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[Home] [Articles and Misc] [Berlin - 24/25th March 1944]

Operation – Berlin – 24/25th March 1944.

The Night of the Strong Winds.

In what turned out to be the last big RAF raid on Berlin of WW2 Bomber Command encountered a serious problem that was little known or understood at the time. The operation was known as the Night of the Strong Winds. A powerful wind from the north carried the bombers south at every stage of the flight. This wind was not forecast accurately and was so strong that various methods available to warn crews of the changes in wind during the flight failed to detect the full strength of it. The bomber stream became scattered, particularly on the homeward flight and radar predicted flak at many places took a heavy toll. Part of the force strayed as far as the Ruhr on the return flight. It is believed approximately 50 of the 72 aircraft lost were flak victims. The Berlin report says 14 bombers fell in the area of Berlin shot down by night fighters.

The strong winds caused great difficulty in marking the target area with the markers carried beyond the target and well to the south west of the city. 126 villages and towns in this area received bombs with 30 people killed.

The majority of the damage to Berlin was in the south west of the city mostly to housing with 150 people killed. 5 military establishments were badly hit including the depot of the notorious German Waffen-SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Division in Lichterfelde.

811 aircraft participated in this attack – 577 Lancasters, 216 Halifaxes, 18 mosquitoes.

72 aircraft were lost – 44 Lancasters and 28 Halifaxes

Also on that night 147 aircraft from training units carried out a diversionary sweep west of Paris. 27 Mosquitoes bombed night fighter airfields and 15 Mosquitoes bombed Duisberg Kiel and Munster. Aircraft from 100 Group flew 4 RCM sorties and 10 Serrate patrols with 1 Serrate Mosquito lost.

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103 Squadron

16 Aircraft – First up P/O B B Lydon RAFVR and crew at 1830.

Weather for take off was good. Crews reported the usual intense flak barrage and search lights especially in one big belt between Leipzig and Berlin. Fighter flares were much in evidence. The rebroadcasting of winds by wind finders was again used but these were reported by crews to be below the velocity in evidence at the time.

S/L K G Bickers RAFVR and crew failed to return from this operation.

F/S F Brownings RAFVR and crew were subjected to a night fighter attack which killed their rear gunner Sgt R Thomas. They made an emergency landing at Dunsford. F/O W H Way RCAF and crew were also attacked by a night fighter which sustained a badly damaged starboard wing. However they made a successful return to base.

576 Squadron

19 Aircraft – First up F/L G S Morgan and crew at 1835.

Crews reported 10/10ths cloud over the North Sea until the Danish coast where it cleared till the north German coast but thin cloud built up over Germany and in the target area where thin 6 – 8/10ths cloud was reported plus ground haze. Most crews found themselves blown well south of track due to the winds being much stronger than anticipated. The Pathfinders opened the attack slightly later than the revised zero hour and there appeared to be two concentrations of markers but as the attack progressed the concentrations improved. Many crews overshot the target but made an orbit and came back to bomb the target successfully.

Searchlights were reported to be very numerous and ringing the target area but did not co-operate with the flak which was moderate to heavy.

Sightings of enemy aircraft were numerous and were reported to have had some success over Denmark and interceptions continued from this point to the target.

F/L P E Underwood and crew returned early due to engine failure.

First down was F/L G S Morgan and crew at 0140.

Two aircraft failed failed to return, those of F/O P U Brooke and F/S L J Collis.

F/L M Shearer RNZAF and crew were damaged by flak and attacked by a night fighter and lost 2 engines but crash landed successfully at base. F/S A R Young RAFVR and crew were also damaged by flak and fighter and crash landed at Wittering.

Item compiled by David Fell

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