Bomber Command carried out the strategic bombing of major targets on 27 nights during the month. Flying 11,000 sorties the heavy bombers drop 37,000 tons of bombs on Germany and Occupied Territories (OT). The main effort is in the OT, where 28,500 tons of bombs were dropped on relatively small targets (rail centers, ammo dumps, military depots, airfields, armament factories in German hands). British light, medium and fighter bombers of the AEAF operated at double the previous scale attacking V-weapon sites, bridges, rail centers, airfields, military stores, HQs and coastal defences.
The Allied air offensive also undertook to systematically destroy the ground organization of the Luftwaffe; the airfields and radar stations, the ‘eyes’ of the Luftwaffe. For nearly 3 months prior to the invasion, mass air attacks had been made against airfields, communications and depots in France, Germany and the Low Countries. The Germans were now only able to watch and mount a limited response to the invasion. The serviceable airfields that remained intact were at an inconvenient distance from the beaches. Also, the Luftwaffe had lost large numbers of its most experienced fighter pilots in the period leading up to D-Day. Consequently they lacked the inspirational leadership that was required to repel the invaders. Moreover, it was often the case that the inexperienced and unguided pilots had to ditch their aircraft upon returning to their airfield, having discovered it had been destroyed during their sortie. The object was to neutralize all airfields within 130 miles of the landing beaches.
Both 106 Wing and 2nd TAF Photographic Recce Sqns were committed to D-Day preparations. Low level photography was particularly important. Spitfire PR XIIIs were often seen photographing the French Coast, obliquely, 3 or 4 miles off shore, so that landing craft coxswains would have an idea of what they would see on D-Day. Runs would then follow these only 1,500 yards from the beaches so that the Platoon Commanders would be able to orientate themselves on the day. Additionally, as D-Day approached, it became necessary to destroy the radar installations that gave complete cover over the French Coast. Coastal Command continued to carry out anti-shipping and anti submarine ops and Bomber Command layed further minefields to maintain the channel exclusion area for German U-boats and shipping.
1-2 May – Rail System Targets - Chambly, Malines and St Ghislain.
3-4 May – Heavy attack on Mailly-Le-Camp (1700 tons of bombs dropped). During preparations for the Normandy invasion (Operation Overlord), 346 Avro Lancasters and fourteen de Havilland Mosquitoes of RAF Bomber Command attacked the German military camp situated near the French village of Mailly-le-Camp. Although the target was accurately marked, communications difficulties led to a delay in the Main Force attack, during which Luftwaffe fighters intercepted the force. Subsequently, 1,500 tons of bombs were dropped on the camp, causing considerable damage to the weapons and equipment held there and heavy casualties; forty-two Lancasters - some 11.6% of the attacking force - were shot down – accounting for approx 300 personnel. No French civilians were killed in the bombing, although there were a small number of casualties when one of the Lancasters shot down crashed on their house.
3/4 May - Montdidier Airfield. RAF Bomber Command mounted its first attack on Luftwaffe airfields within fighter range of the beaches selected for the invasion of Normandy, when 84 Avro Lancasters and 8 de Havilland Mosquitoes attacked the airfield at Montdidier; 4 Lancasters were lost.
6 May - Bomber Command conducts air attacks on Missile sites in Pas de Calais.
6-7 May – Rail System Targets - Mantes-Gassicourt.
7/8 May - Tours Airfield. Tours Airfield was attacked and filmed by a Lancaster from 467 Sqn based at Waddington. Wg Cdr Tait in his Lancaster III (ED953) departed at 0046 and bombed the airfield from 6000’ at 0259. One x 4000lb bomb and 16 x 500lb bombs were dropped on the buildings on the west side of the airfield and the Hanger on the northside. The aircraft landed safely at 0535. (Excerpt from the 467 Sqn Record Book and F540.)
8 May - Eleven 467 Sqn Lancasters attacked an airfield in Brest (Lanveoc Poulmic Airfield) dropping 11 x 4000lb bombs and 176 x 500lb bombs.
(Excerpt from the 467 Sqn Record Book and F540.)
