On this day 75 years ago the Battle of the Ruhr began, a five month campaign of strategic bombing during the Second World War against the heavily defended Ruhr Valley, the industrial heart of Nazi Germany.
The campaign bombed 26 major Combined Bomber Offensive targets including the Krupp armament works at Essen, the Nordstern synthetic oil plant at Gelsenkirchen and the Rheinmetal–Borsig plant in Düsseldorf.
The British bomber force that took part came from RAF Bomber Command and consisted mainly of the twin-engined Vickers Wellington medium bomber and the four-engined Short Stirling, Handley Page Halifax (a famous example ‘Friday the 13th‘ from 158 Squadron RAF is shown below) and Avro Lancaster.
RAF Bomber Command operations were conducted at night with the use of newly developed navigational and blind bombing aids like Oboe, H2S and Gee. The force was also supported by the newly formed 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group RAF (under the command of Australian Air Commodore Don Bennett DSO) to mark the route and aiming points to guide the main Bomber force to the target.
The United States Army Air Force (USAAF) was responsible for the daylight bombing campaign and used two 4-engined bomber aircraft, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (shown below) and Consolidated B-24 Liberator.
The German defence consisted of anti-aircraft artillery (also called “flak”) and day and night fighters. The Kammhuber Line (a section of which is shown below) used radar to identify Allied bombers and then controllers directed day and night fighters onto the bomber stream.
During the battle RAF Bomber Command estimated that 70% of the aircraft lost were due to German fighters. British aircrew called the area ‘Happy Valley’ or the ‘Valley of no Return’.
The Battle of the Ruhr severely disrupted German industry with steel production falling by 200,000 tons, leading to the armaments industry facing a 400,000 ton shortfall. This disruption resulted in the Zulieferungskrise, or sub-components crisis, with monthly armaments production failing to increase between July 1943 and March 1944.
RAF Bomber Command losses during the Battle of the Ruhr were estimated at 4.7% over the 43 attacks with 18,506 sorties flown. Some 5,000 aircrew were lost. In 2012 the Queen unveiled the RAF Bomber Command Memorial (shown above) on Piccadilly at Green Park in Central London. It commemorates the sacrifice of 55,573 aircrew from Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries of the Commonwealth who lost their lives during the war serving in Bomber Command.
One of my favourite military artists is Piotr Forkasiewicz with some of his imagery shown above. You can see his portfolio of work and purchase prints here: http://peterfor.com/albums/31856
You can find out more about Australian aircrew’s experiences in the Battle of the Ruhr here: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E213
You can find out more about the Bomber Command Memorial here: https://www.rafbf.org/bomber-command-memorial