By the time Jim joined Bomber Command on active service it had evolved into a hugely effective force compared with the force at the beginning of the war. Tactics had evolved and Bomber Command had the incredibly successful Lancaster Bomber. Night bombing was the norm, at least until the latter stages of the war where increasingly the Allied Forces started to have significant air superiority.
Tactics had also evolved, with better use of intelligence, routing and the use of Pathfinder aircraft to accurately mark the target using target markers which the main force would then aim on ensuring more accurate bombing. Having said that, Bomber Command continued to suffer from “creep-back”, where crews, perhaps understandably, would want to drop their bombs as soon as possible to stop having to fly straight and level over the target.
As Bomber Command’s tactics evolved, so of course, did the German night fighters in a game of cat and mouse and increasingly one of ever more sophisticated electronic measures and counter measures.
© IWM (CL 1404) Bombing in Action
A 4,000 lb "cookie" and incendiaries being dropped in a daylight raid on Duisburg, October 1944
Perhaps the most appalling facet of Bomber Command was the dreadful losses it suffered, the highest of any of the Armed Forces in WWII.
The bald facts are that casualties numbered over 55,000 killed, which as a percentage means about 44% of Bomber Command crew would be killed. Incredibly a further 8,000 were wounded and around 9,000 taken as prisoners of war. So the odds were extremely poor that a crew member would survive the standard tour of Ops. The actual “odds” were that a crew member in Bomber Command only a 1 in 6 chance of finishing a standard tour of 30 Ops. These odds were well known to crew as they entered their aircraft on each and every mission. Each time each and every crew member would have to put these thoughts to one side whilst they concentrated on just doing their own job to the best of their abilities.
The International Bomber Command Centre website quotes, “Of the 125,000 Aircrew who served only 28% got through the war without having been killed, seriously injured or taken Prisoner of War.”
The stand out aspect of Bomber Command was perhaps the Lancaster bomber which revitalised the fortunes and ability of Bomber Command in carrying out its duties.
Originally designed in response to a 1936 specification the Lancaster had a difficult and long birth through the troubled two engine Avro Manchester before the wingspan was increased and four Merlin engines added.
The Lancaster began to enter service in late 1941. By the end of the war over 7,000 Lancasters had been built and the type evolved after the war into the Lincoln, Lancastrian, York and ultimately the Shackleton used in maritime reconnaissance.
The Lancaster Bomber - Just Jane - NX611 - Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby
Jim flew several Lancasters on Ops, but most Ops were on “O” for Oboe with XV squadron, Mildenhall.
Sadly O for Oboe was lost in early 1945, having served on the squadron since May 1944,
The Lancaster Bomber's Key Statistics
Lancaster Mk.1 / B.1