Wittenbergplatz im Krieg

Crashed at Wittenbergplatz, Berlin

Photo: akg-images (AKG55275).

Located between Nollendorfplatz and Auguste Viktoria Platz (today’s Breitscheidplatz), Wittenbergplatz is one of the best known plazas of the city of Berlin. It was laid out between 1889 and 1892 in the course of urban development in the western suburbs of Berlin’s Wilhelmine Ring. The square was named after the adjacent Tauentzienstraße (from General Bogislav von Tauentzien) who had received the honorific title von Wittenberg after the storming of the French-occupied town of Wittenberg in February 1814. With the Berlin’s municipal reform effective in April 1938, Wittenbergplatz became part of the Schöneberg district.

The underground station U-Bahnhof Wittenbergplatz was opened in March 1902, part of the original U-Bahn Berlin network, years later it was expanded becoming a major subway connection of the western part of the city. Together with the underground station, another major landmark here is the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), the large West-Berlin department store located at Tauentzienstraße 21-24 in the southwestern side of Wittenbergplatz. Owned by Adolf Jandorf, it opened its doors in March 1907 with five floors, the largest department store in continental Europe at the time which transformed the surrounding area into a shopping zone. Furthermore, on the north side of the square there are very popular weekly street markets. 

[Wittenbergerplatz and Tauentzienstr. seen in 1904, before the famous KaDeWe was built at the southwestern corner of the square. Two of the original underground stairway entrances can be seen, placed between the streetcar tracks.]

Photo: Landesbildstelle Berlin_ZI-0180-01-Th178075.

In 1912, a major redesign of the square was made, with a cross-shaped entrance building to access the U-Bhf underground station in the centre of the plaza, designed by Alfred Grenander (1863-1931) with neoclassical elements. The hall, built by Konstruktionsbüro Siemens & Halske AG, exits the underground train platforms to Tauentzienstraße and Kleiststraße both and became its most distinctive element, dominating Wittenbergplatz. A conical lantern would be added atop of the roof in the 1930s.

[Wittenbergplatz, construction work of the new access building in 1912-13. Note the already built KaDeWe store department at left behind the hall. This picture was published by the ‘Berliner Allgemeine Zeitung’ in 1919.]

Photo: Haeckel collection.

[Designed by Swedish architect Alfred Grenander, the cross-shaped hall building dominates Wittenbergplatz, Berlin circa 1920.]

Photo: Bildarchiv Foto Marburg.

[The main entrance hall, seen here a few years after its opening. The building is adorned with ceramic and neoclassical elements, mixed with some Art nouveau design.]

Photo: stadbild-deutschland.

[A propaganda truck with a huge bust of former general Paul von Hindenburg passed by Wittenbergplatz during the Reich presidential election in 1925.]

[An aerial photograph of the western Berlin square (looking south) taken in 1928. The cross-shaped entrance building and the circling tram tracks are shown to good effect here.]

Photo: postkarte.

[Nazi-supporters saluting to Goebbels in the fascist way before this gave a speech protest at Wittenbergplatz against the film ”Im Westen nichts Neues”, written by Erich Maria Remarque, December 9, 1930.]

Photo: akg-images (AKG3955536).

[A Nazi boycott demonstration at the gates of the closed Berlin KaDeWe store at Tauentzienstraße in April 1933. The famous department store was owned by jewish family Tietz from 1927 until it was expropriated by Hitler’s regime.] 

Photo: bpk/Herbert Hoffmann.

[As early as 1933, Nazi authorities started to execute air-raid drills in Berlin and other major cities in Germany to prevent its citizens from the risk of an incoming bombing war, here a ‘mock’ bomb was placed at Wittenbergplatz as an advertisement of the Luftangriff-Schutz-Ausstellung (‘Air Raid Protection Exhibition’), celebrating during those days in the Reich capital.]

Photo: Clarence W. Sorensen Collection/University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries.

[Wittenbergplatz, early 1936. Note the Christmas Trees and the Olympic rings with swastika on the KaDeWe facade.]

Photo by Roman Vishniac.

[A peaceful view of pre-war Wittenbergplatz and its surroundings taken in 1937, taken from the westside. Note the KaDeWe lettering and facade at right.]

Photo: stadtbild.

[A lottery seller next to the Kaufhaus des Westen department store on a rainy day, Berlin 1939. Note the swastika on white circle that adorned the kiosk and the lantern atop of the U-Bhf entrance hall.]

Wittenbergplatz in the Bombenkrieg, 1940-1945
Wittenbergplatz was located in one of the most bombed areas of the German capital, between the Charlottenburg and Schöneberg districts. The once highly illuminated square, the main shopping area of the western part, now looks dark due to the imposing blackout regulations which already started on the first day of the conflict in September 1939. The RAF bombing campaign hit hard the area in late 1943 and early 1944, with continuous air raids that severely damaged Wittenbergplatz and its surrounding streets. The square appears several times on the city’s bombing damage reports. The first one, on December 16, 1940, when a British HE bomb penetrated the tunnel between U-Bhf Wittenbergplatz and Zoologischer Garten train stations, traffic on line A I has to be temporarily shut down. 

[View of the scarcely illuminated Tauntzienstraße, circa 1940. The city’s wartime blackout regulations make Wittenbergplatz station barely discerned in the background.]

Photo: Weltbild/Vintage property.

[Deutsches Rotes Kreuz collection for the war winter relief organization in front of the KaDeWe at Wittenbergplatz during the Tag der Wehrmacht’, March 1941.]

Photo: akg-images (AKG7413444).

Photo: akg-images (AKG7413442).

[A July 1942-view of Anspacherstr. Nr 11 corner with Wittenbergplatz, where the Singer sewing machines company and the Rackow-Schule had their homes before the war. According to an US newspaper of the time, the ground floor now walled up for protection against bomb splinters, was supposed to be an elite guard air raid shelter. Compare this picture with the above shown taken in 1934 and the ‘mock’ bomb.]

Photo: ebay auction.

[Wittenbergplatz, 1942: a Red Cross helper with a donation box makes collections for the war effort accompanied by a marching band of Hitlerjugend boys.]

Photo: gettyimages.

In fall 1943, British aircraft made two huge air raids which wiped out the southwestern part of the city on the nights of 22/23 (696 RAF bombers) and 23/24 November (337 bombers), part of the ‘Battle of Berlin’, the RAF’s air campaign focused on the Reich capital. Massive damage to the underground tunnel and tracks was reported after these attacks, some parts collapsed due to direct bomb hits and fire damage was done to the entrance hall on Wittenbergplatz. Two months later, the KaDeWe store department was badly damaged and left in ruins after an RAF Halifax four-engined bomber crashed onto its roof in the early hours of January 29, 1944, during another British raid, as we have researched in our previous post that describes the terrific crash, the seven-man crew were all killed.

[The calm before the storm: Part of an aerial picture of western Berlin taken on September 6, 1943, by an No 542 Squadron (RAF) PR Spitfire, it shows the so called ‘Zooviertel’ and some of the most important landmarks of this area before the November 22/23 destruction, including Wittenbergplatz (at right) and the mighty Zoo Flakturm (top left).]

Photo: NCAP [http://ncap.org.uk/NCAP-000-000-008-945].

[A young woman posing beside the entrance of an underground air-raid shelter at the northern side of Wittenbergplatz square. The relatively intact U-Bhf entrance hall and the already ruined KaDeWe store indicates that the picture was taken in 1944.]

Photo: ullstein bild.

[A woman walks through Wittenbergplatz with the ruins of the Kaufhaus des Westens store department and debris as background, circa 1945.]

Photo by Henrik Gaard/ullstein bild.

Furthermore, the square was hit by the USAAF daylight offensive too, when the underground tunnels between U-Bhf Wittenbergplatz and Zoo were penetrated by direct hits on May 8, 1944 (403 American heavy bombers attacked), which left subway’s Linie A out of service for several days. 

From March 1944 onwards, Mosquito fast bombers of the newly created RAF’s Light Night-Striking Force (LNSF) visited almost nightly Berlin to harass the capital and its citizens. Bomb damage on Wittenbergplatz was reported on August 19, 1944, when an explosive bomb landed here bursting a pipe, and again on the night of 29/30 January 1945 when Bomber Command sent 59 Mosquitoes to attack the city. Two high-explosive bombs (most probably air-mines) landed here: one broke through the roof of the subway tunnel meanwhile the other destroyed the building at Nr. 4, on the north side of the square. Four people were injured during the attack, which also destroyed the station’s signal box and buried some of the tracks, causing the interruption of the BVG train service between Zoo and Bülowstraße. Other sources refer to a direct bomb hit which caused severe damage to the entrance hall again and to the underground platform.

[Berliners draw water from a public water pump located at Wittenbergplatz in the chaotic aftermath of another enemy air raid on the city, 1945.]

Photo: ullstein bild.

[RAF’s Mosquitoes nuisance raids campaign with the aim of keeping the enemy on alert for long periods of the night. In this series of photographies taken in 1945 at Wittenbergplatz, we can see the clean-up work after an air raid, some direct bomb direct hit has already destroyed the main entrance to the underground station.]

Photo: ullstein bild.

Photo: Arthur Grimm/ullstein bild.

[Curious Berliners take a look into the hole that an RAF high-explosive bomb has made penetrating into the underground tunnel, next to the U-Bhf entrance at Wittenbergplatz.]

Photo: ullstein bild.

[This detail from an PR image of the western Berlin districts shows Wittenbergplatz and the damage already done by the Allied air bombardments; it was taken by an USAAF 7th PG reconnaissance aircraft on March 22, 1945.]

Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; frame 3175.

[Wittenbergplatz and the Schöneberg quarter seen before (left) and after the US carpet bombings that devastated some parts of the capital in 1945. Note at bottom of the image the roofless condition of the Schöneberg gasometer at Bayreuther Str., today’s Welser Str. This picture was released for propaganda purposes in May.]

Photo: NARA/ 342-FH-3A20832-51322AC.

[Berliners walk through the ruins and a burned out tram at Tauentzienstraße after an American daylight air raid, circa March 1945.

Photo: Archiv Golejewski/ullstein bild.

The 1945 battle
From March 1945, Berlin and its citizens prepared for the final battle with the advancing Soviet troops, strongly supported by VVS aircraft. The shelling and house-to-house street fighting would add furthermore destruction and death to the area. On April 28, 1945, a heavy fighting developed around Bayreuther Str. and Marburgerstraße, the German resistance stopped the Red Army advance through Kürfurstenstr. and Tauentzienstr. towards the Zoo area here. Soviet ground-attack planes bombed and strafed the German defenders fighting here repeatedly, and finally the Soviet 21st Guards Mechanized Brigade, part of the 8th Guards Mechanized Corps and supported by the 1st Guards Tank Brigade advanced Tauentzienstr. westwards reaching Wittenbergplatz on the 30th. 

One of the last remaining subway trains ran from Wittenbergplatz to Kaiserdamm in shuttle service, until the BVG-Kraftwerk Unterspree was under fire on the 25 April afternoon and all train services were finally stopped. Small skirmishes in the area with the German garrison lasted until the final surrender on May 2nd.

[Summer 1945, this Sd.Kfz 251/21 ‘Drilling’ from German 18.Panzergrenadier-Division was left after the battle at Tauentzienstr. next to the KaDeWe’s western corner, a few metres away from Wittenbergplatz. Note the triple-AA 2cm guns.]

Photo: Panzers in Berlin, 2019.

[Year Zero: the sea of rubble and ruins that Tauentzienstr. has become at the end of the war, seen from Wittenbergplatz with the heavily damaged Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in the far background.]

Photo by Walter Gircke/ullstein bild.

[British engineer Cecil F.S. Newman took this picture from Nettelbeckstraße looking into Wittenbergplatz in the summer of 1945. Mountains of rubble and bricks were piled up in front of the ruined houses and the heavy damage taken by the KaDeWe building is evident.]

Photo by Cecil F.S. Newman ©Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1695,15).

Our next post will cover and describe Wittenbergplatz after the end of the Second World War, with several pictures to make sense of the damage taken by this area and its reconstruction, then part of the newly created Western occupation sectors of the divided city.

Bibliography:

  • Antill, Peter. Berlin 1945: End of the Thousand Year Reich. Campaign 159. Osprey Publishing, 2005.
  • Archer, Lee. Panzers in Berlin 1945. Panzerwrecks, 2019.
  • Beevor, Anthony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. Viking, 2002.
  • Berliner-Untergrundbahn.de. Die U-Bahn im 2. Weltkrieg. <https://www.berliner-untergrundbahn.de/krieg.html>
  • Demps, Laurenz. Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014.
  • Hildebrandt, B and Haiger, E. Kriegsende in Tiergarten: Die Geschichte des Kriegsgräberfriedhofs Wilsnacker Straße. Lehmanns Media, 2009.
  • Janus,  Urte. Das Kaufh aus des Westens („KaDeWe“) in Berlin. Technische Universität Berlín, Magisterarbeit, 1995.
  • Landesarchiv Berlin: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 79 ff.; s. a. LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 134; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 703, Bl. 11 f.
  • Meiners, Antonia. 100 Jahre KaDeWe. Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2007.
  • Middlebrook, Martin and Everett, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. 2014 Ed.
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag, 2013.
  • Wittenbergplatz. <http://u-bahn-archiv.de/aufnahmen/wittenbergplatz.html>
  • _______________

    Previous post >


    Crashed at Wittenbergplatz, Berlin

    Tonight you are going to the Big City. 

    You will have the opportunity to light a fire in the belly of the enemy that will burn his black heart out’
    – Sir Arthur Harris, Commander-in-Chief Bomber Command –

    Photo: Wings Aviation Museum.

    At around 03:20 hrs, amongst a wave of planes, flak bursts and parachutes, and illuminated by big fires on the ground, a British Halifax heavy bomber overflies the Nazi capital during another RAF Bomber Command air raid on the city. Seconds later and hit by a German night fighter, the four-engined bomber fell in a steep dive from a height of 17,000 feet and crashed onto the KaDeWe building, the famous West-Berlin department store which still exists today at the same location at Wittenbergplatz.

    This story, a real story from World War II, has been told many times and by many sources, but never before in the right way. 

    According to the KaDeWe website: “During the Second World War, an American plane crashed onto the roof of the building causing a major fire[1] meanwhile the store’s official chronology states that [in 1943] An American airplane crashes into KaDeWe.”[2] Another source, in this case a German author described the dramatic action and dates it also: During the war, KaDeWe experienced its blackest day on November 24, 1943, when an American bomber crashed into the atrium of the building, which burned out completely”.[3] Other sources state that this happened on the night of 22/23 during the attack which wiped out the southwestern part of the city.[4] This is most likely due to the fame that the raid achieved after the war, the best known of the British bombardments on Berlin and of devastating effectiveness.

    Actually, this deadly crash happened not in November 1943 but three months later, on the night of 28/29 January 1944 during a lesser known but also heavy RAF air attack on Berlin. Primary sources and official documents from those days allow us to match the actual date with the bomber and the men that starred this amazing but terrible incident, which caused both the death of the seven-man crew aboard the downed Halifax and the end of the original KaDeWe department. 

    [Ruined but not destroyed: Kaufhaus des Westens after being damaged by Allied bombs in World War II in 1943, says the original caption of this picture.]

    Photo: © KaDeWe.

    The crashed plane was bomber Halifax HR841KN-T’ from No 77 RAF Squadron and piloted by Pilot Officer Duncan, which the official RAF loss report listed as Collided with an enemy night-fighter”.[5] Another record, based on German reports, states that the bomber crashed at WITTENBERG PLATZ, BERLIN” detailing that the aircraft crashed with a German plane and then crashed on a large building”, the large building being without any doubt the KaDeWe store at Tauentzienstraße.[6]

    Which was the origin of the wrong assertion and which was the first source that created this ‘urban myth’ is unknown to us, a mistake increased even more when the crashed plane is described as an American bomber (or fighter), an air force that was still months away from starting to fly and to fight over Berlin (March 1944) and always on daylight raids.[7] Sadly, internet sources often copy each other and with same mistakes, the unaccurate information and year being copied and circulated by most of the German media, newspapers (Der TagesspiegelDer Spiegel…) and tourism websites (tip-berlin, the Culture trip…).[8] Of course, the Wikipedia page referred to the KaDeWe also repeated this.[9] 

    But what was the backstory?

