August 1940 (II)

Berlin unter Bomben


[German police, firemen, and Gestapo members inspecting a burnt out five-story building at Berlin Kreuzberg, the day after the last air-raid made by British RAF bombers. Notice shell-scarred facade.]

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

After the attacks made on three previous nights (25/26, 28/29 and 30/31 August), 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, Hampdens, Wellingtons and Whitleys twin-engined ‘heavies’.

Twenty four Wellington bombers of Bomber Command Group No 3 were dispatched to attack the Henschel airframe factory and a gas works in the capital. Just six crews claimed to reach and bomb Berlin. Twelve aircraft reported to have bombed secondary targets. Meanwhile, the target for 20 Hampden bombers (from Nos 44, 49, 50 and 83 Squadrons - 5 Group) were the BWW factory in Berlin Spandau and Tempelhof aerodrome. The weather affected the attacks on the city, and most of the latter bombed an oil refinery at Magdeburg instead, just 5 of them reached Berlin.

The German capital was mostly obscured by clouds and the raid lasted 1 hour and 37 minutes, with bombers coming later than on previous raid. Bombs hit Kreuzberg and the southeastern area of the city again, starting fires in apartment houses and injuring 3 civilians seriously and other three slightly. British crews reported considerable Flak and adverse weather over the target which made that night the bombing pattern was very scattered, impacts were also registered in Wilhelmstraße and government quarter, and, as on every raid coming from Britain, bombs falling in all western Berlin (due to ‘easy trigger’ of the bombardiers).

[This is a warning sign for the Berliners for an unexploded bomb at Kreuzberg district (notice the U-bahn highway in the distance, so the location could be Kottbusser Straße) after the first British air-raids on the city that summer. The notice advises the danger with the warning Blindgänger!! Lebensgefahr! which means “Unexploded ordnance”. The image appeared in the Nazi news report ‘Die Deutsche Wochenschau’ that month.]

The Helena Daily Independent, US newspaper, reported: ‘German claimed that damage to establishments which might be regarded as military objectives was extremely small. The propaganda ministry as it had done on Thuersday morning, again prepared to take foreign correspondents on an auto tour of places sustaining damage.’

[Frontpage from The Helena Daily Independent from Montana, US newspaper covering the raid results on the very next morning.]

[Photo: newspaperarchive.com.]

[This picture from a Nazi news report shows a bomb crater and the broken window of a shop at Ritterstraße, Kreuzberg district, after the RAF air-raid the night before, 31 August 1940.]

[Photo: Berliner Verlag / Picture Alliance.]

[Damage caused by the impact of a high-explosive bomb in a medical center in Berlin Kreuzberg after the British raid.]

[Photo: Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo/ Alamy.]

One Hampden bomber was lost: P2123 of 44 Squadron (KM-?), piloted by Canadian F/O D Romans, which ditched on return off the beach at Cromer due to fuel starvation circa 05.35 hrs. Targets such Berlin or Poland were at the very limit of the Hampden’s range, and severe headwind or minimal navigation error could make force landing on the return flight.

[In this image we see a No 50 Squadron machine which crash-landed after running out of fuel.]

[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.]

[A fine portrait of Flying Officer David Albert A Romans (DFC) of No 44 Squadron from Waddington and Corporal Harry Logan (W/Op). Romans was the pilot at the controls of that Hampden RAF 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 and Cpl Jimmy Mandale as Air gunner. He ditched the aircraft on the return flight less than two miles from the coast at 06.20 hours. 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 dispatched to bomb the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, one of the first Flying Fortresses downed over Europe during WW2.]

[Photo: Williston, Floyd. Through Footless Halls of Air: The Stories of a Few of the Many who Failed to Return. GSPH, 1996.]

[Cpl Jimmy Mandale (middle) of 44 Sqn poses with two RAF comrades. He was the air gunner on the Hampden P2123 on the night of 31 August over Berlin. 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 and ditched due to petrol shortage on the return leg to Waddington. They made it to shore unhurt in a dinghy only to discover they were on a minefield! Info thanks to Geoffrey and Mark Mandale.]

[Photo: Williston, Floyd. Through Footless Halls of Air: The Stories of a Few of the Many who Failed to Return. GSPH, 1996.]

The propaganda system led by Nazi leader J Goebbels took advantage of every snapshot of damage in civilian areas on German cities produced by the nocturnal attacks of the British RAF bombers. Nazis tried to stress how ineffectual were the raids and complain that civilian targets were hit every night.

[Here we see the destruction caused by the attack inside a Berlin house, with furniture and windows destroyed after the near impact of a bomb on the attack suffered by the German capital on the previous night, 31 August/1 September.]

[Photo: Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo.]

[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.]

Bomber Command aircraft demonstrated again their ability to reach the Third Reich capital. These four bombing raids on August show that myth of the capital’s inviolability  -shared by Berliners and the Nazi authorities- had been irrevocably shattered. The war has entered a new phase, with air-raid alarms sounding almost nightly.

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Sources and Bibliography:

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