Operations – German Defences


A railway-mounted Flak battery on the coast. The white rings around the barrels of the main guns represent eleven RAF bombers claimed as shot down by this battery - a Wellington, a Stirling, six Halifaxes and three Lancasters.

Albert Speer comments in his book, he could not possibly have spared the enormous amount of skilled, semi–skilled and unskilled labour for such am ambitious project as the manufacture of the atomic bomb from the necessity of using these people to repair the bomb damage to the German armament industry. That was in June 1942 and of course that damage went crescendo after that.

His next statement that as Minister of Armament, which he had then become, that by the end of 1943, when we were really getting going with about a quarter of the force we asked for and the Americans had really got going with their Mustang Escort Fighters, that we had already deprived the German armies on the Russian front by bomb damage to industry of 10,000 of their bigger calibre guns and 6000 of their heaviest and medium heavy tanks which was quite a subscription towards the war – all done by the strategic bombers.

He made a remark about the Bomber Strategic Offensive being the greatest lost battle of all for Germany and goes on to explain why. The 8.8 cm dual purpose anti–aircraft mobile gun, was capable of competing with the very heavy frontal armament of the Russian tank. No less than 20,000 of those guns had to be taken away from the German armies, at all their fronts, kept away from them and scattered all over Germany because of the unpredictability of where the Strategic Bombers were going to strike next.

Speer said "that reduced the anti–tank ability of the German forces on all fronts by half". No army of either side ever advanced a yard without their armoured spearhead first busting a way through the defence, it is easily realized what is meant when the strategic bombers cut their anti–tank defences by half. He goes on to say that the requirement of being prepared to defend every German city and every one of Germany's vital factories against the possibility of bombing any one of those particular places, meant the stationing all over Germany of hundreds of thousands of men, who should have been in the forces.

Field Marshall Erhard Milch, who commanded the German anti–aircraft defences said he had 900,000 fit, he stressed the word fit, men in his anti–aircraft command alone. When he says fit, he means that they were fit to have been up in the front line of the German armies on the various fronts and not clicking their heels around Germany waiting for the strategic bombers and wondering where they were going to strike next. Any individual army on the allied side which, throughout the war, deprived the German armies of well over a million men and half their anti–tank ability would have certainly helped considerably to shorten the war.

When Erhard Milch said that he had 900,000 men, another two or three hundred thousand fit men could have been added who, because they were skilled tradesmen, had to be retained in Germany and not called up for army service because their skills were required to keep the Nazi machine ticking over and the repair of bomb damage. Like electricians, plumbers, railway workers, people who ran the oil manufacturing plants and so on. One gets an enormous subtraction from the German strength, both in artillery and manpower, which was caused by the Strategic Bombers and nobody else.

From Flying Officers, Vic Neal, Pilot & Bill Gourlay, Navigator, we had a good report on what to expect of the german defences. They described their experience in "K2" on the raid to Mailly–Le–Camp, on 3rd May 1944. They both felt lucky to have escaped any serious problems, and thought the raid was a bit of a mess up.


German Fighter Plane in WWII - Messerschmitt BF110

 


German Fighter Plane in WWII - Messerschmitt ME210

Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer's Messerschmitt BF 110 G4/U1 equipped with "Schräge Musik" or "Jazz Music" - two 20mm cannons pointed upward.

A close-up of the cannons.
An upward firing gun position built into the fighters and a twin 30mm MK 108 cannon installation, angled at 15˚ and still not known to the Allies, was doing most of the damage. It was codenamed "Jazz Music" and fortunately for the bomber crews on this raid not many German planes had been fitted with this gun arrangement.

From underneath the bomber in a relatively safe position from the bomber's gunners, the Germans were able to fly close in under the bomber, as close as 70 metres, fire the incendiary cannon shells into the bombers petrol tanks, and in this way shoot down many bombers".

In 1944 the Germans shot down 3527 RAF bombers, killing almost 25,000 aircrew.

The German fighter pilots using "Jazz Music" also favoured attacking the bombers after they had dropped their bombs. With no bombs left to explode, they could attack much closer, without the fear of explosions also killing them. Out of 346 Lancasters that took part in this raid 42 failed to return and two were so badly damaged they were scrapped. 460 Squadron lost five.

"Flight Sergeant George Gritty, of 460 Squadron, was attacked by an FW 190 who made no less than three passes, setting the Lancaster on fire.

In the bright moonlight three parachutes were seen to open. The FW 190 cheekily flew just behind, and watched as the Lancaster exploded.

The master bomber's radio communication had failed, but there was no way these sorts of problems could be fixed in the air. By firing a Verey pistol with pre arranged colour, visual bombing could have been set in motion".

This account from Vic & Bill of "K2 Killer" raid on Mailley–Le–Camp sounded like they were shooting a line, but as we soon found out, the unexpected could always happen, and the best laid plans on any raid could always bring unexpected results.

To add insult to injury, because this area was only credited as one third of a raid, the crews in view of its severity and the losses, demanded a reassessment. This was a miserable deal on the part of the authorities.

How could one raid be counted as a third of a raid? Of course it was easy to see that although a tour was 30 raids, by counting a raid as a half or a third, it could extend the tour by several more raids. The lifespan of the crews was not even considered, on this raid alone 315 airmen were lost.

Vic and Bill went on to say "they were all bombed up and ready to go in K2 on the Nuremberg raid, when number 3 engine was missing revs and at the last moment they were changed to the spare aircraft which happened to be "G" for George" (which is now the star attraction in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra).

The Nuremberg raid became famous as the raid on which Bomber Command experienced its heaviest losses. A total of ninety five heavy bombers lost, most of them shot down by fighters. This result was a loss of 665 flyers in one raid sending a bit of a traumatic shock wave through the operational airmen and also the airmen who were getting close to operational flying.

The results from the Nuremberg raid were uppermost in the airmen's minds and were often mentioned in a cautionary note even by the briefing officers. The photo of Vic Neal leaning from the pilot's window was taken a short time before "K2 Killer" was flying over the landing area 11 minutes before the actual D – Day landing.

   

Double mounted 128mm Flak Tower anti aircraft battery. On the left, these were the Luftwaffer's heaviest weapon, and on the right, anti aircraft 80mm (Flak 36). A 10 man crew controlled a 4–gun battery of these flak guns. It also included a predictor (below) providing gun crews with elevation, azimuth and fuse setting data. This predicted flak was most feared during the unswerving bombing run.

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