Raids on British cities

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Raids on British cities

Post by DIESEL on Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:42 am

Hitler's No. 17 Directive, issued 1 August 1940 on the conduct of war against England specifically forbade Luftwaffe to conduct terror raids on its own initiative, and reserved the right of ordering terror attacks as means of reprisal for the Führer himself,[119] despite the raids conducted by RAF Bomber Command against German cities since May 1940. This echoed Göring's general order issued on 30 June, 1940 on the the air war against the island fortress:

The war against England is to be restricted to destructive attacks against industry and air force targets which have weak defensive forces.... The most thorough study of the target concerned, that is vital points of the target, is a pre-requisite for success. It is also stressed that every effort should be made to avoid unnecessary loss of life amongst the civilian population.

The Luftwaffe offensive against Britain had included numerous raids on major ports since August, but Hitler had issued a directive London was not to be bombed save on his sole instruction.[citation needed] However, on the night of 23 August, bombs were accidentally dropped on Harrow on the outskirts of London as well as raids on Aberdeen, Bristol and South Wales. The focus on attacking airfields had also been accompanied by a sustained bombing campaign which begun on 24 August with the largest raid so far killing 100 in Portsmouth, and that evening the first night raid on London as described above. On 25 August 1940, 81 bombers of Bomber Command were sent out to raid industrial and commercial targets in Berlin. Cloud prevented accurate identification and the bombs fell across the city, causing some casualties amongst the civilian population as well as damage to residental areas. Continuing RAF raids on Berlin in retaliation led to Hitler withdrawing his directive, and on 3 September Göring planned to bomb London daily, with Kesselring's enthusiastic support, having received reports the average strength of RAF squadrons was down to five or seven fighters out of 12 and their airfields in the area were out of action. Hitler issued a directive on 5 September to attack cities including London. In his speech delivered on the 4 September 1940, Hitler threatened to obliterate (ausradieren) British cities if British bombing runs against Germany would not stop.
Bombing of London.

On 7 September 1940 a massive series of raids involving nearly four hundred bombers and more than six hundred fighters targeted docks in the East End of London, day and night. Though suffering from shortages, the RAF anticipated attacks on airfields and 11 Group rose to meet them, in greater numbers than the Luftwaffe expected. The first official deployment of 12 Group's Big Wing took twenty minutes to gain formation, missing its intended target, but encountering another formation of bombers while still climbing. They returned, apologetic about their limited success, and blamed the delay on being requested too late. Next morning, Keith Park flew his Hurricane over the city: "It was burning all down the river. It was a horrid sight. But I looked down and said 'Thank God for that', because I knew that the Nazis had switched their attack from the fighter stations thinking that they were knocked out. They weren't, but they were pretty groggy". Luftwaffe raids across Britain continued, with large attacks on London targeting the docks or bombing indiscriminately.[citation needed] Fighter Command had been at its lowest ebb, short of men and machines, and the break from airfield attacks allowed them to recover. 11 Group had considerable success in breaking up daytime raids. 12 Group repeatedly disobeyed orders and failed to meet requests to protect 11 Group airfields, but their experiments with increasingly large Big Wings had some successes. The Luftwaffe began to abandon their morning raids, with attacks on London starting late in the afternoon for 57 consecutive nights of attacks.
Members of the London Auxiliary Firefighting Service.

The most damaging aspect to the Luftwaffe of the change in targets (to London) was the increase in range. The Bf 109 escorts had a limited fuel capacity, and by the time they arrived over the city, had only 10 minutes of flying time before they had to turn for home. This left many raids undefended by fighter escorts. RAF Bomber Command contributed to the problems facing the German naval forces by sinking eighty barges in the Port of Ostend alone.

On 14 September Hitler chaired a meeting with the OKW staff. Göring was absent in France, as he had decided to direct the decisive part of the battle from there, and left Erhard Milch to deputise for him. At the meeting Hitler raised the question, "Should we call it off altogether?". Hitler had accepted that an invasion, with massive aircover, was no longer possible. Instead he opted to try and crush British morale, while maintaining the threat of invasion. Hitler concluded this may result in "eight million going mad" (referring to the population of London in 1940), which would "cause a catastrophe" for the British. In those circumstances, Hitler said, "even a small invasion might go a long way". At this point Hitler was against cancelling the invasion as, "the cancellation would reach the ears of the enemy and strengthen his resolve".

On 15 September, two massive waves of German attacks were decisively repulsed by the RAF, with every single aircraft of 11 Group being used on that day. The total casualties on this critical day were 60 German aircraft shot down versus only 26 RAF. The German defeat caused Hitler to order, two days later, the postponement of preparations for the invasion of Britain. Henceforth, in the face of mounting losses in men, aircraft and the lack of adequate replacements, the Luftwaffe switched from daylight to night-time bombing.

On 13 October, Hitler again postponed the invasion until the spring of 1941; however, the invasion never happened, and October is regarded as the month in which regular bombing of Britain ended.It was not until Hitler's Directive 21 was ordered on 18 December 1940, that the threat of invasion finally dissipated.

During the battle, and for the rest of the war, an important factor in keeping public morale high was the continued presence of King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth. When war broke out in 1939, the King and Queen chose to stay in London and not flee to Canada, as had been suggested. George VI and Elizabeth officially stayed in Buckingham Palace throughout the war, although they often spent weekends at Windsor Castle to visit their daughters, Elizabeth (the future queen) and Margaret.Buckingham Palace was damaged by bombs which landed in the grounds on 10 September and on 13 September, when more serious damage was caused by two bombs which destroyed the Royal Chapel. The royal couple were in a small sitting room about 80 yards from where the bombs burst.On 24 September, in recognition of the bravery of civilians King George VI inaugurated the award of the George Cross.
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