The battle of the Ruhr in the first half of 1943 was probably Bomber Command’s first truly effective campaign, marking the entry into service of navigation aids such as Oboe, the Lancaster bomber, more effective target marking systems and heavier bombs. However it also saw the German Kammhuber system of night fighter defences at its most effective, producing a clash that was costly to both sides.
We start with a day-by-day timeline of the battle, which needs reading carefully as it includes some of Harris’s comments on the progress of the battle and significant details about some of the raids and the developments in the battle.
The section on the weapons available starts with the RAF’s navigation aids – Oboe and H2S, an interesting choice but one that emphasises the need for accuracy. The aircraft section continues the theme, starting with the Mosquito, which was the key pathfinder aircraft during the battle. I knew that the Mosquito was largely immune to German interception, but I hadn’t realised quite how impressive the figures were, with only 4 aircraft lost during 485 sorties during the battle! The heavy bombers are compared, as is the slow increase in the size of Bomber Command during this period. Finally there is a look at the different bombs in use.
The same approach is taken with the German defences, starting with the organisation of the night fighter defences and the evolution of the Kammhuber Line before looking at the actual night fighters. The problems with the Kammhuber Line are examined in some detail, explaining how Bomber Command slowly overwhelmed it before knocking it out with Window. We then move onto the flak defences, which required a massive 640,000 personnel during 1943! I hadn’t realised how much of Germany’s industrial potential this absorbed, with a massive 25-30% of arms production going to flak guns in 1943-44.
Next comes a look at the target area, which includes the British target list for the Ruhr, which lists each city, with its codename, the Ministry of Economic Warfare’s British equivalent, a list of key targets within that city and the key-point rating, a total score that indicated how significant a target each city was. This section also makes you realise how good a target the Ruhr was for an area bombing campaign – miss your target by two or three miles in the Ruhr and you were likely to be hitting a different industrial city – the same error elsewhere in Germany would probably mean you bombed fields.
We reach the battle itself half way through the book. Here we get more detailed examinations of the individual raids, looking that their targets, results and losses, along with raids away from the Ruhr. One nice feature is the use of Goebbels’ diaries to give some idea of how the Germans saw the results of these raids, showing that Bomber Command’s attacks greatly worried the Nazi leadership and had a real impact on Germany’s war industries.
We finish with a very good examination of the actual impact of the bombing campaign, which looks at the immediate post-war surveys of the bombing campaign, wartime and post-war German statements (which don’t always agree with each other), and the work of more recent historians. There is no clear conclusion here, and probably never will be, but this is a good account of the varying views.
Aftermath and Analysis
Author: Richard Worrall