Baedeker Guide Bombers III


Baedeker’s Great Britain guide for 1937.

On 6 September another two Me 210s were spotted in the Middlesbrough area, and they were chased by Typhoons of 1 Squadron. Both of the raiders were shot down. Undeterred, these sorties continued, and six more were flown on 7 September. More of the sorties would be flown throughout the remainder of the month.

The Germans also deployed Ju 86 aircraft in 1942. It was a bomber and it had also been used as a civilian airliner. The Germans had converted these into high-altitude bombers. They began their operations in the middle of August. A pair of these bombers dropped 250 kg bombs on Cambridge on 25 August. At 0805 on 29 August a pair of Spitfires of 401 Squadron attempted to attack a Ju 86 that had been spotted over Horsham in Surrey. The problem was that it was flying so high, at around 40,000 ft, that they simply could not catch it. On the following day another Ju 86 targeted Chelmsford; this one was flying at 39,000 ft to the east of Ramsgate when it was spotted by Spitfires of 611 Squadron. Once again it was too high for the fighters, and the German bomber dropped its single 250 kg bomb on a warehouse in Baldon Road in Chelmsford.

The British realised that they had to respond to this new threat, and began to develop a Mosquito that was capable of catching the raiders. Spitfires had tried again on 5 September, when they had tried to engage one Ju 86 that had just bombed houses in Luton. The Spitfires got close but the bomber had managed to escape.

KG2 was now down to fifteen Do 217s instead of nearly thirty. It had lost the best part of half of its complement since mid-July 1942. None the less, four KG2 aircraft and five others were launched against King’s Lynn on the night of 17/18 September. They caused significant damage to the quay and the docks, and the railway line was also damaged. One of the Dorniers was lost to a Mosquito of 151 Squadron and the crew baled out near Docking. Eight civilians in Chapel Road, Colchester, were killed on 28 September when a low-flying Do 217 of KG2 dropped four 500 kg bombs.

Certainly the intensity of German attacks was dropping off, as autumn gave way to winter in 1942. There were still some inland raids and activity against shipping along the east coast. But the British defensive systems had stiffened markedly; there were more aircraft in the skies by day and by night, and almost every target along the east coast bristled with anti-aircraft guns. Undeterred, sporadic attacks were still being launched. A prime example of the spread of attacks was on 19 October when German aircraft attacked Southend, Colchester, Little Oakley, Ipswich, Snape, Needham Market, Kessingland, Great Yarmouth, Cromer and Wainfleet. Most of these attacks were carried out by single Do 217s. Bombs were dropped at 0715 on the outskirts of Norwich, and just under two hours later more bombs fell on Pottergate and Westwick Street in the city centre. Incredibly one of the raiders, actually a Ju 88, was brought down by a Czech serviceman with a bren-gun at Oulton near Lowestoft. It was an expensive day as far as the Germans were concerned: near Cromer Knoll Flight Lieutenant Winward of 68 Squadron shot down a Ju 88, a Do 217 was lost without trace after it had bombed Norwich, and several other aircraft were badly damaged. It is believed that up to thirty-six German aircraft were involved in the attacks throughout the course of the day. Early-morning attacks were launched on 21, 22, 26 and 31 October; targets ranged from Walsingham to Orford and from North Walsham to Parham.

A solitary Do 217 set off just before dawn on 3 November to make a pin-point attack on a factory to the south of Thorpe station in Norwich. Poor weather and faulty navigation meant that the aircraft crossed just to the north of Great Yarmouth, rather than over Cromer as had been planned. As the aircraft approached Norwich there was a heavy rainstorm. At 0750 the air raid sirens began to wail. The aircraft came in, believing it was making straight for the factory. The first of the four 500 kg bombs fell on Surrey Street Bus Station, but it did not explode; it went straight through a single-decker bus. The three other bombs were then dropped onto the Cattle Market and All Saint’s Green. None of them exploded. The Do 217 then headed for home, chased by a Beaufighter. It escaped, but the crew, although all were awarded the Iron Cross for their exploits, were to be shot down and killed on 2 January 1943.

There was more activity, this time by Me 109s and then by Do 217s, off Great Yarmouth and Happisburgh during the morning of 3 November. The Do 217 skirted around Norwich and then machine-gunned Southwold before it disappeared. On 6 November a solitary Do 217 bombed two shipyards and a malt house at Oulton Broad; one person was killed and a wrecked motor gunboat was destroyed. A month now passed before any other significant activity.

On 15 December 1942 a Do 217 used its machine-guns and then dropped four 500 kg bombs on the High Street at Aldeburgh. Eleven people were killed, including five members of the 5th Royal Berkshire Regiment, and twenty-nine other people were injured. One of the casualties was a 90-year-old man who had refused to leave his armchair.

