Library Reference Number: 005
Before the Advent of the Bomber Stream
Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson, DFC, AE, MID. completed two operational tours. He flew with Nos. 115, 149, 207 and 49 Squadrons. He recalls the following two accounts of operational flying as an Observer during the early part of WW2.
It was not until the 15th May, 1940, that the War Cabinet agreed to the bombing of military targets in Germany. Bomber Command was set to climb a steep learning curve, and although the numbers of aircraft were limited, a number of targets would be selected for the night's operations. After briefing, the crews would map out their own route, taking into account the information given by the Intelligence Officer, and in a sense "in charge of their own destiny."
The attack strategy was decided by each pilot. For heavily defended targets, the higher the better. For isolated targets, bombing at a low altitude was tempting as the bombs were more likely to hit the target and the crews could see the bombs exploding and results could be quite spectacular. Two such raids stand out in my memory!
On the 14th August, 1940, we were detailed to attack a German oil depot, on the outskirts of Bordeaux. After a long flight mostly over water, we arrived in the target area about midnight. Our skipper decided on the best line of approach then set off on a shallow dive, but the defences had been alerted and opened up. There was nothing for it but to press on and we released the bombs at 2,000 feet. The bombs were seen to burst on target followed by a large fire which spread and was still visible from 140 miles. We got away with minor damage and were well satisfied with the outcome.
On the 16th August, 1940, our target was an aircraft factory at Bernberg, South of Berlin. We arrived at the target location and crossed over the factory with no reaction from the ground. Again we lost height and in a shallow dive we released the bombs at 2,000 feet.
On our run in, however, the defences opened up in strength, tracer enveloping the aircraft, one shell hitting the undercarriage and bursting the tyre. The bombs straddled the factory and set it on fire. A crew from our squadron followed us in and reported seeing girders crashing to the ground and a violent explosion before dropping their bombs. On our return, the control tower confirmed our misgivings that a tyre was burst and that a piece of shrapnel had also pierced the de-icing tank. A one wheeled landing, a lot of scraping and the aircraft slewed around and came to a halt. Our skipper, F/Lt Lynch-Blosse was awarded an immediate DFC. We were again briefed to carry out a raid on the 20th August - this time to attack the Dortmund-Ems Canal. With great good fortune the operation was scrubbed. The attack was to have been at low level, no choice this time, following the Hampden attack 10 days earlier with heavy losses. F/Lt Babe-Learoyd winning the VC having coaxed his badly damaged aircraft back to Scampton.