NJ Losses, 28-29/3/1942
Does anyone have any details of NJ losses (or NJ a/c damaged) on the night of the Lubeck Raid, 28-29/3/42?
In my list of 'happenings' on that raid I have various reported sightings of a/c going down, some to flak others to combat, which don't seem to tally (yet?) with RAF losses that I can establish. Also I think there are three RAF claims by BC gunners for shot-down and damaged nightfighters, and I wonder who they (NJ) might have been.
As always any help much appreciated.
Theo Boiten books Nagjagd War Diaries give only that Lt Wolfgang Jank and his bordfunker Fritz Stoldt flying their Me-110 D+LN of 6./NJG3 forced landed at Schleswig due to battle damage.
OK, thanks Alain. I'll see if I can tie that in to any of the reports.
I wrote this 10-15 years ago:
At the end of March, 1942, the planners in Bomber Command found a target that would assure all possible success. The target was Lübeck, laying at the bottom of a characteristic bay in the Baltic Sea, which made it easy to find. At the same time, the target consisted of a highly concentrated, older city center, with many buildings from the Middle Ages. In the summer of 1939, the city had a population of 154,811 inhabitants. They lived in 21,991 houses, with a total of 45,752 apartments. Approximately 20% of the residents lived in the center of town, which had 14,800 residents per square kilometre, while the outskirts of town only had around 2080 people per square kilometre. In the historical part of Lübeck, 32,500 people lived in an area that was 1200 x 800 metres. The buildings were of such character, that Harris commented that Lübeck was built like a tinderbox.
Another attractive aspect for Bomber Command, was that Lübeck's air defence wasn't particularly strong. The anti-aircraft artillery in and around the city was very weak and the night fighter defence over Schlesvig-Holstein wasn't nearly as strong as in, for, example, tha Ruhr area. If one flew over Southern Jutlan, and continued down over the Baltic Sea, the night fighter defence was nowhere to be seen.
Lübeck lies by the river Trave, which flows into Lübecker Bucht. Lübeck wasn't an important harbour for Kriegsmarine, even though Lübecker Flenderwerke (approx. 10 km from the city) built submarines. Lübeck was an old Hansaby city and had a long-standing tradition for merchant shipping.The harbour functioned as an unloading and receiving harbour for transport to, for example Sweden and Denmark, but it was not an important center for supplying the eastern front. The harbour in Lübeck received wood from Scandinavia, grain from the eastern part of Germany, and iron ore from Sweden. The city was well-equipped, for that time, with good roads and railways for transportation across land. The harbour could be used throughout the year and was normally only frozen over around 14 days a year. However, it was possible to keep a shipping route open, with the help of ice breakers.
In comparison with the Ruhr area, Lübeck didn't have any major war industry, even though the Draeger factories and the harbour could be, to some degree, considered significant to the war. Draeger produced equipment for submarines and gas masks used in chemical warfare. Lübecker Maschinenbau Gesellschaft and Reichswasser-Strassenamt repaired, among other things, minesweepers.
St. Lorenz, an area in the southwestern part of town, containted a numbe of smaller factories. There were also numerous industrial concerns in the southwestern part of town - like a brewery, a gasworks, railroad repair facilities and saw mills. On the eastern side of Trave, there were several large factories producing armaments, shipbuilding and lumber yards.
The towns of Herrenwyk and Schultrup were located outside of Lübeck, but these two areas had a lot of war industry, like a shipyard, a steel mill and as far as Schultrup is concerned, and an ammunition factory, and fishing industry, where canned fish was produced. Lübeck had several garrisons, but all of these lay outside the center of town.
The city's railway lines and marshalling yard were in St. Lorenz, which was densely populated and included a fair amount of industr. The buildings in St. Lorenz consisted mainly of 2 and 4 floors, but there was also a large amount of 5-6 floor buildings. This part of town was typically an area where craftsmen lived, while the towns of St. Gertrud and St. Jürgen where, for the most part, inhabited by the wealthier residents. Here, there were primarily 1 and 2 floor apartment buildings and the building density was not as great as in the other areas of town. There was no industry worth mentioning in St. Gertrud or St. Jürgen.