    28/29 January 1944 raid
    On that night, Commanding-in-Chief of Bomber Command Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris put his sights on Berlin again, to keep the aerial offensive and pressure on the Nazi capital. It would be a maximum effort raid that includes the Halifax-equipped squadrons again, left on stand by on the previous operations against Berlin by Harris order due to the type’s lower ceiling and performance, which soon became intolerable losses. 

    In the early afternoon, No 4 Group sent new mission orders via teleprint to its assigned squadrons. At RAF Elvington in Yorkshire, home of the No 77 Squadron, the incoming operation was prepared as the squadron would dispatch twenty-one Halifax heavy bombers to bomb the city targets, part of the 677 aircraft attacking force that Bomber Command sent to destroy Hitler’s home one more night.[10] 

    [RAF 77 Squadron crews at the briefing room at Elvington prior of the incoming operation to the German capital, in this case the opening raid of the ‘Battle of Berlin’ on August 23, 1943.]

    Photo: 77 Squadron Association.

    The night before 515 ‘heavies’this time only Lancasters, preferred by Harris and accompanied by 15 Mosquitoes had visited the ‘Big City’ in a bombing raid that had achieved medium success only, losing 33 of the bombers[11] most to German night fighters. This time, the bombers would fly to Flamborough Head as usual and from there to Berlin following a long route through northern Denmark and the German Baltic coast for more than 3 hours, inside the bomber stream and protected by large amounts of Window (stripes of metal used as radar countermeasures).

    Following the usual operation briefing, P/O Duncan and his crew went to dinner and finally to the ‘dressing-room’ to prepare before boarding their assigned aircraft for the mission, serial HR841 coded ‘T’. ‘T for Tommy’ was their usual ‘kite’ at the squadron, a Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber in which the armourers had loaded a mix of 1,000-lb bombs (long-delayed fuses) and canisters of 30-lb and 4-lb incendiaries, as the Squadron’s ORB shows.[12] By Harris order, the load weight on some squadrons of the Halifax force had been increased, which led to some aircraft crashing during take off and higher figures of early returns. Furthermore, bad weather made that time ops was delayed twice and the bombing force didn’t take-off until midnight, which only get the crews more tired and nervous. This delay also made ineffective the ‘spoof’ raid on Hannover by four Mosquitoes to confound the Nazi defenses a few hours before the Main Force attacked Berlin.

    Minutes later, after taxiing in and wait for their turn to take off, Duncan opened the throttle and the four 1,280 hp Rolls-Royce engines roared, the bomber lifting off Elvington’s runway at 00.07 hours[13] in complete darkness and radio silence. The pilot circled the airfield to gain height before turning on to a heading across the North Sea. No one would see them alive again.

    The crew of Halifax HR841 consisted of:
    - Pilot Officer Robert McI Duncan, RCAF, from Ontario, Canada, aged 25, the ‘skipper’.
    - Sergeant William Cannon, aged 20, from Great Crosby, Lancashire, Flight Engineer.
    - Flight Sergeant Kenneth W Chalk, aged 21, from Wiltshire, Air Gunner.
    - Sgt Geoffrey M Jandron, RCAF, aged 32, from Quebec region, Canada, Air Gunner.
    - Sgt Frank Jarvis, aged 21, from Clayton, Manchester, the Wireless Operator.
    - Flight Sgt Henry H Streeting, aged 22, from West Hartlepool, Co. Durham, the navigator.
    - Warrant Officer II William C Thom, RCAF, aged 21, from Ottawa, Canada, bomb aimer.[14]

    [Portraits of the three Canadians part of the crew of Halifax HR841KIA on the early hours of 29 January 1944 over Berlin: (L-R) Pilot Officer Duncan, Warrant Officer Thom, and Sergeant Jandron.]

    Photos: The Canadian Virtual War Memorial (CVWM).

    Duncan seven-man crew had been in combat for just two months. They were posted to 77 Squadron after passing through the OTU and the 1652 Conversion Unit, arriving at Elvington in September 1943.[15] Their first operation together was on the night of November 3rd (in Halifax LW341, target was Düsseldorf) and this would be their second visit to the Reich capital, having already completed the same mission on 22/23 November 1943 flying HR841 too.[16] The 77th was one of the original Bomber Command squadrons, flying Whitleys from the early days and converting to the more capable Halifax bomber in early 1943. Now, lead by Wing Commander John Roncoroni, the squadron was in the middle of Harris’ ‘Battle of Berlin’.[17]

    The crew had missed the previous show over Berlin (20/21 January) and ‘their’ Halifax HR841, assigned to another crew on that night (P/O Hogg’s crew) finally did not leave for the German capital either.[18] The next day, the crew was ordered to fly to Magdeburg as part of 648 bombers that bombed the city.[19] On Friday the 28th, Duncan and his men were detailed to bomb Berlin again.

    [The 77 Squadron combat log (ORB) listing January 1944’ operations shows the fate of Halifax HR841 and the Duncan crew following their depart from Elvington: This aircraft failed to return from operation”.]

    Photo: TNA AIR-27-657-2 © Crown Copyright.

    ‘T for Tommy’ 
    This Halifax, serial HR841, was built by Handley Page under contract No. A/C 1688 as a HP59 B.Mark II in late 1942. The bomber had served before with No 35 Squadron during 1943 but it was reassigned to the 77th at Elvington station at the end of October as ‘KN-T’, being flown in most of her combat ops by Duncan’s crew. This would be her third trip to bomb Berlin, being manned by another crew on the previous 29 December raid. By the time of her loss, and from comparing pictures of closer serial Halifaxes, HR841 had most probably been already modified with the new glazed nose section, improved Merlin XX engines too and/or squared ‘D type’ tail fins to improve directional stability. Sadly, there are no known photos of HR841 to confirm the configuration during her last sortie over Berlin.[20]

    [Closer serial number we have found picture is Halifax Mk II HR846 of No 35 Sqn, seen here taking off from RAF Graveley in July 1943. Part of the same construction batch than HR841, this plane was modified with the one-piece nose section and a H2S radar unit in mid 1943 although retained the original rounded tail unit. It was lost on 23/24 August 1943 on a Berlin raid also.]

    Photo: © Ron Gayner Collection (Courtesy of Dick Gayner).

    [The crew of Halifax Mk II HR723 KN-M’ from No 77 Sqn, posing at Elvington with their aircraft in November 1943. This contemporary aircraft shows should have looked HR841 at the time: plastic nose section and Rolls-Royce XX engines fitted with improved exhaust shrouds].

    Photo: 77 Squadron Association.

    Shot down in flames
    It is unclear what was the actual cause for the bomber loss. As we have mentioned early, this bomber was reportedly lost in a collision[21] over the target area, although modern research has established it was shot down by a night fighter. Thanks to Theo Boiten’s excellent research work about the German Nachtjadg during the war, we know that Oblt. Werner Kucharsowsky, a 9.Staffel pilot of ‘Wilde Sau’ unit JG301 claimed an enemy “4-mot” (four-engined bomber) over Berlin at 03.21 hrs whose description and time matches with our fallen bomber, crashing into a store at Berlin-Schöneberg (according to the OKL/RLM victory lists).[22] The victory was confirmed by the Abschusskommission on 9 September 1944.[23] 

    [Silhouetted against the glare of incendiary fires and German searchlights, a Halifax bomber of RAF No 4 Group releases its bomb load on Leipzig in 1944. The Mattscheibe” (ground-glass screen) is shown to good effect here: the silhouettes of the bombers against the illuminated cloud cover allowed  ‘Wilde Sau’ fighters to make contact and attack the enemy bombers.] 

    Photo: © IWM (C 3972).

    [A Bf 109G-6 ‘Wilde Sau’ fighter pictured here at Bonn-Hangelar with Ofw. Bremer (left) and Uffz. Schiffer. Part of the original Luftwaffe’s Wild Boar unit, Jagdgeschwader 300, this night fighter was equipped with additional 20mm cannons and wears a heavy black oversprayed over the camouflage finish and the German crosses. Note the flame dampeners added over the exhaust stacks, a night fighting modification. This unit was very active against the November 1943-early 1944 RAF raids over Berlin.]

    Photo: Lorant. Jagdgeschwader 300. Eagle Editions, 2003.

    Nevertheless, there are no further known records or maybe they were lost during the war, so we cannot confirm if the German Jadgflieger shot at the bomber or if he collided with it in the thick of aerial battle. Perhaps he rammed it intentionally as other ‘Wilde Sau’ pilots did, or misjudged the distance following a ‘corkscrew’, an evasive action used by British pilots. Anyway, the Germans recognized as an aerial victory whether by shot or by ramming, as long as the enemy plane hit the ground so both options could be right.

    What is certain is that the Halifax, mortally wounded and with its crew on board (who knows if wounded, already dead or trying to escape from the bomber) fell on the southwestern part of the capital. Did the crew see the attacker? did the tail gunner return the fire?

    Combat reports from that night confirmed that the relative immunity from fighter attacks ended abruptly when the bombers reached Berlin and a fierce air battle developed over the city during the bombing run.[24] Returning crews reported over 150 sightings of enemy fighters in the target area which indicates the defenders’ high degree of response. Another crew from No 77 Sqn (F/Sgt Robertson and flying Halifax LK728) reported slight damage on their plane by fighter attack just before the bombing run and HR841 must be close at the time.[25] Around twenty-five bombers were destroyed over the Great Berlin area[26] with JG 301 claiming two of them one the Kucharsowsky claim— and JG 300 eleven more, although none of these claims later were filled or confirmed by the RLM. The Germans paid a high prize too: ‘Wilde Sau’ units lost nine fighters with 3 pilots killed and another wounded on this operation.[27]

    [Two Bf 109G-6 ‘Wilde Sau’ fighters, in this case from 1./JG300 at Bonn Hangelar, early 1944. The pilot is probably Hermann Wischnewski, a German ace who claimed two enemy bombers destroyed on this night over Berlin, although none of these claims were confirmed by the OKL. Note the special light blue finish, intended to chase RAF Mosquito intruders at high altitude.] [28]

    Photo: asisbiz.

    The KaDeWe
    The Kaufhaus des Westens („KaDeWe“ for short or Department Store of the West), the majestic department store located at Tauentzienstraße 21-24 next to Wittenbergplatz, was the adventurous idea by Berlin businessman Adolf Jandorf. Designed by architect Johann Emil Schaudt, when the store opened its doors on March 27, 1907, it was a massive building with five floors and 26,400 square meters, which immediately had an impact on its surroundings transforming the street into a shopping area. Acquired by the Hertie-Konzern in 1927, the KaDeWe was expropriated by the Nazi regime in 1933, just after it had been expanded into a six-story building with 40,000 square meters, the largest department store in continental Europe at the time.[29]

    [A peaceful view showing Wittenbergplatz and Tauentzienstraße in the 1930s looking west, with the KaDeWe store at left and the imposing Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche in the background, both would be hit hard during the RAF air bombings.]

    Photo: rbb/KaDeWe.

    The crash caused a major fire and severe damage to the upper floors and atrium of the building, which until that night had survived barely intact from destruction. It was left abandoned in ruins until the post-war years, reconstruction work took almost a decade and a half. KaDeWe was the first of the war-damaged department stores to be rebuilt in West-Berlin: it was reopened on July 3, 1950, meanwhile many houses were still in ruins at the Schöneberg district and became a symbol of the new beginning.[30]

    This map shows Wittenbergplatz, Tauentzienstraße and the KaDeWe location (marked in red), the Berlin-Schöneberg area where Halifax HR841 crashed on that night.

    Souce: Histomap/BerlinLuftTerror.

    [By war’s end, ruins and debris were the terrible panorama at Wittenbergplatz, with the destroyed U-Bahnhof entrance and the burned out KaDeWe store as background.]

    Photo by Fritz Eschen/ullstein bild.

    The impact of the falling bomber, a large and heavy aircraft (the Halifax had a wingspan of 31,75 m and a maximum weight of 55,000-lb, including its bomb load) had to be very loud and violent and, of course devastating for the building’s structure. As the bomber did not return to its base nor did any of the crew survived, it is not possible to confirm if it was shot down with the full bomb load aboard or had already been dropped bombs on the city. Known photos of the square taken during the last year of the war —although often wrongly captioned as 1943—shows the building badly damaged, with a burned out roof and the structure totally twisted at the impact point, but still standing. If the aircraft would exploded on impact little or nothing have remained from the famous store after the violent deflagration.

    [A Halifax bomber, in this case an early variant with the original nose turret, being bombed up at a Bomber Command station in England. The maximum bomb load of the Handley Page heavy’ was 14,500-lb.] 

    Photo: RAF Museum.

    At least six returning crews from the squadron reported to have seen a big explosion with large fires (“big red-orange glare”, “terrific glow, violent explosion”)[31] in the city area which by the hours noted could be related to the impact of the Halifax onto the Kaufhaus, although most likely it refers to a direct bomb hit on the Tegel gasworks which was destroyed on that night too. There is also no record of any personal losses at the building or in the vicinity because of this, whether civilians or members of the city’s emergencies services, although the rain of bombs and fire that the city was taken at the time was outstanding and would last until 03.30 hrs, which makes almost impossible to discern death causes here.[32]

    Remarkably, not the crash or the KaDeWe itself are mentioned in the city bombing reports: the reason behind could be that these January 1944 raids were so devastating (75% of the previous November raids damage) and the extent of destruction was so huge that the city authorities were no longer able to compile detailed air raid reports as previously with singled out damage areas or buildings, as the report itself noted.[33]

    [A 1945-picture of the ruined KaDeWe building. Taken from U-Bhf Wittenbergplatz and looking southwest, we can appreciate the burned out roof and smashed structure where the British bomber hit the large building that night.]

    Photo: ullstein bild.

    “Case closed
    Following the end of the war, the Allied Grave Registration Unit (GRU) tried to locate, register and identify the fate of the dead or still missing airmen, especially casualties on the enemy territory; sometimes the information was obtained several years after the death of those men. In March 1949 the case related to the crew of Halifax HR841 was registered and finally, closed. After the crash, two of the bodies were brought to the Olympiastadion for identification and initially buried at the Döberitz-Elsgrund cemetery (where the Germans concentrated the fallen Allied soldiers, mostly airmen) as the Missing Research & Enquiry Service (MRES) report states. Later identified as the remains of Sgt Jandron and Sgt Jarvis, when the area became part of Eastern Germany in the post war years reburials were carried out to the British cemetery in Charlottenburg, the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery at Heerstraße (part of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) where both airmen laid to rest today.[34]

    No trace or burial of the other five airmen was found however, so their names are recorded on the Runnymede War Memorial at Englefield Green in Surrey, England (32 kilometers west of London). 20,450 RAF airmen are commemorated there.[35]

    [A composite image of the headstone graves of RAF airmen Sergeant Geoffrey M Jandron (left) and Sergeant Frank F Jarvis at the war cemetery at Heerstraße, which were killed when Halifax HR841 crashed on that night.] 

    Photos: Findagrave.com

    [A view of the 1939-1945 War Cemetery at Heerstraße, Berlin-Charlottenburg. 80 per cent of the total buried here were airmen who were lost in the air raids over Berlin. The two graves from the HR841 crew are located on the left hand side from the main entrance.]

    Photo by the author.

    [The Air Ministry’s Post Presumption Memorandum No. 990/49 File Number P.413172/44, relating to the crash of Halifax bomber HR841 and the missing crew, registered and finally closed in March 1949.]

    Photo: Operation Picture Me.

    The British lost 46 bombers (6.8%) on this raid and six more crashed on the return flight due to bad weather on England. Back to Elvington, four 77 Squadron aircraft were missing. One was Halifax HR841 with Duncan’s crew. 

