On May 10, 1940, the German army flashed at the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.
The next day, the British wartime cabinet decided that the British air force bombers would carry out strategic bombing of Germany.
However, at this time, most of the bombers of the British air force were tied up in the battlefield of Western Europe to support the ground forces.
During the war, the cabinet did not know whether to carry out an air attack on Germany immediately.
On May 15, the situation worsened.
The British wartime cabinet decided that British bombers would attack the area east of the Rhine River in Germany.
That night, nearly 100 British bombers were dispatched to bomb the synthetic oil plant and railway hub in Ruhr, Germany, opening the curtain of the strategic bombing of Germany, and the strategic bombing operation of the Allied forces against Germany officially began.
After the start of the strategic bombing of Germany, the British army did not form a unified and clear understanding of the bombing targets.
As early as January 1939, the British army had formulated 13 air combat plans targeting Germany.
In the process of war preparation, the British air force listed the plan of attacking German economic targets as the operational focus.
After the outbreak of the European war, the British air force had only two operational plans to attack the German transportation system and the German oil industry system.
In May 1940, the order of the British air force staff to the bomber airmen pointed out that the goal of bombing the oil system was an important way to defeat Germany.
If Germany’s oil reserves can be reduced in air raids, the battlefield situation may change fundamentally by August 1940.
Therefore, after the start of the strategic bombing campaign against Germany, the British bomber force plans to achieve the established strategic goal by accurately bombing Germany’s oil production targets at night.
The British air force staff identified 17 targets for the German oil industry, of which 9 were key assault targets.
The oil produced by these nine important oil industrial cities accounted for more than 83% of the output of German oil products at that time.
The British strategic bombing plan against Germany is based on the British Air Force’s air superiority over Germany.
However, during the strategic bombing, the British bombers continued to suffer losses due to the effective interception of German fighters and ground air defense fire.
The British army continued to adjust the operational policy of strategic bombing against Germany and change the operational plan.
After the British strategic bombing of Germany was carried out in an all-round way, in order to reduce the loss of bombers, the bombing operation changed from daytime bombing to night bombing.
During the precise bombing of German economic targets at night, due to the rudimentary airborne navigation equipment at that time, the assault on point targets mainly depended on visual search and optical aiming bombing.
In addition, due to the low visibility at night, it was difficult to find the predetermined assault targets.
Even if the assault targets were found, the attack hit rate by relying on the visual optical aiming system was very low.
In June, the British air force staff instructed bomber forces to attack other military industrial targets in Germany if they could not accurately find German oil factories.
In particular, raids were carried out on areas where German aircraft factories were concentrated within the range of assault aircraft, that is, the focus was on bombing Hamburg, Bremen, Ruhr and Frankfurt.
According to the British army, the oil factory in Germany is the preferred target, and the aircraft factory and railway hub are the backup targets.
If neither can be found, any luminous target or recognizable target can be attacked.
At the end of 1940, British bombers accurately bombed two factories in Germany at night.
The aerial photography results of the photographic reconnaissance force of the British bomber unit showed that neither factory was seriously damaged and the production of the factory was not affected.
In actual combat, British bombers frequently bombed railway hubs in Germany or German occupied areas.
For a period of time, the British army took the railway hub as the main assault target of night bombing, in order to disturb and destroy the normal order of German wartime economy by destroying Germany’s traffic lifeline.
However, after a period of bombing operations, the effect is not obvious.
After Germany carried out large-scale air strikes on Britain, the operational policy of British strategic bombing against Germany changed from focusing on attacking Germany’s economic objectives to focusing on attacking the aircraft industry, weakening the combat capability of the German air force, so as to seize air superiority.
On June 20, 1940, in response to the threat of Germany’s large-scale invasion of the British mainland, the British air force staff clearly instructed that the “main offensive” of bombing airmen should focus on specific targets “.
According to this instruction, the British bomber troops instead raided the aluminum factory, aircraft assembly plant and aircraft storage site in western Germany.
