The Luftwaffe over the Bristol area 1940-44, page 2
Later, isolated breaks occurred in the cloud cover enabling some visual bombing to be carried out, but the returning crews were unable to provide an accurate assessment of the success of the operation. Again the attack force's losses had been minimal and on this occasion amounted to just 4 men killed as the result of a single aircraft crashing on take-off. Unknown to the Germans the damage caused to Bristol was of a more widespread nature than on November 24th, but the main concentration was astride a line running about due east and west through Redfield, St.Paul's, Cotham and Redland. As result 156 people were killed and a further 270 injured.
Bristol's third large raid within a fortnight took place on the night of December 6th, when 67 crews reported bombing the City with 77.5 tonnes of H.E.'s, half a tonne of Oil Bombs and 5688 I.B's, between 19.20 and 22.45 hrs. This was smaller scale effort than the previous two attacks on Bristol as gale force west to north-west winds on the Continent had restricted the activity of the bomber force, and once again the attack was compressed in time.
The RAF Monitoring Service detected X-Beams which came on during the afternoon, but these were switched off before the evening's activity commenced due to KGr 100 being forced to cancel operations. However, Knickebein transmissions monitored during the early evening gave the British authorities an indication that Bristol was the intended target. The attack force on this occasion comprised I and III/KG 77, I and II/LG 1, II/KG 27, I and II/KG 51, I, II and III/KG 55.
As a result of the non-appearance of KGr 100 the raid undertaken without precision radio assisted pathfinders, and was opened by II/KG 55 dropping marker flares, a number of which were carried away to the east in the strong westerly wind. The direction from which the attack was made was quite different to that used in previous operations, the raiders following a line from Shaftesbury to Bath, and when east of Bristol turning due west to attack the City from east to west. In the target area the night was extremely cold, but fine and moonlit, with 1/10th cloud cover at about 750 metres. The good visibility with only a small amount of broken cloud therefore permitted visual bombing, and the operation was considered to have been carried out successfully.
Once again losses were acceptable, and although no aircraft failed to return 3 crashed on the Continent, resulting in the death of 6 crewmen with a further 6 being injured. Sadly in Bristol it was a different story, and during the course of this attack 100 people were killed and 188 injured, with much damage being caused by fire. The areas mainly affected that night being in the vicinity of St.Philip's Marsh, Temple Meads, the City Centre and Cotham.
At the beginning of January 1941 the forces of Luftflotte 3 deployed against the West Country received a boost with the decision to employ the bomber units of Luftflotte 2 in joint operations over Bristol. Thus both II Fliegerkorps and the anti-shipping IX Fliegerkorps joined the attacks on the area, bringing with them the He 111's of KG 4, KG 28 and KG 53, the Ju 88's of KG 30, and the Do 17's of KG 2 and KG 3. Inspite of this German operations during January were seriously hampered by the bitterly cold NE winds, freezing conditions and snow which covered much of Britain and the Continent.
For Bristol the New Year started with a combined attack by 178 aircraft, their task being to complete the destruction of the harbour installations, large mills, warehouses and cold stores in the City, in order to paralyse it as a large trading centre supplying Southern England. During this raid, which took place on the night of January 3rd, the Germans claimed to have targeted Bristol with 152 tonnes of H.E's, 2 tonnes of Oil Bombs and 53,568 I.B.'s, the town centre on both sides of the River Avon being the concentration point. The aircraft from Luftflotte 3 were drawn from I and III/KG 1, I and III/KG 77, I and III/KG 26, I/LG 1, I and II/KG 27, KGr 100, I and II/KG 54, Stab, I, II and III/KG 55, while elements of KG 30, KG 4, KG 3, KG 2 and KG 53 operated under Luftflotte 2.
Before the raid started RAF radio intercepts had indicated that an attack was to be mounted against Bristol. It was known that navigational beams were to be in operation from 17.00 hrs, with the first raid expected to reach Bristol at 18.30 hrs on a beam transmitted by the Cherbourg Knickebein on a bearing of 335 degrees. In addition X-Verfahren was operating, while II/KG 55 were as usual to drop parachute flares early in the operation.
