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Thread: reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

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    Default reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

    Hi all,

    for 12 nights before the raid against Dusseldorf on 11./12.6.1943 there were no larger operations over Europe. I wonder what the reason for this was. There are a couple of sources and texts mentioning some reasons, but which one is correct? Or maybe both?

    1 Group Scrap Book
    … after a very slow start due to poor weather conditions during the first ten days in June, Bomber Command fairly got into its stride …

    Bomber Command War Diaries
    The operations since the end of May are a good example of the way in which Bomber Command now curtailed operations during the moon period.

    1 Group ORB
    3./4.6.1943: … but was cancelled at mid-day owing to unfavourable weather conditions at bases
    11./12.6.1943: … At last the weather gave us a chance and a very heavy attack was laid …

    5 Group ORB

    No operations owing to weather

    The RCAF overseas

    Thirteen days of inactivity for Bomber Command, caused by persistent early morning sea mist and fog over British aerodromes, proved to be the lull before the greatest storm which had yet broken on Germany.

    The RAF Pathfinders

    Following another full-moon-standdown, Harris called for a maximum effort attacj on 11./12.6. …

    The Sand in the Sky

    The intelligence office who briefed us said: … Meteorological conditions have improved …

    To see the dawn breaking

    Rain fell on the most days at the start of June, and the squadron did not operate until the 11th

    Trials and Tribulation

    There would beno operations for Bomber Command for ten days as it was full moon period, which made for easier hunting for the German nightfighters …

    Nachtjagd Archive

    After a lull in operations during the moon period in the first half of June, 783 bomber were sent out to attack Dusseldorf

    The Sun

    The Dusseldorf attack ended a lull that lasted 12 nights because of bad weather.

    So we have bad weather and the full moon period.

    What do you think about this?

    Thanks.

    Best

    Marcel

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    Default Re: reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

    Hi Marcel - both reasons were valid to those writing the records you cite, most of them contemporary, so it's likely the combination of weather conditions and the full moon nearest to the shortest night of the year. June would have been a difficult month for long-range efforts in 1944 if the Command hadn't been committed to Overlord.

    Cheers,

    Richard

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    Default Re: reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

    The Met charts, and Station data, are at https://digital.nmla.metoffice.gov.u...-fc61f5eefdcb/ images 11-55. Much of that time seems to have been a “mobile westerly” with a series of fronts and depressions crossing UK. There were a couple of periods of quiet weather which might have led to some visibility problems (remember that in those days industrial/domestic smoke/haze pollution was a very serious threat – well before the Clean Air Act!!).
    Based on that it would seem to indicate that the moon/night-fighters might be a bigger reason for a low level of activity?
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Default Re: reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

    Hi Peter, hi Richard,

    thanks for your answer. These weather and full moon topics are new to me, so sorry for the following beginner`s questions:

    1. Concerning Richards text “of weather conditions and the full moon nearest to the shortest night of the year” I understand that the shortest night of a year is June 21, so planning a raid would be for a target which is not far from the airfields. But why has it been a full moon period? Looking at a website showing historic moon phases, I see that on June 2 it was new moon and on June 18 full moon. So why was a “full moon period” a problem concerning night fighters?

    2. Thanks Peter, for the link to the weather reports. In the texts I have mentioned, it says that there was fog over the bases, so I believe starting and landing would have been a problem if raids would have been started. Is there also any weather report from which this can be concluded for the main BC airfield area?

    Thanks again for your help.

    Best

    Marcel

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    Default Re: reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

    Hi Marcel,

    Early in the war, Bomber Command used the full moon as means of illumination to aid visual navigation and the pinpointing of targets. However, the loss rate during the brighter nights soon became unacceptable, so the Command began to avoid the full moon period. By 1943/44, ORBs regularly mention 'the full moon stand down', although it wasn't always an official rest period!

    As well as making it easier for the night-fighters, the full moon has the additional disadvantage that it's in the sky throughout the night. Two or three days before full moon, it will be rising in daylight and setting in the early hours, and two or three days after the full it will be rising in darkness and still visible in the morning sky. This gives planners the option to time the raid for after midnight when the moon is waxing towards the full, or for the evening when it's waning. Late take offs ran a greater risk of finding fog at bases on return, however, as happened (with disastrous results) on 16/17th December 1943. There are ORS reports providing statistical analyses of the effect of moon phases on bomber operations, but a more readable account of the impact of a bright moon on operations is to be found in Martin Middlebrook's 'The Nuremburg Raid' covering the costly night of 30/31st March 1944.

    Hope this helps,

    Richard
    Last edited by Richard; 5th May 2021 at 14:07.

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    Default Re: reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

    Hi Richard,

    thanks for your explanations.

    Best wishes,

    Marcel

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    Default Re: reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

    Marcel

    I strongly suspect that The RAF Pathfinders, Trials and Tribulations and Nachtjagd Archive base their references to the full moon period from the Bomber Command War Diaries, a publication which it is normally hard to find fault with. However, in this instance I believe it is misleading and contradicts itself.

    As you rightly point out (#4) there was a new moon on 3 June and full moon on the 18th, so there was no reason, in respect of the 'moon period' for operations not to take place at the beginning of the month, in fact if one refers to the book's entries for the last week of May Bomber Command was active until the 31st. Thus, if the Command could operate up until the date of the new moon, why could it not operate during the following week?

    In fact as Bomber Command War Diaries records in subsequent entries BC operations recommenced as moonlight was strengthening and continued right through the full moon phase.

    I strongly suspect that Middlebrook and Everitt might have been guilty of a little sloppy research in this respect. An important requirement for the invasion of Europe the following year (6th June), was a full moon, and I suggest the authors, writing many years after the war, assumed the full moon dates in 1943 were similar to those in 1944 - after all, June 1944 is imprinted in the minds of all WW2 historians.

    In reality operations were scheduled for most nights at the beginning of June 1943, but were cancelled because of inclement weather, the cancellations sometimes coming at the last minute; see 467 Sqn ORB at https://web.archive.org/web/20080414...07467Jun43.htm .

    I can't see where the author of The RCAF overseas gets his information from, but his description of persistent early morning sea mist and fog would be associated with quiet anticyclonic conditions, whereas the reality was mostly a succession of depressions and fronts crossing the UK during the first 10 days of the month.

    In my view the 'moon period' reference is a red herring and the lack of operations was due to meteorological considerations.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 6th May 2021 at 09:55. Reason: Grammar

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    Default Re: reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

    Further to my last, operations were not only scrubbed because of poor actual or forecast weather over the UK, but also en route. In some instances an operation could be called off due to reports of unsuitable weather from met reconnaissance aircraft surveying conditions along the route before main force departure.

    Brian

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    Default Re: reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

    A historical moon phase calculator can be found here: https://www.moonpage.com/

    Quite useful, I find. With this you can enter a date and also find the previous and next phases.

    Jim
    Last edited by JDCAVE; 6th May 2021 at 15:21.

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    Default Re: reason for Bomber Commands inactivity in the beginning of June 1943

    Yes, thanks Jim; I'd intended, but forgot, to provide a link. The one I used is at https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/uk/...th=6&year=1943 which provides data for a whole month including sunrise and sunset.

    Brian

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