    _______________

    Notes:

    [1] „Im Zweiten Weltkrieg stürzte ein amerikanisches Flugzeug ins Dach des Hauses und löste einen Großbrand aus. Der Wiederaufbau zog sich über fast anderthalb Jahrzehnte hin”. Signa Unternehmensgruppe, 21. Dezember 2019(accessed Oct 2022).
    [2] The KaDeWe, State for more than 100 years(accessed Oct 2022).
    [3] „Im Krieg erlebte das KaDeWe seinen schwärzesten Tag am 24. November 1943, als ein amerikanischer Bomber in den Lichthof des Hauses stürzte, das daraufhin völlig ausbrannte“, quoted in: Hans Aschenbrenner. “3. Juli 1950: Das KaDeWe meldet sich zurück”. ©Edition Luisenstadt, Berlinische Monatsschrift Heft 3/2001.
    [4] Andreas Abel: “Als die Gedächtniskirche in Trümmern lag”Berliner Morgenpost, 22. November 2018. (accessed Oct 2022).
    [5] International Bomber Command Centre. Jandron, Geoffrey Maynard(accessed Oct 2022).
    [6] see Post Presumption Memorandum No. 990/49, File Number P.413172/44.
    [7] The US Eighth Air Force first raid on Berlin was on March 3rd, 1944. Although recalled due to bad weather, some bombardment squadrons reached the German capital.
    [8] Cay Dobberke: “Geschichte des KaDeWe in Berlin: Von Hand zu Han”, Der Taggespiegel, 17. September 2013 (accessed Oct 2022);  Rosanna Steppat: “KaDeWe: Was ihr zum Kaufhaus des Westens wissen müsst”tipBerlin, 14. July 2022. (accessed Oct 2022).
    [9] <https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaufhaus_des_Westens> (accessed Oct 2022).
    [10] A complete description of the 29 January raid can be found at BOWMAN, Martin. RAF Bomber Command: Reflections of War. Volume 3. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2012, pp 203-205; and MIDDLEBROOK, Martin. The Berlin Raids. R.A.F. Bomber Command Winter 1943/44. Cassell & Co, 1988, pp 239-247. The Germans reported the enemy’s Main Force coming from the northwest and the raid inflicted heavy damage to the city with western and southern districts suffering most of the hits. According to Bomber Command mission report 1,887 tons of bombs were dropped during the raid.
    [11] MIDDLEBROOKop cit, p 239.
    [12] see TNA AIR-27-657-2. The National Archives of the UK (TNA). © Crown Copyright.
    [13] ibid.
    [14] The personal information of the HR841 crew was obtained from Bomber Command veterans and memorial associations: Canadian Virtual War Memorial, Pilot Officer Robert Mcintosh Duncan. International Bomber Command Centre, DUNCAN, ROBERT MCINTOSH. (accessed Oct 2022).
    [15] 77 Squadron RAF, Canadian Roll of Honour 1939-1945, available online at <https://77squadron.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/77-Sqn-Canadian-Roll-of-Honour-Merged-Final-Reduced-v7.pdf>
    [16] see TNA AIR-27-657-2.
    [17] JACOBS, Peter. Bomber Command Airfields of Yorkshire. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2017, pp 43-50. Detailed info and stats about the 77 Squadron can be found at: WARD, Chris. 4 Group Bomber Command: An Operational RecordPen & Sword Aviation, 2012.
    [18] see TNA AIR-27-657-2.
    [19]  when 648 aircraft were dispatched (55 lost, four a/c from the 77 Sqn failed to return). The crew dropped bombs over the city at a height of 18,000ft at 23.05 hrs. ibid.
    [20] Ted Church,Tail End Charlie(accessed Oct 2022).
    [21] Royal Air Force Commands, Halifax II HR841. (accessed Oct 2022).
    [22] BOITEN, Theo. Nachtjagd Combat Archive. 1944. Part one: 1 January - 15 March. Red Kite, 2019, p 58; MURAWSKI, Marek and NEUWERTH, Peter. JG 301 Wide Sau. Kagero, 2003, p 21; FOREMAN, John and PARRY, Simon. Luftwaffe Night Fighter Combat Claims, 1939-1945. Gardners Books, 2003, p 145.
    [23] ibid. A low-profile Luftwaffe pilot, Kucharsowsky was most probably flying a Bf 109G modified for night fighting but there is no known picture of him. He would be killed on 20 June, 1944, during aerial combat at Bernburg.
    [24] BOITENop. cit. pp 56-62.
    [25] see TNA AIR-27-657-2.
    [26] BOITENop. cit. p 56; Middlebrook for his part listed 27 bombers shot down, MIDDLEBROOKop cit, p 246.
    [27] BOITENop. cit. pp 56-62.
    [28] Falke Eins, “1./ JG 300 wilde Sau Bf 109s at Bonn Hangelar, late 1943 or early 1944 - Ebay win! - Day fighter aces of the Luftwaffe”, 21 October 2014. (accessed Oct 2022).
    [29] Compiled from The KaDeWe. State for more than 100 years, and DAS KADEWE(accessed Oct 2022).
    [30] ibid.
    [31] see TNA AIR-27-657-2.
    [32] the preliminary report listed 531 killed and 206 missing (see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 31; s. a. LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl) and nearly 80,000 people homeless (LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 59 ff). The combined three raids total was estimated on 1,341 Berliners dead and a further 1,090 missing with 4,061 injured, MIDDLEBROOKop cit, p 257.
    [33] see LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl.
    [34] see Air Ministry Post Presumption Memorandum No. 990/49, File Number P.413172/44. Many graves were damaged or even destroyed during the Soviet activities there, the cemetery was completely abandoned in 1948, after all the graves found had been relocated at Charlottenburg. More info at Aircrew Remembered. (accessed Oct 2022).
    [35] Government of Canada, Memorials in the United Kingdom, Runnymede Memorial(accessed Oct 2022). 

    Bibliography:

  • Bond, Steve, Darlow, Steve and Feast, Sean. Bomber Command: Battle of Berlin Failed to Return. Fighting High Ltd, 2017.
  • Falconer, Jonathan. Bomber Command Handbook 1939-1945. Sutton Publishing, 2003.
  • Janus,  Urte. Das Kaufhaus des Westens („KaDeWe“) in Berlin. Technische Universität Berlín, Magisterarbeit, 1995.
  • Lorant, Jean-Yves. Jagdgeschwader 300 “Wilde Sau” Volume 1. Eagle Editions, 2003.
  • Meiners, Antonia. 100 Jahre KaDeWe. Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2007.
  • Middlebrook, Martin and Everett, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. 2014 Ed.
  • Scutts, Jerry. Halifax in action. Squadron/signal publications. Aircraft Number 66, 1984.
  • _______________

    Previous post >


    Luftangriff – 1 September 1940

    ‘Berlin has Alarm in new R.A.F. raid’ 

    British Formation Reported Broken Up at Elbe Before Reaching the Capital.’ 
    The New York Times, Sunday, September 1, 1940 –

    Photo: ullstein bild.

    On the night of 31 August / 1 September, 1940, RAF Bomber Command aircraft overflew and dropped bombs on the Third Reich’s heart again, less than twenty-four hours since the previous raid and for a fourth time in a week. Berliners ran to their cellars and shelters to take cover meanwhile the anti-aircraft defences and searchlights of the city tried to repel the British air raiders.

    As we have seen on a previous post, London sent twenty-eight medium bombers to hit military and industrial targets in and around the capital in what the British claimed as “an offensive”. Bad weather prevented some of the bombers to reach their targets, in this case Tempelhof, the BMW factory and a gas work; most of the crews were somewhere on the Berlin area but failed to see under the cloud cover.[1]

    The German capital was mostly obscured by clouds and rain (returning crews reported 10/10 clouds over the target) with some witnesses reporting as ‘nearly impossible for the flyers above to mark out any definite target[2] with bombers coming later than on previous raid. The first air sirens of the city were heard at 00.03 hours of that Sunday in what would be the tenth air alarm of the war in Berlin since the war began a year before, which lasted an hour and thirty-six minutes until the all-clear alarm (‘Entwarnung’) finally sounded at 01.41 hrs.[3] 

    [UFA-Wochenschau photographer Karl-Arthur Petraschk captured this scene of destruction after the RAF visited the Great Berlin area.]

    Photo: Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

    Sirens Sound in Capital After Heavy Bombing of Previous Night
    The bombardment caused little and minor damage and most of the bombs —relatively few compared to the previous raid fell quite scattered throughout the city. British crews reported considerable Flak (anti-aircraft fire) and adverse weather with dense haze over the target which made that night the bombing pattern was very scattered. The Air Ministry communique noted that the raid had taken Berliners by surprise on account of the thick rain cloud prevalent over the city.[4]

    For his part, the official Oberkommando der Wehrmacht report, released on September 20th, summed up the events of the attack: During the night, British planes flew into the Ruhr area and towards Berlin and dropped bombs in several places, but they caused only minor damage. Military targets were never hit. Some bombs fell on open ground outside the city. [5] 

    As on previous air attacks, German records listed every damage reported and bomb hit noted in the Greater Berlin area in the following hours after the British raiders left the city. At the city centre, the Berlin-Mitte administrative district reported slight damage with just one bomb hit at Alte Jakobstraße 93-95 where a gas candelabra was damaged.[6]

    Meanwhile, at Lichtenstein-Allee in the Tiergarten district, three incendiary bombs were reported to have fell on the road but no damage was caused to the adjacent Spanische Botschaft (the Spanish Embassy in Berlin). In the middle of the Tiergarten park, at Bellevue-Allee approx one hundred metres north of the main avenue Charlottenburger Chaussee three high-explosive bombs hit the ground causing severe damage to the road, curbs and light pipes; one of those was found unexploded. Gardeners working in the park discovered the craters and this section of the Tiergarten was closed by the police because of the danger.[7] A bit further in a southwestern direction, three more incendiary bombs landed at Budapester Str. Nr 36 next to the famous Elephant Gate of the Zoologischer Garten, without damaging it.[8]

    [In this aerial view of the Auguste-Viktoria-Platz (today’s Breitscheidplatz) taken just before the war and its destruction, we can clearly see the grand Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche at centre with the Zoo’s main entrance and Budapester Straße running to the top of the picture.]

    Photo: stadtbild.

    Moreover, mentioned on the damage reports was the impact of eight explosive bombs, listed as 100 kg bombs, at Rieselfelder Gatow in Spandau district. Some more explosive bombs fell on forest or open country areas as it was the case of Stadtgut Blankenfelde in Pankow district or Kietzer Feld at Köpenick, where caused minor property damage and no personal injuries. As on previous raids, shells from the anti-aircraft guns defending the capital fell on several Berlin streets (exploding or not) as noted on the city’s bombing report, was the case of Thiemannstr. 36 in Neukölln and some others at Prenzlauer Berg and Wedding, where a gas candelabra was damaged at Afrikanische Str. Ecke Transvalstraße.[9]. No personal losses or injured people were reported by the German authorities.[10]

    [Debris and bomb damage left by a British RAF explosive on a Berlin street, an image published on several foreign newspapers after being passed by the German censor.] 

    Photo: bpk/Carl Weinrother.

    [Berliners inspecting the bomb damage and debris left by the previous night raid, 1 September 1940.] 

    Photo: ullstein bild.

    [A German PK photographer captured this burned-out barn in a northern suburb of the city after the British bombing visit which struck the Third Reich’s capital again.]

    Photo: Sammlung Berliner Verlag Archiv/AKG5571009.

    [This is an overall view of the locations where British bombs fell on that night superimposed to a 1940-map of Berlin. In this case the numbers refer to the amount of bombs (HE– black colour; incendiaries– red; ‘duds’ and Flak shells– orange) reported on every district. The scattered pattern of the bombing is clearly evident.]

    Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 12. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

    Berlin unscathed in raids, Nazis say
    International press reports described the raid as a failure (a first), with most of the British attacking formation unable to reach Berlin due to the bad weather found reporting just a pair of bombers succeeding in getting as far as the outskirts of the capital. It was noted that the solitary bombers ‘attacked the city from two directions, were met by thunderous anti-aircraft fire’  and that ‘from one of the western city districts police reported that a handful of incendiary bombs had fizzled out harmlessly’ [11]. Most articles concluded that no damage was done to military objectives and that German police only recognized that ‘three bombs had exploded in the vicinity of the capital and these in open fields, doing no damage.’ [12]

    New York Times correspondent in Berlin Percival Knauth in his wireless to the paper reported the failure of most of the raiders to reach the city too, but described how loud the noise of approaching planes and the whistle of falling missiles [sic] were heard in his office at Wilhelmstraße adding in the chronicle that ‘in the intervening period the most that could be heard was the occasional far-off grumbling of guns.’ [13]

    [R.A.F. planes renew attack on Berlin’ reads the frontpage headline of the American The New York Times newspaper the following morning of this raid, September 1, 1940.]  

    Photo: The New York Times, Sunday, September 1, 1940.

    Regarding the attacked targets, it does not appear that any bombs caused damage or fell near the BMW factory, or at least the Nazi authorities did not mention it in any of their reports. Interestingly, author Paul Tweddle in his Bomber Command summer of 1940 chronicle book, states that the Berlin correspondent of the Swiss Basler Nachrichten newspaper reported that a large aero engine factory in the north-east of the city had come attack soon after 23.20 hours, as had a power plant in the western part of the city.’ [14] Something rather dubious, as Spandau where the BMW works is located still today is on the opposite side of the city (northwest), and even more difficult: at that time the RAF had not even reached Berlin much less had dropped their bombs. Also, another main target of the planned attack the Tempelhof airport facilities, did not suffer any damage on that night.

    [The BMW Flugmotorenbau factory at Berlin-Spandau, shown here in this Christmas view in 1939, was one of the assigned targets but not a single bomb landed there on this raid. Note the air raid siren at right to alert the employees and workers from an incoming air attack.]

    Photo: BMW Group Archiv.

    City Pounded, British Say
    This fourth air raid on the capital of the Reich left poor results in the bombing. The few bombers that managed to overcome the bad weather and reach the city limits were unable to find their targets in the clouds and darkness. The damage in the city was minor and many bombs fell again in sparsely inhabited areas and open fields, with no military interest. Once again, despite the city’s powerful defenses, the anti-aircraft guns failed to bring down any of the raiders.[15] Dr Laurenz Demp, in his extensive study about the bombing war over the German capital, listed the amount of bombs dropped on that night on the city as 5,5 t of explosives and around 552 units of incendiaries of the small 4-lb type, compared to the more than 19 t of HE bombs dropped on the previous raid.[16]

    The RAF offensive on Berlin, slowly and with few aircraft, was not achieving material effects, but it would achieve another one of much importance: on this day, Hitler gave orders to prepare for major air attacks on London, which led to a directive issued by Göring two days later. Both leaders present the planned series of raids against the British capital as a revenge attack, a deadly reprisal from the RAF bombardment of Berlin.[17] 

    The air war has entered a new phase, with raid alarms sounding almost nightly, and September would see a rising number of men and machines involved and destruction inflicted.

    _______________

    Notes:

    [1] see Berlin Luftterror, Four in a row: 31 August 1940; The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Operations Record BooksAIR 27.
    [2] Percival Knauth wireless to The New York Times, Monday, September 2, 1940, pages 1-2.
    [3] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 12; DEMPS, Laurenz (Ed). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014, p 238.
    [4] TWEDDLE, Paul. The Other Battle of Britain: 1940: Bomber Command’s Forgotten Summer. The History Press, 2018, p 185.
    [5] OKW report, dated September 20, 1940, see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 12.
    [6] ibid.
    [7] Percival Knauth wireless to The New York Times, Monday, September 2, 1940, pages 1-2;
    see also LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 12.
    [8] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 12.
    [9] ibid.
    [10] ibid.
    [11] Associated Press to the New York Times, Sunday, September 1, 1940, page 1.
    [12] ibid.
    [13] Percival Knauth wireless to The New York Times, Monday, September 2, 1940, pages 1-2.
    [14] TWEDDLEop. cit. p 185.
    [15] see CHORLEYWR. RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War. Volume 1 1939-40. Classic Publications. 2nd edition, 2013; and BOITEN, Theo. Nachtjagd Combat Archive. The early years Part 1. 1939-12 July 1941. Red Kite, 2018.
    [16] DEMPSop. cit. p 285.
    [17] OVERY, Richard. The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane, 2013.

    Bibliography:

  • Donelly, Larry. The Other Few: The Contribution Made by Bomber and Coastal Aircrew to the Winning of the Battle of Britain. Red Kite/Air Research, 2004.
  • Frankland, Noble. Bomber Offensive - The Devastation of Europe. Ballantine Books, 1970.
  • Middlebrook, Martin and Everett, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. Reprint Edition 2014.
  • Moorhouse, Roger. Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, 2011.
  • Shirer, William L. Berlin Diary: Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941. Galahad Books, 1997.
  • Tress HB. Churchill, the First Berlin Raids, and the Blitz: A New Interpretation. Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 65–78. 1982. 
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag, 2013.
  • Young, Neil. The Role of the Bomber Command in the Battle of Britain. Imperial War Museum Review No. 06, 1991.
  • _______________

    Previous post >


    Weltkriegsbombe am Ostkreuz

    Last Thursday (August 18, 2022) an 500 kg US unexploded aerial bomb - most probably an AN-M65 - was found in Berlin-Friedrichshain during excavation work at a construction site at Persiusstraße Ecke Bödikerstraße, near Bahnhof Ostkreuz. 

