The Anonymous Widower

Was It Right To Bomb Germany As We Did in the Second World War?

I have felt for a long time that the bombing of German cities by the RAF and the USAAF was rather a pointless exercise driven more by vengeance and revenge than any strategic purpose to defeat the Nazis.

Remember, I was brought up in London and many of my relatives experienced the bombing first hand. My grandfather’s premises close to the Barbican, where he worked as an engraver, were completely destroyed in the Blitz. Many of these people weren’t too bothered about the bombing as it just made them angry and anyway they survived. Others might have felt different, but most just felt that you had to deal with what happened and get on with life. Supposedly, one of the reasons for bombing civilians was to break their moral and hopefully get them to turn against the government.  I think that London and other British cities that were bombed showed that it didn’t work.  If anything it just stiffened their resolve to carry on.

Was it any different in Germany, when we bombed their cities? I’ve only met a couple of Germans, who endured the bombing from the RAF and the USAAF and they didn’t seem to react any differently  to the way we did. And they probably suffered a lot more.

But also remember that a 250,000 from both the RAF and the USAAF either died or went missing in the bombing of Germany. So in some ways we lost the trained personnel that we really needed to support the invasion.

 I also remember reading the history of the de Havilland Mosquito. Initially this superb design wasn’t really wanted by the RAF, as they felt who in his right mind would want to fly across to bomb Germany in an unarmed aircraft built out of ply and balsa wood. To them and the USAAF, a heavily armed four engined bomber would obviously be better. But statistics proved them wrong, as the Mosquito, which carried virtually the same bomb load as a B-17, but with a crew of two instead of ten, had a much higher return rate and much lower losses of crew. It was also much faster and could bomb Germany twice in one night.

In my view it should have been used strategically to take out German infrastructure, such as important factories and rail junctions. Wikipedia says this.

Mosquitos were widely used by the RAF Pathfinder Force, which marked targets for night-time strategic bombing. Despite an initially high loss rate, the Mosquito ended the war with the lowest losses of any aircraft in RAF Bomber Command service. Post war, the RAF found that when finally applied to bombing, in terms of useful damage done, the Mosquito had proved 4.95 times cheaper than the Avro Lancaster.

Yesterday, the obituary of Flight Lieutenant Don Nelson was published in the papers.

He was an RAF navigator, who helped to plan the destruction of German infrastructure in the run up to D-Day.

This is an extract from The Times.

In the spring of 1944 Bomber Command under its redoubtable but stubborn leader, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, was ordered to divert a proportion of its energies from the strategic bombing of Germany, of which Harris was the architect, to attacking targets in northern France and Belgium — railways, bridges, tunnels, marshalling yards — whose destruction would materially expedite the forthcoming Allied invasion of German-occupied Europe.

Although Harris dug his heels in against what he was convinced was a misuse of his strategic bomber force, a trial raid against a railway centre at Trappes, south west of Paris, in early March resulted in such spectacular destruction and dislocation of rail traffic that it became evident that a sustained assault by Bomber Command would be capable of virtually paralysing the German capacity to move troops against whatever beach heads the Allies might establish before, and not after, the projected invasion. This was a vital discovery. In spite of Harris’s protests his best bomber squadrons were from then until June 6, 1944, and afterwards, employed on this momentous interdiction work.

The Telegraph tells a very similar story.

Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I think we probably could have done better in our bombing campaign against Germany, by bombing infrastructure important to the war effort, rather than the general population.

We also never learn from the past, as if we look at Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya, we continue to make the same mistakes we always do. Inevitably vengeance seems to get mixed up with the simple objective of defeating a vile and hideous regime and its leader.

June 16, 2011 - Posted by | World | , , , , ,


  1. Have also read recently..that the German bombing of Sheffield…where urban legend has it,…that it was the trams running in the city centre…saved the east end of Sheffield…where the munitions the crank shafts etc where made…(and yes I do have very strong connections with the steel industry).

    Apparently…the bombers mistook the sparks from the trams as being the site of the heavy industry….and bombed the city centre …literally flattened. Even I can remeber bomb sites….

    The Marples pub.;..a direct hit…70 civilians never recovered.

    My Mum was a nurse in a hospital…..Dad was still at school..but a fire watcher….2 very heaavy nights..December 1941. Gran was a crane driver at Shardlows (crankshaft makers). Grandad…Royal Navy WW1…and down a pit in WW2. Dont know about my other Grandparents…

    In a recent article…I have read that it was a deliberate flatten the city…to demoralise.

    I dont know whether I can accept either story as being correct….Do know that the Sheffield spirit …rising from ashes…
    People seem to always over look Sheffield….

    Comment by Janet | June 16, 2011 | Reply

    • From what you say, it would appear that those in Sheffield, who weren’t actually killed or seriously injured just got on with it.

      I recently, went to a lecture at UCL, where they have uncovered the work of a secret unit, that repaired any damage to the Thames wall immediately during the war. Apparently, we realised that a couple of big hits would have flooded most of the city, but the Germans didn’t. Some of the botched repairs are still there.

      So perhaps the Germans did make the mistake and bomb the wrong part of Sheffield, but in 1940 to 1942, they didn’t have the high-tech devices we had later in the war. We’d also cracked their codes and could bend their rather crude directional radio beams, so we knew where they were going. This is probably why in your area, Hull got it far worse than anywhere else, as it was an easy target to find as it was on a well-defined estruary. I’ve flown over Sheffield several times in a light aircraft and it is not obvious at all, in the same way that some cities are. I just wonder how good the blackout was in the city. If it was pretty good, then the tram theory could well be right.

      Comment by AnonW | June 16, 2011 | Reply

  2. I am never sure what is achieved by war. And I do believe that a lot of war could be prevented if people actually listened to what the other side had to say in the years leading up to wars! There some current ones which were so totally predictable if only people had thought and talked and listened before they made decisions.

    Comment by liz | June 16, 2011 | Reply

  3. Im glad that monster Hitler was stopped. Lunatic was a great coward, after leading so many people, he kills himself, pure subordination. Here this demented monster, killed many other soldiers that were suspected of abandoning there positions. Take your nasty medicine, you and your followers, it serves you right…


    Comment by Guelo | July 21, 2011 | Reply

    • I agree that Hitler had to be stopped. It’s just that if we’d bombed Germany strategically, rather than everywhere, we might have shortened the war by a year or so.

      Comment by AnonW | July 21, 2011 | Reply

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