Bomber Command


Historical Time Line 1939-1945


Copyright: Larry Wright, 2001




August 1939

    • 10 Sqn of Battles are assigned to the Advanced Air Striking Force (ASAF) as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).


September 1939

  •  War is declared. One hour after the declaration a 139 Sqn. Blenheim takes off to take photographs of the German fleet located at Wilhelmshaven. (3-9-39)


  • First Bomber Command operational sorties launched against Welheimshaven. Targets were not located and all bombers returned safely.


  •  Whitleys of 7 and 51 Sqn’s drop fly the first night time leaflet (Nickel) dropping raid over Germany (3/4-9-39).


  •  Second Bomber Command Operation sorties launched to attack a pocket-battleship and a cruiser moored in Wilhelmshaven. 5 bombers are lost. (4-9-39)

October 1939

    • Central School of Air Gunnery is set up.


    • No.10 Squadron, RAF Whitleys are the first British aircraft to fly over Berlin (1/2-10-39)  

December 1939

    • 24 Wellingtons are tasked to attack German Naval units in the Schillig Roads. (18-12-39). 2 bombers return early; 10 bombers are shot down by fighters and crash into the sea; 2 more crash into the sea off the Norfolk Coast while attempting to return to base; 4 aircrew are rescued and become POW’s, 56 are killed.


January 1940

    • Wellingtons and Hampden bombers fly their first night sorties. This marks the first major shift by Bomber Command to night operations. (12/13-1-49)

March 1940

    • A No. 82 Squadron, RAF Blenheim sinks a U-Boat, Bomber Commands first. (11-03-40)
    • Air Marshal Sir Charles Portal becomes C-in-C Bomber Command.

April 1940

    • 6 Wellington’s attack Stavanger airfield. This is the first European mainland target attacked. (11-04-40)


    • 14 Hampden’s flying the first mine laying (Gardening) sorties against shipping lanes off Denmark. (13/14-4-40)

May 1940

    • Bomber Command attacks Monchengladbach. This is the first raid against mainland Germany. (11/12-5-40)
    • Bombing operations are authorized by the War Cabinet east of the River Rhine. (15-5-40)
    • First strategic raids of the war are lunched by 99 bombers against 16 oil and rail targets in the Ruhr (15/16-5-40)
    • 12 Blenheim’s from 82 Sqn attack troop concentrations at Gemblaux – 11 are shot down. (17-5-40)
    • The first German night-fighter is shot down by a 10 Sqn Whitley. (27/28-5-40)

June 1940

    • One day after Italy declares war Whitley’s attack Turin. (11/12-6-40)
    • After being decimated in France the remnants of the ASAF are returned to Bomber Command. (15/17-6-40)

July 1940

    • A No. 83 Squadron, RAF Hampden drops the first 2,000 lbs. bomb against the Scharnhost. The aircraft is flown by F/O Guy Gibson. (1/2-7-40)

August 1940


    • Hampden’s from No. 49 and 83 Squadron’s attack and badly damage the Dortmund-Ems aqueduct. F/L R.A.B. Leroyd is awarded Bomber Command’s first Victoria Cross. (12/13-8-40)
    • After German bombs fall on London, the War Cabinet authorises the bombing of Berlin. Bomber Command attacks the same night. (24/25-8-40)

September 1940


    • The first Bomber Command attack against German U-Boat bases is carried out. 32 Hampden’s attack Lorient. (2/3-9-40)
    • The first attacks are carried out against the assembled German invasion barges in the Channel ports. (10/11-9-40)
    • 155 aircraft attack invasion ports in the Channel Ports. Sgt. J. Hannah of 83 Sqn is awarded the Command’s second Victoria Cross. (15/16-9-40)

October 1940


    • Air Marshal Sir Richard Peirse becomes C-in-C Bomber Command. (5-10-40)
    • Air Ministry issues directive sanctioning area bombing. (30-10-40)

November 1940


    • 130 bombers attack Hamburg is response to the devastating raid on Coventry. (16/17-11-40)

December 1940


    • First major area bombing attack is carried out by 134 bombs against Mannheim. (16/17-12-40)




January 1941


    • The Air Ministry issues a directive stating that the bombing of oil related targets is a priority.