    This #WWII dud has been successfully defused by the city’s specialist explosives team LKA after more than 12,000 people living nearby were evacuated. The police has restricted an area of ​​around 500 meters around the site.

    Photo: Berlin Polizei.

    Photo: Berlin Polizei.

    Photo: Berlin Polizei.

    Photo: Berlin Polizei/ twitter.

    In 2011 it was estimated that over 5,500 unexploded bombs or weapons from the war that need to be defused are uncovered each year. The daily average is 15, most of them aerial bombs. A new sample that the ‘bombing war’ is still living among us. 

    [American ordnance personnel prepare an AN-M65 aerial bomb (1,000-lbs, 454 kg) in 1943 at Kimbolton before another bombing mission over Occupied Europe in 1943. Kimbolton aerodrome in Cambridgeshire was home of the 379th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the USAAF.]

    Photo: 379thbgacom.

    _______________

    Previous post >


    Four in a row: 31 August 1940

    R.A.F. planes renew attack on Berlin…

    …Sirens Sound in Capital After Heavy Bombing of Previous Night.’ 
    – The New York Times, Sunday, September 1, 1940 –

    Photo: Fotosearch/Getty Images.

    Following the attacks made on three previous nights, the British air bombing offensive didn’t stop: on the last night of the month (31 August / 1 September) Berlin, Cologne and several airfields in Holland were the target for 77 RAF Blenheim light bombers and Hampden, Wellington and Whitley medium bombers.

    Bad weather prevented some of the bombers to reach their targets, in this case Tempelhof, the BMW factory and a gas work; most of the crews were somewhere on the Berlin area but failed to see under the cloud cover. This would be the fourth bombing raid in five nights against the Reich’s heartland, following the previous attack made the night before which, as we see on the previous post hit Kreuzberg district again with some bombs hitting and for the first time some bombs reached the large Siemensstadt industrial area.[1] This new attack, aimed to keep the pressure on Hitler’s home and ordered by Churchill and the War Cabinet, has been normally forgotten by aviation historians or mainly confused with the previous one, few studies separate one from the other as two different bombardments. 

    Documentary evidence, in this case each squadron operational records (ORBs), reveals that London finally sent twenty-eight medium bombers to the German capital tasked to attack industrial targets, although the partial description of that night on the different squadrons’ logs makes it difficult to know the exact number of planes of those despatched that managed to reach Berlin, but roughly this figure reaches the twenties.[2].

    Bomber Command’s operational handbook (Middlebrook, 1985) as usual was a reference to set the overall figure of the night operations: 77 Blenheims, Hampdens, Wellingtons and Whitleys attacked Berlin, Cologne and airfields in Holland and Belgium. 1 Hampden lost.[3] Author Paul Tweddle, in his Bomber Command summer of 1940 chronicle, describes some of the actions of this night highlighting that Command’s main thrust was again made towards Berlin” and includes an oral testimony but does not mention the number of aircraft involved.[4] Most of the authors, like Bowman just mentioned this raid to narrate the exciting return flight of F/O Romans and his crew who ditched their Hampden bomber after running out of gas over the North Sea.[5] Donnelly, as usual, gives us a more detailed breakdown of the bombers’ night sorties including some of the targets and the fate of RAF crews lost on the operation although it does not specify neither the exact number of aircraft sent.[6] 

    On the other hand, the extensive German study of the air bombings on Berlin city, led by Dr Laurenz Demp listed the number of attacking planes to just eleven.[7] 

    [Family portrait of 144 Squadron aircrews in front of one of their Hampden bombers in the summer of 1940 at RAF Hemswell.][8]

    Photo: IBCC Digital Archive. https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/27259

    Bomber Command operation involved two of its ‘medium’ bombers groups, in this case Nos 3 and 5. This time, the Whitley force from 4 Group was sent to other targets in Occupied Europe. 

    In the early afternoon the headquarters of 3 Group sent via teleprint Order Form B.256 to its squadrons ordering To cause maximum damage to targets given in para. ‘G’ and to create maximum disturbance over GERMANY during the hours of darkness.[9] The Wellington-equipped squadrons would be despatched to attack Tempelhof Flughafen A385 (9 sorties) and the Schönefeld aerodrome and aircraft factory (9 sorties), with gasworks (B59) and marshalling yards (M499) as alternative targets at the Reich capital. Of interest that the HQ order precised that “As many sorties as possible detailed to attack A.389 and F.24 should be loaded with 2,000 lbs of bombs.”[10] Some others were sent to destroy targets in Hamm, Schwerte and Soest.

    Photo: TNA AIR-27-894_2 © Crown Copyright.

    Meanwhile, No 5 Group led by Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Arthur Harris and equipped with Handley Page Hampdens, addressed Order Form B.208[11] to its Waddington, Hemswell, Scampton and Lindholme stations. The operation planned that six bombers from Waddington (No 44 Squadron) bombed hangars and buildings at Tempelhof (H324) listing the marshaling yards (M.499) and oil storage of the aerodrome as secondary objectives. The Group’s order noted that ”the most important buildings at H.324 are on the North and East side of the Aerodrome.” [12] and required photographs of the target. These bombers would carried 250-lb GP bombs with different delay fuzes and four canisters of incendiaries.[13]

    Photo: TNA AIR-27-453 © Crown Copyright.

    The Hemswell squadrons (61 and 144 Sqn) for their part received orders to sent nine bombers to destroy the B.M.W. aeroengine factory in Berlin-Spandau, very close to Siemensstadt and coded as target F.118. In the case they didn’t find it, alternative target was G.161 the Siemens & Halske works. Some of the bombers carried 500-lb GP bombs and some others a mix of those with the smaller 250-‘pounders’.[14] Another 15 bombers of the Group would visit on this night an oil refinery at Magdeburg.

    [The red-brick factory halls of the BMW Flugmotorenbau Berlin-Spandau, located in am Juliusturm 14-38 Zitadellenweg, where today the Bavarian company still manufactures motorcycles. These buildings housed the Brandenburgische Motorenwerke GmbH (BRAMO) plant until 1939, when BMW purchased Bramo (a former subsidiary of Siemens Halske) and its air-cooled aircraft engines production. Between 1937 and 1944 this plant built together with the larger Basdorf and Zühlsdorf BMW plants, in Berlin too more than 5,500 units of aero-engines such as the Bramo 323 “Fafnir” or the similar BMW 132.]

    Photo: BMW Group Archiv.

    Photo: Histomap/©Landesarchiv Berlin.

    Attack on aerodrome and industrial targets
    At RAF Marham station in Norfolk, the two units based there prepared the incoming sortie and briefed their crews. Just before dusk, twelve Vickers Wellingtons from No 115 Squadron took off starting from 20.20 hrs at intervals and nine of them bound for Berlin to attack the Henschel-Schönefeld aircraft factory. The squadron’s log described weather conditions as “very bad” and low visibility due to ground haze and waving searchlights, which made that main target was not found by the bombing crews. One of the bombers claimed to have attacked the Tegel gasworks and another Stendal and Tegel aerodromes, meanwhile the remaining aircraft attacked alternative targets in Hamm and Soest. Two crews returned with their bombs to Marham.[15]

    Photo: Friends of the Royal Air Force 115 Squadron.

    Sharing the station’s grass was 38 Squadron, which contributed with twelve more ‘Wimpys’ to the night’s operations. Led by Sqn Leader Gosnell (in A9250) nine of the bombers flew to the German capital where they found ground haze which was described as very thick at times. Some crews claimed to have bombed Tempelhof but no results were seen, with one crew reporting a tremendous explosion seen from cover of cloud after attack target A385. By 04.20 hrs all the aircraft had returned to their base safely.[16] R.J.P. Warren, a navigator/bomb aimer of the squadron recalled the sortie: ‘There was ten-tenths cloud over that part of Germany so, because we were not allowed to bomb unseen, we started to bring the bombs back home. Unfortunately, having spent some time searching for the target, we were running a little low on fuel so the skipper decided to drop the bombs in the North Sea.[17]

    [Armourers load a 250-lb GP bomb into the bomb bay of a Wellington of No 3 (Bomber) Group at Wick.]

    Photo: © IWM (CH 109).

    Photo: © IWM (CH 109).

    Meanwhile, 5 Group squadrons bombed up their aircraft too: at RAF Waddington in Lancashire No 44 Squadron five Hampden bombers took off from 20.05 hrs and bounded for Berlin with three of the crews claiming to have bombed targets H.324 and A.389 in Tempelhof, dropping several 250-lb bombs and incendiaries. The fifth bomber dropped bombs on a marshalling yard (M.499) and observed three bursts in the target area.[18]

    At Hemswell, 61 Squadron for his part put up five more Hampdens which were to attack the BMW aero engine factory.[19] In spite of the bad weather encountered, four crews reached Spandau and claimed to drop bombs on the target without observe the results. The remaining bomber returned to base early with inter-communication trouble.[20]

    Parked next to 61 Sqn, four aircraft of 144 Squadron took part on this raid too but low cloud encountered and the intense AA fire barrage over the German capital prevented the crews to find their targets; one of them bombed an aerodrome near Wonstorf, a few miles from Hannover during the return flight.[21] 

    [Hampden bomber crews of No. 61 Squadron at Hemswell putting on flying kit before a night bombing sortie over Germany.]

    Photo: © IWM (HU 104630).

    [A Handley Page Hampden bomber of 61 Squadron prepares to take off on a night raid from RAF Hemswell.]

    Photo: © IWM (HU 104631).

    A perfect pancake landing
    RAF’s only loss on this raid was Hampden P2123 of 44 Squadron: piloted by twenty-year-old Flying Officer Romans, this bomber found adverse weather over Berlin and after delivery the bombs on Tempelhof area the crew faced the return journey running out of fuel over the inhospitable North Sea. Finally, after being airborne for 9 and 30 minutes the engines stopped and Romans skilfully ditched the plane less than two miles off Salthouse others say Cromer on the Norfolk coast at 05.35 hours and the crew, unhurt, took to their dinghy and paddle to shore during more than 3 hours to safety.[22] 

    [A fine portrait of F/O David Albert A Romans (DFC) and Corporal Harry Logan (W/Op) of No 44 Squadron from Waddington. Romans, a Canadian who joined the RAF was the pilot at the controls of the Hampden bomber lost (P2123) during the return flight from Berlin after bombing the city on the night of 31 August. The rest of the crew was formed by navigator P/O Donald E Stewart (a Canadian too) and Cpl Jimmy Mandale as Air gunner.]

    Photo: Williston, GSPH, 1996.

    [Cpl Jimmy Mandale (middle) of 44 Sqn poses with two RAF comrades. He was flying as air gunner on Hampden P2123 on this night. Mandale’s logbook, preserved by his grandson Mark, shows that night they had been 9 hours and a half on the air for the Berlin operation. They made it to shore unhurt in a dinghy only to discover they were on a minefield!]

    Photo: Williston, GSPH, 1996.

    Berlin Battered 3 Hours
    Following the attack, the Air Ministry statement in London announced that the raid, aimed at “selected military targets” in the Berlin area battered aircraft factories, electric power stations and airports of the Nazi capital with explosions and fires that did “considerable damage”.[23] 

    Actually, this was mostly an ineffective raid, the German capital was obscured by clouds and the adverse weather conditions made almost impossible to British aircrews to get any landmark on route to the target, forcing them to a dead reckoning navigation and to bomb relying on their estimated time of arrival (ETA), which resulted in a poor bombing pattern and several crews overflying the capital without drop their bombs. 61 squadron log sums up this: “Weather conditions were bad. 10/10 clouds down to 2000’ made it impossible for pilots to pin-point with accuracy. Those who bombed the target found breaks in cloud but only made approximate positions over the target area.[24] Returning crews reported also that the anti-aircraft fire over the city was intense but generally below the height of the aircraft.[25]

    As on previous raids, bad weather forced them too to spent considerable time trying to locate the objectives. Targets such Berlin or Stettin in Poland were at the very limit of the Hampden’s range, where severe headwind or minimal navigation error could make force landing on the return flight as happened with Romans’ bomber loss. 

    [Luftwaffe’s air assault on England: a formation of Dornier Do 17Z bombers in flight on their way to ‘blitz’ some English target during an August 1940 summer raid. Ironically, this German medium bomber was powered by two Bramo (BMW) 323 radial engines built in factories located in Berlin.]

    Photo: Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-342-0603-25.

    In the meantime, air sirens sounded in London but the real target of the night was further northwest, more than 150 Luftwaffe bombers hit the Merseyside area including Liverpool and Birkenhead where thousands of incendiaries were dropped in a six-hour raid.[26] Some chronicles related the Berlin raid as a retaliatory attack but RAF officers stated that this was part of “one phase of a tireless mass offensive”.[27]

    [Bomb damage in Liverpool: an air raid shelter which withstood the strain of a tall building which fell upon it, September 1st, 1940.]

    Photo: liverpool.echo.

    Our next post will cover the German reports and the consequences of this fourth raid on Berlin by British bombers. This attack was a small air strike which caused a minimum damage on the Reich capital but it was one step more in the bombing campaign started in this early stage of the war.

    _______________

    Notes:

    [1] see Berlin Luftterror, RAF’s third raid on Berlin <https://www.berlinluftterror.com/blog/30-august-1940-raid>
    [2] The National Archives of the UK (TNA). Operations Record Books: AIR 27. © Crown Copyright.
    [3] MIDDLEBROOK, Martin and EVERETT, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. 2014 Ed, p 78.
    [4] TWEDDLE, Paul. The Other Battle of Britain: 1940: Bomber Command’s Forgotten Summer. The History Press, 2018, pp 183-5.
    [5] BOWMAN, Martin. Bomber Command. Cover of Darkness 1939 - May 1942. Volume: 1. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2011, p 70.
    [6] DONELLY, Larry. The Other Few: The Contribution Made by Bomber and Coastal Aircrew to the Winning of the Battle of Britain. Red Kite/Air Research, 2004, p 122.
    [7] DEMPS, Laurenz. Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014, p 238.
    [8] https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/27259 “144 Squadron at RAF Hemswell,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 30, 2022.
    [9] see TNA AIR-27-894_2.
    [10] ibid.
    [11] see TNA AIR-27-453.
    [12] ibid.
    [13] see TNA AIR 27-453 and AIR-27-447-22.
    [14] see TNA AIR-27-453.
    [15] see TNA AIR-27-887-20.
    [16] see TNA AIR-27-397-20.
    [17] quoted in TWEDDLEop. cit. p 184.
    [18] see TNA AIR-27-447-22.
    [19] see TNA AIR-27-576-20.
    [20] see TNA AIR-27-980-18.
    [21] see TNA AIR-27-980-20.
    [22] CHORLEYWR. RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War. Volume 1 1939-40. Classic Publications. 2nd edition, 2013, p 196; see TNA AIR-27-447-22; BOWMANop. cit. p 70. Romans had take part on the three raids over Berlin made by 44 Sqn during that month with different crews, only to be killed on 8 September 1941 over Norway in a B-17 Fortress Mk. I of No 90 Sqn sent to bomb the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, one of the first Flying Fortresses downed over Europe during WW2; see also DONNELLYop. cit. p 122; TWEDDLEop. cit. pp 184-5.
    [23] The New York Times, September 1, 1940, page 2.
    [24] see TNA AIR-27-576-20; TWEDDLEop. cit. p 184.
    [25] see TNA AIR-27-576-20.
    [26] Battle of Britain Historical Society website. The Chronology: page-31. Friday August 30th - Saturday August 31st1940. <https://www.battleofbritain1940.net/0031.html> Raymond Daniell to The New York Times, September 1, 1940, page 1.
    [27] James MacDonald to The New York Times, September 1, 1940, page 1.

