22 March 1944 Target: Frankfurt-am-Main

Frankfurt: 816 aircraft – 620 Lancasters, 184 Halifaxes, 12 Mosquitos. Again, an indirect route was employed, this time crossing the Dutch coast north of the Zuider Zee and then flying almost due south to Frankfurt. This, and the Kiel minelaying diversion, confused the Germans for some time; Hannover was forecast as the main target. Only a few fighters eventually found the bomber stream. 33 aircraft – 26 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes – were lost, 4.0 per cent of the force.

The marking and bombing were accurate and Frankfurt suffered another heavy blow; the city’s records show that the damage was even more severe than in the raid carried out 4 nights earlier. Half of the city was without gas, water and electricity ‘for a long period’. All parts of the city were hit but the greatest weight of the attack fell in the western districts. The report particularly mentions severe damage to the industrial areas along the main road to Mainz. 162 B-17s of the Eighth Air Force used Frankfurt as a secondary target when they could not reach Schweinfurt 36 hours after this RAF raid and caused further damage. The Frankfurt diary has this entry: “The three air raids of 18th, 22nd and 24th March were carried out by a combined plan of the British and American air forces and their combined effect was to deal the worst and most fateful blow of the war to Frankfurt, a blow which simply ended the existence of the Frankfurt which had been built up since the Middle Ages.”

20 Mosquitos bombing night-fighter airfields, 128 Halifaxes and 18 Stirlings minelaying in Kiel Bay and off Denmark, 22 Mosquitos on diversion and harassing raids to Berlin, Dortmund, Hannover and Oberhausen, 16 RCM sorties and 16 Serrate patrols. 1 Halifax minelayer lost.

20 OTU Wellingtons carried out leaflet flights to France without loss.

Total effort for the night: 1,056 sorties, 34 aircraft (3.2 per cent) lost.

[Source:  RAF Bomber Command campaign diary 1944]

01:28 Last RAF bomber lands

01:28 Lancaster Mk536 of 463 sqaudron, 5 Group, lands back at base.  Piloted by Sgt Bowman their flight time was 6:41 hours.

Soul destroying!

A German city and 1184 lives destroyed.

On the evening of 22nd March 1944 RAF Bomber Command sent 816 aircraft to bomb industrial targets in Frankfurt am Main.

620 Lancasters, 184 Halifaxes and 12 Mosquitos took off from bases along the east coast of England between 18:25 and 19:29.  They were engaged by 266 single- and twin-engined aircraft of the German night fighter force.  The allied bombers returned to their bases between 23:35 and 01:28 the next morning.  Thirty one allied bombers did not make it back to base and eight German night fighters were lost.  Including civilians over 1184 people were killed, my uncle, a 19 year old RAF flight engineer was one of them.

This Blog recreates the events of that night.

23:35 First RAF bomber to complete the operation returns to base

23:35 An 8 Group Lancaster from 97 squadron ND452 OF-E piloted by Flying Officer R.O. Ellesmere is the first to return after bombing the target at 23:35 a total flight time of 4:45 hours.

23:13 Bf 110 MK of 2/NJG 6 lands

23:13 After 173 minutes of flight Oblt. Martin Becker flying a Bf 110 coded MK of 2/NJG 6 lands back at Finthen.
He has claimed six 4-motor bombers.

23:06 Bf109 crash lands at base

23:06 Fw. Wilhelm Stillger crash lands single engined Messerschmitt Bf 109 (aka Me109) at base. The pilot forgot to lower his undercarriage. Stillger, with a slight wound to his face, climbed out of the 109 with 40% damage.

22:42 LW580 crashes

22:42 Halifax NP-O LW580 of 158 Squadron from Lissett in Yorkshire is shot down by a night fighter and crashes 8km south west of Bielefeld. Only the Bomb Aimer R.H.SADLER (RAF 141983) crew survives.

22:10 Last of the main force bomb the target

22:10 101 Sqn. Lancaster SR-X2 (DV275) piloted by Flying Officer Hall bombs the target from 22,000ft on bearing 100 with an indicated air speed of 155 mph.

22:12 100 Sqn. Lancaster HW-T (JB289) piloted by Sergeant Fairbairn is the last to bomb.
He bombs the centre of a group of red target indicators and reports that the target area is well ablaze and building could be distinguished.

22:00 to 22:03 Wave 5

Wave 5 bombed from Z+10 to Z+13 (22:00 to 22:03)

21:58 to 22:01 Wave 4

Wave 4 bomb from Z+8 to Z+11 (22:58 to 22:01)