The harbour area alongside Trave was filled with sheds and warehouses. In the centre of town, which lies on an island in the Trave, the warehouses were very old and the building construction was completely connected and the buildings were constructed with large amounts of wood. A major part of the warehouses were from the 17th and 18th centuries. They consisted of four to seven stories, where merchendise was unloaded through a hole in the gable. The flammability of the harbour area was increased by the amount of wood that was stored in connection with both sawmills and lumber yards. The danger of fire was not lessened by the fact that there also was a coal depot in the area. The British intelligence described the area as follows: ‘The whole of the port area up to this point is closely built up and contains areas highly vulnerable to both HE's and IB's’.
In the center of town, built in the Middle Ages, the same conditions prevailed. The town center was surrounded by water and parks, which were left over from old fortifications. The buildings were made of brick together with large amounts of wood. The two main streets of the town were 10 to 20 metres wide, while all the other streets were less than 10 metres wide. Many of the streets were quite narrow, and extinguishing fires became a nightmare, because the fire could jump from block to block before anyone could stop it. Around 70% of the buildings were three or four stories high, while 20% were five stories or more. There were no satisfactory shelters for the inhabitants of the inner part of the city, who were primarily manual labourers. During the attack on the town, it proved to be a catastrofe that the roads to and from town had not been cleared. It made it almost impossible both for the residents to escape, and for the fire department to reach the fires.
On the night between the 28th and the 29th of March, 1942, Bomber Command attacked Lübeck. The night was clear, the moon was visible and the weather was reasonably good.
Group A/c dispatched Attacked FTR Time Altitude Average bomb load
1 16 Wellington II 15 1 00.07/01.45 8.000 ft 3.800 lbs
1 15 Wellington IV 14 2 23.23/01.10 10.500 ft 3.250 lbs
1 20 Wellington IC 17 1 00.24/01.30 9.000 ft 2.250 lbt
3 57 Wellington III 49 3 22.25/01.25 12.500 ft 3.043 lbs + flares
3 20 Wellington IC 17 0 23.40/00.45 15.000 ft 2.160 lbs
3 1 Wellington 423 0 0
3 26 Stirling 24 3 22.40/01.15 14.000 ft 5.828 lbs
4 17 Wellington II 14 0 23.55/01.20 8.000 ft 3.565 lbs
5 41 Hampden 36 1 23.55/01.20 6.500 ft 1.961 lbs
5 21 Manchester 20 1 00.45/01.30 9.000 ft 5.550 lbs
No. 1, 3, and 5 Group, sent 14 planes on a leaflet raid to France. No. 5 Group sent 7 Hampdens on a mine-laying operation off Terschelling. 6 of the planes managed to lay their mines. All of the seven planes returned, just as there were no losses among the leaflet dropping aircraft. No. 2 Group also sent 2 Blenheims, who was ordered to bomb the German airfields Soesterberg and Schipol in Holland. This attack was planned to occur between 22.03 and 22.20 hours, which was the same time that the main force that night was on its way to Lübeck.
The approach toward Lübeck occurred over a broad front and stretched over a long period of time, which made the work easier for the Luftwaffe, because they were able send night fighters towards single targets. Most of the approaching planes flew over Schleswig-Holstein, but a number of the planes flew south around Hamburg, or north around Flensburg. The latter bombers flew right by the night fighter defence, which was not particularly developed over Southern Jutland.
Lübeck was not completely without air defence. They had 4 light and 5 heavy anti-aircraft artillery batteries, which were exceedingly active during the night. All in all the following amount of ammunition was fired by the Flak:
8.8 cm 8700 rounds
3.7 cm 4629 rounds
2cm 20710 rounds
The German anti-aircraft artillery perceived the British attack as consisting of three phases: The first phase was from 23.18 to 23.35 hours with 6 planes. The second phase was from 23.40 to 00.45 with 30 planes. The last phase was from 01.00 to 2.58 with 70 to 80 planes.
