lost.
The V-1 storage and launch site at Siracourt in the Pas-de-Calais area was attacked by 617 Squadron on the morning of 25 June 1944. Wing Commander Cheshire used a P-51 for the first time to mark the target. The squadron also used two marker Mosquitos and 17 Lancasters with Tallboys. Two or three direct hits were seen. No aircraft were lost.
The 5 Group attack on V-1 storage sites 30 miles (48 kms) north of Paris on 4/5 July 1944 had two aiming points. The main area dump was located at Saint-Leu-d’Esserent and was the aiming point for the 5 Group main force of 231 Lancasters and 15 Mosquitos. Initial marking was provided by Pathfinder Oboe-equipped Mosquitos from 8 Group. The second aiming point were the caves and tunnels at Creil, 3 miles (5 kms) north-east of the main force target. The target at Creil was attacked by 617 Squadron using one P-51 and one Mosquito for marking and 17 Lancasters with Tallboys, although only 12 were dropped. The raid was considered successful although the main force lost 13 aircraft, most to night fighters. The V-1 storage tunnels at Saint-Leu-d'Esserent were attacked again on 7/8 July by 208 Lancasters and 13 Mosquitos mainly from 5 Group but with some Pathfinders. 29 Lancasters and 2 Mosquitos were lost.
The V-3 weapon was a series of long range guns buried underground at Mimoyecques in the Pas-de-Calais area. The guns were aimed at London and supported by a complex of underground tunnels. The guns were to fire through gaps in the only structure visible on the surface which was a concrete slab measuring 70 m x 30 m. The site had been unsuccessfully attacked by several previous conventional bombing operations. 617 Squadron attacked the site on 6 July 1944. They used one P-51, one Mosquito and 17 Lancasters with Tallboys although only 14 were dropped. Other squadrons were also involved in this attack. The attack was successful and the V-3 site never became operational.
The V-1 storage site in the underground quarries of Trossy St Maximin immediately north of Saint-Leu-d’Esserent was the main target in the locality for a series of eight Bomber Command attacks 4 July – 5 August 1944. The attack on 3 August 1944 was the sixth raid in the sequence and involved 191 Lancasters, 40 Halifaxes and two Mosquitos. Five Lancasters were lost. Bomber Command also attacked two other V-1 sites on 3 August 1944. In total Bomber Command used 1116 aircraft for the three attacks on 3 August 1944, losing six.
On 15 August 1944 Bomber Command attacked Luftwaffe night-fighter airfields in Belgium, the Netherlands and France. The objective was to disrupt the German night-fighter defences ahead of a resumption of operations against German targets following the end of the Normandy Campaign. 1004 aircraft were used comprising 599 Lancasters, 385 Halifaxes, 19 Mosquitos and one P-38. Targets included airfields at Eindhoven, Volkel, Gilze-Rijen, Melsbroek (Brussels), Tirlemont, Le Culot, Deelen and St-Trond. Three Lancasters were lost.
The oil refinery at Trieste was attacked on 10 June 1944. Participating in the attack were 10 United States Army Air Force B-24s from 721 Bombardment Squadron of 450 Bombardment Group of 15 Air Force. One aircraft returned early but the other nine dropped 22 tons (20,000 kgs) of bombs from 20,000 feet (6100 m). Two large explosions were seen. No aircraft were lost.
bombing of Milan (20 October 1944)
Used for: Strage di Gorla, Bombardamento di Gorla e Precotto, Piccoli Martiri di Gorla
The last heavy bombing raid of the war on Milan took place on 20 October 1944. The United States Army Air Force used 111 bombers to target the Isotta Fraschini motor engineering works, the Breda armament works and the Alfa Romeo plant. One Group of USAAF B-24s missed their factory aiming point hitting the suburbs instead including a school killing 184 children. In total 614 civilians were killed.
Operation Catechism (12 November 1944)
Used for: Sinking of the Tirpitz
Operation Catechism was the attack that sank the Tirpitz. The German battleship had survived multiple previous attacks by mini-submarines, the Fleet Air Arm and Bomber Command. However on 12 November 1944 it was sunk near Tromsø in Norway by a combined force of 29 Lancasters from 617 Squadron and 9 Squadron, both using Tallboy bombs. Several direct hits and near misses caused the Tirpitz to capsize, killing almost 1000 German sailors. One Lancaster crash landed in Sweden but there were no Bomber Command casualties.
bombing of Dresden (13 - 15 February 1945)
Used for: Operation Thunderclap
The bombing of Dresden (13-15 February 1945) was part of Operation Thunderclap, a combined Anglo-American plan to attack eastern German cities ahead of the advancing Russian forces. On the night of 13/14 February 1945 Bomber Command attacked Dresden dispatching 796 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitos in two waves. The first wave was flown by 5 Group with 244 Lancasters. The second wave, three hours later was conducted by 529 Lancasters of 1, 3 and 6 Groups with marking by 8 Group Pathfinders. The bombing created a firestorm. The United States Army Air Force subsequently attacked Dresden with 311 B-17s on 14 February 1945 and 210 B-17s on 15 February 1945. The Dresden Historians’ Commission report in 2010 concluded that up to 25,000 people were killed during the bombing of Dresden.
