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Baedeker Blitz

The Baedeker Blitz or Baedeker raids were a series of Vergeltungsangriffe ("retaliatory raids") by the German air force on English cities in response to the bombing of the erstwhile Hanseatic League city of Lübeck during the night from 28 to 29 March 1942 during World War II.

Contents

Background

Lübeck was bombed on the night of 28/29 March 1942. Arthur "Bomber" Harris, Air Officer Commanding RAF Bomber Command, wrote of the raid that "Lübeck went up in flames" because "it was a city of moderate size of some importance as a port, and with some submarine building yards of moderate size not far from it. It was not a vital target, but it seemed to me better to destroy an industrial town of moderate importance than to fail to destroy a large industrial city". He goes on to describe that the loss of 5.5% of the attacking force was no more than to be expected on a clear moonlit night, but if that loss rate was to continue for any length of time RAF Bomber Command would not be able to "operate at the fullest intensity of which it were capable".[1]

A. C. Grayling in his book Among the Dead Cities makes the point that as the Area bombing directive issued to the RAF on 14 February 1942, focused on the "morale of the enemy civil population", Lübeck, with its many timbered medieval buildings, was chosen because the RAF "Air Staff were eager to experiment with a bombing technique using a high proportion of incendiaries" to help them carry out the directive — The RAF were well aware that the technique was effective against cities and not against industrial targets because cities such as Coventry had been subject to such attacks by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz. In retaliation for the Lübeck raid the Germans bombed Exeter on 23 April 1942, the first of the 'Baedeker' raids. The Lübeck raid along with the raid on Rostock caused "outrage in the German leadership ... and inspired the retaliatory 'Baedeker' raids".[2]

The raids

Baedeker's Great Britain guide for 1937

The Baedeker raids were conducted by the German Luftwaffe Luftflotte 3 in two periods between April and June 1942. They targeted strategically relatively unimportant but picturesque cities in England. The cities were reputedly selected from the German Baedeker Tourist Guide to Britain, meeting the criterion of having been awarded three stars, hence the English name for the raids. Baron Gustav Braun von Stumm, a German propagandist is reported to have said on 24 April 1942 following the first attack, "We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide."[3]

The cities attacked were:[3]

  • First period

Across all the raids on these five cities a total of 1,637 civilians were killed and 1,760 injured, and over 50,000 houses were destroyed.[4] Some noted buildings were destroyed or damaged, including York's Guildhall and the Bath Assembly Rooms, but on the whole most escaped — the cathedrals of Norwich, Exeter and Canterbury included. The German bombers suffered heavy losses for minimal damage inflicted, and the Axis' need for reinforcements in North Africa and Russian Front meant further operations were restricted to hit-and-run raids on coastal towns by a few Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter-bombers. Deal, Kent was one of these towns and was hit hard, with over 30 civilian dead including many women and children, most of whom are buried in the Hamilton Road Cemetery, Deal, Kent.

Several other raids are sometimes included under the Baedeker title, although only a few aircraft were involved in each and damage was not extensive.[5] These raids were all on East Anglian locations. Among the British firefighters assigned to the scene was Harry Patch.

Postscript

Willi Schludecker, 87, who flew more than 120 sorties for the Luftwaffe, including the Bath raids, travelled to UK as part of Bath's annual remembrance service on Friday April 25, 2008. Luftwaffe pilot sorry for bombing

See also

References

  • Grayling, A. C. (2006); Among the dead cities; Bloomsbury (2006); ISBN 0-7475-7671-8 . Pages Pages 50–52
  • Harris, Arthur (1947); Bomber Offensive, Pen & Swords, (Paperback 2005), ISBN 1-84415-210-3; page 105

Further reading

Footnotes

  1. ^ Harris, Arthur (1947); Bomber Offensive, Pen & Swords, (Paperback 2005), ISBN 1-84415-210-3; page 105
  2. ^ A.C. Grayling (2006); Among the dead cities; Bloomsbury (2006); ISBN 0-7475-7671-8 . Pages 50-52
  3. ^ a b c Grayling p. 51
  4. ^ Grayling p.52
  5. ^ Grayling Among the dead cities, See References, Page 52, footnote 43 (pages 331,332)
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