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Thread: Berlin 7/8 November 1941

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    Default Berlin 7/8 November 1941

    On the night of 7/8 November 1941 392 bombers were despatched to targets in Germany, 169 of them to Berlin. On 10 November The Times, reporting the night's activity, recorded that although the weather forecast promised reasonable conditions, the force not only encountered thick clouds, severe thunderstorms and icing, but a number of aircraft were blown off course.

    Conversely, Chris Ashworth in "RAF Bomber Command" states the severe conditions WERE forecast but that the CinC, Peirse, refused to change the plan.

    I've had a quick look at the meteorology and, with the advantage of nearly 70 years hindsight, think Chris's is the correct version whilst the other was attempting to use the Met Office as a scapegoat.

    Two totally conflicting accounts and I wonder if anyone can shed any light as to which is the correct version.

    A confused
    Brian

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    Brian
    BC War Diaries'He persisted in this decision despite a late weather forecast which showed there would be a large area of bad weather with storms, thick cloud, icing & hail over the North Sea Routes by which the bombers would need to fly to Berlin and back. AVM Slessor of 5 Group objected to the plan and was allowed to withdraw his part of the Berlin Force and send it to Cologne instead. (169 a/c sent, losses 21-12.4%)

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    Default Berlin raid 7./8. Nov. 1941

    The crash of Stirling I, N 3677, MG-J of 7. Sqn. gives an example of the difficulties the crews had to face. The a/c had deviated appr. 130 mls South (taken the direct flying route from Oakington to Berlin via Osnabrueck area) and was shot down by a night fighter at Schaephuysen, a village in the Moers-Duisburg area (51 26 28 N - 06 29 01 E). T/o appr. 17.30 hrs., shot down three and a quarter hours later, time required for climbing and gathering with the bomber stream not considered as well as the duration of probable defense movements against the night fighter.

    George (Happy Xmas and a successful AD 2010!)

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    hello Brian

    Partially answered here
    http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?t=7150
    BCWD similarly quoted by John.

    I don't know if there's a biography or Sir Richard Peirse, but Vincent Orange penned one of Marshal of the RAF Sir John Slessor, GCB, DSO, MC, published by Grub Street in 2006.

    I've just picked it up and I see that this particular night is mentioned in pages 86 and 87. But I'm sorry, it's time for dinner. I'll quote the book later.

    Dinner's over.

    "Slessor strongly objected to restrictions placed by the Air Staff on weather experts changing their forecasts after crews had been briefed. There was no such thing, he fairly observed, as an accurate forecast in north-west Europe an any season of the year, and no honest meteorologist ever claimed otherwise. On at least one occasion, Slessor's reliance on the up-dated opinion of his local expert saved 5 Group from serious loss. This was the infamous raid on Berlin during the night of November 7th/8th 1941. Of 392 bombers sent out on the orders of Sir Richard Peirse (head of Bomber Command), no fewer than 37 were lost and many others damaged. But Slessor diverted his own Squadrons to a nearer target and so informed Peirse. Only two of 5 Group's 75 Hampdens were lost that night. Several aircraft which went to Berling, despite de predicted dreadful weather, ran out of fuel on the way home because their crews used so much in trying to fly over or round the worst of it. Peirse was cunning, deceitful, and sufficiently ruthless to break Slessor - and would probably have done so, had his own judgement not been immediatly questioned after the disaster. He was very properly relieved of his command, but Slessor was well aware that Peirse had friends in high places - powerful enough toget him another command, which they did, in India - and made a brave decision, worth of a man aspiring to the highest ranks."

    Joss
    Last edited by jossleclercq; 23rd December 2009 at 19:33. Reason: pause for dinner !

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    Thank you gentlemen, I'm getting the feel for this now.

    Joss,

    I suspect there's more to the following sentence than Grange writes:

    "On at least one occasion, Slessor's reliance on the up-dated opinion of his local expert saved 5 Group from serious loss."

    At the time the forecasts for BC operations were agreed at an early afternoon telephone conference between all the Group Senior Met Officers (S Met Os)- this had been set in place at the request of Peirse in December 1940 to ensure there was a common forecast. S Met Os had provided individual forecasts for their Groups' operations, and this had led to some embarrassing and conflicting advice.

