Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Second Blitz

Overnight on the 16th/17th of January 1943 there was a RAF bombing raid on Berlin. There is always a ‘however’ though. In this case other sources suggest such a raid never took place. But it does seem likely that it happened as, by all accounts, it made Hitler very very angry. 

What Hitler wanted to see...

Like the last time popular myth has Hitler getting all shouty over an air raid on Berlin, his immediate reaction was to order the Luftwaffe to raze London to the ground. Now, the Luftwaffe was faced with a bit of a problem. Since the end of the Blitz, they had been conducting raids on the UK but had largely avoided the London area. A squadron about to be transferred to the Eastern Front was given a stay of execution and kept in the west to take part in the attacks against London. More planes were sourced from training units. Even when they had arranged every airframe they could, the Germans still found themselves with under 100 bombers, so each bomber would attack, return to base, re-arm and fly a second sortie. As this was to be the first major air raid on London since 1941 the Germans wanted it to be impressive, a second Blitz.

The Germans even got lucky with the British defences. After a year of no attacks they were not entirely ready. For example, the barrage balloons of the RAF were winched close in and not fully deployed. That night as the bombing commenced two WRAF’s at a balloon site were horrified to realise that a stick of bombs was heading straight towards them. 

Cpl Dyson and ACW Beeson crewing their winch.

Corporal May Dyson and Aircraftwomen Peggy Muncy Beeson were manning their winch trailer during the bombing. As the bombs rained down about them, they calmly continued to winch out their balloon to the designated height. Even when a large bomb hit just to the left, followed by one to the right they stayed at their posts ensuring their balloon was fully deployed. 

...and pictured standing in one of the two craters that bracketed their winch trailer.

Some sixty fires were lit, but all were small and easily contained. To further the Germans embarrassment, most of their pilots got lost and missed London. It is reported that just 40% of the bombs dropped by the Germans even landed within the London Civil Defence area, which is a rather impressive feat in of itself! The only success was at Greenwich when one bomber got lucky and caused heavy damage to a power station there. It cost the Germans six planes shot down, four of which were by the same pilot. Acting Wing Commander Cathcart Michael Wight-Boycott, flying in a Beaufighter, won a DSO for his actions. A newspaper, the Daily Herald, made the following report of the events:

‘I stood yesterday on the edge of the biggest bomb crater that I have ever seen.  It measured sixty feet across and the whole roadway was gone.  This Street of Devastation (Lytcott Grove) echoed to the picks of the rescue squad still feverishly digging for a seventy year old woman known to have been in the back kitchen of one of the houses.  The most memorable escape of the night was of a nineteen year old, Mr P. Garrett.  He was in a first-floor room when the bomb fell.  When the dust cleared, he found himself in a ground floor kitchen at the back of the house with a kitchen cooker on his chest.  He was unharmed!  One of the crew of a German bomber shot down parachuted to safety, stole a car, and was stopped by the police and arrested near Maidstone.’

That night the RAF visited Berlin once again, 8,000lbs of bombs and hundreds of incendiaries fell on the German Capital. 

The German attack resumed on the 20th, this time in daylight and at low level. Around noon thirty-two BF110’s took off and conducted distraction sweeps along the south coast. At the same time mixed in with the confusion twenty-eight FW190A’s armed with a single bomb roamed about the south of England giving the impression of air strikes directed towards somewhere in Kent or Sussex. The British air raid warning system alert was only given when authorities could tell where the raid was heading, with all these aircraft giving the impression of a flight to Kent, it came as a surprise when twelve FW190’s detached from the main group and headed for London. Once again, the balloon barrage was winched in close for essential maintenance. As the fighter bombers crossed Beachy Head the order to get the balloons to 6,500ft was given. By this time, it was too late, as the German craft were over London less than a minute after the order was given. The warnings failed to filter down to the light flak crews or the air raid sirens.

The twelve FW190’s were ordered to strike targets of opportunity, each carried a 500kg bomb. One pilot, Hauptmann Heinz Schumann, spotted a large three story building as he hurtled along above the rooftops. He extended away, turned and made an attack run scoring a perfect hit. It was a school. As there had been no warning given, none of the children had been sheltering, and were instead at lunch. Thirty-eight were killed, along with six adults. Another sixty were injured. Rapid response from the Civil Defence was supplemented by Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, as well as Canadian Engineers from nearby bases. 

The bomb site at Sandhurst Road School


Interviews with pilots involved in combating the air raids. Keep in mind this is a period newsreel so will have a bit of a bias.

Overall, this attack was much more successful, starting a fire at a gas holder, hitting a large warehouse and getting three bombs into another power station. However, the attack had been costly. Fourteen aircraft of the total of sixty were destroyed, with another three probables and eight damaged claimed by the British. 


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