The anti-aircraft artillery applied for having shot down three planes. After the attack, a report was drawn up, that proved that Lübeck was not sufficiently equipped with anti-aircraft batteries and that they lacked 150 cm searchlights, and this was a problem they tried to call attention to on a number of occasions previously. The problem was simply this: All the cities in Germany sent the same report, and there were just not enough supplies to go around. Bomber Command tied up enourmous amounts of anti-aircraft artillery in Germany and, in this way, prevented thousands of much-needed canons to the front.
Combats and victories
During the night, Kiel reached air raid warning number 250. At first, the German air defence expected that the night's target would be Kiel, as it had been numerous times previously, so they decided to use a new weapon, that hadn't been used before. The entire harbour area in Kiel was camouflaged by an artificial fog, when the early warning reported the approach of 46 bombers. Several of the planes wound up over Kiel, even though it had not been the target that night. For a long time, the Luftwaffe thought that Kiel was the planned, especially when some of the planes began to drop flares so they could orient themselves. However, with Kiels powerful anti-aircraft artillery, this was not the best place to stay. Two planes were shot down by the anti-aircraft artillery and crashed near Kiel. One of them crashed in a backyard in Johannesstrasse 9 in Kiel itself, and the other one in Klausdorf a.d.Schw. Two crews from the raid that night are buried in Kiel. These are the crews from Wellington III X3462 (AA-N) from No. 75 Squadron (P/O M P Bell) and Manchester I R5781 (OL-R) from No. 83 Squadron (F/O T A Lumb). There were no survivors.
No. 7 Squadron, which was stationed at Oakington, lost three planes during the night. There were no survivers from any of the planes. Stirling Mk. I W7501 (MG-Z) was attacked near Terschelling and F/Lt. J. H. Edwards and his crew crashed in the North Sea and have never been found. Stirling W7501 was shot down by one of Luftwaffes leading night fighter aces, namely Oblt. Ludwig Becker from 6./NJG 2. It was the 17th plane that Becker had shot down, and his first 4-engined bomber. Before the end of the year, Becker had managed to shoot down 40 planes. Oberleutnant Becker received the the Knights Cross on the 1st of July, 1942, and the the Oakleaves on the day of his death, the 26th of February, 1943. Soon after having received the Oakleaves he took off in order to intercept an American formation. Becker never returned from the flight and presumably crashed in the sea north of Schiermonnikoog. His Bf 110G-4 (Werk Nr 4864 G9+LZ) was shot down by a B-17 at 13.15 hours.
Stirling Mk I W7466 (MG-B), which was flown by the Australian P/O M. R. R. Green crashed in flames 12 kilometers north west of Neumünster. At almost the same time, Stirling Mk. I R9305 (MG-V), which was flown by P/O R. L. Hayes, crashed near Ahrenburg, 22 km north east of Hamburg. P/O Hayes was shot down by Oblt. Eckhardt from III./NJG 3.
Reinhold Eckhardt was born in Bamberg in March of 1918. In the beginning of the war, he served with 2./ZG 76. He received credit for having shot down his first aircraft on the 21st of July, 1940, when he met Hudson N7242 from No. 233 just off the west coast of Norway. During the Autumn of 1940, Eckhardt was trained as a night fighter pilot. He shot down his first plane at night during the night between the 9th and the 10th of January, 1941, when he shot down Whitley T4203 from No. 78 Squadron, over Holland. At that time, Eckhardt was serving with 6./NJG 1. On the night between the 27th and 28th of June, 1941, Eckhardt managed to shoot down as many as four British bombers during a single sortie, which was quite extraordinary at time in the war. On the 30th of August 1941, he was awarded the Ritterkreuz after having shot down 12 aircraft. On 1 December 1941, Eckhardet became Staffelkapitän 4./NJG 1, which in March 1942, was renamed 7./NJG. Eckhardt shot down three British bombers the night between the 29th and 30th July 1942, during an RAF attack on Saarbrücken. Stirling R9161 from No. 140 Squadron and Lancaster R5728 from No. 50 Squadron were both shot down in the course of a short time, but during the last attack on Halifax R9442 from No. 102 Squadron, the rear gunner in the Halifax, Sgt. Twining, managed to damage Eckhardts Bf 110E-2 (Werk Nr. 4494) to such a degree, that Eckhardt and his two crew members had to parachute out. During the jump, Eckhardts parachute got caught in the rudder of the Messeschmitt and Eckhardt followed the aircraft to the ground. It exploded 8 km northeast of Helsbroek, Belgien. All of the crew members from Halifax R9442 were killed when the Halifax crashed at Corbais.