In order to prevent the German army from landing on Britain, in July 1940, British bombers were ordered to attack German important shipyards and naval bases such as Ruhr, Hamburg, Bremen and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
The actual combat results show that the aiming error of British bombers is high, and the aiming error is not small even under the condition of good visibility at night.
Therefore, the hit rate is low.
In this case of aiming error, given the number of bombers of the British army at that time, it is impossible to achieve the intended combat purpose through accurate bombing.
Because according to the target calculation, the British front-line bomber force must be maintained at about 4000 in order to achieve the predetermined target, while the British front-line bomber force was only about 500 at that time.
Therefore, since December 1940, the combat operations of British bomber forces have gradually changed from precise bombing at night to area bombing at night, and the change of bombing methods eventually led to the change of bombing targets.
In May 1941, trenchard, the former chief of staff of the British air force, sent a letter to Prime Minister Churchill, firmly advocating the implementation of an area bombing of German cities to disintegrate their will to resist.
He pointed out in his letter: War experience shows that Germany is very worried about the morale bombing of its cities by its opponents, so the British air force should bomb German cities repeatedly.
If the British air force raids ships at sea, 99% of the bombs will be dropped in the water.
If the targets in the enemy occupied areas are bombed, 99% of the bombs will kill the allies who fought together in the past.
If German cities are bombed, 99% of the bombs will directly contribute to the disintegration of German morale.
Although trenchard left the position of chief of staff of the British air force as early as the early 1930s, he has maintained close contact with the British air force and can still have an important impact on the decision-making of the operational policy of the British air force.
Trenchard’s proposal accelerated the transformation of the British Air Force’s operational policy of strategic bombing against Germany.
March 1942By June, in order to expand the damage to German cities and disintegrate the morale of the German people in the shortest possible time, British bombers bombed Essen, Cologne, Duisburg and Dusseldorf in Ruhr district at night.
Harris, commander of the British bombing aviation force, believes that the effect of concentrating troops on a large-scale and high-intensity assault is better than dispersing assault.
On May 18, Harris clearly put forward to Air Force Chief of staff baudel the idea of sending thousands of bombers to bomb a German city in a night operation.
This bold idea was immediately supported and approved by British Prime Minister Churchill.
Porter authorized Harris to make plans and arrangements as soon as possible.
After many discussions, Harris and others finally targeted Cologne, an important industrial city in Germany’s Ruhr Industrial Zone.
On the night of May 30, under the direct command of Harris, the British air force dispatched 1046 bombers, including 292 heavy bombers and 754 double bombers.
When these planes took off in Britain, the weather was not ideal, but after entering the European continent, the weather gradually improved.
There were only a few thin clouds over Cologne, and the visibility was very good, which was very ideal for the British Army’s night operations.
The more than 1000 bombers successfully found the target and dropped incendiary bombs, causing a fire in the urban area of Cologne.
The follow-up echelons saw light and fire from a distance, and they rushed straight at the target.
The German anti-aircraft guns soon started shooting at the incoming British bombers.
The dense artillery fire shot down one British bomber every seven or eight minutes and injured one in more than a minute.
Within 90 minutes, British bombers dropped 1455 tons of bombs, including 540 tons of high explosive bombs and 915 tons of incendiary bombs.
Finally, the British crew who withdrew from the sky above the target could still see the Cologne fire after returning.
The urban area of Cologne was destroyed, more than half of the downtown blocks were completely destroyed, and the communication between Cologne and other cities was interrupted for nine days.
On the night of June 1, 956 bombers of the British air force formed an assault formation and again carried out “1000 aircraft bombing” and bombed Essen, another important industrial city in Ruhr district, Germany.
After that, Harris successfully carried out the third “thousand aircraft bombing” on Bremen, an important port city in northern Germany.
However, the two subsequent “thousand aircraft bombing” did not last long, and the biggest reason was the limited military strength.
In addition, Germany has taken strict air defense measures, which has seriously affected the combat effectiveness of the bomber force.
Therefore, it has failed to achieve the purpose of preventing the transformation of German economy to wartime economy, disintegrating German people’s morale and destroying their will to resist.