The attack was opened by Luftflotte 3 which operated 111 aircraft over Bristol between 18.35 and 00.38 hrs, with a second wave of 67 bombers from Luftflotte 2 attacking between 01.40 and 05.51 hrs. Many aircraft appeared to meander about after crossing the British Coast and some early arrivals circled the Bristol area before bombing. These were awaiting the arrival of the pathfinder aircraft from KGr 100 which were late departing Vannes because of weather conditions. III/KG 26 were even later arriving over the target and on this occasion bombed visually and not by means of their usual Y-Verfahren.
It was a bitterly cold night with a clear starlit sky and at the start of the raid the City itself with a covering of snow and the course of the River Avon, were both clearly visible in the moonlight. The amount of cloud cover increased as the night progressed, but breaks still permitted a degree of visual bombing, although recourse to Knickebein and Dead Reckoning bombing was at times necessary until the fires had developed sufficiently to be used as aiming points. Inspite of clouds closing over the target crews operating after midnight were able to observe the fires burning at Bristol from a distance of 150 to 170 kilometres. For the Germans it was another successful night with only one aircraft crash-landing on return, and no crewmen killed or injured.
Once again Bristol suffered badly with casualty figures of 149 dead, and 351 injured. The principle areas affected that night were Bedminster, St.Philip's, Hotwells and Cotham, with both Temple Meads Station and the City Docks sustaining a certain amount of damage.
A follow-up attack by 103 aircraft was also attempted against Avonmouth on the night of January 4th, the concentration point being centred on the docks and industrial installations situated in the west and north west part of the town. The total bomb load dropped between 18.35 and 06.15 hrs was reported as 106.5 tonnes of H.E.'s, 1.5 tonnes of Oil Bombs and 27,722 I.B.'s. Participating units of Luftflotte 3 were II and III/KG 77, I/KG 26, I and II/KG 27, KGr 100, I, II and III/KG 51, I and II/KG 54, while from Luftflotte 2 came elements of KG 30, KG 4, KG 3, KG 2 and KG 53.
The RAF Monitoring Service were unable to give any early warning of an impending attack on Bristol and it was not until 18.45 hrs that the Kleve Knickebein was detected having laid a beam over the Thames Estuary area. In addition KGr 100 were discovered operating with X-Verfahren .
It was another very cold night, but the weather at the start of the attack was moderately good with 8/10ths cloud at 1500 metres and a bright moon, so the first formations arriving over the target were, in a number of cases, able to bomb visually. However, as the attack progressed thick cloud cover developed after which bombing was principally by Dead Reckoning and Knickebein, or by using the previously kindled fires as aiming points. The thick clouds made it difficult to assess the overall results, and only after midnight were light flickering fires reported in the Avonmouth Dock area. Again only one aircraft crash-landed on return and no crew casualties resulted.
Unknown to the Germans, the raid had actually failed to develop at Avonmouth, and although a number of fires were caused in buildings of national importance, most had been extinguished by 22.00 hrs. The bombing had, by this time, dispersed along the Bristol Channel coast, past Clevedon where a soldier was killled and three people injured, to Weston super Mare where a sharp attack took place. In the Bristol area only two people were killed and five injured, but sadly at Weston 34 died and a further 85 received injuries as a result of the five H.E.'s and an estimated 3000 I.B.'s which fell on the town.
On January 13th the High Command of the German Armed Forces issued new instructions for the prosecution of the air war against Britain by night and day. The attacks still being carried out against the industrial cities of Britain were to be scaled down in favour of an all out night time assault on the most important importing harbours, the approaches to which were also being mined. However, key points of the air armaments and aircraft industry were still to be subjected, whenever possible, to Pirate attacks by single aircraft during daylight hours.
In accordance with these plans Avonmouth was singled out for another large scale attack on the night of January 16th. It was to be centred on the town and northern half of the dock area and its industrial installations. Additionally single aircraft were briefed to attack Parnall Aircraft at Yate and Gloster's at Brockworth. The raiders, all from Luftflotte 3, were drawn from III/KG 26, I/LG 1, I, II and III/KG 27, KGr 100, I, II and III/KG 51, I and II/KG 54, KGr 806, Stab, I, II and III/KG 55.
