Area Bombing Directive

Over the first half of 1942, the RAF conducted three large raids,

dubbed ‘Thousand-bomber raids’ against German industrial cities during Operation Arabian Nights. The first raid, coded Operation Millennium, was conducted by 1,047 bombers over a ninety-minute span on

the night of the May 30 and 31, 1942. They carried some 1,480 tons of

bombs, with about a third of them being incendiaries. Losses incurred

by the RAF amounted to 41 bombers, which was to just under 4 % of

the force, which is a value that Bomber Command would consider acceptable given the amount of damage inflicted. The latter aspect was

significant, leaving behind the destruction of 3,330 structures, 2090

heavily damaged, with 7,420 lightly damaged. Loss of life was high,

with 486 casualties and 5,027 injuries.

The second ‘Thousand-bomber raid’ was conducted by RAF Bomber

Command two days later, on the night of the June 1 and 2, 1942,

when 960 bombers attacked Essen. The results of this raid were much

less favorable due to inclement weather conditions. Losses were put

at 31 aircraft (3.24 %). The third raid under Operation Arabian Nights

saw Bremen being targeted on the night of the June 25 and 26 by

another 960-bomber force, with 5 % of them being lost in the process,

corresponding to 48 aircraft. This raid saw the use of heavy, two-ton

bombs, one of which literally dismantled one of the assembly halls of

Focke-Wulf. Although only some 700 of the bombers managed to get

over the primary target, this raid was deemed relatively successful.

they required the services of virtually every available aircraft, including those of Coastal Command and training units. Notably, the

training units that were pressed into service were ineffective and suffered high losses. For example, No. 91 (OTU) Group lost 23 of its 198

aircraft in the raid on Bremen, close to 12 %. In any case, Bomber

Command diligently embarked on a mission to form new squadrons

equipped with the most modern assets, namely the Stirling, Halifax

and especially the Lancaster, and to develop new tactical protocols.

In the spring of 1943, Bomber Command had around 65 squadrons

equipped with heavy bombers, ready to ply their trade against Germany in a continuation of the night bombing campaign against her.

Operation Gomorrah

Night fighter units of the Luftwaffe under these new conditions were

inadequate in terms of their numbers and also their effectiveness.

This became abundantly clear over the course of the week that saw

raids against Hamburg under Operation Gomorrah, initiated on the

night of July 24, 1943, with 791 bombes. This raid was conducted

chiefly by Lancaster bombers that dropped 2,400 tons of bombs for

the loss of only twelve aircraft. Smaller USAAF raids followed on

Within the scope of this offensive campaign, which fell under British Air Ministry Directive No. 5 from February 14, 1942, RAF Bomber

Command conducted several smaller raids. They were flown prior to

and after the described thousand plane raids and included a well-known raid against Pilsen on the night of the April 23 and 24, 1942.

Raids with such a high concentration of force as were seen during

Operation Arabian Nights, could not be sustained by the RAF, because

Title photo: Frankfurt am Main shortly after the war.

Photo: Museum of Air Battle Over the Ore Mountains Archives

Photo on right: Oblique aerial view of ruined residential and

commercial buildings south of the Stadtpark (seen at upper right)

in the Eilbek district of Hamburg, Germany. These were among

the 16,000 multi-storeyed apartment buildings destroyed by the

firestorm which developed during the raid by Bomber Command

on the night of 27/28 July 1943 (Operation GOMORRAH). The road

running diagonally from upper left to lower right is Eilbeker Weg.

Photo: IWM

INFO Eduard - July 2021