1.10 'Baedeker Blitz' - April to July 1942

A most difficult situation arose when, following a successful RAF attack on Lübeck on the night of March 28th, German public opinion demanded heavy reprisal attacks against British cities. Although few aircraft could be spared from the Russian Front a small formation was assembled for which the He 111's of Ergr.u.Lehr Kdo 100 were to act as pathfinders. The main bomber force, comprising some 80 aircraft, was drawn from II and III/KG 2, and II/KG 40 equipped with Dornier Do 217's, as well as Kü Fl Gr 106, an anti-shipping unit equipped with Ju 88's, while I/KG 2 with around 25 Do 217's joined the battle a little later. The attacks were planned to start during the moonlight period at the end of April, and copying the tactics so successfully employed by the RAF against German towns, were to be concentrated and of short duration in order to minimise British defensive action.

The series of RAF raids on Rostock, which began on April 23rd, really brought things to a head and as a result the Germans threatened eradication of all British cities listed in Baedeker's tourist guidebook. The raids, thereafter became known in both Germany and Britain as the 'Baedeker' raids For the first time in the war the Germans clearly stated that "besides raids on ports and industry, terror attacks of a retaliatory nature are to be carried out against towns other than London", the campaign opening with operations against Exeter on the night of the 24th.

1.10.1 Bath Raid 25/4/42

Bath was the target on the following two nights with all bomber units of Luftflotte 3 being called upon, including for the first time the training crews of the fourth Gruppen, of which IV/KG 2, IV/KG 3, IV/KG 4, IV/KG 30, IV/KG 55 and IV/KG 77 were available flying an assortment of obsolete Do 17's, He 111's and Ju 88's. Once the aircraft arrived over the city they would be able to fly around at will, make extensive use of shallow dive bombing and machine gun the streets, as Bath possessed no anti-aircraft guns or balloon barrage protection.

On the night of April 25th the Luftwaffe flew a total of 151 bomber sorties to Bath, with most aircraft making two flights, the crews claiming to have dropped 206 tonnes of H.E's and 3564 I.B.'s on the city in the biggest effort against Britain since July 1941. The pathfinders from Ergr.u.Lehr Kdo 100 were operating that night with Y-Verfahren, successfully leading in the other participating units from II and III/KG 2, II/KG 40, Kü Fl Gr 106 and Kü Fl Gr 506, in addition to the assorted aircraft from the fourth Gruppen.

The 'Red Alert' went out in Bath at 22.59 hrs, and shortly after, the sky, which had been clear with a bright half moon, was filled with the light from chandelier flares, which were quickly followed by I.B.'s, the first fires developing in the west of the city in the Upper and Lower Bristol Road areas. Then came the H.E.'s, one of the first of which destroyed No.3 Gasholder at the Gasworks, while others caused serious damage to the Kingsmead area, at the Abbey Church House and Circus Tavern. In addition a serious fire developed at the Midland Railway Goods Yard. Some of the bombers, however, mis-identified the target completely and bombs also fell on the Brislington area of Bristol, where 18 were killed and 41 injured. As a result Bristol's 'Z' rocket sites went into action for the first time, firing a total of 38 UP's. In addition the Avonmouth smoke screen was ignited during the night but an enemy aircraft dive bombed and machine gunned a Haslar generator and its towing vehicle, both of which were put out of action. This, the first phase of the attack, ended with the sounding of the 'All Clear' at 00.11 hrs.

The German aircraft then returned to their French bases to refuel and rearm before taking-off again on their second sorties of the night. The first of the bombers crossed the English Coast at 04.20 hrs and in Bath the 'Red Alert' was issued at 04.35 hrs. On this occasion the bombing, whilst heavy was rarely concentrated, although both the Kingsmead and Oldfield Park areas again received a fair amount of attention. Other isolated bombing also took place at Southdown and North Bath, while railway traffic was also affected, the main line between Bristol and London being closed by a damaged bridge at Oldfield Park, before the 'All Clear' sounded at 06.02 hrs. A total of four German aircraft failed to return, resulting in the death of 14 crewmen, with a further two being taken prisoner.

1.10.2 Bath Raid 26/4/42

The following night a further 83 bombers were dispatched to Bath in a repeat operation, the participating crews reporting dropping 107 tonnes of H.E's and 7956 I.B's on the City. The raid, which took place on a fine night with some cloud, lasted from 01.25 hrs until the 'All Clear' at 02.45 hrs, and started as usual with flares and I.B's. The old residential part of the Bath was chiefly affected with many houses being destroyed. Within a short time numerous small fires, plus two large areas of conflagration were developing, one around the Kingsmead and Green Park area and the other near Bath Spa Railway Station. In addition the area south of the river from Holloway and Beechen Cliff to Bear Flat received a large number of H.E.'s. For the Germans this was yet another successful attack, as just one aircraft failed to return, although its 4 man crew were all killed, as were two men in other aircraft.

