by Pierre 'Piet' MICHIELS with particular thanks to Phil BALL for the translation
Like their brothers who fought within Fighter Command,
thousands of young men joined Bomber Command to fight for Victory.
History will remember the bravery of the first,
while the sacrifice of Bomber Boys will be obscured.
They were crucial in the hell of war,
but they became politically incorrect once peace returned.
55,573 lost their lives; there has been no official tribute up to the Summer of 2012.
At the beginning of hostilities in 1939, Bomber Command consists of 55 Squadrons of which only 23 are operational and they are equipped primarily with the twin engine Wellington and Whitley and the light twin engine Hampden. Like the operations conducted by the Luftwaffe at that time, the raids are carried out in daylight.
These aircraft are flown by crews that do not recognize the need for an escort, relying on their own defences to combat the opposing fighters. Events will prove them wrong.
Heavy losses since September 1939 obliged Bomber Command to focus on night flights, including propaganda leaflet drops. Bitterly, Harris, the future Commander in Chief of Bomber Command, later stated that these operations have had only the effect of substantially increasing the Reich’s stock of toilet paper...
These initial efforts demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Bomber Command at the beginning. The relative success of some raids is due mainly to the ability and courage of the crews. The bombers are the best that the RAF has albeit most are obsolete and devoid of any air navigation aid worthy of the name.
Crew training is lengthy but is not up-to-date in terms of modern warfare tactics.
In November and December 1939, in addition to recurring technical problems with oxygen supply, the bombers also encounter wing icing problems. Spying operations and propaganda leaflet drops are ending at worst in forced landings on French or neutral territories.
The phoney war quickly loses its name in the sky over the North Sea.
The raid on 18 December 1939 sees the almost complete destruction of the Wellington Squadron sent against the defences of the island of Heligoland on the German coast. These are twin-engine bombers and reasonably advanced for their time, but they are really inadequate to accomplish the tasks that Bomber Command has assigned to them.
On the other hand, the operations so far, whilst unsuccessful, have demonstrated the potential of bomber aircraft. Indeed, in people’s minds, the bomber has since the First World War had an extraordinary reputation for destructiveness. The half-successes are mainly based on the courage and selflessness of the crew.
Until early spring 1940, the propaganda leaflet night operations continue over Germany, Austria and Poland. An RAF bomber was shot down by fighters of the Netherlands Air Force in March 1940 for violating the neutral Dutch airspace.
April sees the Hampdens undertaking the systematic mining of German North Sea ports and some small-scale anti-ship operations. History shows the prohibitive human cost and the imprecision of these attacks due to primitive navigation and sighting devices.
Wellingtons operational with 115 Squadron intervene repeatedly to slow down the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. Then, after their surrender, the British start the systematic bombing of airfields which have fallen into enemy hands. Oslo and its harbour are targeted on 4 May 1940.
After the attack on Holland and Belgium, the effort will focus on the main railway junctions and marshalling yards, including Münchengladbach and Aachen for the first time on 14 May 1940. The Ruhr is to follow.
At the beginning of the French campaign, heavy losses are caused by light flak defending the bridges and roads of Belgium and Picardy. For example, if they have not been previously shot down by Messerschmitts, most of the Fairey-Battles and the Blenheims are recorded as being shot down at altitudes between 1,000 and 1,500m.
Bomber Command, poorly equipped, seems very vulnerable to the challenges imposed on it during this new phase of its existence. On the other hand, it demonstrates that it is extraordinarily rich in terms of the quality and the quantity of men who compose it, among the best of the British Empire and its Dominions.
At that time, the operational bombers are mainly Wellingtons and Whitleys with 5 crew including 2 pilots. On the Hampden light bombers, there is only one pilot and thus a man less. Invariably, the bombers are protected by at least two gunners. Technological change and the subsequent production of heavy four-engine bombers will require the replacement of one of the pilots by a Flight Engineer.
At the end of training, the creation of the crews of RAF bombers, known as crewing-up, is itself a unique and interesting process. A number of future crews (pilot, engineer, navigator, radio operator, bomb aimer and gunners) are gathered in one place. Then, for a few hours, everything is left to chance and the magic of human chemistry. It’s a short time during which intuition and psychology are subtly blended. For total strangers, a feeling, an affinity, a look, a smile or the firmness of a handshake, is governing the creation of a team. At the end of this extraordinary assembly, pilot, engineer, navigator, radio operator, bomb aimer and gunners find themselves united for better or, often, worse.