That night a total of 126 aircraft reported over Avonmouth, and 15 over Bristol between 19.30 and 05.08 hrs, claiming to have dropped 158.2 tonnes of H.E.'s and 54,864 I.B.'s. Both X and Y-Verfahren were in operation although an X-Beam signal failure and winds stronger than forecast made KGr 100's bombing uncertain. Flares were again dropped at the beginning of the attack, and also at 01.45 hrs when a second phase began.
The first formations over the target encountered 8/10ths cloud cover with thick haze which only started to break up after about 23.00 hrs. Shortly after a lone aircraft from III/KG 55 dived down to an altitude of 1200 metres and reported that there was a very large fire in the target area. As a result of the poor visibility at the beginning of the action bombing was mainly by Dead Reckoning and Knickebein. However, by 02.00 hrs the weather had improved sufficiently to allow visual bombing through breaks in the cloud, although by then dense smoke covered the town. Loses were again small with only 8 crewmen being killed in the 2 aircraft which failed to return
Early in the raid numerous I.B's were released over the dock area and a number of fires were started, but with the assistance of military personnel they were speedily extinguished, and damage to vital buildings was confined to small dimensions. A further shower of I.B's fell in the early hours of the 17th, but on this occasion the fires started quickly got out of control, and damage done to docks' property and industrial buildings in the area was considerable.
Unknown to the Luftwaffe they had infact succeeded in causing such serious damage at Avonmouth that January 17th was the only day during the entire war, that, due to enemy action, the Docks were prevented from working normally. Casualties were, however, mercifully smaller than in previous large scale attacks, with only 18 killed and 109 injured in the whole of the Bristol area.
Impossible weather for much of February, with many of the grass airfields on the continent waterlogged, severely hampered Luftwaffe offensive operations and for the first time in many months no major attacks were carried out. The poor weather did, however, permit a number of Pirate raids on aircraft manufacturing plants to be undertaken by low flying aircraft taking advantage of the overcast conditions.
These sorties became a feature of operations towards the end of the month, and on the 22nd an He 111 of II/KG 27 attempted a raid on the Parnall Aircraft factory at Yate. It successfully penetrated the defences as far as the Severn Estuary, but as it neared Avonmouth, in drizzle beneath the low scud, it was hit by AA gunfire and crashing on the mud at Portbury became the second victim of Bristol's Heavy Anti-Aircraft guns.
II/KG 27, however, returned and on the afternoon of February 27th when a particularly successful raid was made on the Parnall plant, by a single He 111 commanded by Oblt. Hermann Lohmann. Weather conditions again favoured Pirate operations with much low cloud and occasional rain and drizzle in the target area. The attack was carried out at 14.36 hrs, from a height of only 30 metres, with seven 250 kg H.E.'s some fitted with delayed action fuzes. Lohmann later reported that he had come in from from the north, with the bombs being distributed over the whole length of the target. Five hits were observed on a workshop and an explosion was seen in the northern part of the target area.
At Parnall's factory considerable damage had indeed been caused, and tragically 53 workers died, with a further 150 being injured, many of them victims of the delayed action bombs. The aircraft itself was lucky to escape for as it had ben successfully engaged by the Yate defences, with 8 rounds of 40mm Bofors, and 40 rounds from Light Machine Guns being fired.
During March, as the weather improved and with the bomber units reinforced and partly re-equipped, it became possible to resume the offensive against the principle British ports, while in daylight the Pirate attacks continued against aircraft factories and other associated industrial installations.
On March 6th it was the turn of the the Bristol Aeroplane Company to be targeted by a lone He 111 of I/KG 27 commanded by Oblt. Hollinde. The bomber's arrival caused the Bristol sirens to sound just after 18.00 hrs on that gloomy evening and after machine gunning the outskirts of the city seven H.E's were aimed at the Filton works. The weapons, however, missed the factory completely but it was assumed that serious damage had been caused, and for this achievement the crew were given special mention in the High Command of the Armed Forces Communique issued the following day.