8 May - Bomber Command conducts air attacks on missile sites in Pas de Calais.
9-10 May - Bomber Command attacks a number of French targets including an aero-engine plant on the outskirts of Paris. 39 Lancasters and 4 Mosquitoes of 5 Group, RAF Bomber Command, also attacked a ball-bearing factory at Annecy. The weather on route was poor and only 2 Mosquitoes reached the target. Nevertheless, the factory was accurately bombed and no aircraft were lost.
10-11 May – Rail System Targets - Courtrai, Ghent, Lens and Lille.
11-12 May – Rail System Targets - Louvain.
11-12 May – Rail System Targets - Boulougne.
12-13 May – Rail System Targets - Louvain.
13 May - US 8th AAF bombed missile sites in Pas de Calais.
15 May - US 8th AAF bombed missile sites in Pas de Calais.
19-20 May – Rail System Targets - Boulougne.
19-20 May – Rail System Targets - Tours, Orleans and Le Mans.
20 May - Allied aircraft attack rail centers, airfields in France.
21 May - US 8th AAF bombed missile sites in Pas de Calais. Allied aircraft attack rail centers, airfields in France.
21 May – Between 1200 and 1300 aircraft from 2nd TAF and the 8th and 9th USAAF attacked and destroyed 129 locomotives and damaged a further 156.
22 May - US 8th AAF bombed missile sites in Pas de Calais.
22-23 May – Rail System Targets - Orleans and Le Mans.
23 May - Allied aircraft attack rail centers, airfields in France.
24 May - Cap de la Hague/Jobourge radar site attacked by eight Typhoons from 198 Sqn and 609 Sqn. The 198 Sqn Record Book advises that the pilots were:
Blue 1 – Sqn Ldr Niblett
Blue 2 – Fg Off Armstrong
Blue 3 – Fg Off Freeman (Canadian)
Blue 4 – Flight Sergeant Vallerly
The aircraft departed at 0950 following a 3 hour delay due to fog. Accompanied by 4 aircraft from 609 Squadron, they approached the tip of the Cherbourg peninsula and the target, a wire screen antenna 90’ wide and 45’ high on top of a hill. The target was so heavily defended that they had to attack at low level from North to South to split the defensive fire. Intense and accurate light flak was encountered but several direct hits were observed on the target. Unfortunately, the attack was rather disastrous for 198 Squadron, as Blue 3 and 4 both blew up and crashed in flames as they attacked the target. We were rather upset at the sudden loss of two of our best pilots, Fg Off Freeman having been with the Squadron for some considerable time and being the most senior member of the Squadron. (Excerpt from the 198 Sqn Record Book and F540.)
24-25 May – Antwerp attacked.
25 May - Allied aircraft attack rail centers and airfields in France.
26 May - Allied aircraft attack rail centers and airfields in France.
27 May - Allied aircraft attack rail centersand airfields in France.
27-28 May – Heavy attack on the military camp at Bourg Leopold (1200 tons of bombs dropped).
28 May - Allied aircraft attack rail centers and airfields in France.
29 May - Allied aircraft attack rail centers and airfields in France.
30 May - Allied aircraft attack rail centers and airfields in France.
30 & 31 May - Ninth USAAF attacked bridges over the Seine. Eight USAAF bombed airfields in Germany, Rail System Targets in France and Belgium and missile sites in Pas de Calais.
Bomber Command's raids on targets in support of the landings took place on 27 nights in May. Here three Lancasters can be seen bombing at more turn away.
Fighter-bombers, such as this Hawker Typhoon being armed with rockets, formed a major part of the air offensive during May.
Typical of the recce photographs taken at the time is this view of Courselles-sur-Mer, showing the defences on the beach.
The camp at Mailly-le-Camp before and after the raid.
This low level recconnaissance photograph shows one of the V-1 missile sites that were the targets of the Bomber Command raids.
Damage to the rail yards at Lens.
The aftermath of a US 8th Air Force raid on a missile site in the Pas de Calais.
Damage to Orleans rail yards.
Typhoons of 198 Squadron taxy out.
Recconaissance picture of destroyed road bridge across the Seine at Nantes/Gissancourt, NW of Paris.
See June 1 - 4