Operation - Duisburg - 14 October 1944 – Operation Hurricane - Firestorm
On the 13th October 1944 Bomber Command received orders for an important attack referred to as Operation Hurricane. The target was to be the city of Duisburg in the industrial Ruhr heartland of Germany. The purpose of this raid was to demonstrate to the enemy the overwhelming superiority of the Allied air forces in Western Europe. This operation was to be a maximum effort by Bomber Command. The American VIIIth Air Force was to undertake a similar maximum effort the same day on targets in the area of Cologne. Bomber Command had been forewarned of this plan and were able to make swift preparations accordingly. There had been no heavy bomber operations in the previous 48 hours and at dawn on the 14th October 1,013 aircraft took off for Duisburg. The force consisted of 519 Lancasters,474 Halifaxes and 20 Mosquitos and a heavy RAF fighter escort was provided.
At Elsham Wolds 103 Sq detailed 24 Lancasters to take part in this operation and 576 Sq contributed 22.
3 aircraft from each Squadron carried a 15,000lb all high explosive bomb load with the remainder a mixed 15,000lb load of high explosive and incendiaries.
The weather for take off was good but there was some high cloud. The first crews to take off were those of F/L A J Henry RAAF of 103 Sqn and F/O R C Bailey and F/O J J Mulrooney, both of 576 Sqn, all at 0600. Cloud decreased over the North Sea to 2/10ths increasing to 5/10ths over Holland and on to the target with identical conditions on the return flight. Several aircraft attacked the Thysen steel works as briefed. The remaining aircraft concentrated on the built up area as instructed by the master bomber because the red target indicators were not clearly visible. The returning crews thought the bombing was scattered as a result. Bombing took place from between 18,000ft and 19,000ft at between 0845 and 0853. Moderate to severe heavy flak was noted in this phase of the attack and 6 aircraft were seen to be shot down. No enemy fighters were seen. 4 aircraft from 103 Squadron were unable to bomb due to engine failures and had to return early. All crews returned to base, the first down being that of F/O J J Mulrooney at 1040.
957 bombers dropped 3,574 tons of high explosives and 820 tons of incendiaries on Duisburg for the loss of only 13 Lancasters and 1 Halifax, all shot down by flak in the early stages before the German defences were overwhelmed by the bombing.
Later that day the 1,251 bombers of the American VIIIth Air Force with fighter escort undertook a similar operation against Cologne for the loss of 5 heavy bombers and 1 fighter. No fighter opposition was encountered during either attack. During the day the RAF also flew 2 radio counter measure sorties and 2 resistance operations.
On the night of the 14/15th October Bomber Command returned to Duisburg. A force of 1,005 aircraft was dispatched consisting of 498 Lancasters, 468 Halifaxes and 39 Mosquitos. The attack was split into 2 sections 2 hours apart.
103 Sq and 576 Sq detailed 21 and 23 Lancasters respectively. 17 103 Sq aircraft carried a 14,000lb all high explosive bomb load and 4 aircraft a mixed high explosive and incendiary load. 20 576 Sq aircraft carried a 14,000lb high explosive load and the remaining 3 a mixed high explosive and incendiary load. Weather for take off was good. The first crew to take off was that of F/O R C Bailey of 576 Sqn at 2145. 1 crew from 576 Sqn were unable take off due to a mechanical problem and 2 crews are reported to have had men injured prior to take off and both sorties were cancelled. The reason for this is not clear but may have been as a result of some accident on the ground.
On arrival the target was found well alight from the first attack. The marking by the Pathfinders consisted of red target indicators backed up by greens. Bombing took place from 19,000ft to 20,500ft at between 0128 and 0137 and was well concentrated. Defences in the early stages were very light with some heavy flak and a few searchlights. Night fighter activity was however noted in the later stages of the raid and some aircraft were seen to be shot down. 2 103 Sq aircraft and 1 from 576 Sqn had to return early due to engine troubles. All aircraft from both Squadrons returned safely to base with the first crew down being that of F/O R C Bailey at 0340. 941 bombers dropped 4,040 tons of high explosive and 500 tons of incendiaries that night for the loss of 5 Lancasters and 2 Halifaxes.
In total Bomber Command had dropped 9,000 tons of bombs on the unfortunate city in less than 48 hours. The limited reports from Duisburg indicate massive damage throughout the city with heavy casualties and substantial loss of production in the coal mines and coke works.
In addition Bomber Command also mounted an attack on Brunswick that night. 233 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitos of 5 Group attacked the city which received its worst raid of the war. Only 1 Lancaster was lost.
Support and minor operations that night were extensive. 141 training aircraft flew a diversionary sweep to Heligoland, 20 Mosquitos bombed Hamburg, 8 attacked Mannheim and 2 attacked Dusseldorf, 132 aircraft of 100 Group flew radio counter measure sorties, Serrate patrols and Intruder sorties and 8 aircraft few resistance operations. I Halifax and 1 Mosquito were lost on these operations.
The total effort by Bomber Command during this 24 hour period had been a remarkable figure of 2,589 sorties for the loss of 24 aircraft. The tonnage of bombs dropped during this period was approximately 10,050 tons and neither of these totals were exceeded again by Bomber Command.
Duisburg ruins - Zeitseugenborse Duisburg
Remains of Duisburg Docks post war
Compiled by David Fell. Photo from my archive unless otherwise stated