    I think it unlikely that Matthews (the S Met O of 5 Group and "he local expert"in the quote) would have changed the forecast without first consulting Magnus Spence, the Command Met Officer at HQ Bomber Command - a man who was later held in some esteem by Harris. I can't help but feel Spence was aware of the changed situation and would have briefed Peirse accordingly.

    How I wish the logbook of the met office at HQ Bomber Command had survived.

    Does anyone know if a record/log of operational matters at HQ Bomber Command exists? I'm unsure as to what to look for in the NA catalogue.

    Brian

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    hello Brian

    If the Met Team doesn't know, who else ? ;-)

    I've played with TNA catalogue and found these bits. But probably not what you're looking for.

    AIR 9/154 Weather forecasting: Dr Crick's system 1941
    AIR 77/23 The relation between weather forecast accuracy and bombing success 1950
    AIR 14/1768 Analysis of weather forecasts 1942 Jan.-June
    AIR 14/4215 Weather forecasting requirements of Bomber Command in war 1950

    The last reference should be the more interesting for you, date is given as 1950 and I hope it covers WW2, with 5 years reflection...

    In the sources part of Vincent ORANGE (not Grange) book, there's a mention of an adress of Sir John SLESSOR about meteorology, dated 1951. Will check the exact title when I'm back home tonight.

    Joss

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    Default NA problems

    Joss,

    As ever, many thanks for your research. I haven't uncovered all the files by any means, but I'm having difficulties accessing NA files. For instance, I ran a search using 'Weather' as the key word for 1939 to 1945 in the AIR series - didn't get any hits, just "Invalid breadth restrictions: AIR Please try again."

    I then tried exactly the but omitting the year range; this time there were 291 hits. However, having scanned through the first 40 hits, I went to the 3rd page and got:

    "You ran a search on "weather" restricted to reference(s): "AIR"
    There are no results within The Catalogue.

    Please refine your search by clicking on the "refine search" button."

    Next I tried to access AIR 14/1769 only to be told it doesn't exist.

    I haven't used the NA catalogue recently, but had the same problem a few weeks ago; I just assumed it was one of those hiccups and didn't do anything about it - I obviously should have done.

    Anyone else having problems?

    Brian

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    Joss,

    File AIR 9/154 might prove to be a goldmine, although not in respect to this thread. Lt Col Krick (not Crick) USAAF, was one of the two American forecasters directly involved in the forecasts for D-day. There were four others, two representing the Met Office and two the Admiralty. One of the requirements was that the forecast was supposed to be prepared 5 days before the landings on the Normandy beaches; the British forecasters did not believe this was possible given the state of meteorological knowledge at the time, but the American forecasters, using an analogue technique developed by Krick considered it was possible.

    The idea behind the analogue system is to search through a series of charts extending back a number of years (Krick used 40) to find patterns (analogues) that matched the latest analysis - these analogues were then studied to see how the situation developed. That's the basic idea, but I've been unable to discover exactly how Krick used the system; I'm hoping this file will shed some light on the subject.

    Although the idea sounds reasonable it has massive flaws. Krick's forecast for the original date for D-day, 5th June, was for fine, anticyclonic weather, whereas the British forecasters went for stormy conditions. Fortunately Krick's forecast was discounted and the assault postponed 24 hours - had it gone ahead it would have been a total disaster.

    It's a very nice Christmas present - many thanks.

    Brian

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    Hello Brian,

    I'm happy to see you may find something new for your research.

    Another document for you to hunt : "Weather and war, adress to the Royal Meteorological Society in London, October 17th 1951", by John SLESSOR. There may be some 'gem' for you in it as well.

    Merry Christmas to all.

    Joss

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    Compliments of the season Joss on this lovely sunny morning.

    Slessor's speech was recorded in Flight magazine, and was really an account of his life and the how weather, properly used, could have a significant affect on the success of military operations. The Berlin operation was not mentioned, not surprising really as it appears to have been a case of the forecast not being used properly.

    Brian

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