    Bibliography:

    • BRITISH BOMBING SURVEY UNIT. The Strategic Air War Against Germany 1939 - 1945 - The Official Report of the British Bombing Survey Unit. Frank Cass, 1998.
    • Churchill, Winston. Their Finest Hour. Houghton Mifflin, 1949.
    • Materna, Horst. Die Geschichte der Henschel Flugzeug-Werke A.G. in Schönefeld bei Berlin 1933 bis 1945. Rockstuhl Verlag, 2010.
    • Spandau Siemensstadt. Berliner Industriekultur – Die Metropole neu entdecken. Berliner Schriften zur Industriekultur, Hg. Berliner Zentrum Industriekultur, Band 1, 2021.
    • Tress HB. Churchill, the First Berlin Raids, and the Blitz: A New Interpretation. Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 65–78. 1982. 
    • Ward, Chris. 5 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Pen & Sword Books, 2007.
    • Ward, Chris and Smith, Steve. 3 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Pen & Sword Books, 2009.
    • Williston, Floyd.Through Footless Halls of Air: The Stories of a Few of the Many who Failed to ReturnGSPH, 1996.
    • Young, Neil. The Role of the Bomber Command in the Battle of Britain. Imperial War Museum Review No. 06, 1991.

    _______________
    Previous post >


    Einmannbunker at Tempelhof

    Tempelhof’s BWS
    We were ‘revisiting’ some colour footage taken in the Flughafen Tempelhof area some minutes after a 1944 air raid when we noticed, just before the end of the video, a clear example of a BWS (Brandwachenstände) or ‘einmann bunker’ in Berlin (see our previous post about these small structures, to protect from the bombs splinters during an air raid) or that until now had gone unnoticed (extreme right of the picture). This particular one seems to be a concrete hexagon-shaped type.

    Photo: still from film, AKH-media.

    Close examination of the post-strike footage reveals the exact location of this BWS/SSZ (red spot on the image, a PR taken on 22 March 1945 by USAAF aircraft): it was located outside Tempelhof next to the northeastern complex of buildings (which housed the Bauleitung der Luftwaffe) adjacent of the airport surrounded by debris and what looks like a working area, more or less where today stands the Columbiahalle concert hall at Columbiadamm.

    Photo: NARA.

    There were at least two more SSZ ‘bunkers’ similar in shape at the same area across the street, next to Tempelhof’s eastern wing, clearly seen in this aerial image taken facing southwards a few months after the end of the war in 1945. Notice the line of parked American C-47s transport aircraft, which means that the airport was already in US service

    The original AKH-archiv footage of this post-strike sequence at Berlin-Tempelhof taken in 1944 can be found on Youtube:


    _______________

    Previous post >


    Heart of Berlin Bombed

    ‘British Bombs set Big Fires in Berlin. Nazis Blast London’ 

    – New York Journal-American, Saturday, 31 August, 1940 –

    Photo by UMBO/ ullstein bild.

    On the night of August 30/31, 1940, the air alarm sirens and the anti-aircraft bursts woke up Berliners from their sleep again, who hurried get dressed to go to the cellars and makeshift air raid shelters: the Royal Air Force was visiting the Reich’s capital for the third time. 

    As we have seen on the previous post, that night Berlin targets were the large Siemensstadt works in the northwestern sector, Tempelhof airport facilities and oil storages and the Henschel-Schönefeld factory. In all, London sent forty-one medium bombers with 34 of them reaching the city and dropping their deadly cargo with more or less success over their assigned targets, covered by darkness and heavy clouds.[1] This was the ninth air alarm of the war in Berlin and this time the sirens howled over Germany’s heartland from 01.39 hours until the all-clear alarm (‘Entwarnung’) finally sounded at 03.15, nearly two hours later.[2] 

    Press reports described three waves of enemy planes coming from the northwest with German Flak (AA guns) firing minutes before the first alarm sounded, followed by fires and explosions concentrated on the same district as the previous attack two nights earlier (Kreuzberg, author’s note). It was reported that some of the raiders were flying lower than before and that flares were dropped over the city’s center, remarking a big explosion that sent sparks into the air in the southeastern section of the city.[3] Some correspondent described it as the fiercest, but one of the shortest air raids the Reich’s capital has yet experienced.’ [4]  

    The official OKW report summed up the events on the next morning: “Last night British planes continued their attacks on Berlin and other cities in the Reich territory. A number of bombs fell in the city center and in workers’ residential areas of the Reich capital. Here, as in other parts of the Reich, the damage to property is insignificant. There are no deaths to complain about. Some civilians have been injured.” [5] Dr Laurenz Demp, in his study about the bombing war, listed the amount of bombs dropped on that night on the city as 19.7 t of explosives and around 1,110 4-lb of incendiaries.[6] 

    Photo: John Frost newspapers/ Alamy.

    “British Blast Center of Hitler’s Capital”
    As on previous raids, the Abschlußmeldung des Kommandos der Schutzpolizei recorded every bomb hit and issued on September 28th a report that allow us to list all the damage taken by the districts on that night. The Berlin-Mitte district was hit by several high explosive bombs: in Axel-Springer-Straße (part of Lindenstraße until 1996) an 125 kg explosive bomb fell on number 40-41 where the Hauptfeuerwache (main fire station) was located, causing heavy damage on the frontyard’s window panels, garage doors and several pipes. It blasted a six-foot crater in the stone pavement. Another HE bomb hit the adjacent Reichstierärztekammer headquarters in Nr 42, which destroyed the roof structure and top floors of the building, with some debris falling on the courtyard of the fire station too. A third bomb hit Sebastianstr 26, damaging the Luisenstadt Schüle and destroying the apartments across the street, number 61.[7] 

    [A 1934-view of Lindenstraße 40-41 in Berlin-Mitte during the Third Reich days. From 1864 to 1961 here was the Hauptfeuerwache, or main fire station. The building has been preserved and is home of the municipal youth facility Alte Feuerwache e.V.]

    Photo: Berliner Feuerwehr.

    Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

    Most of the bombs fell on the southeastern residential district of Kreuzberg, where caused severe damage with fires and some buildings collapse. In Alexandrinenstraße 22-26 and 105-106, roof fires were started after several explosive bombs hit the area and in Nr 43 an explosive bomb destroyed the roof structure. At Ritterstraße 79-87 roof truss fires were reported and the tram overhead lines were also destroyed here. One more explosive hit the street in front of number 36, a large commercial building, home of the August Wellner Söhne AG Metallwaren-Fabrik: the blast destroyed a gas street lamp and caused heavy damage to the facade smashing every window, further significant damage affected all houses within a radius of about 100 meters with more explosions in the adjacent Mathieustraße. A block away, another bomb hit Wassertorstr. 35 causing heavy damage on the roof and last floor.[8] 

    [German police and SD members inspecting the burned out and smashed facade at Ritterstraße 36 after an HE British bomb died on the street next to the building. Note the Wellner Söhne AG lettering.]

    Photo by Keystone-France Gamma.

    [Closer look which appeared on a German newsreel after the attack showing the damage caused by the bomb at Ritterstr. 36, which destroyed the gas candelabra.]

    Photo: Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung (02892900_p).

    Photo: ullstein bild.

    [Bomb damage caused in Alexandrinenstraße, when several fires and explosions destroyed the facade of this residential block of apartments and several roofs on the street buildings after being hit by a stick of small bombs dropped during the Royal Air Force raid on 30 August 1940.]

    Photo via Julian Hendy.

    [The destroyed facade of a residential apartment in Alexandrinenstraße after a bomb hit. After being passed by the censor, this picture was published by the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and was distributed to the international press agencies.]

    Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann/ ullstein bild.

    A stick of enemy’s incendiary bombs fell on the Hohenstaufenplatz surrounds, hitting the side wing of the Bethesda Hospital at Dieffenbachstraße 39. Police reported that the patients were prepared for evacuation but the fire was soon curbed and the hospital was not in danger. Two more incendiary bombs set a fire in the adjacent evangelisch-methodistische Christus-Kirche but thanks to a Hauswarten that put them out, only two pews and small sections of the floor were charred.[9] More bomb hits were reported at Boppstr. 3-4 and Schönleinstr. 13, and in Planufer 91-92, where a pair of ‘duds’ found forced some Berliners to be evacuated from their houses.[10] 

    [Taken a few minutes after the air attack, this picture shows the flames of the fire caused when RAF incendiary bombs hit the Bethesda hospital building and the adjacent Christus-Kirche in Dieffenbachstraße, Kreuzberg. Built in 1906, the damage was repaired at expense of government agencies, but in February 1944 the church was hit again destroying its roof completely.] 

    Photo by Heinrich Hoffman/Associated Press Radiophoto.

    [Curious Berliners take a look at the fire damage done on the Bethesda Hospital and Christus-Kirche at Dieffenbachstraße the following morning after the raid, August 31.]

    Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlke.

    [Here, three members of the Berliner Feuerschutzpolizei are seen clearing debris at the destroyed top floor of Wassertorstr. 35 in Kreuzberg, after being hit by an explosive bomb.]

    Photo: Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-L08580.

    Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

    In the Neukölln ‘Kiez’, a small fire began at Flughafenstraße when an incendiary bomb fell on the roof building of street number 21 and a ‘dud’ from a fire-bomb was found at Jägerstraße 62 too (today’s Rollbergstr.), in front of the Berliner Kindl Brauerei, but the biggest headlines went to the fire bomb on the Karstadthaus’ roof garden at Hermannplatz. The bomb was thrown onto the street by RLB members, damaging the tram’s high-voltage line.[11] 

    [The roof garden atop of the Karstadt AG department store seen in 1940. Known as the ‘Dachterrasse des Karstadt-Hauses am Hermannplatz’ it had 4,000 square meter and could accommodate over 500 people. The music bands playing every afternoon and the view over Kreuzberg and Neukölln from a height of 32 m created a unique atmosphere in its rooftop cafe.]

    Photo: Culture Club.

    Photo: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv.

    [Smoke rises from the Karstadt AG rooftop after being hit by some small RAF incendiaries, 31 August 1940. Notice the Nazi flags and banners on the building.]

    Photo: ullstein bild.

    Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

    Meanwhile, in the northwestern Spandau administrative district the British raiders achieved the most important hit of the night when incendiary and high explosive bombs fell in the Siemensstadt area, hitting some buildings of the Siemens-Schukkert werke AG halls although damage was slight. Some minor damage and roof truss fire were done by other incendiaries hitting the Haselhorst area and Otterbuchtstr. Some other explosives struck Gartenfelder Str. 53 with little damage to property and no personal injuries. The Germans found two unexploded ‘duds’ at the Haselhorst Exerzierplatz too.[12] 

    Finally, at Löwenhardtstraße, which belongs to the Tempelhof district, a chimney fell to ground after being hit by an anti-aircraft shell.[13] 

    [This is an overall view of the locations where British bombs fell on that night superimposed to a 1940-map of Berlin. In this case the numbers refer to the amount of bombs (HE– black colour; incendiaries– red and ‘duds’- orange) reported on every district.]

    Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

    Although on first reports it was stated that there were no victims, the raid left one dead (who died in the Wassertorstr. 36 fire) and eight more people injured, all residents of Kreuzberg. Nearly a hundred people were evacuated from their homes, NS-authorities providing collective accommodation at Alexandrinenstr. 5-6 and Dieffenbachstr. 60-61 in Kreuzberg, and at the Evangelisches Gemeindehaus in Siemensstadt. Many of the families could back to their houses hours later but the most affected received emergency apartments to stay or were sent with relatives. Emergency ration cards were issued giving money, cloth and shoes, some of them provided by the Bethanien, Bethesda and Am Urban hospitals and field kitchens were delivered. Of interest is that Siemens provided lunch for 17 homeless people too, but at cost price of RM 0.40 per portion.[14]

    Photo: Alamy E5GGFR.

    “Wohnviertel, Krankenhaus, Kirche. Die englischen Bombenwürfe auf Berlin”
    As with previous raids, British and American press covered the very next morning the attack on Berlin and listed the effects of the bombardment sharing headlines with the parallel raid on Krupp’s factory in Essen. The Allies described it as the most extensive assault on the German capital since the war began’ by RAF raiders[15] and highlighted the damage done to the city’s center, specially the bomb hit on the Lindenstraße’s fire station (‘…only four blocks east of Wilhelmstrasse.’), stating that the bombers wrecked several apartment houses and business buildings starting fires in the southeast zone.[16] 

    For the first time, the Nazis admitted that the raid caused some damage in the industrial complex of Siemensstadt but curiously the German press didn’t mentioned it on their following morning articles. They carried word by word the official press released by the authorities, and remarked its daily basis theme in all their text: the RAF had bombed ‘blindly’ the capital, attacking residential quarters, hospitals and churches again.[17] 

    The Propaganda Ministry prepared to take foreign correspondents again to an auto tour of locations being bombed, and the minor damage to the factories was openly admitted, reasserting on it the non military value of the installation (‘authorities said that the damage to such establishments as might be considered military objectives was extremely small; that the nearest thing to a military objective struck was the vast Siemens Schuckert factory in west Berlin’)[18]. New York Times correspondent P Knauth reported Siemens’ damage as slight and from 50-kilo bombs.[19] More interesting is that despite of the effusive accuracy claimings by British airmen none the Henschel factory in Schönefeld or the Klingenberg power station were listed as being hit. Of course, there is the possibility that the Nazi regime hide the damage in the event that they were actually hit by the night raiders. 

    [Damage caused by the impact of a high-explosive bomb in a medical center in Berlin-Kreuzberg on that night, 31 Aug. 1940.]

    Photo: Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo.

    [This is a newspaper clipping from the German Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (DAZ) published the following morning of the attack with a striking headline based on the DNB communique: ‘Wohnviertel, Krankenhaus, Kirche. Die englischen Bombenwürfe auf Berlin’.]

    Photo: Zeitungsauschnitte zur Berliner Kriegschronik/ A Rep. 021-02 Nr. 123.

    By the end of August, Berlin, the capital of the Third Reich, has sustained the third air attack in four nights and the Royal Air Force has proof that Hitler, even with the most powerful army and air force and having conquered half of Europe, was unable to defend Berliners at home. The political fallout was substantial and as Goebbels noted, the Führer was outraged and in open disposal to bomb heavily London as a reprisal.[20] 

    Damage has been slight and none military targets were hit but Bomber Command, in clear inferiority, was able to keep pressure on Germans (ordered by Prime Minister Churchill as a retaliation campaign) and was close to achieve its prime goal: to strike back and to relief Hitler’s attention from the Fighter Command airfields in southwestern England.

    _______________

    Notes:
    [1] see Berlin Luftterror, RAF’s third raid on Berlin; The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Operations Record BooksAIR 27.
    [2] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff; DEMPS, Laurenz (Ed). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014, p 238.
    [3] Percival Knauth wireless to The New York Times, Saturday, August 31, 1940, page 1.
    [4] ibid.
    [5] OKW report, dated August 31, 1940; see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff.
    [6] DEMPSop. cit. p 285.
    [7] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff; The New York Times, Saturday, August 31, 1940, page 1.
    [8] report in the Deutsche Allgemeine ZeitungIn der Ritter- und Alexandrinenstraße, 31 Aug. 1940; see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff.
    [9] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff.
    [10] ibid.
    [11] ibid.
    [12] ibid.
    [13] ibid.
    [14] ibid.
    [15] The Sun, New York, Saturday, August 31, 1940, page 1.
    [16] report in the New York Post, Saturday August 31, 1940, page 1. “British blast center of Hitler’s capital four blocks from Wilhelmstrasse” and “Apartments in flames” were among other big headlines published by British journals.
    [17] Deutsches Nachrichtenbüro report from 31 Aug. 1940; Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 31 Aug. 1940; MOORHOUSE, Roger. Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, 2011. p 141.
    [18] The Sun, New York, Saturday, August 31, 1940, page 1.
    [19] The New York Times, Saturday, August 31, 1940, page 2.
    [20] MOORHOUSEop. cit. p 141; FRIEDRICH, Jörg. Deutschland im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945. Ullstein Heyne List, 2002. pp 56-57. Should be remembered that on that same night German aircraft headed in large formations to bomb Liverpool: about 130 Ju 88 and Heinkel bombers attacked the city meanwhile some others hit parts of London and Portsmouth, and Manchester, Bristol and Worcester received bombs too with some 50 people killed.