February 1941


    • The four-engine Short Stirling enters operational service. 3 aircraft from 7 Sqn attack Rotterdam. (10/11-2-41)
    • While returning from Bremen 22 of 79 bombers crash in dense fog while attempting to land at their bases in England. (11/12-2-41)
    • The two-engine AVRO Manchester enters operational service. 6 aircraft from No. 207 Squadron, RAF attack German warships at Brest. (24/25-2-41)

March 1941


    • The Air Ministry issues a directive stating that the bombing of U-Boat and long-range aircraft threats is a priority. This is a reaction to the Battle of the Atlantic.
    • The four-engine Handley-Page Halifax enters operational service. 6 aircraft from 35 Sqn attack Le Havre. (10/11-3-41)
    • First Avro Manchester lost on operations against Hamburg (13/14-3-41)
    • Wellington’s of No. 9 and 149 Squadron’s, RAF attack Emden and drop Bomber Command’s first two 4,000 lbs HC bombs in the process. (30-3/1-4-41)

April 1941


    • Bomber Command carries out its largest raid of the war to date, as 229 aircraft attack Kiel. (7/8-4-41)

May 1941


    • Bomber Command launches its highest total of sorties to date, as 359 aircraft attack Hamburg and Bremen. (8/9-5-41)
    • A force of 64 Wellington’s and Stirling’s are dispatched to search the sea for the German cruiser Prinz Eugen – they fail to locate the warship.

June 1941


    • 4 Wellington’s of No. 405 Squadron, RCAF attack Schwerte and make the first operational bombing sorties carried out by Royal Canadian Air Force.  (12/13-6-41)


    • The first GEE chain stations become operational. (23-6-41)

July 1941


    • 12 Blenhiem’s attack Bremen at low-level. 4 aircraft are lost.  W/C H. Edwards of No. 103 Squadron, RCAF, is awarded the Victoria Cross for his leadership on this raid. (4-7-41).
    • 49 Wellington’s attack Munster. Sgt. J.A.  Ward of 75 Sqn is awarded the Victoria Cross after climbing out onto the wing of his Wellington to extinguish a fire. (7/8-7-41)
    • The four-engine Fortress (B-17) enters operational service with the RAF. Aircraft from 90 Sqn attack Wilhelmshaven. (8-7-41)

August 1941


    • 2 Wellington’s from No. 115 Squadron, RAF carry out the first operational trials of GEE during an attack on Monchegladbach. (11/12-8-41)
    • The Butt report is published and reveals that only 1 in 4 crews who claim to have bombed a target in Germany are found to be within 5 miles of the target. (18-8-41)
    • Hampden’s of 455 Sqn attack Frankfurt and mark the first operational bombing sorties carried out by Royal Australian Air Force.  (29/30-8-41)

September 1941


    • The last daylight attack against Emden is carried out by Fortress (B-17) aircraft. Until further notice all further raids will be carried out by night.

November 1941


    • 169 aircraft attack Berlin, 21 are lost. The Air Ministry instructs Bomber Command to launch only limited attacks over the coming months to allow the Command to replaces its losses.

December 1941


    • First operational trails of OBOE are carried out by Stirling’s of No. 7 and 15 Squadron’s as part of an attack against Brest. (7/8-12-41)


January 1942


    • The German battleship Tirpitz is attacked at its mooring in Trondheim by 16 aircraft. (29/30-1-42)

February 1942


    • 242 aircraft attempt to attack in daylight the German warships – Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen as they make a dash up the English Channel. The warship escape and safely reach German ports. (12-2-42)
    • Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris becomes C-in-C Bomber Command. (22-4-42)

March 1942


    • The four-engine AVRO Lancaster enters operational service. 4 aircraft from No. 44 Squadron, RAF lay mines off of the NW coast of Germany. (3/4-4-42)
    • First operational use of GEE as 221 aircraft attack Essen. (8/9-3-42)
    • 2 Lancaster’s from No. 44 Squadron, RAF are part of a force of 126 bombers sent to attack Essen. This marks the Lancaster’s first operational bombing sorties. (10/11-3-42)

April 1942


    • A No. 76 Squadron, RAF Halifax drops the first 8,000 lbs HC bomb against Essen. (10/11-4-42)
    • 7 Lancaster’s are shot down during a daylight low-level raid on the MAN diesel engine factory. S/L J.D. Nettleton is awarded the Victoria Cross for his leadership during this raid. (17-4-42)
    • 43 Lancaster’s and Halifax’s attack the German Battleship Tirpitiz at her mooring in Trondheim. (27/28-4-42)
    • 2 Whitleys from No. 58 Squadron, RAF attack Dunkirk. This marks the last operational sorties of this type by a front line Sqn. (27/28-4-42)

May 1942


    • The first 1,000 bomber raid takes place against Cologne. F/O L. Manser of 50 Sqn is awarded the Victoria Cross. (30/31-5-42)
    • First Mosquito operational sorties take place. 5 aircraft from No. 105 Squadron, RAF are sent in daylight to bomb and photograph Cologne. (31-5-42