By contrast the Yate plant of Parnall Aircraft was again successfully attacked by Oblt. Lohmann on the afternoon of March 7th, when he engaged the target with another seven 250 kg bombs from a height of just 25 metres! Lohmann reported that five bombs had made hits on assembly shops, with the other two falling on accomodation blocks and outbuildings in the southern part of the factory complex. For their actions during this, and for their previous attack on February 27th, this crew were also given a special mention in the High Command of the Armed Forces Communique issued on March 9th.
Happily for Parnall's employees, on this occasion only three workers were killed and 20 injured. However, as a result of the additional damage caused during the raid production came to a complete standstill and the total dispersal of the factory was immediately ordered.
On the night of March 16th the harbour installations at Bristol and Avonmouth were again selected for attack, and 164 crews from the bomber units of Luftflotte 3 subsequently reported over the area, claiming to have dropped a total of 164.25 tonnes of H.E.'s and 33,840 I.B's between 20.35 and 03.25 hrs. To guide the pathfinders X-Beams were aligned over Avonmouth and Y-Beams over Bristol, while flares were also dropped at the commencement of the attack.
At Avonmouth the Concentration Point was a rectangle covering the port area adjacent warehouses and industrial works, while at Bristol it was centred on the Floating Harbour, down stream of the Bathurst Basin. The attack force for the raid was drawn from I and II/KG 1, III/KG 26, I and II/KG 77, Stab, I, II and III/KG 55, I, II and III/KG 27, KGr 100, I, II and III/KG 51, I/KG 54 and II/KG 76.
Over the target areas the German crews initially encountered thick cloud, with mist later, and consequently bombing was predominantly by Knickebein and Dead Reckoning. However, towards the close of the attack intermittent improvements in conditions enabled some crews to bomb visually, but many used searchlight activity as an indication that they were over the city, sometimes additionally aided by the glow of fires seen through cloud or mist. A large detonation followed by a tongue of flame some 1000 metres high was observed a little after midnight, and this the crews correctly assumed was the explosion of a gasometer, although they thought it to be at the St.Philip's Gas Works, rather than at its true location at Stapleton Road.
German casualties on this night were higher than in previous attempts against the Bristol area, but none of the aircraft had been brought down by the defences. In all 5 crashed in France killing 12 men and injuring a further 6, while the one aircraft which did come down in England did so as a result of engine failure. This resulted in a further 4 crewmen being taken prisoner.
That night bombs fell in many parts of Bristol, but the main attack was roughly east to west of a line from Stapleton Road Station, through the City Centre to Clifton Down Station. In addition to the City Centre, the areas most affected were Fishponds, Eastville, Whitehall, Easton, St.Paul's, Montpelier, Kingsdown, Cotham, Redland and Clifton. Of all Bristol's major air attacks this was perhaps the worst as due to the poor visibility over the target area the raid had drifted into mainly residential parts, a number of bombers being attracted by the few large fires which had developed. As a result the City's casualty figures were higher than at any time during the war, with 257 killed and 391 injured.
Unknown to the suffering Bristolians things in the area could have been a lot worse, for it had been intended that the bomber units of Luftflotte 2 should also participate in the attack, but fog over their bases in the Low Countries, had prevented them from operating.
The reinforced bomber force in the West was not, however, to maintain its new found strength for very long, the Luftwaffe High Command having issued orders on March 26th transferring of some 600 combat aircraft from France, Germany and the Mediterranean, to bases in Bulgaria and Rumania, to fly operations in support of the imminent invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia due to start on April 6th.
Although poor weather set in during the latter part of March, a slight improvement in conditions over some bomber bases in North West France late in the day had allowed a sharp raid to be carried out against local harbour installations on the night of the 29th by III/KG 1, II/KG 76, III/KG 26 and KGr 100.
The targets were South-East Bristol, with the concentration point between the east end of the Floating Harbour and the two Gasholders situated 2 kilometres east-north-eastwards, and Avonmouth where the harbour and industrial installations were the objectives. To guide the pathfinders both X and Y-Beams were aligned on Avonmouth, and III/KG 26 later reported that the Y-Verfahren signals were well received.