    Bibliography:

  • Frankland, Noble. Bomber Offensive - The Devastation of Europe. Ballantine Books, 1970.
  • Materna, Horst. Die Geschichte der Henschel Flugzeug-Werke A.G. in Schönefeld bei Berlin 1933 bis 1945. Rockstuhl Verlag, 2010.
  • Middlebrook, Martin and Everett, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. Reprint Edition 2014.
  • Overy, Richard. The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane, 2013. 
  • Shirer, William L. Berlin Diary: Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941. Galahad Books, 1997.
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag, 2013.
  • _______________

    Previous post >


    British third raid on Berlin

    ‘Two nights later we returned to Berlin…

    …to be met by numerous searchlights and well directed and intensive flak. The raids must have destroyed the myth of German invincibility, thus causing considerable anger to Hitler and Goering who had boasted that such raids would never happen.’ 
    – Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson, DFC, No 149 Sqn –

    Photo: © IWM (C 428).

    On Friday 30 August 1940 afternoon, Bomber Command men were briefed to raid Berlin again. This would be the third bombing raid in four nights against the heart of the Reich, following the previous attack made two nights earlier (28/29 August) which, as we see on previous posts, hit the city center for the first time causing death victims among the Berlin population.[1] 

    From the initial retaliation raid, Churchill continued his strategic air campaign against the Third Reich’s capital, overruling the initial Bomber Command objections of bombing Berlin.[2] The Germans had increased the number of raids on the previous night when nearly 200 bombers dropped bombs on Merseyside and Manchester. On the 30th, from early morning Luftwaffe aircraft maintained its pressure on the RAF attacking several airfields in southeastern England. Those bombings, view as indiscriminate and aimed to Britain’s civil population, marked the continuation of night attacks on Berlin by the Prime Minister but justified targeting industrial and military objectives on the city.[3] 

    This third raid has been normally omitted in Second World War general studies and often confused or mixed with the previous one, both their figures and damage caused, even detailed and focused on the air campaign works such as the one by Prof Overy wrongly states the exact dates of the bombardment.[4]

    As with previous raids, first question to aboard was the exact number of bombers sent to attack Berlin. Again, started from Bomber Command’s operational reference book (Middlebrook, 1985) to get an overall figure of that night sorties, which surprisingly, not mentioned Berlin: ‘87 Blenheims, Hampdens, Wellingtons and Whitleys to 5 targets in Germany and to airfields in France, Holland and Belgium.’ [5] Author Larry Donnelly as usual describes in his book a more detailed breakdown of the night operations, giving a more precise number of the bombing force sent and losses, naming the most important targets of the mission too.[6] Napier, author of the latest book about the Wellington bomber, for his part just refers to the squadrons of the type involved on this operation, without any figure or brief description of the raid[7] meanwhile others like Bowman not mention it and jump to the next raid on the very next night.[8] Paul Tweddle, in his Bomber Command summer 1940 book, narrates the mission with reference to ‘a twenty-nine-strong force [3 Group]’ and a further dozen Whitleys from 4 Group and includes a pair of crew testimonies relating that night sorties over Berlin.[9] Finally, looking at German historians research, Dr Laurenz Demp refers in his study about the bombings on Berlin the number of planes over the capital, according to British sources, as being just twenty-six.[10]

    Careful study of primary sources, in this case each squadron operational records (ORBs), let us to affirm that London sent forty-one twin-engined bombers to attack the city as part of a 87-aircraft force targeting objectives in Germany, Holland and France. In all, 34 crews of those sent reached Berlin with more or less success.[11]

    [The crew of a Vickers Wellington of No. 99 Squadron RAF get into their Irvin two-piece flying suits in the crew room, before taking off for a night raid to Berlin.]

    Photo: © IWM (CH 2505).

    Industrial targets
    Bomber Command allocated two of its bombing groups the mission of targeting the ‘Big City’ —as British crews known the German capital— on that late summer night. Each bomber would fly individually the 650 miles to its assigned Berlin-target in darkness and radio silence. In Suffolk, home of the No 3 Group, the squadrons stations received on the early afternoon Order Form B.255 which ordered “to cause max damage to targets given in para ‘G’ and to create maximum disturbance over Germany during the hours of darkness.” [12]

    Again, main target of the operation was Siemensstadt, where the Siemens & Halske works (coded G.161) at the northwestern part of the capital was the intended objective for fifteen of the raiders. Another squadron of the Group would target F.23, British codename for the Henschel Flugzeug-Werke A.G. (HFW) aircraft factory located in Berlin-Schönefeld, where the Hs 123 dive bomber and parts of the Hs 126 reconnaissance aircraft among other types were built. Alternative target for the bombing force were the Tempelhof oil storage facilities, although half of the attackers finally bombed the already known Klingenberg power station in Rummelsburg (B.57).[13]

    [A view of the assembly line of Hs 126 aircraft at the Henschel Flugzeug-Werke factory in Berlin-Schönefeld.]

    Photo: Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo (00319536).

    [A map showing Schönefeld area in the early 1940s with the Flugplatz and the Henschel HFW buildings installed nearby, very close to today’s Berlin-Schönefeld airport.]

    Photo: AMS M841 GSGS 4414, Courtesy Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

    No 3 Group’s operation order also shows the vital importance that the Air Ministry gave to halt production at Siemens works ordering that as many sorties as possible detailed to attack G161 to be loaded with 2000 lb of bombs” and requested pictures of the factory to be taken.[14]

    Photo: TNA AIR-27-793 © Crown Copyright.

    Meanwhile, in North Yorkshire, No 4 Group was given operations Order No 67 which ordered “to inflict maximum damage to Target allotted” and assigned two of its squadrons equipped with Whitley bombers to the task. Primary objectives were two oil storages located in the capital (coded A.155 and A.156) with a munition factory in Spandau coded C.18 as alternative target.[15] Bomb load of this force consisted in two 500-lb bombs, four 250-lb, one 250-lb delay-fuze bomb and one canister of incendiaries (IBs) carried by each Whitley bomber.

    This time none of the Hampden squadrons (5 Group) participated, being assigned to harass Germany’s oil supply installations on that night.[16]

    Photo: TNA AIR-27-659A © Crown Copyright.

    R.A.F. Lands Explosives in Middle of Berlin”
    The more experienced unit of the 3 Group, No 149 Squadron, was briefed to attack objectives A.78 in Magdeburg and Siemens & Halske Werke in Berlin, departing RAF Mildenhall aerodrome at intervals from 20.21 hrs totalling ten aircraft. The squadron’s ORB noted that the mission was carried out and that all machines returned safely to base. One of the bombers (Wellington R3161 ‘O’ manned by P/O Loat crew) returned early with a sick man aboard.[17]

    [500-lb MC and 250-lb GP bombs, being delivered to bomb a Vickers Wellington Mark IC of No 149 Squadron RAF at a dispersal at Mildenhall airfield.]

    Photo: © IWM (CH 2676).

    Making its combat debut on a Berlin raid on this night was No 214 Squadron from RAF Stradishall, in Suffolk. At this station, five crews were detailed to attack the Siemens works (G.161) and another five to bomb B.57 Klingenberg power station. Four of them reported to have attacked G.161 dropping their bombs effectively, meanwhile two more attacked Klingenberg although the O’ Connor crew was only able to drop incendiaries on it. Two other crews failed to reach Berlin due to engine issues and had to attack targets of opportunity on the Zuider Zee area and a third, piloted by P/O Simson, returned to base early, bringing back home all the bomb load. Nothing was heard or seen of Wellington T2559, declared missing with F/O Craigie-Halkett crew aboard.[18] 

    Finally, 99 Squadron flying from RAF Newmarket, Suffolk, contributed with six Wellington bombers sortied. Two of them bombed Tempelhof’s marshalling yards (M499) and at least one reported seen huge flashes and bursts. Four other crews attacked the Henschel factory in Schönefeld but none of them seen results due to haze and clouds.[19]

    [Vickers Wellington Mark ICT2470 ‘BU-K’, of No 214 Squadron RAF, is towed into a C-type hangar at Stradishall, Suffolk, for repair and overhaul following damage sustained on operations. ‘K-King’ took off at 21.29 hrs piloted by F/L Kauffman tasked to attack the Siemens works in Berlin on that evening.]

    Photo: © IWM (CH 1415).

    [A 214 Squadron (‘BU’ codes on the fuselage) Wellington takes off just prior night falls in eastern England. The ‘Wimpy’ was the best and most advanced bomber the British had at the time.]

    Photo: Paul Tweddle/ Historypress.

    Meanwhile, No 4 Group men readied for the forthcoming operation too. The two assigned squadrons from this group Nos 58 and 77 were both based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse aerodrome at the time. The attack route was planned via Bridlington coast and from then set direct course to Berlin individually covered by darkness.[20]

    The 58 Squadron went first and, soon after dinner, detailed nine aircraft with mixed results, just four claimed to have bombed the city: one bomber hit A156 and saw a red glow, another one attacked Tempelhof with 3 sticks of bombs from 8,000ft reporting seeing fires started and a huge explosion and a third one bombed Siemensstadt instead and a rail junction south of target. Another crew noted to have bombed an aerodrome in the Spandau area. The others failed to locate their objectives (including Sqr Leader Barlett which encountered heavy AA fire and searchlight that prevented target ID) or abandoned the mission and jettisoned their bombs in the sea on the return flight.[21] 

    Minutes later, 77 Squadron dispatched six more Whitleys. They took off from 20.35 hrs similarly tasked and headed to Berlin. Crews reported clouds all the way to the target and very heavy AA fire met over Bremen area, but not so intense over the Reich capital. Back in England, all reported to have dropped their bombs over the target from an average height of 8,000 feet, claiming several direct hits and violent explosions seen and considerable fires started by incendiaries.[22]

    [RAF armourers ‘bombing up’ an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mark V with 250-lb General Purpose bombs in 1940.]

    Photo: © IWM (HU 107777).

    [The pilot of a Whitley bomber gives the “thumbs up” during the pre-flight check prior to take off to another bombing sortie, August 1940.]

    Photo: © IWM (HU 104667).

    Radar-controlled night victory
    The RAF lost two aircraft in this Berlin sortie: one was Whitley P5002, a bomber from 58 Squadron coded ‘GE-T’. The crew failed to locate any target so bombed a factory near Nordhorn. On the return leg, the aircraft was low on fuel and pilot P/O Neville O Clements ordered to abandon the aircraft circa 05.00 into the North Sea, off Hornsea. All crew was rescued minus Sgt Hill, who was presumed drowned, his body being lost.[23]

    The other victim was Wellington IA T2559BU-A’, a 214 Sqn machine which during the outward-flight to Berlin was shot down at 23.24 hrs by Oberleutnant Werner Streib of 2./NJG 1, who was flying a Bf 110 night fighter from Anholt airfield. The bomber crashed near Halle (Gelderland), the Netherlands, the impact detonating the bomb load. This was the first ground-radar tracked victory at night, Streib and his ‘bordfunker’ being led by a ‘Wurzburg’ radar in Raum 5B based at Deurne. The ‘Wimpy’ was coned before for 3 minutes by two searchlights of III./Flakscheinw. Rgt 1 and downed in flames by Streib, who observed no chutes from the fallen bomber.[24] 

    The crew of six perished in the crash (Sgt. G H Bainbridge, F/O LM Cragie-Halkett, P/O WS Cunynghame, Sgt. SJ Haldane, Sgt. GE Merryweather and Sgt. AB Puzey) and were all buried at the local cemetery in Halle. The story behind the loss of T2559 has been well researched by Bennie Eenink. 

    [German ace Hauptmann Werner Streib (left) posing with Major Wolfgang Falck, “father” of the Luftwaffe’s night fighting force. Wellington T2559 was Streib’s fourth victory claim of a total war score of 68. An hour later he dispatched another bomber, an 50 Sqn Hampden downed over Velen.] 

    Photo: © IWM (HU 108207).

    [A German Messerschmitt Bf 110D night fighter painted overall black in flight, in this case from 7. Staffel of Nachtjagdgeschwader 1. At this early stage of the war, German night fighters still lacked airborne radars so they depend of ground control to localize and engage the British raiders at night.]

    Photo: asisbiz.

    Two more ‘Wimpys’ returned safely but were damaged when they had to force land, both of them of 214 Squadron: Wellington IA P2530 piloted by F/O RR O’Connor, when returned to base and low on fuel, undershot into a ditch short of the runway with no casualties. The other was P9233 with F/O Proctor crew aboard that touched ground at Overton.[25]

    [These pictures of T2559 wreck appeared in the Dutch Graafschapbode newspaper, as well as some others from the burial of the British crew in the first week of September, 1940.]

    Photo from Bennie Eenink.

    Carefully-selected military objectives in Berlin” 
    Returning RAF crews interestingly reported that the city’s blackout was very effective and that haze and clouds made nearly impossible to observe the results of their bombing runs. Some pilots related that were unable to identify anything of interest through the clouds even after releasing flares to illuminate the zone, which forced them to turn for home or bombed some other target.[26] Others ran into AA heavy fire on route on the Bremen area and were astonished that it was less intense over Berlin centre and that it seems all the searchlights and guns were in the NW suburbs of the city.[27] 

    At the same time, across the Channel, German aircraft took off from northern France bases heading in large formations to bomb Liverpool: about 130 Ju 88 and Heinkel bombers attacked meanwhile some others hit parts of London and Portsmouth, and Manchester, Bristol and Worcester received German bombs too with some 50 people killed.[28]

    [The ruined organ of the Wallasey Town Hall in Merseyside, Liverpool, after being hit by a German bomb during the 30/31 August air raid.]

    Photo: liverpool.echo.

    On the next day, the Air Ministry released an official communiqué about the raid on Germany stating that objective for the bombers were industrial and military targets at the outskirts of the enemy’s capital city: “The R.A.F. bombers selected for special attack an objective four miles from the centre of the city”, and dropped a “large number of bombs on a series of carefully-selected military objectives in Berlin.” London admitted the loss of three of the bombers from all operations on that night.[29]

    [No. 149 Squadron aircraft flying in ‘vic’ formation in the summer of 1940. Two of the bombers, Wellingtons ‘M’ serial R3206 (at right), and ‘N’ P9247 (in the far background), were among those sent to bomb Berlin on that night.]

    Photo: © IWM (HU107813).

    The escalation of the bombing war was evident and in the next days both bands would increase their bomb tonnage dropped over civilians. The importance to keep pressure on the Reich capital in Churchill’s view and beyond its military value was shown when the Air Ministry authorized for the first time a journalist to fly on the raid aboard one of the attacking bombers.[30] The RAF’s bombing arm, at a time when Britain was isolated and standing alone against the Nazi advance to the West, went onto the offensive attacking civilian targets in Germany soil, forcing a change of strategy in the air war by German leaders. 

    Our next post will cover the German view and the consequences of this third raid on Berlin. 