Great Yarmouth was once again hit on 22 December. This time an enemy aircraft dropped a pair of bombs between Heigham Place and Albion Road. Also dropped were a number of phosphorus incendiary bombs. These new 50 kg incendiaries were being used for the first time on the east coast. The bombs caused significant damage to St Mary’s Catholic School and started a number of fires. Eight people were killed and twenty-seven were injured in the attack. Anti-aircraft gunners around Great Yarmouth shot down the raider and it crashed into the sea.

By 1943 the frequency and severity of attacks along the east coast of England had seen a marked decline. There were still isolated anti-shipping and mine operations, and on a number of occasions when the German aircraft were unable to find suitable shipping targets they strayed inland to bomb ports and other targets.

Norwich received an unwanted New Year’s Day gift when a Do 217 dropped nine 50 kg bombs around Russell Street. The bombs damaged St Barnabas’s church and the Mission Hall. The raider then sped off and machine-gunned indiscriminately around Hellesdon, Salthouse and Neatishead.

Harwich was hit on 6 January by a Do 217, which shot-up Beacon Hill Fort, the Regal cinema and a saw mill. It then dropped four 500 kg bombs that landed on a farm at Ramsey Wash. Five days later, on 11 January, seven bombers were operating off Lowestoft. Two came in and dropped sticks of bombs on Lowestoft silk works. The second attacker dropped bombs across Kessingland and Oulton Broad. The following day four people were killed at Heybridge, close to Maldon in Essex.

Do 217s and Ju 88s attacked London on the night of 17 January. At least three were shot down by 85 Squadron and one was shot down into the sea off Bradwell, Essex. The Orford Ness Research Station was targeted at 1947 on 25 January. A parachute mine created an enormous crater at Gedgrave, and another bomb fell near Orford Quay.

On the morning of 9 February seven firepots were dropped on Southwold by a Do 217, and it also dropped a 500 kg bomb, which created a massive crater in Pier Avenue. Other Do 217s were active that day, with attacks being made at Huntingfield, Melton, Spexhall, Darsham and Metfield in Suffolk. On 17 February Fw 190s attacked Clacton. Each could carry a single 500 kg bomb. Their target was the Light Anti-Aircraft School at the Butlin’s Camp. They killed one child in the attack.

Mines were dropped off Orford Ness at the beginning of March; these were new devices that were designed to anchor to the seabed and then rise at a predetermined time. There was a major German raid on the night of 3/4 March when upwards of a hundred Ju 88s and Do 217s crossed the Essex coast and bombed London, Chelmsford and a number of other targets. One attack killed two people when the Liverpool Street – Colchester train was derailed near Chelmsford. A number of bombs fell on Southend and Gravesend, and five were killed at Chatham Dock. This was the night when there was panic at Bethnal Green underground station and 178 people were trampled to death.

The Germans, however, did not escape without casualties; the Shoeburyness heavy anti-aircraft guns shot down a Ju 88 at Burnham-on-Crouch, and the Clacton guns claimed another. It is also possible that another Do 217, badly damaged, crashed near Antwerp.

At 0635 a Do 217 dropped seven high-explosive bombs along Queen’s Road and Nelson Road South in Great Yarmouth on 18 March. One of the bombs fractured the gas and water mains, another hit Mason’s Laundry, but one struck a large house at the junction of Queen’s Road and Nelson Road South. It was occupied by WRNS girls as their quarters. Six of the women were killed and seven were listed as missing. Not content with this, later on in the day, at 2316, a pair of parachute mines were dropped towards the south end of Fish Wharf, and two more to the west of Caister Road. One of these mines damaged the Smith’s potato crisp factory. There was also an incendiary raid on Gorleston High Street, and a parachute mine completely destroyed a malting in Southtown. Although a Mosquito of 410 Squadron shot down a Do 217 over the Wash and another Mosquito of 157 Squadron shot down a Ju 88, the Germans ranged far and wide that night, and Norwich was hit once again.

The attack came in at around 2230, with the first bombs dropping about twenty minutes later. Old Catton was hit first, then two parachute mines fell on Stoke Holy Cross. Bombs and incendiaries fell on Mulbarton and more on Raveningham. A pair of parachute mines fell at Oulton and incendiaries on Cringleford, Toft Monks and Halesworth. Bombs, mines and incendiaries damaged or destroyed buildings at Sutton, Swainsthorpe, Hemsby, Hainford, Bilney, Cawston, Beddingham, Colkirk, Runham, Heckingham, Colney, Kettlestone, East Raynham, Hempnall and Stratton Strawless.

The bombs landing directly on Norwich included high explosives and incendiaries, along with firepots. A large fire was started in St Andrew’s Street; there were more fires in Pottergate. Bombs exploded in Cardigan Street, Devonshire Street, Russell Street, Old Palace Road and other locations. The telephone exchange was hit and in all there were thirty-nine incidents across the city.

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