36 aircraft subsequently claimed to have dropped a total 33 tonnes of H.E.'s and 13,088 I.B.'s on Bristol and Avonmouth between 21.05 and 22.08 hrs. At Bristol only five crews bombed visually, the other 15 using Dead Reckoning and Knickebein because of the cloud and mist over the target. At Avonmouth fires were reported in the target area and these helped to guide following crews who also had some difficulty in locating the objective.
No German aircraft were lost and no incidents were reported in Bristol, but at Avonmouth a number of fires were started in the dock area, and three tanks belonging to the Anglo-American Oil Company burned furiously, the last not being extinguished until 16.30 hrs the following day. Casualty figures that night were low, with 6 people being killed and 17 injured.
Normal Luftwaffe operations finally re-started after nightfall on April 3rd, when taking advantage of the generally improved weather conditions, an attempt was made against the harbour and industrial installations at Avonmouth by some 76 aircraft of Luftflotte 3 drawn from III/KG 26, II and III/KG 1, II/KG 76, KGr 100, II/KG 27, I and II/KG 54 and KGr 806. Once again to guide the pathfinders, both X and Y-Beams were aligned over Avonmouth, and it was subsequently claimed that a total 79.8 tonnes of H.E.'s and 8938 I.B.'s were dropped over Bristol and Avonmouth, during the attack which lasted from 21.16 to 00.45 hrs.
At the beginning of the operation there was 7/10th's cloud cover which cleared to 2/10th's with a half moon between 22.00 and 23.00 hrs. Thereafter conditions deteriorated to 10/10th's cloud with rain by midnight. As a result only 49 aircraft actually reported over Avonmouth some crews bombing visually, but the majority using Dead Reckoning and Knickebein. The remaining 27 aircraft attacked, as an alternative, the Floating Harbour and industrial area of Bristol where the bombing was entirely by Dead Reckoning and radio methods due to the total cloud cover they encountered. German loses were again minimal, but the one aircraft lost was brought down by a Beaufighter of 604 Squadron based at Middle Wallop in Hampshire, and flown by the legendary Flight Lieutenant John "Cats Eyes" Cunningham. It crashed into the sea off the Isle of Wight with the loss of its 4 man crew.
During this raid the fire fighting services were so effective that although thousands of I.B's were dropped, particularly in the section of Bristol from St.Michael's Hill to Redland Green, no major fires developed. A little later, when the H.E. attack developed, it was on a line between the Horseshoe Bend and Filton, while in Avonmouth only a few scattered incidents were reported. That night in Bristol a total of 22 people lost their lives with a further 56 being injured.
The attack sequence continued, and the following night 85 aircraft drawn from I, II and III/KG 77, III/KG 26, II/KG 27, KGr 100, I and II/KG 54 and KGr 806 again targeted the harbour and industrial installations at Avonmouth, two raiding Bristol as an alternative. The operation against Avonmouth by the remaining 83 aircraft took place between 21.15 and 01.30 hrs with 80.4 tonnes of H.E.'s and 19,675 I.B.'s.
Just as on the previous night the pathfinder force of KGr 100 and III/KG 26 successfully operated with X and Y-Verfahren , although III/KG 26 were unlucky enough to have an aircraft shot down at Hewish, near Weston super Mare, another victim of a Beaufighter of 604 Squadron from Middle Wallop. This was the only aircraft to be lost that night and it resulted in the death of 2 of the crewmen, with the other 3 being taken prisoner.
It was initially a fine clear night with a half moon, although visibility did deteriorate slightly during the latter part of the operation. Not surprisingly the crews subsequently reported that the target area was visible for much of the attack, and at times was very clearly seen in the moonlight. As a result bombing was predominantly visual and only a small proportion of crews found it necessary to use Dead Reckoning or Knickebein.
At the start of the operation the whole of Bristol was lit up by a large number of chandelier flares, 15 of which were counted in the air at one time, while H.E.'s and I.B.'s followed at regular intervals. However, the promptitude of the fire fighting parties and others once again helped to save the City from serious damage.
Avonmouth was principally affected, and to a lesser extent the Westbury and Whitchurch areas, but minimal damage was caused at Avonmouth Docks, many of the I.B.'s which fell in the vicinity burning out harmlessly on high ground in Shirehampton Park. The most serious incident that night occurred at the National Smelting Company, where production was seriously affected, particularly in the Fertilizer and Acid Works. Considering the scope of the raid and the number of H.E.'s dropped, casualties were small, with 3 dead and 21 injured.