    _______________

    Notes:
    [1] MOORHOUSE, Roger. Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, 2011, pp 140-1.
    [2] DENIS, Richards. Royal Air Force 1939-1945, 1. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1954, p 182.
    [3] DONELLY, Larry. The Other Few: The Contribution Made by Bomber and Coastal Aircrew to the Winning of the Battle of Britain. Red Kite/Air Research, 2004. p 120; a complete narrative of the day actions over Britain can be checked on the Battle of Britain Historical Society website. The Chronology: page-31. Friday August 30th - Saturday August 31st 1940.<https://www.battleofbritain1940.net/0031.html> The Air Ministry released a communiqué in which assumed thatthe object [of this German bombings] is to terrorize the civil population.” AIRMINDED, Saturday, 31 August 1940 <https://airminded.org/2010/08/31/saturday-31-august-1940/>
    [4] OVERY, Richard. The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane, 2013.
    [5] MIDDLEBROOK, Martin and EVERETT, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. 2014 Ed, p 78.
    [6] DONELLYop. cit. pp 120-121.
    [7] NAPIER, Michael. Vickers Wellington Units of Bomber Command (Combat Aircraft Book 133). Osprey Publishing, 2020, p 32.
    [8] BOWMAN, Martin. Bomber Command. Cover of Darkness 1939 - May 1942. Volume: 1. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2011, pp 69-70.
    [9] TWEDDLE, Paul. The Other Battle of Britain: 1940: Bomber Command’s Forgotten Summer. The History Press, 2018, pp 181-3.
    [10] DEMPS, Laurenz (Ed). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014, p 238.
    [11] The National Archives of the UK (TNA). Operations Record Books: AIR 27. © Crown Copyright.
    [12] see TNA AIR-27-1005.
    [13] see TNA AIR-27-1325.
    [14] ibid.
    [15] see TNA AIR-27-659A.
    [16] TWEDDLEop. cit. p182.
    [17] see TNA AIR-27-1000-22.
    [18] see TNA AIR-27-1319-5 and TNA AIR 27-1319-6.
    [19] see TNA AIR-27-788-20.
    [20] see TNA AIR-27-659A.
    [21] see TNA AIR-27-543-20.
    [22] see TNA AIR-27-655-24.
    [23] CHORLEY, W R. RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War. Volume 1 1939-40. Classic Publications, 2nd edition, 2013, pp 195-196; DONELLYop. cit. p 121. 
    [24] The German combat report described the action: “…enemy aircraft burned immediately between the fuselage and starboard engine. No bale-outs observed. Impact in the night-fighting zone, during which bombs detonated.” BOITEN, Theo. Nachtjagd Combat Archive. The early years Part 1. 1939-12 July 1941. Red Kite, 2018, p 24. Thanks to Ian Hunt which linked code letter ‘A’ to Wellington IA T2559.
    [25] see TNA AIR-27-655-24 and TNA AIR 27-1319-6.
    [26] In the operations order of the Group there is a clear mandatory to crews“to report on effectiveness of Black-out over Germany compared with this country”, see TNA AIR-27-659A. Some crew testimonies of this can be found at ‘Bomber Command in the Battle of Britain: Stories of The Many’ by Paul Tweddle https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/bomber-command-in-the-battle-of-britain-stories-of-the-many/
    [27] see TNA AIR-27-655-24.
    [28] Friday August 30th - Saturday August 31st 1940. Battle of Britain Historical Society. The Chronology: page-31. A chronicle of the German bombing operations can be found in: SMITH, J Richard and CREEK, Eddie J. Kampfflieger Bombers of the Luftwaffe Volume Two: July 1940-December 1941. Classic Publications, 2004, p 109; DONELLY: op. cit. p 120.
    [29] The New York Times, August 31, 1940, page 2.
    [30] TWEDDLE: op. cit. p 182.

    Bibliography:

    • Bowman, Martin. Voices in flight: The Heavy Bomber Offensive of WWII. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2015.
    • BRITISH BOMBING SURVEY UNIT. The Strategic Air War Against Germany 1939 - 1945 - The Official Report of the British Bombing Survey Unit. Frank Cass, 1998.
    • Churchill, Winston. Their Finest Hour. Houghton Mifflin, 1949.
    • Frankland, Noble. Bomber Offensive - The Devastation of Europe. Ballantine Books, 1970.
    • Materna, Horst. Die Geschichte der Henschel Flugzeug-Werke A.G. in Schönefeld bei Berlin 1933 bis 1945. Rockstuhl Verlag, 2010.
    • No. 214 (Federated Malay States) Squadron Royal Air Force <https://www.214squadron.org.uk/>
    • Oud Zelhem. The story behind the British war graves in Halle (NL) The WellingtonT2559. <https://oudzelhem.eu/index.php/2e-wereldoorlog/wereldoorlog-2e/32-wereldoorlog-2e/2e-wereldoorlog/verhalen-2e-wereldoorlog/881-britse-oorlogsgraven-in-halle-english>
    • Tress HB. Churchill, the First Berlin Raids, and the Blitz: A New Interpretation. Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 65–78. 1982. 
    • Ward, Chris and Smith, Steve. 3 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Pen & Sword Books, 2009.
    • Williston, Floyd.Through Footless Halls of Air: The Stories of a Few of the Many who Failed to Return. GSPH, 1996.
    • Young, Neil. The Role of the Bomber Command in the Battle of Britain. Imperial War Museum Review No. 06, 1991.

    _______________
    Previous post >


    Der Hansaplatz-Bezirk

    [Severe devastation can be seen in this aerial picture of the northern Tiergarten and Hansaviertel district after the war, taken in winter 1945.]

    Photo: Senatsverwaltung für Bau- und Wohnungswesen Berlin Luftbildstelle.

    Located in the northwestern Tiergarten, the Hansaviertel was built from the intersection of three main streets in a star-shaped square, which was named Hansaplatz in 1879. A residential ‘Bezirk’, the zone emerged from the city’s rising prosperity. The S-Bahn railway, adjacent to the river Spree and with two stations (Bhf-Tiergarten and Bellevue) located here, divided this district into a north-eastern and a south-western area. The newcomers wealthy citizens built prestigious houses with elaborately composed styles, cornices and friezes in neo-baroque and neo-renaissance façades with small front gardens along the roadsides. Many notable citizens lived here during the Weimar Republic. 

    The quarter had a remarkably high proportion of Jewish population. They were all practically deported during the Nazi period, first ‘resettled’ and later sent to the death camps, and their two synagogues used as a collection camp for Jews and later destroyed.

    [The Hansaviertel seen circa 1940 with the central square Hansaplatz, before the district was severely damaged by the combined RAF and USAAF bombing campaign. Brückenallee, where the two assembly halls were located, is seen at extreme right of the picture, running north towards Bhf Bellevue and notice at left the railway tracks.]

    ©Landesarchiv Berlin.

    [A southern view of the Tiergarten’s S-Bahnhof Bellevue train station taken in 1938.]

    Photo: pastvuu.

    [A pre-war view of the fancy Brückenallee Nr 1, known as ‘Villa Augusta’, where today stands the Akademie der Künste.]

    Photo: Landesarchiv Berlin.

    The Hansaviertel in the Bombenkrieg, 1940-1945
    The area was heavily damaged by the Allied air raids during the war, first time that the Hansaviertel appeared on the city’s bombing reports was on 20/21 December 1940, when several British incendiary bombs struck buildings at Brückenallee 2-6 and 32, and at Altonaer Str. 17. A year later, during the 7/8 November 1941 air attack, the largest single raid to date (73 RAF bombers raided the city), several bombs landed along Altonaer Str. and Hansaplatz, including some on the Hansabrücke

    When London restarted the aerial raids against the city in 1943 with a two-night small campaign, the district was hit hard on 16/17 and 17/18 January (169 and 187 bombers bombed, respectively): severe building damage resulted at Altonaer Str. 9-14, Schleswiger Ufer 12/13 and Lessingstr. 40 all hit by air-mines that left more than 200 homeless. On the Spree near the Hansabrücke, seven boats were slightly damaged by explosive bombs. 

    [A view of the bomb damage taken by Altonaer Straße during the RAF raid on 16/17 January 1943, in this case street number 12.]

    Photo: Landesarchiv Berlin.

    The northern Tiergarten and Moabit areas were completely destroyed during the British fall and winter 1943-44 raids when RAF aircraft flew 10,813 sorties dropping 33,390 tons of bombs, especially the “Hansa” quarter which was hit hard by fire and explosive bombs and air-mines with German records talking about ‘Schwere und schwerste Zerstörungen’ at the district. The Schloss Bellevue was badly hit and listed as a “total loss” too. In contrast to the severe damage to buildings, the casualties are relatively small in the district but water, light, gas and telephone connections were several days off.

    [British targets indicators (TIs) fall on the Tiergarten and the Hansaviertel and Moabit districts during an RAF night raid in fall 1943. Note the Grosser Stern at bottom left and the Westhafen docks on the upper part of the picture.]

    Photo: © IWM (C4925).

    [A 1944-view looking east of the district northwest of the Tiergarten after the RAF’s ‘Battle of Berlin’ bombing campaign. There is overwhelming evidence of a tremendous spread of fire with great number of roofless buildings. At centre is Hansaplatz, with Spree running from top right to bottom left.]

    Photo: Australian War Memorial (SUK11929).

    The American daylight air raids caused severe damage on this area too: centre of Berlin was the target for US bombers on 8 May 1944 403 bombers reached Berlin on that day under a complete overcast hitting the area around the Zoo and the Hansa-district with disastrous consequences.

    In the late stages of the war, nuisance night raids by RAF Mosquitoes also caused destruction in the Hansaviertel as reported on 31 December 1944 when a ‘cookie’ bomb hit Altonaer Str. 2, or after several bombs struck at Brückenallee 22 and Tile-Wardenberg-Str. 10 on 10 March 1945. Finally, on April 12, 1945, Mosquitoes dropped bombs again on the already ruined district, hitting Brückenallee 4, Händelallee, and the ruins of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Gedächtniskirche. More bombs collapsed part of the railway bridge at Lessingstraße.

    [This series of pictures showing of bomb damage and devastation were taken by a German PK photographer in the Hansaviertel district after a British air raid in 1943.]

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    This bomb damage diagram was released by the British Air Ministry after examining numerous aerial photographs to indicate how much damage was caused by the RAF air campaign up to February 1944 (darkened areas) on the city centre. Note that practically all the Hansaviertel’s built-up area is marked as “destroyed”.

    Photo: Australian War Memorial (SUK11941).

    The 1945 fightings
    From March 1945, Berlin and its citizens prepared for the final battle with the advancing Russian troops. The Hansaviertel and northern Tiergarten park were located inside the inner circle of “the fortress”, being its first line of defence the Spree river. This area was defended by some units from Panzer-Division ‘Müncheberg’ and was hammered during all battle by Soviet artillery. Barricades and tank obstacles were built at the Hansa- and Moabiterbrücken in preparation for the intended bloody street-fighting. On the 27th April the Soviet 12th Guards Tank Corps with the 79th Rifle Corps on its right flank advanced from the north through the Moabit district reaching the river’s north bank on the afternoon of the 28th, although both units encircled the “Hansa” area: the 79th pushed east to get a direct assault across the Moltkebrücke into the Reichstag and Königsplatz and the 12th westwards to western Moabit, but finally halted due to its heavy infantry losses. No great advance was made here until May 1st, when the attacking forces penetrated into the Hansa and western Tiergarten from Charlottenburg Tor.

    [Reconnaissance aerial image of Hansaplatz area and northwestern Tiergarten looking west, taken on March 22, 1945, a month before the Soviet assault on the city, the tank barricade is already built blocking the Hansabrücke, seen at top left of the picture.]

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 3176.

    After the ceasefire, a Panzer VI Tiger I tank was found abandoned at Altonaer Straße. It was positioned between the railway bridge and the Panzersperre barricade that blocked the southern end of the Hansabrücke to prevent the Soviet assault from the north. This tank, one of the last two of this type fighting in Berlin, belonged to the 3./Pz. Abt. ‘Müncheberg’.

    Photo: Archer, L. Panzers in Berlin 1945. Panzerwrecks, 2019.

    Pictures show the same Tiger in 1946 when the dismantling work had begun, surrounded by a sea of rubble and bricks, and with its main wheels and tracks missing. The tank had a mixed composition with an early built hull and a late style turret with zimmerit and commander’s cupola, and a white outlined swastika was painted on the sides of the hull. 

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1711,10).

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin SM 2011-1705,6.

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1711,31).

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1711,34).

    Next to the Tiger at Altonaer Str Ecke Schleswiger Ufer there was a Panzerspähwagen PAK 40, in this case facing Tiergarten. The crew abandoned the armoured car and destroyed its gun; closer pictures revealed that it was equipped with a 7.92 mm MG81Z machine gun fitted to the left armour plate. It is assumed that this vehicle belonged to the same unit as the heavy tank.

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1711,24).

    British Royal Engineer C S Newman captured this series of photos of a German Trümmerfrau working on some bricks seated in front of the Sd.Kfz.234/4 wreck at Altonaer Straße. The Tiger tank is seen behind. 

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1732,33).

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1711,36).

    Some blocks away to the east, American William Vandivert found more remains of German vehicles abandoned. He took these pictures at Claudiusstraße/Flensburger Straße in July 1945 in the northern part of the Hansaviertel. Among the wrecks under the S-Bahn railway bridge there were two schwerer Pz.Sp.Wg. (7·5cm Pak 40) (Sd.Kfz.234/4) armoured cars which probably belonged to Pz.Spähl.Kp. from Panzer-Division ‘Müncheberg’.

    Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.

    Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.

    Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.

    [Here, US Army Pfc. John Shoemaker is seen inspecting the same battle wrecks at Claudiusstraße on 1 July 1945. On the original picture a Sd.Kfz.250 is seen on the left.]

    Photo: R.Kraska.

    [The Lessingbrücke with the heavily damaged Haus Lessing in the background, seen in 1947 in the Hansaviertel-Tiergarten district.]

    Photo: SM 2011-1705,11.

    Post mortem
    The war bombings caused a complete destruction in the area and its fancy residential buildings. According to Dr. Sandra Wagner-Conzelmann, of the 343 houses listed in the district just 70 remain, many of them badly damaged. Nonetheless, about 4,000 people still lived there among rubble. In the devastated Tiergarten, the remaining trees were chopped down months later which, combined with the multiple bomb craters, made the area to resemble a moon landscape.

    The rebuilt program did not start until 1953, when the German Senate declared this district the core area of the imminent International Building Exhibition Interbau (Interbau 57), creating from 1957 a modern urban area designed by several internationally renowned architects. Hans Scharoun, Head of the Department for Building and Housing in Berlin, summed up the project: ‘What remains, after the loosening-up achieved by bombing raids and the final battle, gives us the chance to shape an urban landscape.’

    [Berliners collecting wood meanwhile some others grow vegetables in Tiergarten around the ruined Kaiser Friedrich Memorial church, which was destroyed during the 22 November 1943 raid by RAF bombs. A new church, designed by architect Ludwig Lemmer, was built here in 1957.]

    Photo: Landesarchiv Berlin.

    Photo: Akademie der Künste.

    [In this post-war photo we see the sea of rubble in which Lessingstraße Ecke Händelallee had become and the intense clearing debris work made by surviving Berliners in 1945/46.]

    Photo: Landesarchiv Berlin/ Erich O. Krueger.

    [The ruined panorama seen at Nettelbeckstraße and Keithstraße in the Hansaviertel district in fall 1945.]

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1695,16).

    [Post-war Altonaer Straße and some vegetable gardens in the Tiergarten seen from the Siegessäule in 1947. Note the ruined Memorial church at extreme left.]

    Photo: © Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

    [Harry Croner took this picture of the railway bridge in Bellevue in 1947 showing the Allied bombers’ work done in Tiergarten. The curving tracks indicate us that the exact location was Klopstockstraße, a few metres before the S-Bhf Bellevue.]

    Photo: ©Stadtmuseum Berlin/ CronerNeg 108/D1.

    [West-Berlin, 1953: a ruined building in Brückenallee, just before the rebuilt work began here.]

    Photo: Wolff/ hansaviertel.berlin.

    Two views of today’s Hansaviertel residential area, where from an extensively war-damaged area a modern urban development with wide green spaces was born.

    Photo: Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley).

    Photo: Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley).

    _______________

    Sources and Bibliography:

    • Antill, Peter. Berlin 1945: End of the Thousand Year Reich. Campaign 159. Osprey Publishing, 2005.
    • Archer, Lee. Panzers in Berlin 1945. Panzerwrecks, 2019.
    • Beevor, Anthony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. Viking, 2002.
    • Blank, Ralf. Germany and the Second World War. Volume IX/I. Clarendon Press, 1990.
    • Demps, Laurenz. Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014.
    • Hansaviertel Berlin. 22. November 1943. <https://hansaviertel.berlin/geschichte/november-1943/>
    • Hansaviertel Berlin. Geschichte der Interbau 1957. <https://hansaviertel.berlin/interbau-1957/geschichte-interbau-57/>
    • Janiszewski, Bertram. Das alte hansa-Viertel in Berlin. Haude & Spener, 2000.
    • Landesarchiv Berlin. LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 143 ff; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 698, Bl. 144 ff., s. a. Nr. 700, Bl. 270 ff; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 698, Bl. 149 f., s. a. Nr. 700, Bl. 275 f; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 701, Bl. 176; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 79 ff.; s. a. LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 185 f; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 703, Bl. 43; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 703, Bl. 87 f.
    • Le Tissier, Tony. Race for the Reichstag: The 1945 Battle for Berlin. Pen and Sword Military, 2010.
    • Moorhouse, Roger. Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, 2011.
    • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag, 2013

    _______________

    Previous post >


    Hansaviertel runway

    The take-off was made under hailing Russian fire and as the plane rose to roof-top level it was picked up by countless searchlights and at once breaketed in a barrage of shelling’.

    – Hanna Reitsch, 29 April, 1945 –

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (115928934).

