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Aerial bombing

At what point during the Second World War did large-scale German bombing raids (excluding V1 and V2 rocket attacks) on Britain cease?

Published: July 4, 2011 at 11:37 am
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Large-scale aerial bombing of the UK is generally considered to have ended more or less with the conclusion of the Blitz in the early summer of 1941. Thereafter, as most of Hitler’s offensive strength moved east to face the Soviets, aerial attacks on Britain began to dwindle and the intensity seen in 1940–41 was rarely repeated. This is demonstrated by the fact that nearly three-quarters of the British civilian death toll was incurred in that early period.


Luftwaffe attacks did not cease entirely, however. The infamous Baedeker raids of 1942, for instance, hit Exeter, York, Canterbury, Norwich and Bath, while other cities – such as Cardiff, Plymouth and Bristol – saw isolated and increasingly infrequent raids into 1944. However after the D-Day landings in June 1944, Luftwaffe operations over Britain diminished swiftly as the urgent demands of defending the Reich took precedence. The last raid on the UK targeted Hull in mid-March 1945.

This scaling back of operations over Britain was partly due to the Luftwaffe’s lack of offensive capacity, which faced three disadvantages. Firstly, unlike the RAF, which had the Avro Lancaster entering service from 1942, the Luftwaffe never developed a purpose-built heavy bombing aircraft and made do with twin-engine, ground-support aircraft that were ill-suited to extensive heavy bombing operations. Secondly, when the military theatres on the ground shifted away from the British coast from 1941, most of the bombing squadrons shifted with them. Lastly, in the three years that followed, the offensive capacity
of those units were systematically downgraded by their enemies’ growing superiority.

By 1944, the Luftwaffe was directing its efforts primarily at defensive operations on the home front and ground-support for the Wehrmacht. As an offensive force, it was already effectively spent.


Answered by: Roger Moorhouse, author of Berlin at War (Bodley Head, 2010)


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