Library Reference Number: 002
The First Raids on Berlin
The following is a greatly edited and modified article first printed in the quarterly Saltire Branch newsletter and submitted by Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson DFC, AE, MID who completed two operational tours including the first raids on Berlin. The original author, Andrew Jackson, is convinced these raids had a direct bearing on the sudden change of German tactics. The following account of those first raids is followed by evidence confirming Andrew's viewpoint. It’s a transcript of a speech made by Herman Goering shortly after these raids.
On the 28th August 1940, we took off from Norwich Airfield, as an advanced base from Marham to attack BERLIN, on the first operation by Wellington bombers. An earlier raid by Hampden aircraft was made on the 25th August 1940. The target was considered to be at the extreme operational range of the Wimpey; hence the use of Norwich Airfield. To further conserve fuel, we began a very gentle climb over the North Sea, which was covered by low cloud. Without warning we were under attack from anti-aircraft fire coming from our own ships below, presumably protecting an allied convoy. Having escaped serious damage, we continued on our long flight to the German capital.
Searchlights and heavy flak were encountered on our flight, but over the actual target there was very little opposition - not what we expected. We had a clear view of the city and the marshalling yards were easily identified and attacked. Two nights later we returned to be met by numerous searchlights and well-directed and intensive flak. The enemy was learning fast!
The target this time was Templehoff Airfield. Our numbers were small and there is no claim that much damage resulted from our bombing but it’s very likely these raids had a consequential effect; triggering a most profound change of strategy by the enemy
In retrospect, it seems the raids destroyed the myth of German invincibility; causing embarrassment and considerable anger against those who had openly boasted that such raids would never happen. It’s widely believed the attacks on the German capital infuriated Hitler and prompted him to seek an alternative strategy. In future, the Luftwaffe would concentrate their bombing on British cities in a renewed effort to achieve a quick victory.
At that time, Fighter Command was in dire straits. Biggin Hill, Taumere, Manson and other airfields were being subjected to a terrible pasting. In some attacks, 100 bombs would be dropped on one single airfield and their viability, as an operational unit, was dubious at best. The sudden change of targeting by Goering's Luftwaffe gave Fighter Command the respite it so desperately needed. A.C.M. Lord Dowding described it as a miracle!
The daylight attacks on our cities were undertaken at high level, giving our C.H.L.’s the opportunity to detect the approach of enemy aircraft at an early stage, and to give our fighters enough time to reach optimum height. London was at the extreme range of the deadly ME-109’s and this undoubtedly contributed to higher enemy losses.
Historians can regard these early raids on Berlin of immense importance since they resulted in changing the enemy's tactics from a winning formula - to one that denied them victory. Fighter Command was able to recover from the former onslaught of airfields and aircraft – going on to defeat the Luftwaffe in one of the famous aerial battles of all time.
For the first time in World War Two, Hitler's rampage through Europe was checked. His plans concerning the invasion of the United Kingdom required an early decision as regards the date of invasion but the heavy losses incurred by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain raised serious doubt whether a position of air superiority could be attained. Operation ‘Sea Lion’ was initially postoned then later cancelled.
The raids on Berlin helped shape aerial battlefields of the future and helped to shape future strategy and effort. They destroyed the mythology of German invicibility and illustrated the possibility of victory at a time when news and events pointed towards darkness and defeat. It was not achieved without cost. That cost is correctly recorded in the Roll of Honour in the Battle of Britain Memorial Chapel within Westminster Abbey in London.
From: Professor Richard Holmes CBE TD
Security Studies Institute
Wiltsbr />SN6 8LA
Dear Squadron Leader Jackson,
23 Jan 02
Thank you very much for the letter and the enclosure, which does indeed seem strong evidence that the Wellington raid on Berlin (which would have vexed not simply Hitler but Goring too, as he had announced that if the city was bombed 'you can call me Muller') helped change German policy. I have always taken this view - indeed, on p.208 of War Walks 2 I wrote that Goring's change of tactics was 'influenced by Hitler's desire to punish Britain for the RAF's raid on Berlin, and also felt that, in order to meet the attacks on London, Dowding would be forced to throw in what the Germans believed were his last reserves.' We cannot, I think, be sure whether it was the Hampden raid of 25 August, or the two subsequent Wellington raids, or (most likely) the cumulative effect of all three that did it: but most historians would, I am sure, agree that these early raids had an impact out of all proportion to the damage they caused.
Thank you again for writing,
"The Reichmarschall is leaving his train and coming past us. He sees us. Is this what he was intending? Yes, He is coming. The Reichsmarschall is coming from his train and is coming to the microphone”
Herman Goering: ”I now want to take this opportunity of speaking to you, to say this moment is a historic one. As a result of the provocative British attacts on Berlin on recent nights the Fuhrer has decided to order a mighty blow to be struck in revenge against the capital of the British Empire. I personally have assumed the leadership of this attack, and today I have heard above me the roaring of the victorious German squadrons, which now, for the first time, are driving towards the heart of the enemy in full daylight, accompanied by countless fighter squadrons.
Enemy defences were as we expected beaten down and the target reached, and I am certain that our successes have been as massive as the boldness of our plan of attack and the fighting spirit of our crews deserve. In any event this is an historic hour, in which for the first time, the German Lufftwaffe has struck at the heart of the enemy."
GERMAN WIRELESS BROADCAST, SEPTEMBER 7, 1940