After his death, Oberleutnant Eckhardt was awarded the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold and at the time of his death, was credited with having shot down 22 aircraft, as well as having destroyed 17 planes on the ground.
During the night, the bombers and the German night fighters, wound up in air combat on numerous occasions. At 21.02 hours, the crew on board a Wellington III from No. 3 Group, saw a plane that they assumed was another Wellington, get shot down over the sea approximately 45 km north of Terschelling. The crew had presumably seen F/Lt. J. H. Edwards being shot down. After that, the Wellington itself was attacked by a two-engined aircraft. The gunners on the Wellington did not answer the fire and the pilot succeeded at shaking off the enemy plane, after which they continued towards Lübeck.
At 21.05 hours, the crew on board another Wellington III from No. 3 Group, saw a two-engined plane with a light in its nose, while they were at an altitude of 10,000 feet 75 km north of Ameland. The rear gunner on the Wellington opened fire with two bursts and the unidentified plane broke out in flames and disappeared.
At 22.00 hours, a Wellington from No. 3 Group was attacked with machine guns and machine cannons at an altitude of just 1000 feet over Weston See. The attack was carried out by a Bf 110. The front gunner answered the fire and the Wellington succeeded in escaping the German night fighter.
At 22.48 hours, a Wellington III from No. 3 Group, was attacked by a night fighter, while it was illuminated by searchlights over Neumünster. The pilot succeeded in evading both the searchlights and the night fighter, but the gunners were not able to shoot at the German night fighter, because they were blinded by the searchlights.
Sgt. W. Ballard and his entire crew onboard Wellington III X3341 (KO-W) from No. 115 Squadron, were killed and are buried in Becklingen, as is Sgt. G. T. Leather and his entire crew from Wellington IV Z1274 (QT-P) from No. 142 Squadron died and are buried in Hamburg.
Some of the crew members from P/O K. E. Hobsons Wellington III X2477 (VR-G) from No. 419 Squadron were more fortunate. Their aircraft was attacked near Wilhelmshaven by a Bf 110. At first, the Wellington was able to hold its own, but the Bf 110 was superior in the air combat and the bomb load was dropped, after which P/O Hobson completed a dramatic belly landing in the marsh area at Wilhelmshaven. Sgt. Flesch and Hobsen, who had already been wounded during the combat, died of their injuries, but the rest of the crew survived and were taken prisoner by the German Wehrmacht.
There were numerous places over northern German territory where, because of air combats, emergency dropping of bombs was carried out. For instance, bombs were dropped over Sylt, near the air field List, and at Rantum. There were, however, no damages to the military installations.
There were several air combats over the sea. A Wellington IC from No. 3 Group was attacked at 23.15 hours at an altitude of 15,000 feet out over the North Sea between Föhr and Schleswig/Holstein. The rear gunner answered the fire and the German night fighter disappeared in the dark.
During the time between 23.20 hours and 23.30 hours, a Stirling from No. 3 Group, was attacked numerous times by a Bf 110, while it found itself approx. 15 km. south of Heide. The pilot of the Stirling managed to bring the damaged plane back to England.