After the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk in June, Bomber Command will focus its effort on railway communications and airfields. Despite that, following the entry into the war of Italy alongside Germany, the first operations were launched against Turin and the great industrial centres of Lombardy. The missions are flown from the Channel Islands, and then temporarily from Salons-de-Provence, despite the reluctance of French authorities who are in complete disarray.
Bombing of French occupied territories continues until June, 17, 1940. The day after the focus of Bomber Command changes to German harbours and industrial centres such as Hamburg, Bremen, and the Ruhr valley.
The Dortmund-Ems Canal also attracts the attention of the British and it is attacked for the first time on the night of 19/20 June 1940. The area does not yet have the formidable defence systems that will be installed two years later. The raid was a success.
Understandably, given the circumstances, the RAF did not control the air war and is simply reacting to German offensive action, sometimes victoriously as during the Battle of Britain. The RAF will not control the air war before the end of 1941.
With the progressive development of night raids, most of the losses of the RAF are caused by Flak batteries located near industrial centres. Unpleasant encounters with Luftwaffe night fighters are often down to bad luck and losses were not so heavy at that time.
There is still no German night fighter unit airworthy of the name. Some german pilots of the 1st Fighter Group are at that time experimenting with a night interception technique based on a combination of search lights and a new technology called radar. Known as HelleNachtJagd, target tracking is conducted by a land based unit and the night fighter aims at coned bombers. But the combination quickly reveals its limitations when there is cloud cover. The effectiveness of Flak is not reduced by cloud cover so it is used permanently and also continuously improved throughout the duration of hostilities.
General Kahmhuber is aware of the limitations of flak. He is still interested in the new radar technology, but plans to use it on another way. Falck is the commander in charge of a 3 months trial with a luftwaffe night fighter chase group. Early detection by advanced radars located away from potential targets, provides guidance for the night fighters that are sent to attack the bomber stream. At this stage, successful interception is still dependent on weather conditions and visibility.
But the first Gruppe of NachtJagd is born. By the end of 1940, the Luftwaffe will have 3 night research squadrons LuftNachtRichten and soon after 5 night fighter groups NachtJagdGruppen, which are organized around the beginnings of the Kahmhubber Line.
During July 1940, the belligerents increase the number of raids against their respective military airbases and airfields. The repetitive nature of these operations is illustrated by the figure of speech often used at the time: “Oh shit, another bloody raid”. Bombing damage is not negligible and many crews are stood down as a result of the damage to their bombers. Following the victory in the Battle of Britain, the RAF fighters are, however, unable to prevent the Blitz, as demonstrated by the bombing of Coventry.
The night of 23/24 August 1940 marks a turning point, with the bombing of London. Bomber Command responds the next day with a largely ineffective night raid on Berlin.
Total war begins that night.
Berlin is hit again on the night of 28 August. 115 Squadron takes part in the raid with its Wellingtons. September again sees the British bombers dropping their bombs on the capital of the Reich and industrial centres on its outskirts. The concept of inflicting collateral damage on German civilians is gaining ground mainly in retaliation for the attacks of English cities.
At the beginning of October 1940, with the arrival of a new Commander in Chief, Bomber Command sets a new winter targeting directive focusing mainly on fuel depots. What is important is that, for the first time, orders state that the effort should be on bringing together multiple bombers to saturate anti-aircraft defences.
In reality, Bomber Command can only count on 532 bombers, of which only 230, the Wellingtons, Hampdens and Whiteleys, are really suited for winter night operations. Losses are heavy, particularly given the replacement capacity of British war industry at the time.
As well as the creation of an effective night fighters force, Kahmhuber also appreciates the value of the long-distance strikes, carried out by the I/NJG2 of FahrunNachtjagd, which focus on the returning bombers on their final approach to their home airfields. During 1940, and without considering the bombers damaged, 21 aircraft are known to have been shot down over the UK against 19 over the Kahmhuber Line and 31 by flak near industrial centres. A unilateral decision by the Führer, nevertheless puts to an end this this promising German tactic. This error of judgment then allows Bomber Command to start to build a real bombing strategy for Germany, without having to worry about the possibility of significant losses in the airspace over the United Kingdom. This led to the RAF gaining the air war initiative within the year.
