Bomber Command

Le Creusot, 17th October 1942

Le Creusot, 17th October 1942

This famous raid was carried out against the Low and fast across France, two Lancasters of 97 Squadron en-route to Le Creusot. The nearest aircraft is R5497, OF-Z, flown by F/O J R Brunt large Schneider factory at Le Creusot, situated more than 300 miles inside France. The factory was regarded as the French equivalent to Krupps and produced heavy guns, railway engines and, it was believed, tanks and armoured cars. A large workers' housing estate was situated at one end of the factory. Bomber Command had been given this as the highest priority target in France for a night attack but only in the most favourable of conditions. Harris decided to attack by day, at low level, despite the fate of the force sent to Augsburg exactly 6 months earlier, when 7 out of the 12 Lancasters dispatched were shot down. The task was given to Air Vice-Marshal Coryton's 5 Group and its 9 Lancaster squadrons carried out a series of low-level practice flights over England.

47 Lancasters of the attacking force of 88 over Mon Richard on the way to Le Creusot After a favourable weather report, 94 Lancasters set out on the afternoon of 17 October. The force was led by Wing Commander L. C Slee of 49 Squadron. 88 aircraft were to bomb the Schneider factory; the other 6 were to attack a nearby transformer station, which supplied the factory with electricity. The Lancasters flew in a loose formation over the sea around Brittany, and crossed the coast of France between La Rochelle and St-Nazaire without any fighter escort. For 300 miles the Lancasters flew at tree-top level across France. No German fighters attacked the bombers during this flight. The greatest danger was from birds; 4 aircraft were damaged and 2 men injured in bird strikes.

After a fine piece of work by Wing Commander The Breuil steelworks at Le Creusot after the raid, showing damage to the steel manufacturing plant, sheet and bar mills, and wharehousing Slee's navigator, Pilot Officer A. S. Grant, the force reached its last turning-point near Nevers and gained height for bombing. There was practically no Flak at the target and bombing took place in clear conditions at heights of between 2,500 and 7,500 ft. Nearly 140 tons of bombs were dropped. The Lancasters returned home safely as darkness closed in. The only casualty was one aircraft of 61 Squadron, which bombed the nearby transformer power-station at such a low level that it crashed into a building.

The processing works and locomotive machine shops at Le Creusot showing heavy damage

The 5 Group crews claimed a successful attack on the Schneider factory but photographs taken later showed that some of the bombing had fallen short and had struck the workers' housing estate near the factory. Many bombs had fallen into the factory area however and damage there was fairly extensive. It has not been possible to obtain a report from France on the casualties suffered by the local people in this raid.

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