Military history

RAF Bomber Command, 1936-68

RAF Bomber Command, 1936-68

The role of RAF Bomber Command in the Allies' fight against Hitler's 'Fortress Europe' is still the subject of much controversy. Yet, whatever one's view of the campaign as a whole, nobody can question the immense courage and bravery of the aircrews who risked their lives, day after day, night after night. As history recalls, more than 55,000 men made the ultimate sacrifice during the fight for freedom.

Bomber Command was officially formed in 1936, but as the 1930s gave way to the 1940s, it soon became clear that the Command could not match the might of a resurgent Germany on the march.

The early years of the Second World War highlighted Bomber Command's inadequacies, but gradually the tide was turned. Vast aerial armadas of bombers took the fight to Hitler while increased accuracy, larger weapons and more effective tactics were developed which enabled RAF Bomber Command, in conjunction with the US 8th Air Force, to pound the heartland of Germany into final submission.

Peacetime brought the inevitable cutbacks and a proud force was whittled down to a shadow of its former self. However, re-equipment with a potent force of V-bombers meant that Bomber Command was able to play a key role in the 'Cold War', and when the Command was disbanded in 1968 its supporters could rightly claim that it had been a major contributor to maintaining the peace.

Here, for the first time, the story of Bomber Command is told from start to finish. Meticulous research by aviation historian Chris Ashworth offers a unique insight into the history of a force that was at the heart of the RAF's fighting prowess for some three decades.

Chapter 1. Introduction and Overview

Chapter 2. Operations

Chapter 3. Operational Groups

Chapter 4. Aircrew Training

Chapter 5. Aircraft of Bomber Command

Annexes

Annex A. AOC-in-C Bomber Command

Annex B. Operational Squadrons, Second World War

Annex C. Accuracy of Bomber Command night attacks on German cities

Annex D. Order of Battle, 1 August 1939

Annex E. Order of Battle, 16 June 1940

Annex F. Order of Battle, 23 February 1941

Annex G. Order of Battle, 13 February 1942

Annex H. Order of Battle, 18 February 1943

Annex I. Order of Battle, 24 February 1944

Annex J. Order of Battle, January 1945

Annex K. Bomber Command organisation, October 1944–April 1945

Annex L. Bomber Command airfield maps 1939 and 1945

Annex M. Aircraft in Squadrons, daily availability with crews

Annex N. Available Bomb lift in tons, by aircraft type

Annex O. Cumulative monthly totals of tonnage of bombs, sorties despatched, and aircraft missing, February 1942–May 1945

Annex P. Distribution of effort and casualties

Annex Q. Progress of the Bomber Offensive against German industrial towns schedule, by towns, of attacks and devastation resulting

Annex R. Bomber Command nuclear weapons