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Thread: Sources on siignificance of targets

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    Default Sources on siignificance of targets

    Can anyone tell about their experiences in researching specific target cities for BC raids? I know there is the good old internet search that will turn up some information, but it's not always easy to find a contemporary reference to what they were aiming at. Some of the targets were so badly damaged that they ceased to function in the role that got the targeted in the first place and it no longer shows up in current descriptions.

    For example, I have just read that Oberhausen's coal and steel industry is no longer viable. Was it the steel mills that were bombed back in 1944?

    I realize specific targets were a bit of a moot point, but I am interested in a source for the information that crews were given before each raid. I have read that it helped greatly in motivating the men to press home the attack.
    David

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    It's not what I was looking for, but I just turned up an interesting page in Flight for 1941 with a list of targets hit by the RAF in Germany up to 1941.

    http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1941/1941%20-%200252.html
    David

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    David,

    Just to set the ball rolling.

    The first thought that springs to mind on reading that list is "What is meant by a raid?" The sub-heading of the item is "More than 1400 areas bombed between the outbreak of war and 31 Jan 1941" yet the first attack on a German land target was not made until the night of 19/20 March 1940 ("RAF Bomber Command" - Chris Ashworth) - thus the list actually refers to just 10 months or approximately 300 days. Reduce that by, say 25% at the very least to cover non-operational nights - say 70 nights - and that leaves us with 1400 targets being attacked on 230 nights - or 6-7 targets a night.

    Factor in the August 1941 Butt Report, which estimated only 1 in 3 aircraft claiming to have bombed a target actually bombed within 5 miles of said target (and that on a clear night with little cloud) and the whole article beomes little more than a PR exercise. While I appreciate the report was published after the article would the RAF really have been capable of mounting meaningful attacks against so many targets in that short period of time?

    Brian

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    Thanks Brian, I may have muddied the waters with my additional comment and my fascination with that Flight article which I somehow stumbled upon.

    What I was looking for was suggestions for references on what they thought they were bombing. Are there published works that detail the strategic objective? What AIR records would contain the justification for the raid and how was that information passed on to the Group and Squadron levels?

    In looking for the importance of Oberhausen raid of 1 Nov 1944, I find that it was a coal and steel centre, but also had a synthetic oil plant and this was one of the first raids of the Oil Plan.

    In reading the Science of Bombing, I know a bit about how the boffins and economic war types came up with the ideas. But I was hoping to find records that could tell me, on a raid by raid basis, what the men were told they were attacking.
    David

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    Default BC Targets

    Hi Chaps

    Not sure how it worked later on, but when I was researching 214 Sqn's wartime ops a few years ago, when looking at the early period (specifically 1940) I came across a couple of books at Kew listing all the Target Codes in use in those early days when target were listed in the ORB by code number only. The codes were changed at about this time so the books were there giving the targets and their original [Air Ministry?] codes, then the conversion from the old code to the new one. The first book, which included the targets themselves, were incredibly detailed: the codes being, for example, for individual factories involved in different categories of manufacturing or other strategic importance. This has been mentioned a couple of times previously on this forum, probably under the heading of 'Target Codes' if you want to look back for it.

    Later on, I've come across and used a file for an individual town (in this case Lubeck) which included a much more general and overall description of the town, it's size, layout, industries, etc. I imagine that this is the sort of thing that BC moved on to use when selecting target towns and aiming points. Max Hastings' "Bomber Command" describes how Harris and his staff might first consider what region might be attackable that night based upon predicted weather conditions, select a few potential target cities in that region, then look through the target files on those towns before deciding which would be attacked. Whether that was the normal procedure, who knows. I guess that at other times official target lists must have set the priority, but it seems to give a reasonable picture of the process. I'm sure Harris and his staff must have been aware that setting an aiming point was probably somewhat immaterial given the spread of where the bombs would actually fall, but better to have a specific 'target' to focus the raid on than nothing at all, I guess.

    I've not tried looking at other 'town' target files but I think there are ones up at Kew and it may well be that they are similar to the one I saw on Lubeck. Others, our 'late war' specialists like Rod, may be able to tell you more about target selection practices by 1944/45.

    Does this help?

    Ian

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    My apologies David, it's me that's muddied the waters, not you. I realised what you were seeking, but when I read the link it struck me that the contents appeared so wildly optimistic that you'd (inadvertently?) found another topic of discussion that's rarely considered.

    I appreciate that in war news has to be 'good' news - how often would one have read accurate accounts of bomb damage in UK cities in the national press - but the Flight account is rather over the top by any standards.

    To be honest I wouldn't have picked it up had I not been using Chris's book as a reference for a talk I'm preparing on the met office at HQ Bomber Command.

    Brian

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    Hi Ian,

    Do you perhaps have the document reference numbers of the books with target codes you consulted at Kew? It might be very useful for me to consult these in April when I'm back at TNA.

    Thanks in advance,
    Hans Nauta

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