Meanwhile, after the attack on Coventry, the collateral bombing of residential areas continues, with 100 to 120 bombers being involved at the same time. In the aftermath of 17 December, for example, the aerial photographs of Mannheim show that most of the bombs fell on the working class suburbs. It will be the same in Gelsenkirchen, when synthetic fuel factories are attacked during the night of 9 January, 1941.
Northern Italy is also on the prime target list early this year, but the season begins with the milk-runs, as the British repeatedly bomb the French Atlantic harbours that give shelter, until early 1942, to the great battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau of the Kriegsmarine.
During the winter, a second directive is issued by the War Ministry. The main target remains the destruction of synthetic fuel plants, but Bomber Command is also ordered to harass the urban industrial centres and communications crossroads. The British administration has identified 17 sites of production of synthetic fuel and, according to statistical calculations done at the time; the destruction of half of these plants is likely to reduce the production capacity of the Reich by 80%. Meanwhile, more than 200 bombers are targeted on Rotterdam and Hannover on 10 and 11 February 1941. The four-engine Stirling is now operational. The new bombers, however, face an increase in Luftwaffe night fighter activity.
New targets are chosen in the month of March as the situation in the North Atlantic is considered catastrophic, where packs of U-boats sink an impressive tonnage of Allied ships loaded with supplies and military equipment.
Prime Minister Churchill urges that during the next 4 months, the objective is to prevent the Kriegsmarine strangling England by cutting the vital links that connect it to North America. In addition to the harbours where the surface fleet finds shelter, the attacks are aimed at the submarine bases, shipyards and in general on any factory supplying equipment for the Kriegsmarine. From 10 September 1941, Le Havre, Hamburg and then, Lorient, Kiel, Bremen,and Whilhemshaven are attacked. The battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau docked in Brest are also the subject of the attentions of Bomber Command, once again with no substantial result.
Bomber Command now has the new Halifax Mk. I four-engine bomber, followed by the first Manchester Mk. I, a twin-engine aircraft from which the heavy Lancaster evolved.
During the summer of 1941, certification testing of a new navigation aid is underway. Part of 115 Squadron is released from operations until August to assist with the development of the navigation aid device Gee.
With the arrival of autumn, Peirse, head of Bomber Command is urged to disrupt the German communication and transport system, and to destroy the morale of the German population with a particular emphasis on industrial workers. This is much more than a confession of the failure of the previous offensives aimed at destroying the production of fuel. This is a blank cheque given by the British government in support of the doctrine of the bombing of urban centres, industrial or not. Portal then Chief of the Air Staff of the RAF, on the orders of Churchill authorized the use of bombers in retaliation for the attacks against British cities. It is even considered at this stage of the conflict that the fate of British cities be linked to their counterparts on the continent. A list of German cities would be drawn up and their authorities formally notified that they will be systematically targeted in case of continued bombing of a particular urban centre in the UK.
Bomber Command is proud to have at its disposition in July over a thousand bombers in 60 squadrons. In reality, only 37 squadrons are actually operational, the Wellingtons forming the backbone of an air force in which only a dozen squadrons are equipped with the new heavy bombers. With a medium ceiling height, the twin engine aircraft are still paying a heavy toll in sterile attacks against the harbour of Brest, losing more than 10% of their aircraft each time.
At a small meeting, Portal says that Germany is most vulnerable if the morale of its civilian population is broken as a result of air attacks. As long as their morale unbroken, it will not be possible to launch a land offensive on the European continent with every chance of success. The Chief of the Air Staff adds that the available statistics on survivability of (bomber) crews must be confined to the smallest number of people, as this information can be detrimental to the morale of our airmen.
Operations on Karlsruhe, Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, still cost 67 crews whose planes are shot down by night fighters and flak. With the increase in losses and the outbreak of war in Asia, the lack of crews is felt. To overcome this, it is not uncommon for pilots to perform 50 or 60 operational missions before being assigned to training units. Thus, passing on experience becomes the reward for the survivors.
It is now autumn. With the increasing production rates of Halifax four-engine bombers, bombing strategy takes a new turn with the increase of long distance and high altitude raids from the United Kingdom, especially on Italian targets.
Before the end of 1941, the bombers carry out over 40 missions in weather conditions described with a sense of humour from bad to extremely bad, through icing and 10/10 th cloud. Whatever the conditions, the raids continue.