June 1942


    • The second 1,000 bomber raid is launched against Essen. (1/2-6-42)
    • 960 aircraft (considered the third 1,000 bomber raid) attack Bremen. (25/26-6-42)

August 1942


    • Pathfinder force (PFF) is formed within No. 3 Group. (15-8-42)
    • 1 Blenheim of 18 Sqn attacks Leeuwarden in Holland. This marks the last operational sortie flown by this type. (17/18-8-42)
    • 118 aircraft attack Flensburg. This is the first use of the Pathfinder’s to mark the target. (18/19-8-42)

September 1942


    • Pathfinder Force and main force attack Bremen. The PFF introduce the illuminator, visual marker and back-up marking techniques during this raid. (4/5-9-42)
    • First 4,000 lbs incendiary target marker dropped by the PFF aginst Dusseldorf. (10/11-9-42)
    • 4 Hampden’s from No. 405 Squadron, RCAF attack Wilhelmshaven. This marks the last operational sortie flown by this type. (14/15-9-42)

October 1942


    • First raid using over 100 aircraft against an Italian target. (22/23-10-42)

November 1942


    • 228 aircraft attack Turin. The first 8,000 lbs HC bomb is dropped on an Italian target.  F/Sgt. R. Middleton is awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. (28/29-11-42)

December 1942


    • All operational aircraft from No. 2 Group carry out a low-level daylight attack on the Phillips radio and valve factory in Eindhoven, Holland. 14 aircraft fail to return. (6-12-42)
    • Mosquitoes from No. 105 Squadron, RAF launch an attack on the Lutterade Power Station, Holland. This marks the first operational use of OBOE. (20/21-12-42)



January 1943


    • No. 6 (RCAF) Group carries out its first operations as 15 aircraft attack Lorient. (14/15-1-43)
    • Under the code name Operation Tannenberg, 200 Lancaster and Halifax bombers attack Berlin enforce for the first time. Target Indicators (TI’s) are also used by the PFF for the first time on this raid. (16/17-1-43)
    • No. 8 (Pathfinder) Group is formed to take over the operation control of the PFF Sqn’s. (25-1-43)
    • Mosquitoes ground mark Dusseldorf. This is the first use of OBOE by Mosquitoes for this purpose. (27/28-1-43)
    • Pathfinder Force bombers use H2S airborne radar operationally for the first time against Hamburg. (30/31-1-43)

February 1943


    • While attacking Cologne a PFF Stirling crashes in occupied territory and allows an H2S set to fall into enemy hands. (2/3-2-43)

March 1943


    • 442 aircraft attack Essen. This marks the official opening of the Battle of the Ruhr.  (5/6-3-43)

April 1943


    • The newly formed No. 1409 Metrological Flight flies its first operational sorties to Brittany. (2-4-43)


    • 22 aircraft are lost from a force of 207 aircraft are lost during an extensive mine laying operation. This is the highest loss of aircraft to date form the Command. (28/29-4-43)
    • 14 Hampden’s flying the first mine laying (Gardening) sorties against shipping lanes off of Denmark. (13/14-4-40)

May 1943


    • 12 Venturas if 487 Sqn attack a power station on the outskirts of Amsterdam. 9 aircraft were shot down before reaching the target. The only remaining aircraft flown by S/L L.H. Trent pressed on to the target alone and successfully bombed. Shot down shortly after. S/L Trent is awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions. (3-5-43)
    • 19 Lancaster’s from 617 Sqn attack the Ruhr Dams at low-level using Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb. 8 aircraft are lost. W/C Guy Gibson is awarded the Victoria Cross, while 34 others receive various decorations. (16/17-5-43)
    • 826 aircraft, the largest non-1,000 bomber raid to date attacks Dortmund (23/24-5-43)
    • No. 2 Group completes its final operational sorties before being transferred out of Bomber Command. (31-5-43)

June 1943


    • 60 Lancaster’s attach the Zeppelin works at Friedrichshafen then fly onto bases in North Africa. This is the first “shuttle-bombing” raid of the war. (23/24-6-43)
    • The "shuttle-bombing” Lancaster’s attack La Spezia and the fly on to their bases in England. (23/24-56-43)

July 1943

    • German Wilde Sau night-fighters operate for the first time against the bombing force attacking Cologne. (3/4-7-43)
    • While attacking Hamburg, the radar-jamming device Window is used operationally for the first time. (24/25-7-43)
    • Hamburg is attacked on four consecutive nights. The second raid on 24/25-7-43 results in a firestorm. (24-7/3-8-43)

