Blasting The Axis

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Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), Tuesday 8 December 1942, page 4


By PETER MASEFIELD, noted British aviation authority

BRITAIN'S new big bombers weigh 35 tons apiece; they carry, in addition to their crew of five to seven men, a bomb load over eight tons. Some of these bombs weigh two tons each: others are newly developed explosive incendiaries.

A typical communique illustrates the employment of this great weight of attack, not only In spectacular thousand-bomber raids, but in steady, continuous assault inflicting a mounting toll of destruction and interference with the Axis war effort.

"Though the weather was unfavorable," the communique reads, "for the second time in five nights more than 50 4000 lb. bombs were dropped on Duisberg, besides many other high explosives and thousands of incendiaries. The attacking force included all three four-engined types — Lancasters, Halifaxes and Stirlings."

More than 100 tons of bombs in 50 presentation packages shattered Duisberg — the largest inland port in Europe — and it was seen by reconnaissance burning hours after that. And it is but one of many objectives.

THE HALIFAX BOMBER - The Handley Page Halifax R.A.F. 4-engined bomber, has a span of 99 ft., a length of 70 ft., and is 22 ft high. It is powered with four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. In build it is a id-wing monoplane with twin fins and rudders, the tail-gun-turret projecting well past the tail assembly. (Source)

Naturally, it would be foolish to estimate the effect of the RAF's offensive, which has only recently attained such proportions. But It would be equally foolish to underrate the cumulative results both materially and on German morale.

There is now plenty of evidence which Is immensely encouraging — photographic and verbal proof of whole areas razed to the ground, of workers refusing night shifts, of wholesale evacuations, and of thousands of hours lost to production.

If the United Nations air forces can build up the weight of attack and maintain the pressure continuously, as we believe they can, then the pounding of Germany from the air will have a tremendous effect.

Examine the bombing a little more closely. What are these heavy bombers on the job? How much do they carry? How far do they fly?

It is probably true that from the British viewpoint the two technical successes of the war have been, firstly, the Hurricanes and Spitfires which won the Battle of Britain and secondly, the Lancasters, Halifaxes and Stirlings now striving to win the Battle of Germany.

For many months the whole weight of the attack by the bomber command was made up of smaller Whitleys, Wellingtons and Hampdens. Bomb loads of around two tons were the order of the day, and good work they did.

These two-motor types still form part of the bomber command's striking force, but are being steadily replaced at an increasing rate by new, heavy four-motor types. They are carrying about three times the load faster, with better defence, more armor protection, a greater range and smaller crews, proportionately, to load.

Take the Halifax as a typical example— the Stirling is bigger and the Lancaster faster.

Handley Page Halifax in Flight (SOURCE)

The Handley - Page Halifax weighs 31 tons fully loaded, can carry five and a half tons of bombs in the fuselage and the wings, has four Rolls Royce Merlin engines of nearly 1300 horsepower each, is armed by power-operated gun-turrets In the nose, atop the fuselage and in the tail.

It carries protective armor-plate and flies at almost 300 m.p.h. fully loaded. In the 10 hours of darkness it can fly to the farthest point of Germany and back.

Imagine yourself standing beneath the great wings of a row of menacing black Halifaxes bombing up before a raid. Watch the vast, yellow 4000-lb. bombs slowly swing up into the belly of the fuselage. The bomb doors, 22ft. long, close around them, pressing against their golden flanks, to open again over the target.

Into the wings swing dozens of smaller bombs and trays of hundreds of incendiaries to light the target.

Up there In the fuselage, the armorer is threading a long gleaming chain of bullets into the track which feeds four guns in the rear turret. These tracks feed an almost inexhaustible supply of ammunition to the guns in the tall so that Halifax can maintain a long running fight. Atop and in front, other turrets guard the bomber from beam or head-on attacks.

One by one the crew of seven go aboard. One by one the four great motors spout fire from the exhausts in the gathering darkness and begin to turn. Each Halifax taxies out and thunders down the runway, headed for Germany. Two hours later, over the target already lit by the fire-bombs of previous raiders.

The bomb aimer in the nose watches tensely as the target looms into his sights. Fourteen black bomb doors swing open — under the fuselage and under the wings — a sudden surge as the load leaves the rack, and a quarter of a minute later, a brilliant flash on the ground where a 4000-pounder has hit.

Not all raids are at night, though darkness provides cover for the concentration sought in the biggest raids — 1000 bombers over the target in 75 minutes has been the best yet, swamping the defences and pulverising the objective.

The new heavy bombers also enable shrewd daytime blows when clouds provide cover up to the target. Then the approach can be made safe from interception and the run-up to bomb under a cloud layer, giving a precision possible only in daylight. With 4000-pounders aboard, even a single machine scoring direct hits can do enormous local damage.

These two-ton bombs are an immense success because a near-miss is little less effective than a bomb planted plumb on the spot —an area of about 100 yards is devastated and lighter damage done within a quarter of a mile if the bomb strikes hard ground.

These "blast bombs" have exerted a great moral effect as well as actual destruction. They have become a terror by night In industrial west German cities.

How do their loads compare with those of the newest German machines? The present types of enemy raiding aircraft arc chiefly the Dornier DO-217, the Junkers JU-88, and the old Heinkel HE-111. Their maximum bomb loads are respectively 6615, 5720 and 4400 pounds, compared to 17,000 for the Stirling, 12,000 apiece for Halifaxes and Lancasters.

Even on the RAF's longer ranges, the machines carry twice the weight of bigger bombs. In one short, intense raid on Hamburg recently, British bombers dropped 175,000 incendiaries in 35 minutes, or 55.000 more than the Luftwaffe dropped in a much longer time in the biggest London raid. Under such a rain of fire, no fire-fighting equipment can cope with the flames.

The raids are mounting in their toll of damage. In recent weeks at Emden, the Nordseewerke yards have been seriously damaged. At Cologne extensive destruction was caused to the Humboldt-Deutz works, engaged in making Diesel engines for submarines, and at the Hagan works for submarine accumulators.

At Cologne, Wilhelmshaven, Essen, Lubeck, Rostock, Bremen, Flensberg, Kiel, Warnemunde, Duisberg and a dozen more, the tale is the same. Photographs, neutral reports and the other usual channels all bring the same tale.

There can be no doubt that Germany is being deeply wounded by these raids. Goebbels is skilful in hiding the truth, but the damage is becoming greater than even he can hush up. The scale of attack will steadily increase and, with American help, will build up in power and weight, playing an important part In preparing the Anglo-American second front.

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