The series of raids directed against the local harbour installations continued on the night of April 7th with a minor attempt against Bristol by 22 aircraft from KGr 100, I and II/KG 54, KGr 806, I, II and III/KG 55, nine of which subsequently attacked Avonmouth as an alternative. This operation was carried out in conjunction with large scale efforts against the Glasgow, Greenock and Liverpool areas.
In addition a further 11 aircraft from KGr 100, II and III/KG 1, I and III/KG 27 unable to locate their main targets also raided Bristol where nine people were injured, the most serious damage being reported in Horfield. A total of 29.2 tonnes of H.E's and some 6442 I.B.'s were reported dropped on Bristol and Avonmouth in this attack which lasted from 21.13 to 01.17 hrs. As it was overcast in the target area, with 10/10th's cloud at 1000 metres, the operation was carried out using only Knickebein and Dead Reckoning methods, and no German aircraft were lost during the operation.
The last of the major attacks on the Bristol area took place on the night of April 11th 1941, and is locally known as the Good Friday Raid, during which 15 aircraft from Luftflotte 2 and 138 from Luftflotte 3 reported dropping 193 tonnes of H.E.'s and 36,888 I.B.'s between 22.10 and 03.15 hrs. The designated targets were the harbour and industrial installations in South West and West Central Bristol over which Y-Beams were aligned, as well as Avonmouth and Portishead Docks, which was covered by X-Beams. Participating units from Luftflotte 3 were I, II and III/KG 27, KGr 100, II and III/KG 1, III/KG 26, I and II/KG 54, KGr 806, Stab, I, II and III/KG 55, while from Luftflotte 2 came I and II/KG 53.
In the target area the weather was generally fine with a full moon and a high layer of fleecy cloud. As a result, over Bristol, the bombing was carried out mainly with visual reference, however, from time to time thick cloud required the use of Dead Reckoning or other radio assisted methods. At 02.10 hrs the crews of I/KG 55 noted a large explosion followed by a flame rising 1500 metres into the sky, announcing the destruction of a gasometer at Canon's Marsh, the third to be lost at Bristol during the Blitz. The aircraft attacking Avonmouth also reported bombing visually, while at Portishead a considerable amount of smoke was encountered. The German attrition rate on night operations was now mounting and 5 bombers were lost, 3 which failed to return, including yet another shot down by the now Squadron Leader John Cunningham of 604 Squadron, and a further 2 which crashed in France. These losses resulted in the death of 17 crewmen, while a further 2 were injured.
In Bristol it was seen as a two phase attack, the first phase beginning shortly after 22.00 hrs when the majority of the incidents straddled a north and south line from Bristol Bridge to Horfield. The second phase, which commenced just after midnight, affected entirely different districts of the City, with St.Augustine's, Bedminster and Knowle, suffering badly, and to a lesser extent Avonmouth and Shirehampton. The total casualties in the Bristol area that night were 180 people killed and 382 injured.
Although it was not realised at the time, the main Blitz on Bristol had now ended, and although in early May German bombers attacked on a number of nights, it was only in relatively small numbers. These were aircraft which had selected the City as an alternative target, being unable to locate their main objectives in the Liverpool and Glasgow areas. The most serious of these raids took place on the night of May 7th, when as a result of 10/10th's cloud cover over Liverpool some 16 aircraft from II and III/KG 27, KGr 100, I, II and III/KG 55 attacked Bristol, causing much damage in the Knowle, Bedminster, Clifton and City areas, killing 20 people and injuring a further 84.
From mid-May onwards the Luftwaffe was preoccupied with the forthcoming invasion of Russia, but the basic plan still called for for a continued assault on Britain's war economy, industrial capacity and importing docks, in order to camouflage the movement of German aircraft to the East. As part of this strategy the use of the minelaying units operating against England was reviewed, and by the end of the month instructions had been issued detailing their temporary deployment against selected land targets, where they were to assist the remaining bomber Gruppen by dropping Land Mines.