The island of Helgoland was bombed on 18 April 1945 by 969 aircraft to remove the threat against Allied naval operations in the area of north-west Germany. Targets included the coastal gun batteries, the naval base, airfields and the town. Three Halifaxes were lost. The following day, Lancasters of 617 Squadron and 9 Squadron also bombed the island. Six 617 Squadron aircraft carried Grand Slam bombs, the last to be dropped in the war. The remaining aircraft of both squadrons carried Tallboys. No aircraft were lost.
Operation Manna (29 Apr – 8 May 1945)
Used for: food drop, humanitarian food drops
In the spring of 1945, parts of Western Holland were still occupied by German Forces. A harsh winter combined with the flooding of the Polders by the Germans led to serious food shortages. A plea for help was sent to London and as a result a truce was arranged with the local German commander. Drop zones were identified and marked by Pathfinder Mosquitos, and between 29 April and 8 May 1945, Lancasters of 1, 3 and 8 Groups dropped over 7000 tons of food from low altitude on sites around the main cities. The United States Army Air Force mounted similar operations under the codename Operation Chowhound between 1 May and 8 May 1945.
The bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 was the first operational use of an atomic weapon. The bomb, known as ‘Little Boy’, was dropped by a modified B-29 named Enola Gay of the United States Army Air Force. The atomic bomb had been developed by the secret Manhattan Project and two different types had been produced. The Hiroshima bomb was a uranium-235 bomb and exploded with an equivalent force of 12-15,000 tons of TNT. 90% of Hiroshima was destroyed. Over the next 4 months the immediate blast and subsequent radiation effects of the bomb caused 90,000-166,000 deaths with approximately half of these on the first day. After five years the number of deaths estimated to be related to the atomic bombing rose to over 200,000.
The bombing of the Japanese city of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945 took place three days after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Nagasaki was the secondary target but was bombed because of cloud at the primary target of Kokura. The bomb, known as ‘Fat Man’, was dropped by a modified B-29 of the United States Army Air Force. The atomic bomb had been developed by the secret Manhattan Project and two different types had been produced. The Nagasaki bomb was a plutonium bomb and exploded with an equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT. Local hills restricted the area of total destruction. Over the next 4 months the immediate blast and subsequent radiation effects of the bomb caused 39,000-80,000 deaths with approximately half of these on the first day.
Operation Dodge (1945)
Used for: servicemen repatriation
Operation Dodge was the air operation July 1945 – April 1946 to repatriate British 8th Army and other service personnel from Italy and the Mediterranean area. The title ‘Dodge’ was a reference to the unfair term ‘D-Day dodgers’ applied to soldiers in the Italian campaign. Bomber Command squadrons were involved and Lancasters could carry 20-25 passengers and their kit. Pick up locations were Bari in southern Italy and Pomigliano near Naples. On one of these flights a 103 Squadron Lancaster was lost without trace near Corsica with 6 aircrew and 19 female service personnel.
Operation Exodus (1945)
Used for: prisoners of war repatriation
Operation Exodus was the repatriation by air of the many thousands of prisoners of war liberated across Europe during April and May 1945. Bomber Command 1, 5, 6 and 8 Groups were involved. Lancasters could carry 25 passengers. By the end of May 1945 Bomber Command had repatriated over 72,000 ex-prisoners of whom almost 10,000 were captured Bomber Command aircrew. Other Allied aircraft also took part in Operation Exodus and in total over 354,000 ex-prisoners were repatriated.
Goodwill tour of the United States (1946)
Used for: Operation Goodwill; Operation Lancaster; 35 Squadron American Tour.
In 1946 Bomber Command were invited by the United States Army Air Force to send a squadron to the USA in July and August to take part in the Air Forces Day. 35 Squadron were selected for the goodwill tour. Sixteen Lancasters were sent, painted in the scheme designed for the Tiger Force of white upper and side surfaces and black under surfaces. Ground crew and senior commanders flew out in a York. The route out commenced at RAF Graveley and after stops at RAF St Mawgan, the Azores and Gander in Newfoundland arrived in the USA at Mitchel Field, New York. The tour comprised formation fly-pasts as well as civic and social receptions. The itinerary included Scott Field St Louis, Lowry Field Denver, Long Beach California, Kelly Field San Antonio, Andrew Field Washington DC, Westover Field Boston and back to New York before the return trip.