At 23.45 hour, a Wellington III from No. 3 Group, was illuminated by searchlights, when it found itself at an altitude of 11,000 feet near Vesterhever. While the bomber was illuminated, it was attacked twice by a Bf. 110, which attacked from behind and wounded three of the crew members (the observer seriously). The pilot of the Wellington managed to get the plane back to England.
Normally, the chances for a British bomber crew surviving, after having been shot down, were not great. Wellington IV Z1203 (QT-O) from No. 142 Squadron didn't return and P/O J. H. Hall and his entire crew were taken as prisoners by the German Wehrmacht. The crew on board Wellington II W5567 (SM-M) from No. 305 Squadron, flown by Sgt. F. Wasinski, survived the night's crash, when they were hit by Flak at an altitude of 4.000 feet. The entire Polish crew was taken prisoner. One of the crew members, F/O Pawluk, was one of the participants in the famous escape from Sagan in March, 1944. Pawluk was murdered by the Gestapo after he was captured again following the escape.
At 00.50 hours, a Wellington IV from No. 1 Group was attacked by a Ju 88, while it found itself at an altitude of 17,500 feet over the island of Scharhörn, which lays in the the German Bight off the mouth of the Elbe. The German fighter attacked from behind and above and fired a salvo from a distance of approx. 100 metres and ceased fire first when he was at a distance of 50 metres. The Wellington's rear gunner answered the fire with two short bursts, while the pilot performed evasive maneuvers. The Ju 88 started to attack again, but this time the rear gunner fired a long burst with his four machine guns. He opened fire at a distance of only 50 metres and the rear gunner ceased firing first when he was at a distance of 20 metres. Several crew members saw the tracers hit the cockpit and motor of the German night fighter, which broke off the attack and disappeared at an altitude of 8000 feet with flames licking behind it.
The attacking fighter could have been a Bf 110 instead of a Ju 88. Bf 110C-4 Werk Nr. 3537 from 5./NJG 2 was shot down northwest of Langeoog. The German crew, consisting of Uffz Merk and Uffz Neubert, were killed.
At 00.20 hours, a Manchester was attacked at 11,000 feet 5 km. southwest of Schleswig. The first attack was carried out from behind and from a position a bit lower than the Manchester. Soon after that, a new attack was carried out from the same position, but the Manchester's pilot managed to escape by diving towards the left.
S/Ldr D. A. McClure was the pilot on board Manchester R5830 (OL-L) from No. 83 Squadron. At 00.25 hour, he was attacked by a German night fighter at position 5425N 0905E, while he flew at an altitude of 1000 feet. The attack was carried out from behind by a two-engined night fighter and both the rear gunner and the mid-upper gunner were wounded during the attack. The intercom was destroyed by a 20 mm shell and the reargunner could not give the pilot directions and information about evasive measures. Neither of the two gunners managed to open fire before the German fighter attacked. The rear gunner's tower was rendered useless by the enemy fire. The rear part of the fuselage of the Manchester was damaged severely by the the shooting. The hydraulic system, rudder, rudder and the right engine's propeller and the bomb doors were damaged. S/Ldr. McClure managed to get the Manchester back to England, but they almost didn't make it back. The crew had to lighten the aircraft by dumping equipment during the journey back across the North Sea. Manchester R5830 later served with several training units, before it was scrapped in November of 1943.
At 00.35 hours, a Wellington IV was attacked at 7500 feet 8 km northwest of Eutin. The attack was carried out by a Bf 110, which closed in from the right side and a bit higher than the British plane. This meant that the fighter was clearly seen against the lighter night sky. The night fighter was discovered at a distance of approximately 1.000 m and the rear gunner answered the fire with a 5 second burst, while the pilot went into a sharp turn in order to shake off the night fighter. The maneuver succeeded and the bomber escaped. During the attack, the bomber was simultaneously illuminated by the searchlights and shot at by light anti-aircraft artillery.
