Bomber Command

Peenemunde, 17th and 18th August 1943

Peenemunde, 17th and 18th August 1943

596 aircraft - 324 Lancasters, 218 Halifaxes, 54 Stirlings. This was the first raid in which 6 (Canadian) Group operated Lancaster aircraft. 426 Squadron dispatched 9 Mark II Lancasters, losing 2 aircraft including that of the squadron commander, Wing Commander L. Crooks, D.S.O., D.F.C., an Englishman, who was killed.

During the height of the attack on Peenemunde, three other Lancasters(ringed) are caught on the bomb camera of an aircraft above them This was a special raid, which Bomber Command was ordered to carry out against the German research establishment on the Baltic coast where V-2 and V-1 rockets were being built and tested. The raid was carried out in moonlight to increase the chances of success. There were several novel features. It was the only occasion in the second half of the war when the whole of Bomber Command attempted a precision raid by night on such a small target. For the first time, there was a Master Bomber controlling a full-scale Bomber Command raid; Group Captain J. H. Searby, of 83 Squadron, 8 Group, carried out this task. There were three aiming points - the scientists and workers living quarters, the rocket factory and the experimental station - and the Pathfinders employed a special plan with crews designated as shifters, who attempted to move the marking from one part of the target to another as the raid progressed. Crews of 5 Group, bombing in the last wave of the attack, had practised the time-and-distance bombing method as an alternative method for their part in the raid.

The V-2 rocket assembly hall at Peenemunde after the raid

The Pathfinders found Peenemunde without difficulty in the moonlight and the Master Bomber controlled the raid successfully throughout. A Mosquito diversion to Berlin drew off most of the German night-fighters for the first 2 of the raid's 3 phases. Unfortunately, the initial marking and bombing fell on a labour camp for forced workers which was situated 1.5 miles south of the first aiming point, but the Master Bomber and the Pathfinders quickly brought the bombing back to the main targets, which were all bombed successfully. 560 aircraft dropped nearly 1,800 tons of bombs; 85 per cent of this tonnage was high-explosive. The estimate has appeared in many sources that this raid set back the V-2 experimental programme by at least 2 months and reduced the scale of the eventual rocket attack. Approximately 180 Germans were killed at Peenemunde, nearly all in the workers housing estate, and 500-600 foreigners, mostly Polish, were killed in the workers camp, where there were only flimsy wooden barracks and no proper air-raid shelters.

ED611, KM-J of 44 Squadron was flown by P/O D H Aldridge on the Peenemunde raid, and was damaged by 20 mm cannon fire down the starboard side fired from a 'Schrage Musik' equipped night fighter as evinced by the angle of the entry and exit damage

Bomber Command's losses were 40 aircraft - 23 Lancasters, 15 Halifaxes and 2 Stirlings. This represents 6.7 per cent of the force dispatched but was judged an acceptable cost for the successful attack on this important target on a moonlit night. Most of the casualties were suffered by the aircraft of the last wave when the German night fighters arrived in force; the groups involved in this were 5 Group, which lost 17 of its 109 aircraft on the raid (14.5 per cent) and the Canadian 6 Group which lost 12 out of 57 aircraft (19.7 per cent). This was the first night on which the Germans used their new schrage Musik weapons; these were twin upward-firing cannons fitted in the cockpit of Me 110s. Two schrage Musik aircraft found the bomber stream flying home from Peenemunde and are believed to have shot down 6 of the bombers lost on the raid.

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