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Why was success on 18 December 1939 not repeated?

Why was success on 18 December 1939 not repeated?
Author: Rob van den Nieuwendijk (Guest)
Time Stamp:
19:08:41 10 August 2001
Post:
Hi,

In Dec 1939 the Freya's in the German Bright sighted various RAF bombers. On 18 Dec 1939 a large RAF formation was intercepted by the German fighters with dramatic losses. Why was a success with radar (Freya of W%FCrzburg) during a RAF daylight attack not repeated, despite the fact that 2 Group RAF carried out numerous attacks on targets in NW Germany and Low Countries in 1940-1941? I leave attacks on France out, as these were the nearest to Britain and took place differently with heavily escorted bomber formations.

Like the massive RAF daylight attacks on Rotterdam 16 July 1941 and 28 August 1941, Cologne 12 August 1941 and so on.

Who can help?

Regards

Rob van den Nieuwendijk



RE: Why was success on 18 December 1939 not repeated?
Author: RodM
Time Stamp:
20:36:04 10 August 2001
Post:
you will probably find that the tragic raids of late 1939 were carried while the R.A.F. was still under the illusion that the bomber could defend itself, bomb it's target and return home with only minor losses.

The raids in December 1939 were carried out to the best of my knowledge by single, unescorted formations of Wellington bombers. Once intercepted by the Luftwaffe fighter force, these formations lacked the defensive armament to adequately fend off the attacks. I also believe that on at least one occasion, one of the formations became somewhat scattered, making it easier for the fighters to pick them off.

This was a lesson hard leant by the R.A.F. and was instrumental to the shift in policy which saw the switch to night bombing.

Now, in comparison, you will find that the later daylight raids in 1941 were much more complex affairs. Firstly, the bombers would have had an escort of Spitfires (at least part of the way) and there would have been many more aircraft formations involved.

So, the Luftwaffe, instead of having to defend against one formation would have had more formations to deal with.

It is interesting to note that on the 3rd May 1943, when No. 487 (NZ) Sqdn, flying Venturas, attacked a power station in Amsterdam alone (there was a foul up and the planned escort wasn't there. There were also other unfortunate factors as well), they were cut to pieces. From memory, of the twelve aircraft, one turned back early and the rest were lost - most brought down by Luftwaffe fighters. Only one aircraft bombed the target before too being shot down (the pilot, Sqdn Ldr Trent DFC was awarded the VC after the war for his actions on this raid).

In summary, you cannot really compare the 1939 attacks with those in 1941 or later. War is a school of hard knocks and the R.A.F. slowly learnt it's lesson.

Cheers

Rod


RE: Why was success on 18 December 1939 not repeated?
Author: RodM
Time Stamp:
09:37:07 12 August 2001
Post:
Dear Rob,

I forgot to clarify that with regard to German radar interception, incoming raids were being plotted as before (if not better) but detection by radar is only the part part of a successful interception. As mentioned previously, it was other factors which inhibated German success after the R.A.F. debacles of 1939. Up at least until after the Allied invasion of Europe, German radars could pick up formations flying high enough even over the southern part of England. This was particularly true of the massed U.S.A.A.F. formations which spent a large amount of time forming into combat wings before heading out over the channel.

Regards

RodM