At 00.45 hours, the crew in a Wellington IC from No. 1 Group watched, while a German night fighter flew under the bomber and turned around to attack them from behind. The rear gunner opened fire at a distance of 200 metres and the German fighter broke away from the approach, but quickly returned to attack again. The rear gunner opened fire again and the German fighter once again broke away from the attack, where he wasn't seen again. This incident occurred near Emden at an altitude of 15,000 feet in complete darkness. Three searchlights illuminated the ground under the Wellington, but the British aircraft itself was not illuminated.
At the same time, a Stirling from No. 3 Group, was shot at by a two-engined aircraft, when it found itself 15 km southwest of Neumünster at 14,500 feet in altitude. The rear gunner answered the fire and was sure that he had hit his target, which disappeared in the dark. Another air combat occurred at the same time. A Wellington from No. 4 Group was attacked at 9000 feet in altitude south of the island of Als, near the mouth of Flensburg Fjord. The attack was executed by a Bf 110, which closed in from the left and shot at the Wellington with tracers. The British aircraft managed to escape in the dark.
Hampden I AE246 (PT-V) from No. 420 Squadron, was hit over the target area by Flak, whereafter S/Ldr G. R. Tench attemped to get to Sweden. The German early warning system plotted his flight up over Jutland and out over Kattegat, until he had to make an emergency landing in the Kattegat. The entire crew, S/Ldr Trench, Sgt. Hyde, F/Sgt. Thorne and Sgt. Durnan, survived the emergency landing and came up in their dinghy before the aircraft sank. The weather was bitter cold, but the crew managed to stay alive until the next day, where they were picked up by a Danish fishing boat, L31 Maagen from Thyborøn. From there, they were transported to Grenaa, where they were handed over to the Germans.
At 01.03 hours, out over the North Sea (position 5430N0720E), a Wellington IC from No. 3 Group, was attacked by a Ju 88 at an altitude of 13,000 feet. The rear gunner answered the fire and this British crew managed to escape the night fighter. Not all the Wellingtons were this fortunate. Wellington IC R1061 from No. 103 Squadron crashed into the North Sea, where P/O J. E. Ward and his entire crew died. The crew on board Wellington IC X9913 from No. 109 Squadron suffered the same fate. P/O G. J. Maygothling and his crew have never been found.
Leutnant Jank from II./NJG 3 was credited for having shot down a Wellington over Dittmarscher Bucht. Leutnant Jank survived the war and served in the spring of 1945 with I./NJG 3, which at that time was stationed at Fliegerhorst Grove. Jank was the last commander of 2./NJG 3, before it was disbanded in the winter of 1945.
Oberleutnant Schmidt from II./NJG 3 was also credited with shooting down a Wellington. This combat occurred near the island of Amrum. Uffz. Merk from II./NJG 2 was credited having shot down a Hampden north of Norderney, but his Bf 110-4 (Werk Nr. 3537, coded R4+FP) was so badly damaged, that he crashed into the sea in square PQ7418 (northwest of Langeoog). Uffz. Merk and Uffz. Neubert disappeared in the sea.
At 01.04 hours, a Wellington IC from No. 1 Group, was attacked 8 km north of Borkum, while it flew at an altitude of 12,000 feet. The German night fighter did not succed shooting the Wellington down, but the pilot of the night fighter was exceedingly persistent. He attacked the British plane three times, where the first attack was at a distance of only 20 metres. The rear gunner answered the fire and fired altogether 20 bursts at the night fighter. The Wellington's pilot executed extreme evasive maneuvers and he managed to shake the night fighter off.
A Wellington IC from No. 3 Group was caught by the searchlights at 0105 hours, while it found itself at 16,000 feet over the southern part of Sylt. While the bomber was being illuminated, it was attacked twice by a German night fighter. Both the rear and front gunners answered the fire.
