🇬🇧 K9795, the 9th production Mk I Supermarine Spitfire, with 19 Squadron Royal Air Force, showing the wooden, two-blade, fixed-pitch propeller, early ‘unblown’ canopy and ‘wraparound’ windscreen without the bulletproof glass plate. The original style of aerial mast is also fitted. 1938. [Photo CH 27 / Imperial War Museum] #ww2 #raf #uk #history #spitfire
[An in-flight view of Whitley Mk.V T4131, EY-W from No 78 RAF
Squadron during 1941. Note row of bombs painted on the fuselage nose to
indicate numbers of missions flown over the Third Reich. Photo: Wixey, K. Warpaint. p.11.]
The Armstrong Whitworth Whitley was one of the three
´strategic` bombers types with which Britain went to war in September
1939. The Whitley was concived as a night heavy bomber and was RAF´s first monoplane bomber and the first one to penetrate on Germany.
With a crew of five men, and powered by two Rolls-Royce Merlin X
engines, the Whitley was capable of 230 mph (370 km/h) at 16,400 ft
(5,000 m) and was bombed with up to 7,000 lb (3,175 kg) of bombs in the
fuselage and 14 individual cells in the wings.
[Artist Paul Nash made this watercolour and chalk drawing of Berlin´s RAF
first attack from a set of photographs that Air Ministry sent to him.
It shows an aerial view of four Whitley bombers in flight over a target
area of Berlin. It was made in January 1941. Photo: Imperial War Museum.]
[The Nash and Thompson Type FN4 rear turret of an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber of No 102 Squadron RAF
at Driffield, Yorkshire, 8 March 1940. It was armed with four ,303 in
Browning machine-guns to protect the plane against night-fighters. Note formation lights lamps below and gunner inside the framed turret. Photo: Imperial War Museum.]
[Several propaganda walls at London with a straight message: ´…and still we say. Bomb Berlin and save London`, 1940.]
The last night of August another raid was made against Berlin, and
the British repeated during 7 September, 1940. That night, the Luftwaffe made its first main attack on London, starting ´the Blitz`.
On 19 September, Churchill told the Chiefs of Staff (COS) Committee that the dropping of large parachute mines by the Luftwaffe proved
the Germans’ intention to perpetrate an ‘act of terror’ against the
British civil population. He wanted preparations made for equal
retaliation to be inflicted on ordinary German cities. The Cabinet
agreed that aerial mines should be dropped on Berlin and on 21 September
the COS replied that they were in favour of
giving the German population ‘a taste of their own medicine’. He said
that in view of the indiscriminate bombing by the Germans, the
Government might have to consider a temporary but marked departure from
its policy of bombing only military targets.
[Dr Joseph Göbbels, Propaganda Minister and Gauleiter of Berlin, inspects damage from early British bombing of the city, 1940.]
The Air Staff directive of 21 September instructed Bomber Command
that, although there were no objectives in the area of strategic
importance, periodic attacks on Berlin were to continue in order ‘to
cause the greatest possible disturbance and dislocation’ to industry and
the civil population. The quickest, most lasting and effective means of
achieving this would be by attacks on sources of power. Nevertheless,
the directive reiterated the Air Staff’s view that in accordance
withlong-term offensive strategy, focus should remain on destroying
German oil resources and communications. The Air Staff’s line of
thinking was not met with complete agreement by Bomber Command.
Churchill’s suggestions were received with greater sympathy by Portal,
who returned to the ideas he had advocated in July. On 11 September he
told the Air Ministry that each indiscriminate Luftwaffe attack on a British town should be answered in kind by the RAF. A Bomber Command memorandum of 30 September expressed the view that the strategic offensive should now be directed at ‘the will of the German people’.
The capital of the Third Reich would be 11 times the target of this new policy during the year 1940.
[Annotated vertical aerial view taken during a night attack on the
Berlin docks, on the night of 7-8 October 1940, 42 aircraft of Nos 3 and
4 Groups bombed 12 individual targets in the German capital for the
loss of one Vickers Wellington. The broad streaks of light are German
searchlights, the thin ones are tracer shells. The docks are clearly
visible (‘A’), illuminated by the explosion of a bomb on the inner
harbour of the Spandau ship canal (‘C’). Other features picked out
include the Königs Damm bridge over the Verbindunge canal (‘D’) and the
Charlottenburg gas holders (‘E’). This was the first photograph to show
an RAF attack on Berlin.]
Attacking Germany at this stage of the war was a very difficult undertaking. The Luftwaffe was based in occupied France close to England. Berlin was deep in Germany and on the outer limit of the range of existing RAF
bombers. In addition, because of the German fighter defences and the
slowspeed of the existing trio of bombers, the British were forced to
bomb at night. Darkness means that sometimes you could not even find the
targetted cities. But it meant that when the cities were hit, the
casualties would be mostly civilians. A new moral dilemma had started.
[Berliners watch bomb damage made by British raids near Brandenburger Tor, 10 September 1940. Photo: Alamy.]
These demands were initially resisted by the Air Staff. They pointed out that, because Bomber Command was considered capable of precision attacks, indiscriminate bombing was unnecessary and futile. Moreover, it would be unwise to start competitive bombing when the Luftwaffe’s striking force was four times larger than the RAF’s
and, to reach Berlin, British aircraft had five times as far to travel
as German aircraft had to reach London. However, as a reply to the
bombing of London, a raid of the largest possible scale on Berlin was
ordered and carried out by 119 aircraft on 23-24 September.