On one occasion, however, on the evening of 7 November 1941 many Wing Commanders, aware of the dreadful weather forecasts, are pleading with their superiors that the crews are not sent to Berlin - a too long distance target. Peirse, Commander in Chief of Bomber Command, exceptionally agreed to split the operation by sending the twin engine bombers to a closer target. For the other 169 crews, the raid will be a disaster from start to finish. Many will turn back with mechanical problems due to excessive icing. Under a deluge of snow and surrounded by magnetic storms, only 80 bombers reach the city over which 25 of them will be shot down. The industrial target will only be slightly damaged as most of the bombs fell on residential areas.
The raid, the last to be conducted on the Big City until January 1943, will cost Peirse his job, the Air Ministry wanting a more prudent use of its precious bombers.
Looking at the overall strategic position in early 1942 the situation is worrying. Although the UK is rarely subjected to bombardment by the Luftwaffe, German submarines sink 1.5 million tons of material per year in the North Atlantic and the front is hardly stabilized in North Africa. The result of the actions against the German production system is described as a relative success but it is simply not realistic to consider the liberation of Europe. The most that can be done is to strengthen citadel Britain and the arrival of crews trained under the Arnold Scheme in North America will assist.
12 February 1942 is a date to forget at Bomber Command. Demonstrating a wild audacity and taking advantage of very bad weather, all battle cruisers of the Kriegsmarine and their escorts, leave their shelters on the French Atlantic coast. They aim at the narrow corridor of the English Channel to re-join the North Sea. Alerted by a fortuitous reconnaissance flight, only 30 bombers manage to find the german ships, without any noticeable result. With their usual humour, the English call this episode the Channel Dash. Whilst small consolation, the Royal Navy will do no better, and although regarded as a tactical success by the Germans, Operation Cerberus was later considered by German historians as a strategic failure whose result will be to confine the fleet in the North Sea.
In mid-February 1942, the focus is on the destruction of important communication crossroads and then the urban industrial centres. To the already long list, new names are added: Cologne, Aachen, Mannheim, Essen, Duisburg, Worms, Dusseldorf, Antwerpen.
Portal recognised the inevitability of collateral damage on the German civilian population, He was also influenced by Lord Trenchard for whom victory is largely a matter of morale and who does not hesitate to declare his view that the British people are stronger and more capable of suffering selflessly than any other continental nation ... Germany's weakness is the morale of its population. It is here that we must strike, strike and strike again. When scientists get involved, it is to establish unequivocally that statistically, 4000 fully loaded bombers sent against 40 cities of over 100,000 inhabitants, would lead to the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany ... Adding that the ratio of the psychological impact of bombing in terms of physical destruction is established in a ratio of 1 to 20 ...
It is within this context that Arthur Harris is appointed as the new Commander in Chief of Bomber Command. Returning back from the United States, his first decision will confirm the night bombing of entire industrial cities independent of targeting precision which is left to the Americans. Although he inherited the strategic situation and options taken by his predecessor, Harris will boost the massive bombing strategy with a view to the demoralization of the German population. As a reminder, since 1940, crews have been instructed to drop their bombs on residential areas if it appears that the main target industry is out of reach or impossible to aim at.
The reason is only partly due to the lack of technology for accurate navigation and precise targeting. The custom for two years is the targeting of both industry and city centres as part of the same raid. The only difference between autumn 1940 and spring 1942 is that Bomber Command has at its disposal a constantly growing arsenal for night mass bombing. The British have not forgotten London, Liverpool and Coventry. That mind-set has not changed, it is shared by the majority of the British population and politicians, only the means have changed. Ironically, Harris will solely bear the weight for History.
In September 1941, the new four-engine Lancaster is delivered to 44 (Rhodesian) Squadron to test its operational capabilities for a few months. The first official missions consist of mine laying off Denmark and the attack on the Renault factory at Billancourt near Paris on 3 March, 1942. At that time,the Gee navigation system is now almost perfected, but bombing accuracy still depends on obsolete sighting systems and on weather conditions. There are now waves of over 200 bombers that arrive over a target, at a rate of three bombers per minute.
In late winter 1942, the Gee device is fully operational and its systematic installation is authorised by the Air Ministry. At the same time, Essen is attacked five times, with little damage to the Krupps factories.