The pilot, F/Sgt. Williams, on board Manchester L7516 from No. 61 Squadron, found himself at an altitude of 10,000 feet with an easterly course around 15 km southwest of Lübeck, when Sgt. Raine, his rear gunner, reported at the hour of 01.26, that a plane was flying a parallel course at a distance of approximately 500 metres. The plane, which was later identified as en Ju 88, kept the position, while the Manchester bombed Lübeck. Slowly, the night fighter lost altitude, presumably because the German pilot wished to get the Manchester in silhouet towards the lighter sky. Soon after the Manchester had left the target area, the Ju 88 attacked. The mid-upper gunner, Sgt. Samson, ordered F/Sgt. Williams to turn to the right, as the Ju 88 was in at a distance of 185 metres. Sgt. Samson opened fire with a long salvo, when the enemy fighter was at a distance of 100 metres. The British crew could see that the German aircraft was hit. The night fighter pilot broke off the attack and disappeared in a deep dive down in the smoke from the target area, without having opened fire. It was possible to observe the German fighter because of the clear moonlight and the light from the fires in the target area. There were hardly any clouds and only a few searchlights operated during the attack.
Manchester L 7464 from No. 61 Squadron was flown by F/Sgt. Underwood. At 0145 hours, he received a report, that switched on all the body's alarm systems. At that time, he found himself at 10,000 feet with a westerly course around 9 km west of Lübeck. The rear gunner, Sgt. Fallon, reported that there were 6 Ju 88's flying in a loose formation at a distance of around 400 metres. According to the rear gunner, the Ju 88's changed course and one of them broke away from the formation and closed in on the Manchester. F/Sgt. Underwood threw the Manchester into a steep dive to the right and came up over 300 m.p.h., before he pulled the stick back. He had at that time lost contact with the other planes.
Stirling Mk. I W7507 (HA-P) from No. 218 Squadron returned to RAF Marham, where the pilot, F/Lt. Humphreys, managed to land the severely damaged plane, which had both been shot up by both Flak and a night fighter. The Stirling was damaged so badly that it was written off soon after landing. The Stirling had been attacked by a night fighter over Holstein. The night fighter had damaged Stirling’s right wing and the fuselage. Humphreys had been extremely fortunate. A 20 mm shell went through the window behind him and detonated in the armoured plate behind his head. Becuase of the damages from the night fighter's shooting, the mid-upper and rear gunners were not able to turn their towers, whereafter Humphreys went down to an altitude of only 200 feet. In this way, he tried to avert further night fighter attacks on the Stirling, which was now completely defenseless. Humphreys continued to Lübeck and dropped his bombs, before he set his course home towards RAF Marham. Hamphreys reported after the trip: 'All bombs heading 100 degrees into centre of target and sea of flames which silhouted the twin spires of Cathedral. The tanks in both wings, rear and mid-upper turrets, IFF and many strike holes with flak and cannon shells, we were attacked by a ME 110. Rear gunner wounded in the knee'. The Squadron Record Book tells: 'Throughout the combat Flight Lieutenant Humphreys showed great skill and courage and the ability to remain completely unruffled. He made a perfect landing at base despite severe damage to his aircraft, which included landing-flaps that been rendered practically useless. His petrol tanks were badly holed and neither of the main starboard wing tanks contained more than fifteen gallons on landing'.
What did it look like in the target area?
The attack did not turn out to be so concentrated timewise as originally planned. The first aircraft appeared 20 minutes too early and the last bombs were dropped 25 minutes later than planned. Nevertheless, this turned out to be a big step forward for Bomber Command's bombing technic. All in all, they dropped 144 tons incendiary bombs and 160 tons high explosive bombs . The 28th of March, 1942, was Palm Sunday and no one in Lübeck could imagine that their city would by a bombing target.
First when red flares dropped by Flare Force consisting of 10 Wellingtons from No. 3 Group, illuminated the center of Lübeck, did people begin to react. Soon after that, the first incendiary bombs were dropped by the same aircraft.
