August 1940

‘Ten killed in Berlin raid’. ‘Berlin gets a taste of bombs…

…British bombers took a toll of ten killed and about thirty wounded in a workers’ section less than two miles from the Government offices in Wilhelmstraße. All the casualties were civilians. Preliminary reports gave no word of death or injury to soldiers.’ 

  – The Sun, New York newspaper, Thursday, August 29, 1940 –

[Photo: John Frost Newspapers / Alamy.]

As we have seen, the first bombing of Berlin made by British aircraft on 25/26 August 1940 was an initial response to the German attacks on London, and it served to distress Luftwaffe offensive against RAF Fighter Command on Southern England. That first raid was not going to be something isolated, but the beginning of a strategic air campaign against the Third Reich’s capital.

[Two views of a destroyed roof in a residential building after receive a bomb-hit near Skalitzer Straße during the RAF raid on 28/29 August 1940.] 

[Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann / Getty images.]

[Photo: SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo (00322884).]

‘Three-hour raid on Berlin’

On the night of August 28th, 1940, the Royal Air Force visited Berlin for the second time. British records show that 49 aircraft were dispatched to raid Berlin as part of a 79 bombers force sent to bomb six different targets in Germany. Berlin targets were again Klingenberg power station at Rummelsburg (east part of the city) for the Wellington force (18 aircraft) and Tempelhof aerodrome, meanwhile the Hampden force was sent to attack Siemensstadt factory complex, but many of their deadly payload hit a very different target. Their bombs were dropped over the southern suburb of Kreuzberg, a very populated residential area, maybe due to near location from the eastern targets and a consequence of thick cloud and darkness. At this early stage of the war, British bombers lacked any navigation aids or useful bombsights at night. Of course, crews fear from German Flak anti-aircraft fire, searchlights and the long distance journey to home made some of them to drop bombs anywhere. RAF crews who where sent that very night recognize years after the war that blackness made very hard to know where they were. 

RAF Sqn Leader Patrick Foss of No 115 Squadron remembers the raid: ‘This was the longest trip we had ever attempted in the Wellington, close to our maximum range with full tanks and minimum bomb load. We set off for Berlin with half a gale blowing from the west, low and middle cloud and murk on the ground. We had failed to get any fixes on the rote and the weather was heavy cloud and total blackness. We glimpsed below us lakes and forest, but never a light or other indication of a city. There was nothing worth bombing and no time for a search. We turned for home and began to plug back against the gale. We landed at Marham with less than thirty minutes of fuel remaining after eight and a half hours in the air. Our other crews returned with similar stories. No one was sure he had hit Berlin. We hoped other stations had had more luck.’ (Bowman, M. 2016).

[SD and Gestapo officers inspecting some damage caused by the second RAF Bomber Command air-attack of the war on the Nazi-capital. Shortly after midnight on 28/29 August 1940, British planes appeared again over Berlin dropping their deadly payloads on Kreuzberg suburb.]

[Photo: Keystone-France Gamma / Getty images.]

When the bombers arrived just after midnight normality reigns. The first air air-alarm sounded at 00.25. A Swedish newspaper correspondent reported that Berliners had only taken the raid seriously when anti-aircraft batteries fired back, and went to the shelters, as many had believed the official Nazi-propaganda that no enemy plane would overfly and attack the mighty capital.

The area around Kottbusser straße, Skalitzer straße and Görlitzer Bahnhof was the worst hit. Several sticks of bombs caused chaos and large fires there, and flying debris shattered the streets, hitting everything around. Ten Berliners lost their lives and about 30 were injured, with two more dying in the following days of their injuries. The official Wehrmacht record on the next day, summed up the events: ‘In the night, British aircraft systematically attacked residential areas of the Reich capital. High explosive bombs and incendiaries brought death and injury to numerous civilians and properties sustained roof fires and damage.’  Nazi propaganda highlighted the terrible fact that Berlin had suffered its first civilian deaths from the bombing war. Over 900 were rendered homeless by the raid according to city official records. Many of them congregated beneath the highway U-bahn line at Skalitzer straße, or else made their way to a local school, where a makeshift soup kitchen and first-aid station had been stablished. It was a new situation to local authorities and ration cards had to be distributed. German press denounced that RAF has attacked residential areas and killed ‘women and children’

[German workers cleaning the debris where a high-explosive bomb hit in the middle of a street, twisting and buckling the tram lines.]

[Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann / Getty images.]

[Cleanup work in an apartment of the house Kottbusser straße 16, which was destroyed by incendiary bombs during the air raid suffered that night. The M-34 helmet with black swastika on red shield decal on right side identifies him as a policeman, in this case a Feuerschutzpolizei.]

[Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L08521A].

Many bombs landed, due to thick cloud, on several farms owed by the city in the western outskirts and country areas and quickly the famous Berlin sense of humor came to the rescue: ‘Now they are trying to starve us out’, but the actual situation was the alarm and anxiety for Berliners, after they had lived the destruction of aerial bombing. 

[Another view of a damaged block of flats in Berlin Kreuzberg, this time at Alexandrinenstraße. Flames engulfed the building after being hit by a stick of incendiary small bombs dropped during the Royal Air Force raid on 28/29 August 1940.]

[Photo by UMBO / Published by ‘Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung.]

[Schäden nach Luftangriff: Berliner Feuerwehr firemen during clearing work in a four-storey residential block at Wassertorstraße 37 (near U-Bahnhof Prinzenstraße), hit by RAF explosive bombs on the night of 28/29 August.]

[Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L08580.]

The British lost 1 bomber on this raid, a Hampden of 83 Squadron (serial X2897), the long distance to the Reich capital being the loss cause. This aircraft took off at 21.10 hrs from RAF Scampton with Siemens Siemenstadt as target and on the return flight they ran out of fuel and ditched near Skegness at 06.20 hrs. They had been in the air for nearly nine hours. Another bomber (P4392 piloted by P/O Little) from the same unit had to force-landed on a beach on Norfolk coast with no injuries to crew at 07.50 hr. 

[This is the crew of Hampden X2897 safely on board a trawler after ditching in the North Sea on return from bombing Berlin, the only loss in this raid. From left to right: Flying Officer Watson, Flying Officer Stannion, Flight Lieutenant Pitcairn-Hill DSO DFC (pilot) and Sergeant Byrne.]

[Photo: Donnelly, 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.]

Two scenes captured in original colour after the 28/29 August 1940 British raid in Berlin, with a damaged building at Kottbusser Straße number 16 (at left) in Kreuzberg district. 

[Photos: AKG-images AKG5438572/3.]


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