aviation in World War 2

bomber tactics
the Blitz
bombing of Coventry
bombing in the Bristol area
Combined Bomber (CBO)
Bomber Command
the Dambusters
bombing of Hamburg
1000 bomber raids
bombing of Dresden
bombing of Nuremberg
the Schweinfurt raids
German Night Fighters
the Pathfinders
Soviet bombing raids
Pearl Harbour
the Doolittle raid
the B-17 and B-29
fire bombing raids on Japan
Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

the bombing of Nuremberg

a stream of Lancasters en route to a bombing raid on a clear night, perfect targets for German anti-aircraft fire and night fighters

Harris liked to pick targets of symbolic importance. Nuremberg was one of those - Hitler had called it the most German of German cities. It was the birthplace of the Third Reich, the scene of the massive night rallies glorified in Nazi propaganda films.

So anxious was Harris to destroy Nuremberg that he scheduled the bombing mission there on a night with clear moonlight, When crews would normally been allowed to stand down. Harris was hoping there would be enough cloud to hide his bomber stream, so a mosquito weather plane was dispatched to scout the German skies.

At 3:30 p.m., the weather plane returned from its mission.


I went straight to the phone - a direct line to Bomber Command. All the group captains come on the line simultaneously at their bases. Now I told them it was so clear, we left a long vapour trail in the sky. The only place we saw high banks of clouds was over the target, Nuremberg.

Some of Harris's advisors tried to talk him out of the mission. In spite of everything, Harris was determined to press on.

On the evening of March 30,1944, the crew of aircraft W for Willy was one of 782 bombers preparing to depart for Nuremberg. Jim Moffat was in the tail turret; Lloyd Smith in the mid upper gun. As the crews started their Rolls Royce Merlin engines, the sense of apprehension only increased. Many were still hoping for the sign to stand down, for the mission to be scrubbed.

Some crew members distracted themselves with their jobs. Others said they started to pray for the first time in their lives.

The stream this night was to be 68 miles long. It was designed to pass over Nuremberg in 17 minutes, to concentrate the destructive power of the raid.

It was dusk by the time the last bombers lifted into the sky. When the planes got above the clouds though, and started to form up into the stream, all the air crews were struck by the same unfamiliar and unwelcome feeling. In the moonlight they were fully exposed and vulnerable.

Some navigators turned on their new H2S Radar, not realizing that instantly gave away their position to German Fighter Squadrons.

As Bomber W for Willy approached Nuremberg, a German fighter appeared on its tail. The pilot banked the plane steeply and narrowly escaped.

Finally, the target was visible, with colored target marker flares dropped from the pathfinder aircraft in the lead. The bomb doors were opened, the bomb aimers stared down into the building inferno, and the crew held its breath.

On the night of the Nuremberg raid, 96 bombers failed to return. 545 airmen died, more airmen killed in one night than died during the entire battle of Britain.

Nuremberg was Harris' worst defeat, but in his memoirs, which go on at great length about his favourite raids like Hamburg, there is not a single mention of the Nuremberg raid. His obsession with destroying German cities and civilians would continue to the end of the war.