As soon as the target was illuminated, Fire Raiser Force arrived. It consisted of 15 Stirlings with incendiary bombs, 25 Wellingtons, also with incendiary bombs, and 20 Wellingtons with high explosive bombs. All aircraft in the Fire Raiser Force were from No. 3 Group. This force managed to start fires in Musterbahn, in Mühlenstrasse and Domschule, as well as the industrial plants Draegerwerke and Thiel & Söhne.
The fires were already in progress when the main force arrived around midnight and let their bombs fall all over the center of Lübeck. At 02.15 hours, the center of Lübeck was a sea of flames that the local fire department was completely unable to do anything about . An hour later, Lübeck requisitioned assistance from the neighboring cities, but the 19 fire department that were ordered towards Lübeck were much to late to be able to do anything about the fires.
Bomber Command believed that 206 crews had bombed Lübeck, and for the first time, a British bombers managed to start a conflagration The entire center part of Lübeck burned down and the flames were visible within a radius of 100 km. British photo interpreters estimated that approximately 190 acres of the town were destroyed by fire, which was equal to 30% of the populated area of Lübeck.
German sources state that 1,425 buildings were completely destroyed, 1,976 badly damaged and 8,411 mildly damaged. The milder damages included broken glass, roof damage, cracks in walls etc., but in such a degree that the still needed repair in order to be able to use the buildings again. Of the 3,401 buildings that were completely destroyed or badly damaged, 3,070 of them were private residences or apartment houses, 70 were public buildings, 256 were industrial or trading and 5 were agriculture buildings. 12,751 (58%) out of 21,991 houses in Lübeck were damaged during the attack.
However, not everything was destroyed in Lübeck. The Orenstein und Koppel factory, that made locomotives and machines, and was situated around 1 km from the city center, did not suffer any significant damage. The factory, which had 8,000 employees, suffered almost no damage throughout the entire war.
In the harbour area, large amounts of supplies and provisions, among them large amounts of almost inaccessable articles of food, which were stored for special use, went up in flames. In the center of town, important art treasures were lost, when among others, Marienkirche and St. Petri and the cathedral went up in flames.
The harbour area was badly hit and the railroad drove for two days with only 30% capacity, but during only a few days, transportation started to function again, however with some delay.
Fire extinguishing in Lübeck was impeded by direct hit on the city's main water supply pipe under Mühlenstrasse, which resulted in a complete stop in water supply. On the 14th of April, gas and water supplies were reported to have fallen by 75% and electricity by 90%. The large loss of electricity occurred because a high explosive bomb destroyed the top of the city's main transformer, and resulted in that 4,000 litres of oil ran out and were ignited by incendiary bombs. It took several weeks before the electricity supply in Lübeck was normalized. In the intervening time, the city's industry was somewhat restricted.
The information about amount of dead and wounded in Lübeck varies a bit (which is quite common for reports of a conflagration). It is believed that 312 people were killed in Lübeck, 136 were badly injured and 648 were slightly injured. There was an especially high amount of eye injuries, which were the result of flying glas splinters and particles from incendiary bombs.
When compared with later air raids on other German cities, such as Hamburg or Dresden, Lübeck wasn't hit that hard, but the attack on Lübeck was the first time that Bomber Command managed to burn down a city. During the next three years, city after city in Germany burned to the ground, and by the end of the war, the directive from the 14th of February, 1942 was carried out.
Thanks for that, that's amazing. Just the sort of info I've been looking for, and much the sort of thing I've been aiming to produce. Would you mind if I used some of the details to add to my own notes? If ever it were to be appropriate I would of course acknowledge your input. You said you wrote that 10-15 years ago. Was that just for your own research or was it put into a book or article somewhere?
Can I also ask where you got all those details from, particularly about the various combats? I've been looking into this for quite a few months now and have made numerous trips up to Kew to find what I can from the official records. But you've got quite a few details that I haven't come across in the various record books. I see you're in Denmark: are there 'local' records there and maybe in Lubeck itself that have never made it into the public domain?
A fascinating article. Many thanks for sharing it.
Be most interested to hear further from you.