In a final effort on the night of May 30th 34 aircraft attacked Liverpool, while a further 15 (units not recorded) made for Bristol, where the crews claimed to have dropped 4 tonnes of H.E.'s and 12 Land Mines. As a result damage occurred in the Clifton, Westbury, Sea Mills and St.Anne's areas of Bristol where 12 people were killed and 29 injured, and although no Land Mines actually fell on the City that night, two came down at Kingston Seymour, including one which failed to explode.
According to German records very few other Land Mines were ever aimed at Bristol, but on the night of June 11th a lone He 111 of I/KG 28, the unit normally employed in sea mining around the West Country's coastline, dropped two on the Bedminster area killing 16 and injuring 77. This aircraft unable to locate its assigned target in the Birmingham area, had again selected Bristol as a suitable alternative.
With few German bombers left in France the raids on the West Country all but ceased, although KGr 100, employing X-Verfahren , continued to carry out small scale night attacks on local airfields and aircraft factories. The Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton being their objective on the night of June 14th, while the Gloster Aircraft Company at Hucclecote was targeted on the 16th.
By mid-June 1941, however, the Air Battle for England as German historians refer to the period since the fall of France, had finally drawn to a close. The whole of Luftflotte 2, with the exception of IX Fliegerkorps, together with the majority of the bomber units of Luftflotte 3, had now completed their move East in readiness for the attack on Russia, which opened shortly before dawn on June 22nd.
During the period August 12th 1940 to June 26th 1941 Bristol had suffered badly at the hands of the Luftwaffe. According to German figures issued in 1944 it was the fourth most heavily bombed city in the country, with only London, Liverpool, and Birmingham receiving more attention, while Coventry, synonymous in Britain with widespread destruction, was in seventh place. It was claimed that 1237 tonnes of H.E.'s and Oil Bombs, plus 248 tonnes of I.B.'s had been aimed at the Bristol during the course of 10 significant attacks on the City, in which 50 or more tonnes of high explosives had been used.
Towards the end of July a bizarre incident took place locally concerning a Ju 88 of I/KG 30, which was flying back from an attack on Birkenhead Docks. This aircraft became the victim of electronic countermeasures directed by the RAF against German navigational beacons, resulting in the crew becoming hopelessly lost. Low on fuel and thinking they were over France, at 06.20 hrs on the morning of July 24th they successfully landed at RAF Broadfield Down, an airfield which was still under construction. So it was that a Ju 88 became the first aircraft to land on what is now the main runway of Bristol's Lulsgate Airport, and subsequently saw service with the RAF as EE205!
With the majority of German bombers now operating on the Eastern Front, by August 1941 only about 120 bomber and minelaying aircraft remained to continue to enforce the blockade of Britain. Nevertheless, the hope remained that Russia would be crushed before the end of the year, thereby releasing the Kampfgruppen for another winter campaign against Britain.
With so few aircraft available for operations over Britain very little activity was experienced over the Bristol area in the latter part of 1941, although minelaying around the coasts of Southern England re-started during September, with the transfer of the Ju 88's of III/KG 30 from the Balkans to Melun in France. The unit extended its operations to the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary area in early October, before removing to Northern Norway in December 1941. Locally, as a result of these activities six ships were sunk, and a further one damaged, while one man died at Oldbury Naite on the night of November 25th, a victim of a stray mine which fell on land.
During late November 1941 the pathfinder units KGr 100 and III/KG 26 had been declared non-operational and temporarily returned from the Eastern Front. Shortly after, on December 15th 1941 at Märkisch-Friedland, an experimental test range in Germany, KGr 100 and III/KG 26 combined to form KG 100 and the following month 2/KG 100 was detached an an experimental and training flight under the title Erprobungs und Lehr Kommando X-Y. Although this unit was to undertake development work on both types of bombing aid it was particularly involved with bringing into operational service a new variant of X-Verfahren known as Taub which left the old modulation frequency on the transmissions so that the British would continue to jam it, whilst superimposing a supersonic frequency above the limit of human hearing. Ergr.u.Lehr Kdo X-Y, commanded by Hauptmann Siegfried Langer, took up residence at Amiens, in France, in mid-February 1942 and began experimental operations against Britain with an attempt against Hull by ten aircraft on the night of March 8th.
