RAF Bombing Campaign - WW2 Timeline (1940 - 1945)

The British took to the cold night skies to hold the Germans in check through heroic air raids - some even targeting the German capital itself.

Britain went on the offensive in May of 1940, sending some 99 RAF bombers over the Ruhr - the industrial heart of the Third Reich - in their first night time assault against German-held territory. Only one aircraft was lost in the ensuing action. Subsequent actions in 1941 and 1942 would reveal some ugly truths about the bombing campaign, however, such as how only one-in-three bombers were actually hitting their mark within 5 miles of their target. Additionally, through the deliberate and controversial "Area Bombing Directive", German-held civilian areas were now open to British bomber raids (brought about in retaliation for the civilian deaths incurred by England through German bomber raids themselves). Lubeck now joined Cologne, Dusseldorf and Hamburg in such actions. But perhaps the most publicized assault would be in the leveling of Dresden by fire-bombing, resulting in the deaths of 130,000 of its citizens, and ultimately becoming a very controversial action both in England itself and around the world.

By 1943, Operation Torch - the Allied invasion of North Africa - changed everything by involving American industrial might and numbers to the mix. As the American USAAF heavy and medium bombers took the fight to Germany through a relentless and brazen daylight bombing campaign, the British used their expertise in radar and night actions to keep the fight going during the critical night-time hours. The German capital city of Berlin was a revisited target by British bombers equipped for night sorties, making heroes out of such mounts as the legendary Avro Lancaster. Despite heavy and accurate ground-based flak and German interceptors developed specifically for the night fighting role, the British achieved success in the night skies. This was, however, not without excessive losses to their own ranks - for a defensive-minded Germany was just as lethal as an offensive-minded one.

As the campaign rolled on, tactics and technology evolved. Radar systems progressed and newly-developed navigational aids were instituted. Foil strips were dropped by British aircraft to scramble German radar signals. Fast-moving British DH.98 Mosquitos were utilized in the "Pathfinder" role to help mark targets ahead of the bomber formations through the use of incendiary ordnance or marking flares. Thousands of sorties by brave RAF crews finally began taking their toll on the industrial infrastructure of the mighty Reich.

By the end of it all, the Luftwaffe - kings of the skies in the early years of the war - were more or less grounded due to a lack of fuel, spare parts and, perhaps most importantly, oil - the lifeblood of the modern army.

There are a total of (24) RAF Bombing Campaign - WW2 Timeline (1940 - 1945) events in the SecondWorldWarHistory.com database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events may also be included for perspective.

Day-by-Day Timeline of Events

Wednesday, May 15th, 1940

The RAF sends up its first night-time bombing raid against Germany. Of the 99 aircraft sent, only one fails to return home.

Monday, August 26th, 1940

The first RAF attack on the German capital of Berlin takes place. Some 81 aircraft are part of the airborne raid.

Tuesday, October 1st - October 30th, 1940

German BF 110 twin-engine nightfighters take advantage of the new Lichtenstein radar systems to track, target and engage RAF bombers.

Monday, December 16th, 1940

RAF bombers strike on Mannheim as revenge for the German air raids over Coventry.

Tuesday, April 1st, 1941

The German port of Emden is bombed by six Wellington bomber aircraft.

Tuesday, April 8th, 1941

229 RAF bomber aircraft rain 40,000 incendiary ordnance on the German naval base at Kiel.

Sunday, August 31st, 1941

A report stuns the RAF by showcasing how only one-in-every-three RAF bombers actually it their targets.

Saturday, February 14th, 1942

RAF Bomber Command issues its "Area Bombing Directive", allowing the legitimate bombing of civilian areas.

Sunday, March 1st, 1942

The Avro Lancaster heavy bomber is inducted into RAF service.

Saturday, March 28th, 1942

The British utilize the "Gee" electronic navigation system for the first time.

Saturday, March 28th, 1942

234 RAF bombers drop incendiaries on Lubeck. 12 aircraft are lost.

Saturday, May 30th, 1942

RAF Bomber Command attack Cologne with 1,046 aircraft in the first of their "1,000 Bomber" raids.

Saturday, August 1st, 1942

De Havilland DH 98 Mosquito twin-engine fighters are assigned as "Pathfinder" units charged with lighting up ground targets via flares and incendiary ordnance for ensuing RAF heavy bombers.

Thursday, September 10th, 1942

100,000 incendiary bombs are dropped on Dusseldorf by no fewer than 476 RAF bombers.

Friday, January 1st, 1943

The H2S navigation system is delivered to the RAF for installation into bombers.

Thursday, March 4th, 1943

RAF Bomber Command numbers total some 950 bombers of various types. Most important are the Avro Lancasters.

Friday, March 5th, 1943

For the first time, RAF bombers make use of the "Oboe" navigational aid in a large-scale operation.

Thursday, March 30th, 1944

795 RAF bombers attack Nuremburg with 95 aircraft lost to action. This mission marks the biggest RAF loss to date.

Sunday, May 16th, 1943

RAF bombers make their most famous raid of the war to date - this through Operation Chastise - as 19 Lancasters attack the dams at Mohne, Eder, Sorpe and Schwelme supplying power to the Ruhr industrial sector. 9,000lb bouncing mines are used in the successful attack.

Tuesday, July 27th, 1943

44,600 Hamburg civilians are killed by RAF bomber attacks.

Tuesday, July 27th, 1943

RAF bombers make use of "Window" foil strips to disrupt enemy tracking radars.

Monday, September 23rd, 1944

141 RAF bombers take on the Dortmund-Ems Canal. Some of these bombers make use of the massive "Tallboy" 12,000lb bomb.

Thursday, November 18th, 1943

444 RAF bombs drop ordnance on the German capital of Berlin with only 9 loss to enemy fire.

Tuesday, February 13th, 1945

805 RAF bombers level the German city of Dresden, killing up to 130,000 of its inhabitants. The attack is notable for Dresden held little to no military or strategic value for Germany.

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