The damage caused in Bath over the two nights was very serious, with over 80 per cent of the City being affected in some way or another, while tragically the raids resulted in the death of 400 people, with a further 872 being injured. By this period little daylight reconnaissance was possible over the Bristol area, nevertheless on April 29th a Bf 109F-5 of 3(F)/123 succeeded in taking post-raid photographs of Bath, as well as photographing Avonmouth and the Nailsea Munitions Store, its long range drop tank falling at Pill around midday.

Following the Exeter and Bath attacks York, Norwich, and Cowes were targeted by an operational force of between 40 to 70 aircraft lead by Epgr.u.Lehr Kdo 100 which, in mid-May, was re-designated Ergr.u.Lehr Kdo 17, and still undertaking experimental daylight attacks in addition to its nocturnal duties. Typical of these was the attempt against Avonmouth Docks by seven He 111's, using both X and Y-Verfahren, in poor weather on the afternoon of May 23rd. Although the operation was not a great success, a Heinkel being forced to crash into the ground near Shaftesbury by a Beaufighter from No.604 Squadron, and the nearest bombs falling at Severn Tunnel Junction, some six miles from the objective, it was the first occasion when the British first definitely detected supersonic modulation on the 'X' signals allowing countermeasures to be immediately put into action.

During May and June the Luftwaffe busied itself with night raids on Norwich, York, Exeter, Cowes, Hull, Poole, Grimsby, Canterbury, Ipswich, Southampton and Birmingham, some targets being raided more than once. However, the end of June saw a return to local targets, Weston super Mare being attacked on the nights of June 27th and 28th, operations which resulted in the death of 102 persons, with a further 400 injured. Not strictly speaking part of the 'Baedeker' series, it was chosen as a reprisal for the British 'Thousand Bomber' raid on Bremen on the night of June 26th, because German intelligence understood that Churchill was to stay in the town on his return from a visit to the United States.

1.10.3 Weston super Mare Raid 27/6/42

53 aircraft of I, II and III/KG 2, II/KG 40 and Kü Fl Gr 106 claimed to have attack Weston on the night of June 27th, with a total of 28.6 tonnes of H.E's and 18,832 I.B's, while 2 Ju 88's of 1(F)/123 kept a look-out for British fighters. The raid began in brilliant weather with a full moon and the first bombs were dropped just before the siren warning at 01.22 hrs. A total of 62 H.E. incidents involving casualties were reported from many locations, but the main concentration was in the residential and shopping centre of the town. The attack, which was of short duration, ended at about 02.00 hrs, the majority of the damage having been confined to residential property. From the attack force only one aircraft was lost, this having crashed in France injuring the 4 crewmen.

1.10.4 Weston super Mare Raid 28/6/42

The following night a similar number of bombers from the same units delivered some 27 tonnes of H.E.'s and 20,096 I.B's, the Weston Anti-Aircraft guns engaging them between 01.59 and 02.24 hrs. During this raid it was the main shopping centre which was chiefly affected with many shops and commercial premises being destroyed as a result of the large fires which took hold in the Regent Street, High Street, South Parade, Waterloo Street and Boulevard area. Railway services in and out of Weston were also suspended, and at the station the waiting room and goods shed were destroyed by fire, as were 12 passenger coaches. Once again German losses were small, and from the 3 aircraft which crashed in France only 3 men were killed and one injured.

1.10.5 Bristol Raid 1/7/42

In July the Luftwaffe's activities were directed mainly against ports and targets of the British armaments industry, the month starting with an unsuccessful attempt on the harbour installations at Bristol on the night of July 1st in which I, II and III/KG 2, and II/KG 40 were known to have taken part. Over the target it was a moon light night, but there was thick haze and 4/10ths cloud at 1200 metres. 46 German aircrews subsequently claimed to have successfully attacked with 20 tonnes of H.E.'s, but due to the poor visibility no bombs whatsoever fell on the docks, although widespread bombing occurred on the South and South West coasts and in South Wales. In fact, the nearest any bombs came to Bristol that night were those reported falling at Brean Down at 02.10 hrs. One raider subsequently landed back in France with one crewman killed and one injured, the result of a night fighter attack.