    It was mid July, 1945, when American photographer William Vandivert traveled around the devastated city accompanied by some US servicemen in one of those ubiquitous Jeeps following the capture of Berlin by Allied troops. He took hundreds of pictures with his camera of the ruined Nazi-capital for the LIFE magazine. 

    During his trip across the Tiergarten sector he found a pair of strange structures: two large hangar-style wooden halls built right on a wide street in what seems to be some kind of makeshift German depot or repair facility. In the pictures can be seen that their walls were covered by cork plates and the roof by fabric trying to camouflage it from the air; residential buildings with fancy facades are seen on both sides with the place left in an abandoned condition.

    A small and lesser known corner of the Third Reich’s capital city that still today raises many unknowns …but what really were? A shed being built to house bombed out Berliners? or they were small aircraft repair facilities used by the Nazis during the last days of the fighting?

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (115928934).

    This is an opposite view of the camouflaged structure, with some curious Berliners walking through the interior. At extreme left there is some kind of double stove pipe, note its brick construction and the considerable height of the chimney. 

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc.

    Vandivert took this picture of the second hall also, looking apparently northwards and with the first one and the stoves seen in the far background (there were some others between the two halls). This one seems to have a complete opening at both ends unlike the other and within it we can see a wide variety of objects (aircraft wrecks?), some huge wooden crates and debris everywhere. Both facilities appear to be damaged or left unfinished, with part of the roof collapsed and its fabric cover torn. 

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (641270).

    … but exactly where?
    First question to aboard is to know in which zone these structures were built. Original photo captions and brief information available until today just reported as being in the “Tiergarten section”, a very large and vast area of the German capital. It is well known that Berlin’s largest green zone was used during the last months of the war as an improvised landing strip with several oral testimonies and reports about transport aircraft’s attempts to land here (and as a drop zone for container dropping) but none of them mentioned an aircraft depot or hangar-style structure like these ones. 

    It was true that the answer was in Tiergarten but close examination of the available images and intense research work will show that it was in a different area. The few lines and sources that mentioned this stated that were probably located at Tiergartenstraße, a street in the southern part of the Tiergarten so that’s where we started the search. A very possible location because of being right next to the park: it has residential buildings between a tree line too, but soon small details cast doubt from being the actual spot: a small fence is clearly seen next to the wooden structure (extreme right, first image) and Tiergartenstr. had no such fences for example, and there are several film footage showing this street (which now lay in the British Sector) on the first days of the British and American occupation and some other pictures taken at this location and don’t match with the LIFE magazine’s pictures scenario.

    [View of Tiergartenstraße just after the end of the war in Berlin, with bombed out buildings, shrapnel scars and debris everywhere.]

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (1216582).

    Again, we turn to Allied aerial reconnaissance looking for photographic evidence of the wanted location. On March 22nd, 1945, an F-5 Lightning of the 22nd Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, USAAF, flew a long photo run over Berlin to assets bomb damage (Sortie US7-40D) after the big US air-raid made on the city four days before. 

    First, we look at the mentioned Tiergartenstr. that runs from Potsdamer Platz in the south to the Hofjägerallee at the northern end but no large structures or nothing like that or closer was found there: some minor debris with bomb craters and damaged buildings but the street is practically clear.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 715.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 4176.

    Otherwise, we continue the search on a westward path as one caption says “west of Tiergarten”: exposure #3176 from that same PR sortie shows the Tiergarten north and Moabit areas: it is an oblique aerial photograph taken facing north west capturing Hansaplatz at upper left of the image, Schloßpark Bellevue in centre with the Moabiter Brücke next to the Spree at middle right. On the upper part of the image is the Hansaviertel built-up area and S-Bahnhof Bellevue. The ruined and flattened condition of the district, gutted by fire, with many roofless buildings is evident. We look to the main street, Altonaer Straße and nothing strange is there, but a few metres away we got Brückenallee, and bingo!… the two rectangular-shaped structures are there.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 3176.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 3176.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 3176.

    Compare it with this earlier PR aerial of the same area in Tiergarten, this time a vertical photograph taken on September 6th, 1943 by No 542 RAF Squadron (sortie: E/0138 frame #3021), some months before the fall 1943 British bombings that caused huge destruction on the district. Note the high density of trees and vegetation seen in the area, as opposed to the previous image after two years of sustained air attacks.

    Photo: NCAP [http://ncap.org.uk/NCAP-000-000-008-736]

    Furthermore, back to 1945 it seems that there was one more similar structure in this area, a few blocks away to the west and located between Hansaplatz and the Kaiser-Friedrich-Gedächtniskirche we found another rectangular structure at Lessingstraße. The absence of closer photos does not allow us to confirm additional information or if it had same purpose as the other two. 

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 3175.

    Following close examination of ALL the imagery taken then (Berlin PR images from the war years recorded and available at US and British archives), we can affirm that these are the only structures of this type found in the city.

    Down to ground level, the street views look more similar to the one where Vandivert captured the abandoned ‘hangars’ with his camera: a wide street road, sidewalk tree line, the streetlamps, small fences and prestigious houses with elaborate facades and small front gardens along the roadsides. 

    Located in the northwestern Tiergarten, Brückenallee was part of the residential Hansaviertel district that emerged from the intersection of three main streets in the Hansaplatz square. Sadly, there is no chance to examine the place today: huge devastation caused by the war and the air bombings led to a massive rebuilt of the area in the post-war years, with a reconstruction urban planning from 1953. The modern West-Berlin urban quarter developed and simplified the area and some streets like Brückenallee or Lessingstraße were removed from the map, although part of its track became today’s Bartningallee.

    [Two old postcard views of Tiergarten’s Brückenallee. They show to good advance the similarities with the street seen on the 1945 ‘hangar’ pictures.]

    Photo: postkarte.

    Photo: postkarte.

    [This is a 1941-street plan of the Bellevue and northern Tiergarten areas in Berlin centre.]

    Photo: Histomap/©Landesarchiv Berlin.

    [A 1920s-view into Lessingstraße facing southwards, the exact spot where the third wooden structure was built; the Kaiser-Friedrich-Gedächtniskirche is clearly seen in the background of the picture. It was destroyed during the 22/23 November 1943 RAF attack.]

    Photo: Bertram Janiszewski, Das alte hansa-Viertel in Berlin, Berlin 2000, S. 84.

    [A propaganda picture of northern Tiergarten released by the Allies showing the huge devastation caused on the Hansaviertel district by the air bombings as it appeared prior to RAF night assaults in late 1943 and early 1944. Brückenallee is seen at bottom left on both images.

    Photo: NARA (342-FH-3A20876-57123AC).

    It really was an aircraft repair depot?
    In favor of this theory is its location: the proximity to the Tiergarten and the improvised landing strip “built” at Speer’s Ost-West-Achse main road towards Charlottenburg, but also far enough away to go unnoticed, hidden from the threat of marauding enemy Jabos (fighter-bombers), artillery spotting aircraft or the feared visit by Soviet Il-2s attack aircraft, made this location a good point to install a small ‘campaign’ aerodrome (although very hazardous and desperate but… desperate times call for desperate measures).

    Surrounded by wide enough streets (practically roads) which linked with the Grosser Stern, where a Würzburg radar was reported to be used as traffic command-post, ideal to acting as taxing runways at night for the small aircraft based here from the depot to the landing/take off strip. The Bhf-Bellevue train station is very close, so the depot could easily receive new shipments and spare parts via the railway line. It had a great covering by the surrounding buildings and the surviving trees, an enemy aircraft had to pass directly over that street to see these structures from the air.

    Furthermore, the Hansaviertel area was hit hard from January 1943 onwards by Allied bombs and was practically unoccupied, with most of its population being evacuated the previous year so it was a very suitable and quiet zone for this war effort activity during the last months, out of sight and suspicious eyes.  

    Finally, the adjacent Altonaer Str is referred also as an northwest-bound improvised runway (runway #29) by oral testimonies (apparently used by Reitsch on her last flight), although there is no confirmation of this.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; frame 3175.

    Photo: AC Byers/ Hein Gorny/ Collection Regard.

    The reason for this place could be to act as a spartan maintenance or recycling facility, such as those that existed in a variety of locations in Germany and occupied Europe (a ‘Versorgungslager’). Some of those depots belonged to Deutsche Lufthansa (DLHas was the case of several of them based in Berlin and served by their own employees; others ‘employed’ foreign workers and slave work from the Nazi camps…

    The vast majority were large size structures built next to or around an aerodrome or small aircraft sub-assembly factory, especially after the bombing campaign forced the Germans to disperse their aircraft industry, but there are examples of small and rudimentary facilities near the battlefronts, especially in the Eastern front. What makes this facility unique is its location in the middle of the city, furthermore in the Reich’s capital. The Berlin defenders may have used this depot to engine overhauls, small repairs or servicing the intended visiting aircraft as it was planned by the Nazi leaders.

    [Luftwaffe’s ground personnel —known as ‘the black men’— were very skilled building makeshift hangars and aircraft shelters, as seen here on this bigger “house” with a Bf 109F fighter of 9./JG 26 inside seen at Liegescourt, France, in the early summer of 1941.]

    Photo: FalkeEins- The Luftwaffe blog.

    The apparent absence of cranes (at least at the time those pictures were taken) and the size of the structures discard heavy work here or machinery or big size-aircraft so this facility was intended for small planes like fighters (Fw 190, Bf 109) or most probably liaison aircraft (Fi 156, Ar 96). 

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (641270).

    Some of the parts inside the structure clearly belonged to an aircraft, in this case we have possibly identified what seems to be a rudder (at left, fabric or plywood covered), some damaged wing slats (from the leading-edge) and a metal welded structure (at left, most probably part of fuselage), a gas or oxygen tank (middle right), and a rubble tyre from a landing gear (middle right): all of these match with parts from a German Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (“stork”) liaison plane, minus the rubble tyre, too big in size so obviously from some other type of aircraft.

    It seems that there was also a small radial aero-engine at left (two more are seen on the Jeep picture inside the first ‘hangar’) but this type could not be from a Fi 156 neither from an Arado 96, since both were equipped with the Argus As 10, an air-cooled inline inverted engine. Maybe a Fw 44 Stieglitz training plane? in that case it would be a Siemens-Halske Sh14 engine.

    [A Fieseler 156 Storch with civil registration code, seen in the North Africa front, in this case a D-model, the ambulance variant of this fabulous liaison plane with very short landing capacities. The characteristic slats on the wings’ leading-edges of this model are clearly appreciated.]

    Photo: Campbell, Jerry L. (2005). Fieseler Storch In Action. Squadron Signal Publications.

    There is photographic evidence too of at least one Storch liaison plane at the Tiergarten which apparently landed on the improvised runway on the last days of April 1945. The Storch was famous for her outstanding STOL-qualities (short take off and landing) so it was the ideal airplane to operate from this location in those dramatic last moments; it was also a small airplane (it was 32 ft long and 10 ft tall) with a short wingspan (46 ft) and her wings can be folded back along the fuselage for storage or taxing in narrow strips like these ones.

    [Here, a Fieseler Storch takes off in front of the Humboldt-Universität on Berlin’s Unter den Linden during the ‘Tag der Wehrmacht’ (Day of the Armed Forces) in March 1940 to show Berliners her outstanding short landing and take off capacities.]

    Photo: akg-images (AKG285853).

    [An RAF officer inspects the wreckage of a Fieseler Fi 156 in the Tiergarten in front of the Victory Column. Often captioned as being the aircraft in which Hanna Reitsch and Ritter von Greim landed on 26 April 1945 in Berlin to meet Hitler at the Führerbunker but there is no confirmed proof of this.]

    Photo: akg-images (AKG138258).

    [In this post-war collection point, among Flak guns, howitzers and even two damaged Würzburg radar units, can be discern several aircraft parts including a shattered wing from a Fi 156 Storch (note the slats and part of Luftwaffe’s Balkenkreuz emblem) and a fuselage steel structure, with many similarities to the Tiergarten scene. It was captured by C S Newman at an unidentified location in Berlin some months after the war.]

    Photo: ©Stadtmuseum Berlin/ SM 2011-1701,33.

    Another evidence of the existence of improvised aircraft depots used by the Germans during the last months of the war could be this picture taken in summer of 1945 by an American serviceman during his duty in the occupied city. It shows the tail section of a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 ready to be assembled into the airframe. Note the factory-style wooden platform beneath, which confirms it as a sub-assembly part from a depot and not a wreck from a destroyed fighter, and the engine panel next to it.

    Photo: © Carl MacDaniel.

    More evidence of this are the wooden crates seen at right inside the second structure: many aircraft of those years had a modular design which makes easier to replace the damaged parts on the field by the mechanics; in the case of the engine, spare or new units were shipped in a modular pack known by the Germans as the ‘kraftei’ (“power-egg”). Here, a new BMW 801 radial aero-engine is unloaded by Luftwaffe ground crew from a Go 242 cargo glider in the Russian front in 1943. Note the lettering Eigentum’ and code number stenciled on the crate, similar to the ones found inside the Berlin-Tiergarten ‘hangars’. Of course, they could contain anything, not only aircraft engines like this one, but it confirms that it was equipment property of the Wehrmacht.

    Photo: Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-332-3096-12.

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (641270).

    [This picture showing Allied soldiers inspecting an assembly line of repaired Fw 190s is often wrongly captioned as being at Tiergarten in 1945, but actually it was located a few miles away, at Tempelhof airport where a large (and dedicated) underground repair depot was built (note the railway tracks and cobbled pavement) in the tunnels. First from left is Cottbus-built Fw 190A-8 Werk Nummer 170 597.]

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc.

    The fact that Brückenallee was a really good location for this “last-call” aircraft depot is show to good in this post-war shot of Altonaer Str and the ruined “Hansa-Viertel” area towards the Moabit district taken from top of the Siegessäule by Harry Croner in fall-winter 1945. Even from this great height the view of the street and its structures would be blocked by the buildings and the park’s tree line.

    Photo: ©Stadtmuseum Berlin/ CronerNeg 108/D1.

    At least, the exact location of these well known structures (whatever they were used as aircraft depots or assembly halls or not..) has been resolved and a new one has been revealed. There are still several questions to be resolved, such as what these stoves are and what they were used for in this place or if the facilities were actually employed before the fall of the city in May 1945.

    A small story connected with the landing of several Ju 52s transport aircraft on the Ost-West-Achse now confirmed, but also with many of those made-up myths from the closing days of the war, as are the last reinforcement flights arriving from Gatow or Hitler escaping from the Reichskanzlei’s bunker.

    In the following posts we will analyze the Hansaviertel district during the war and the use of the Tiergarten as an improvised landing strip.

    _______________

    Sources and Bibliography:

    • Antill, Peter. Berlin 1945: End of the Thousand Year Reich. Campaign 159. Osprey Publishing, 2005.
    • Archer, Lee. Panzers in Berlin 1945. Panzerwrecks, 2019.
    • Beevor, Anthony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. Viking, 2002.
    • Campbell, Jerry L. Fieseler Storch In Action. Squadron Signal Publications, 2005.
    • Demps, Laurenz. Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014.
    • Hansaviertel Berlin. 22. November 1943. https://hansaviertel.berlin/geschichte/november-1943/
    • Kozhevnikov, M N. The Command and Staff of the Soviet Army Air Force in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945. Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O, 1977.
    • Le Tissier, Tony. Race for the Reichstag: The 1945 Battle for Berlin. Pen and Sword Military, 2010.
    • Lowe, Malcom W. Focke-Wulf Fw 190. Osprey Production Line to Frontline 5. Osprey Publishing, 2003.
    • Mühlhäuser, Alfred H. Hitlerfluchtberichte: Kritisch-analytische Betrachtung von sieben, an eine CIA-Methode angelehnten Fluchtdrehbüchern. Books on Demand, 2017.
    • Ott, Gunther. „Unternehmen Reichskanzlei“, Jet & Prop; Verlag Heinz Nickel in Zweibrücken, 04/95.
    • Pegg, Martin. Transporter Volume Two: Luftwaffe Transport Units 1943-1945. Classic Publications, 2007.
    • Reitsch, Hanna. The Sky My Kingdom: Memoirs of the Famous German World War II Test Pilot. Casemate, 2009.
    • Rosch, Barry C. Luftwaffe Support Units and Aircraft: Units, Aircraft, Emblems and Markings 1933-1945. Classic Publications, 2009.

    _______________

    Previous post >

    Using Format