On this date, August 25, 1940, Great Britain “accidentally” bombed Berlin, one day after the German Luftwaffe supposedly accidentally bombed London.
Accidentally on purpose, of course.
Germany had, prior to this been strategically bombing British towns and cities, but had been strategically hitting key shipping areas and factories in an effort to halt the war machine of Great Britain to make Germany’s domination of Europe that much easier.
This was, of course, the beginnings of The Battle of Britain, an epic war theater and one that would help change the very foundation of World War II.
You can read about what happened on August 24, 1940 HERE, in a blog I wrote yesterday.
While it is indeed true that before August 24, 1940 when nine civilians in London lost their lives, some 1,000 Brits had also died as, if you will pardon this gauche description, a by-product of Germany’s strikes on other strategic military locales.
So… with Churchill already thinking about taking the offensive against Germany, the deaths of the nine civilians in London on August 24 was essentially the straw that broke the camels back.
The attack on London was against German Fuhrer Adolph Hitler’s order about attacking London, so we can only assume it was not done according to the plan–not that mattered a bit to those affected, or to an outraged country.
On August 25, 1940, Great Britain’s Prime Minister and war leader Winston Churchill got together with his War Cabinet and decided to ‘accidentally-on-purpose’ bomb the crap out of Berlin.
Over 70 planes and bombers few out across the English Channel to drop bombs over the capital of Germany.
Now, I should mention that the British bombers did not have that great of an endurance… Berlin was actually JUST in the range of the bombers, allowing them enough fuel to fly to Berlin, drop the payload, and make it back home.
Flying 70 Armstrong Whitworth A.W.38 Whitley‘s, Handley Page HP.52 Hampden‘s and Vickers Wellington‘s, the bombers headed out to Berlin on a night raid. keep in mind that it was the height of summer, with nice long days and nice clear nights, which makes it easier to sight your targets, but also easier to be sighted as a target.
Now, despite the bombing of its own civilians in London, Churchill wasn’t going to be a goof about it… apparently the main targets for this bombing run was to be some arms manufacturing plants in the north end of Berlin, as well as the Tempelhof Airport in south-central Berlin–an airport that was used as a home for many of Germany’s fighting planes, but was also a place where it was suspected that planes were assembled, with parts being shuttled in trucks and trains via a hidden tunnel.
They were correct, as the airport was being used by Weser Flugzeugbau GmbH, also known as Weserflug–the fourth-largest aircraft manufacturer in Germany at that time–to assemble Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers.
Because it was a clear night over Germany, the British forces met with heavy anti-aircraft fire, forcing the RAF (Royal Air Force) to fly higher out of its range–which also meant that they might also have been a tad too high to properly aim their bomb payload.
As such, British bombs landed all over the place: on fields, in the woods, and yes, even on some residential areas.
Accidentally, of course.
Still, on this night, the bombs did little damage and reportedly no on was killed on the ground.
The effect, however, was a loss of face for one Hermann Goering, who was the leader of Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe.
Boasting of his country’s air superiority, he had claimed that there was no way that Berlin would ever be bombed.
An American journalist with the International News Service named William Shirer who happened to be based in Berlin–recall that it is still August of 1940, and the United States was still some 16 months from being dragged into the war by the Japanese–wrote in a diary that: “The concentration of anti-aircraft fire was the greatest I’ve ever witnessed. It provided a magnificent, a terrible sight. And it was strangely ineffective. Not a plane was brought down!”
In case you need to know, Shirer happens to be THE author of the The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a history of Nazi Germany – a book that has been in my family for over 40 years. It’s an amazing historical read.
Well… that kind of sucks.
Do you know what sucks even more – subsequent attacks by the British on bombing raids on Berlin over the next few weeks didn’t really do all the damage it needed to do, owing to the high-altitude flying it had to perform to avoid the German air flak.
All in all, however, the mosquito bites caused by the British bombings eventually cause Germany to want to slap back harder.
On September 4, 1940, Hitler yelled to a crowd (have you ever heard him speak otherwise?) in Berlin: “When the British air force drops two- or three- or four-thousand kilograms of bombs, then we will in one night drop 150-, 230-, 300- or 400-thousand kilograms – we will raze their cities to the ground.”
Then, the Battle of Britain got even more intense, as the German blitzkrieg (lightning war) would begin.
… and all because of an accident or two. Riii-iiight.