Late March 1942 marks a new era in the history of Bomber Command with the choice of the city of Lübeck as a target. Founded in the 12th century, a former Hanseatic centre, the city became a distribution centre during the war for supplies for the Wehrmacht operating in Scandinavia and Russia. Three waves of bombers are planned 30 minutes apart. The night is clear, the air defences weak, and there is no night fighter activity. 300 tons of bombs, high explosive or incendiaries, are dropped by 190 bombers. The city centre is an inferno, the suburbs are in ruins, and the warehouses are destroyed. 8 bombers are shot down.
After his visit to Lübeck, Goebbels privately acknowledges on 4 April 1942 that the destruction is enormous. They would have a devastating effect on the population if they were to continue at this rate. At High Wycombe, the staff of Bomber Command agrees.
The system of marking targets by Pathfinders did not receive the support of Harris at first who thought it absurd to expose his best crews on a single bombing mission. The Air Ministry puts its weight behind the concept and arranges the creation of a specific Bomber Group equipped with the best equipment.
With the increased rhythm of raids, which also became larger and larger, a marked increase in the activity and successes of the NachtJagd is noted. The reality is that 41 bombers are shot down in March and 46 in April 1942. Whilst there is a statistical correlation the explanation is mainly tactical. At this time British aircraft flying procedure is to climb in massive front groups employing no diversionary or decoy tactics which made their detection by the Kamhubber line radar systems easier.
There are regular raids of 250 aircraft, mostly Wellingtons, aboard which many crews are hoping for their conversion to the new Lancaster heavy bomber and not that damn twin engine Manchester which, with their Rolls-Royce Vulture X configured engines, is not reliable and more than a bit temperamental.
In order to definitely validate the final concept of the design offices of A. V. Roe, the squadrons equipped with the four-engine aircraft are assigned as a priority to long distance raids and fly in V formation. The aircraft has a load factor more than 50% higher than competitive designs equipped with similar engines.
Between March and April 1942, the Ruhr is attacked 8 times.
In mid-April, it is decided that a new long range daylight operation should be undertaken targeting the MAN plant at Augsburg which was lightly damaged in previous attempts. Nobody in London thinks that Bomber Command is so crazy as to risk all its new bombers in so risky a raid. This is exactly what Harris does by sending only 12 Lancasters. Severely attacked on reaching Germany, the survivors dive to low altitude only to climb up to hell above the target which is totally destroyed. Only 5 bombers get back to England. The price is high for propaganda.
At the end of the month, authorities at High Wycombe, seeing the results of the area bombing on Lübeck, plan a new operation targeting the destruction of an urban centre. This will be Rostock and its Heinkel factories. Some crew members whisper in memory of Exeter. In less than an hour, more than 140 bombers hit the town and the factories are seriously damaged. 100,000 people flee the city, which reduces its production capacity, to the satisfaction of the authorities on the other side of the Channel.
For a Thousand bomber raid, political support is needed. Harris argues with the Prime Minister that with such a large force the opposing defences will be saturated, the raid will be over in 90 minutes, and that a 5% loss should be expected. Churchill admits that even if 100 aircraft are lost, it's worth it. The psychological impact is worth the price. All the crews of Bomber Command are mobilized, even some training units equipped with obsolete equipment. On May 30, 1942, the choice is Cologne against which is launched 1047 crews. The alarm sounds an hour before the defences are quickly overwhelmed. A Halifax pilot arriving in the third wave wrote that It was so huge and unreal to be true. Below us, all areas of the city and all of the buildings were on fire. Sometimes you could see the outlines of the buildings appear as a skeleton at the bottom of the flames, but in general they were just fireballs. It was strange to see the flames reflected on our bomber. It was as if we ourselves were on fire, with red and orange lights that danced below and even above our wings. In the days following 150,000 people leave the city. 57 aircraft will not return, including 17 crewed by novices.
31 aircraft are claimed by the NachtJagd – a statistic that demonstrates the improvement of the Luftwaffe interception system. That is twice those claimed by flak. Essen suffers the same fate on 1 June. Defences are again overwhelmed. 37 bombers are shot down - 21 by night fighters.
Then Bremen, on June, 25, 1942 with similar results and 5% losses, mostly novices. An officer of 10 OTU says my pupils, lads of 18, begged me to authorize them to come with us and be part of it. I thought that half would not return but I chose from the top 12. Sick at heart, I crossed my fingers. None returned from Bremen.