This was followed, when cloud cover of a suitable character allowed, by experimental daylight precision attacks using X-Verfahren , these being carried out during the first ten days of the April, and included missions to the Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton, on the evening of April 3rd and Gloster Aircraft at Brockworth, near Gloucester, on the afternoons of April 4th and April 9th, by which time the unit had been re-titled Eprobungs und Lehr Kommando 100 and was operating from Chartres.
A most difficult situation arose when, following a successful RAF attack on Lübeck on the night of March 28th, German public opinion demanded heavy reprisal attacks against British cities. Although few aircraft could be spared from the Russian Front a small formation was assembled for which the He 111's of Ergr.u.Lehr Kdo 100 were to act as pathfinders. The main bomber force, comprising some 80 aircraft, was drawn from II and III/KG 2, and II/KG 40 equipped with Dornier Do 217's, as well as Kü Fl Gr 106, an anti-shipping unit equipped with Ju 88's, while I/KG 2 with around 25 Do 217's joined the battle a little later. The attacks were planned to start during the moonlight period at the end of April, and copying the tactics so successfully employed by the RAF against German towns, were to be concentrated and of short duration in order to minimise British defensive action.
The series of RAF raids on Rostock, which began on April 23rd, really brought things to a head and as a result the Germans threatened eradication of all British cities listed in Baedeker's tourist guidebook. The raids, thereafter became known in both Germany and Britain as the Baedeker Raids. For the first time in the war the Germans clearly stated that "besides raids on ports and industry, terror attacks of a retaliatory nature are to be carried out against towns other than London", the campaign opening with operations against Exeter on the night of the 24th.
Bath was the target on the following two nights with all bomber units of Luftflotte 3 being called upon, including for the first time the training crews of the fourth Gruppen, of which IV/KG 2, IV/KG 3, IV/KG 4, IV/KG 30, IV/KG 55 and IV/KG 77 were available flying an assortment of obsolete Do 17's, He 111's and Ju 88's. Once the aircraft arrived over the City they would be able to fly around at will, make extensive use of shallow dive bombing and machine gun the streets, as the City possessed no Anti-Aircraft guns or Balloon Barrage protection.
On the night of April 25th the Luftwaffe flew a total of 151 bomber sorties to Bath, with most aircraft making two flights, the crews claiming to have dropped dropped 206 tonnes of H.E's and 3564 I.B.'s on the City in the biggest effort against Britain since July 1941. The pathfinders from Ergr.u.Lehr Kdo 100 were operating that night with Y-Verfahren, successfully leading in the other participating units from II and III/KG 2, II/KG 40, Kü Fl Gr 106 and Kü Fl Gr 506, in addition to the assorted aircraft from the fourth Gruppen.
The Red Alert went out in Bath at 22.59 hrs, and shortly after, the sky, which had been clear with a bright half moon, was filled with the light from chandelier flares, which were quickly followed by I.B.'s, the first fires developing in the west of the City in the Upper and Lower Bristol Road areas. Then came the H.E.'s, one of the first of which destroyed No.3 Gasholder at the Gasworks, while others caused serious damage to the Kingsmead area, at the Abbey Church House and Circus Tavern. In addition a serious fire developed at the Midland Railway Goods Yard. Some of the bombers, however, mis-identified the target completely and bombs also fell on the Brislington area of Bristol, where 18 were killed and 41 injured. This, the first phase of the attack, ended with the sounding of the All Clear at 00.11 hrs.
The German aircraft then returned to their French bases to refuel and rearm before taking-off again on their second sorties of the night. The first of the bombers crossed the English Coast at 04.20 hrs and in Bath the Red Alert was issued at 04.35 hrs. On this occasion the bombing, whilst heavy was rarely concentrated, although both the Kingsmead and Oldfield Park areas again received a fair amount of attention. Other isolated bombing also took place at Southdown and North Bath, while railway traffic was also affected, the main line between Bristol and London being closed by a damaged bridge at Oldfield Park, before the All Clear sounded at 06.02 hrs. A total of four German aircraft failed to return, resulting in the death of 14 crewmen, with a further two being taken prisoner.