August 1943

    • 162 aircraft attack Turin. 2 aircraft are lost. F/Sgt. A.L. Aaron is awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. (12/13-8-43)
    • 154 aircraft attack Turin, this marks the last Italian target to be attack by the Command. (16/17-8-43)
    • The German experimental rocket research station at Peenemunde is attacked by 596 aircraft. First use of the Master Bomber technique. (17/18-8-43)
    • The Battle of Berlin opens with an attack of 727 aircraft. 56 aircraft are lost and marked the highest loss of aircraft to date. (23/24-9-43)
    • German fighter flares are deployed for the first time against the main force attacking Berlin. (31-8/1-9-43)

September 1943


    • US 8th Air Force Bombers join RAF Bomber Command aircraft in a combined night raid on Boulogne. This is the first night raid by USAAF aircraft. (8/9-9-43)
    • 8 Lancaster’s from No. 617 Squadron, RAF attack the Dortmund-Ems Canal and drop the first 12,000 lb bombs. (15/16-9-43)
    • First diversionary raid against Oldenburg carried out actual target attacked by main force is Hannover (22/23-9-43)

October 1943


    • First Airborne Cigar (ABC) equipped) aircraft from No. 101 Squadron, RAF operate against Stuttgart. (7/8-10-43)
    • No. 300 (Polish) and 432 (RCAF) Squadron’s fly the last Bomber Command operational sorties of the Wellington against Hannover. (8/9-10-43)

November 1943


    • First use of G-H Blind Bombing radar against Dusseldorf. (3/4-11-43)
    • 764 aircraft attack Berlin. On return the Stirling is withdrawn from all further sorties against Berlin. (22/23-11-43)

December 1943


    • No. 100 (Bomber Support) Group is formed (3-12-43)
    • Mosquitoes and Beaufighters from 142 Sqn. equipped with “serrate” radar Operate for the first time as night-intruders within Bomber Command. The main force attacks Berlin. (16/17-12-43)


January 1944


    • 648 aircraft attack Magdeburg, 62 aircraft are lost exceeding Bomber Commands highest loss total to date. (21/22-1-44)

February 1944


    • Lancaster’s from No. 617 Squadron, RAF attack the Gnome-Rhone factory using W/C L. Cheshire newly developed low-level marking technique. (8/9-2-44)


    • Halifax Mk. II & V's are withdrawn from the Battle of Berlin due to high loss rates. the battle continues using only the Lancaster force.
    • First 4,000 lbs HC dropped by a Mosquito, while attacking Düsseldorf (23/24-2-44)

March 1944


    • The first raid of the Transportation Plan is carried out in preparation for the upcoming invasion. (6/7-3-44)
    • 811 aircraft attack Berlin. This marks the close of the “Battle of Berlin.” (24/25-3-44)
    • 795 aircraft attack Nuremberg, 95 aircraft are lost mainly to night-fighters. This raid will be the greatest single lost of aircraft by the Command for the entire war.  P/O C.J. barton of 578 Sqn is awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. (30/31-3-44)

April 1944


    • 144 Lancaster’s and 1 Mosquito attack Toulouse, marking is provided by 617 Sqn and not the Pathfinder Force. No. 5 Group now begins to operate as an independent force using its own marking techniques. (5/6-4-44)
    • 227 aircraft attack Essen. 26 aircraft are lost.  Sgt. N. Jackson of 106 Sqn is awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions. (26/27-4-44)


May 1944


    • 42 aircraft from a force of 342 are lost against the German military camp at Mailly-le-Camp. This was initially determined to be a “milk run” raid. (3/4-5-43)
    • Sea mines are laid in Kiel Canal by Mosquitoes. These are the first mines laid by Mosquitoes. (12/13-5-44)

June 1944


    • 1211 aircraft take part in various tasks to support the D-Day Invasion. 5,000 tons of bombs are dropped marking the greatest tonnage dropped by the Command in a single night. (5/6-6-44)
    • The first 12,000 lbs Tallboy bombs are dropped by 617 Sqn.  on the Suamur railway tunnel. (8/9-5-44)
    • 671 aircraft attack various communication targets in support of the D-Day invasion forces. P/O A.C. Mynarski, RCAF is posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. (12/13-6-44)
    • 303 aircraft attack the synetetic-oil plant at Gelsenkirchen. The attack marks the opening on the new oil campaign. (12/13-6-44)
    • Le Harvre is attacked by bomber command formations in daylight. This is the first daylight raid since No. 2 group left the Command in May 1943. (14-6-44)
    • The first raids under the code name operation Crossbow are launched to attack V1 flying-bomb launching and storage sites in carried out. (16/17-6-44)