Operations continue but politicians are beginning to express doubts about the capacity of the bombers to bring Germany to its knees. These somewhat late doubts result in the further intensification of the raids for the sole purpose of demonstrating the validity of Bomber Commands strategy.
With the lack of tangible results during the 2 years when they were aware of the importance of the air war, the government and general population are less and less clear where it is taking Britain. However, a change of direction in the war industry, which has been previously focused on the mass production of heavy bombers, may have significant financial consequences and therefore military impact. Change has become politically impossible.
In late 1942, the success of the first phase of the Harris era is very relative. Apart from its beneficial aspect on the morale of the British population Bomber Command now always has reserve crew in excess of 20% of bomber production capacity. Gee has improved night navigation, without perfecting it. The so-called automatic bombaiming systems still require manual corrections of altitude and wind direction. It is not until the following year with the implementation of SBS Mk. IVX and its counterpart T1 manufactured under license in the United States, that bomb aimers can take benefit of a computer-assisted device. The creation of the Pathfinder group allows greater accuracy in marking targets, the stream of bombers merely target the Pathfinder markers.
To date 5,000 men have been lost, 2,300 aircraft destroyed, and 35,000 tons of bombs dropped on Germany. This does not concern Portal who declares that the increase in the number of bombers from 4,000 to 6,000 in 1943 is likely to quickly finish off the Nazis. 35,000 tons is not even the amount of bombs that will be released each month by allied bombers over the Reich in mid-spring 1944.
Fearing a breakdown in the production of Rolls-Royce Merlin engines for the British heavy bombers, it is decided to commission the firm Bristol to produce Hercules engines for a new Lancaster type which is to then known as the Lancaster Mk. II. In parallel, British authorities subcontracted the production of Merlin engines to Packard in North America, to equip the future Lancaster Mk. III.
In spring 1943, all necessary conditions for the resumption of massive raids are met. Harris now permanently has more than 600 heavy bombers and particularly the modern Lancaster and Halifax. After the Casablanca Conference, at which Roosevelt and Churchill met, Bomber Command receives a new directive which states your first objective is the progressive destruction of the German military, industrial and economic system, and the demoralization of the German population, up to a point when their resilience will be fatally reduced. The staff of High Wycombe now has permission from the highest authority to continue and expand allied bombing of urban areas. For his part, Harris, always eager for public support, decided to promote Bomber Command's air offensive under the titles of Battle of the Ruhr, Battle of Hamburg, Battle of Berlin, etc....
The Battle of the Ruhr: initially an uninterrupted series of 43 raids will target major cities of the Ruhr. On every mission 800 bombers simultaneously strike theso called Happy Valley, a region often obscured by fog or smog.
Amid this catalogue of systematic demolition, the Dambuster raid of a small number of Lancasters against the dams of Möhne and Edersee in May 1943 appears as a special case of the old audacity. The raid and the Lancaster are now etched on the memory.
In a more conventional way, new attacks resumed. 115 Squadron, recently equipped with the all new Mk. II Lancaster forms part of the operations against Bochum, Essen, Stettin, Wuppertal, Cologne, and Cologne, and Cologne again. In the devastated southern city, deeply rooted in traditional Catholicism, and on which Nazi ideas had little influence in 1936, perhaps the survivors are now doubtful of the outcome of the war? The question obviously concerned the German authorities who note that many people think that the enemy can defeat us. They seem worried about the outcome of the war. But it is also noted that more than doubt, the raids on Cologne created hatred due to the loss of loved ones and resentment because of the destruction of the cultural heritage of the city. The British feel the same after the attack on Coventry, 3 years ago.
In the first half of 1943, Bomber Command lost 1,000 of its precious bombers, but as an official of the RAF states the entire population of the Ruhr knows that the war is on its doorstep. Henceforth, they know they are exposed to death, as surely as their husbands, brothers and fathers are on the front. At this stage of the war, if the British authorities had hoped to create chaos and despair, they have not yet succeeded. The behaviour of the German population shows little panic, only resentment and a certain fatalism.
The question remains and concerns all the belligerents: had anybody really any another choice? On the evening of July 13 1943, at the moment of boarding Lancaster DS690, maybe a crew member also wonders that...
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