31 August 1940 raid

On Friday 30th August afternoon, Bomber Command men were briefed again to raid Berlin.

The British force comprised 41 twin-engined aircraft ready to take off from eastern England to bomb the city that night. Prime targets were again the Siemens factory complex at the northwestern part of the ‘Big City’ and the Henschel factory in Schönefeld; with several others squadrons attacking other cities including Hamm and Emden. Of the Berlin-bound force, finally just 31 Wellington and Hampden bombers from Groups No 3 and No 5 reached the Nazi-capital. Nine crews claimed to have bombed the Siemens works and four of them Henschel, with another bomber attacking the power station at Klingenberg. First air-alarm sounded at 01.39 hrs on August 31 and as on previous raids, many sticks of incendiary- and explosive bombs hit residential areas all over the capital, damaging house buildings and streets especially at the Pankow and Kreuzberg city districts.

[A damaged block of apartments in Berlin Kreuzberg, this time at Alexandrinenstraße, most probably number 43. Flames engulfed the building after the roof being hit by an explosive bomb dropped during the Royal Air Force raid on 30/31 August 1940.]

Photo: UMBO /Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung/ullstein bild.

The Air Ministry communique about the raid on Germany states: “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.”

The British press covered that night’s raids on Germany: “Ten people were killed and twenty-eight wounded in the three hour raid, said the German official news agency as firemen were still clearing away debris in the streets”.

[Photo: John Frost Newspapers / Mary Evans Picture Library.]

The RAF lost 3 aircraft on this Berlin sortie: one was a Whitley, a bomber from No 58 Sqn P5002 coded ‘GE-T’. The aircraft left RAF Linton-on-Ouse at 19.45 hrs. 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. A crew member was killed while all four other occupants were rescued (P/O Ronald Hadley, Sgt Ian A Zamek, R F Williams and Sgt Matthew Hill). 

The two other losses of the raiding force were Wellingtons, both of them 214 Squadron machines: Wellington Mark IA P2530 coded ‘BU-?’ took off from from RAF Stradishall piloted by F/O RR O’Connor tasked for Berlin. They dropped incendiary bombs on B57 target (the remainder ‘hanging up’) and when returned to base, low on fuel, undershot into a ditch short of the runway with no casualties. The other one was Wellington IA T2559BU-?’, which flew to Berlin to raid Klingenberg too but was shot down at 23.24 near Halle (Gelderland), the Netherlands, by night fighter pilot Oberleutnant Werner Streib of 2./NJG 1, who was flying a Bf 110 from Anholt airfield, Germany. This was the first German ground-radar tracked victory at night, led by a ‘Wurzburg’ radar in Raum 5B based at Deurne. The ‘Wimpy’ was coned 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.

The crew of six perished in the crash (Sgt. G H Bainbridge, F/O L M Cragie-Halkett, P/O W S Cunynghame, Sgt. S J Haldane, Sgt. G E Merryweather and Sgt. A B Puzey) and were all buried at Halle Cemetery, the Netherlands. The story behind the loss of T2559 has been well researched by Bennie Eenink. 

[Vickers Wellington Mark IC, T2470BU-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. Known among the squadron crews as ‘K-King’ this ‘Wimpy’ were very active during the late summer over Berlin.]

[Photo: Bertrand John Henry Daventry. IWM © (CH 1415).]

[Schäden nach LuftangriffBerliner Feuerwehr firemen during clearing work in a four-storey residential block at Wassertorstraße 35-36 (near U-Bahnhof Prinzenstraße), hit by RAF explosive bombs on the night of 30/31 August.]

[Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L08580.]

[The tenant of this apartment in a residential building looks at the hole in the ceiling and the partially loosened lamp, some minor damage caused by an explosive bomb dropped by British bombers during a bombing raid on the previous night on Berlin Kreuzberg.]

[Photo: Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo (00322966).]

[Destruction at Dieffenbachstraße nr 39/40: a British bomb hit the Bethseda hospital and two small incendiaries hit the adjacent Christuskirche Kreuzberg church causing this fire during the RAF air-raid on 30/31 August 1940.]

Photo by Heinrich Hoffman/Associated Press Radiophoto.

[A damaged house by British bombs, after the attack on Berlin centre area that night. During 1940, more than 9,000 Berliners became homeless due to Allied bombings.] 

[Photo: Getty images.]

This air attack caused the death of one Berliner and injuries to another 8 people, plus thousands of evacuated from their homes during a few days but damage was minor compared to the previous raid, two nights earlier. Again, most of the British bombs hit on residential areas in central Berlin and the suburbs and this time some bombs exploded on -or adjacent- some of the ‘military’ targets like the Siemensstadt works. At the same time, across the Channel, German Luftflotte 3 bombers made a night attack on Liverpool, with minor raids on London and Portsmouth; Manchester was bombed as was Worcester and Bristol with some 50 people killed. The escalation of the bombing war was evident and in the next days both bands would increase their bomb tonnage dropped over civilians.


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