July 1944


    • After an absence of some two months, Bomber Command returns to attacking targets in Germany and 629 aircraft raid Kiel. (23/24-7-44)

August 1944


    • 219 aircraft attack V1 storage sites at Bois de Cassan and Trossy St. Maxim.  S/L I.W. Bazalgette is posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. (4-8-44)
    • 1019 aircraft attack German strong points in the Normandy battle area is support of the Allied armies. (7/8-8-44)
    • The first major daylight bombing raid against a German target since August 1941 is carried against the synthetic oil-refinery at Meerbeck (Homberg). Escorted by 9 Sqn’s of Spitfires no aircraft were lost. (27-8-44)

September 1944


    • 149 Sqn Stirling’s participate in an attack against Le Harve, this marks the final operational use of the Stirling. (8-9-44)
    • W/C L. Cheshire is awarded the Victoria Cross for his four years of outstanding service.
    • Directive is issued to both the USAAF and Bomber Command giving priority to oil related targets. (25-9-44)

October 1944


    • The Second Battle of the Ruhr begins with 532 aircraft attacking Dortmund (6/7-10-44)
    • The German battleship Tirpitz is again attacked by Lancaster’s of 9 and 617 Sqn using Tallboy bombs, no hits are scored and the warship survives. (29-10-44)

November 1944


    • The German battleship Tirpitz is attacked by Lancaster’s of 9 and 617 Sqn’s at Tromso. Direct hits are scored and the warship capsizes. (12-11-44)

December 1944


    • 487 aircraft carry out the first major raid against oil targets in Eastern Germany. (6/7-12-44)
    • 30 aircraft attack the Gremberg rail yards at Cologne. 6 aircraft are lost.  S/L R. Palmer of 109 Sqn, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, he was flying on his 110th operational sortie. (23-12-44)
    • 2 Mosquitoes from No. 627 Squadron, RAF attack the Gestapo Headquarters in Olso. (31-12-44)




January 1945


    • 104 aircraft attack the Dortmund-Ems Canal. 2 aircraft are lost. F/Sgt. G. Thompson is awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. This is the second 5 Group VC to be awarded against this target.


    • Stuttgart suffers its last large raid of the war as 602 aircraft attack. (28/29-1-45)

February 1945


    • 804 aircraft attack Dresden and results in a firestorm which cause massive damage and tremendous loss of life.  (13/14-2-45)
    • Capt. E. Swales, SAAF of 582 Sqn is posthumously award the Victoria Cross for his actions during a raid against Pforsheim. This is the last VC award to Bomber Command. (23/24-2-45)

March 1945


    • 1079 aircraft attack Essen in daylight. This was to be the largest raid carried out by Bomber Command during the war. (11-3-45)
    • The first 22,000 lb Grandslam bomb is dropped by a Lancaster of 617 Sqn. on the Bielefeld viaduct. (11-5-45)
    • 2 Grandslam bombs dropped from Lancaster’s of 617 Sqn score direct hits and destroy the U-Boat pens at Farge, north of Bremen. (27-3-45)

April 1945


    • The official end to area bombing campaign. (6-4-45)
    • 440 aircraft attack Hamburg in what was to be the last major Bomber Command raid of the war. (8/9-4-45)
    • 559 aircraft attack Kiel harbour, sinking the Admiral Scheer and badly damaging the Admiral Hipper and the Emden. (9/10-4-45)
    • 18 Lancaster’s from No. 617 Squadron, RAF using Tallboy bombs sink the Lutzow at Swinemunde. (16-4-45)
    • The final raid of the war is carried out against Berlin. (29/21-4-45)
    • 375 aircraft attack Hitler’s Eagles Nest at Berchtesgarden.  Among the force are 16 Lancaster’s of 617 Sqn who drop the final Tallboy bombs of the war. (25-4-45)
    • Operation “Exodus” , Bomber Command assist sin the repatriation of Brotosh POW’s from Europe. 469 flights bring home 79,000 men. (26-4 to 7-5-45)
    • Operation “Manna” food drops to the starving people of Holland. (29-4 to 7-5-45)

May 1945


    • The final combat losses are sustained by the Command as 2 Halifaxes from 199 Sqn collide during a bombing run against Kiel. And a Mosquito from 109 Sqn crashes on a low-level attack against Jagel airfield. All of the crews are killed. (2/3-5-45)
    • Germany unconditionally surrenders at midnight. (7-5-45)