Tuesday, 2 March 2010

153 Sqn. 2nd March 1945 - Cologne

These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

By day break on 2nd March, and within thirteen hours of landing back from Mannheim, nine crews had been de-briefed, slept, eaten two meals, attended a fresh briefing and were actually airborne en route for Cologne, together with seven other crews. Exceptionally clear weather conditions, combined with precise Pathfinder Force markings, resulted in a highly effective raid by 858 aircraft. With once again the miraculous exception of its cathedral, Cologne, by now almost a front line city, suffered considerable damage in this last RAF raids - only four days later it was occupied by American troops.

During the bombing run, LM 752(P4-S) flown by F/Lt Jock Lennox and crew, on the second operation of their second tour, was hit by flak, but they were able to bomb and get back to base without much difficulty, even though the hydraulic systems were damaged and not responding well. When attempting to land at Scampton, only the starboard undercarriage wheel could be lowered, so they were diverted to Carnaby. F/O Ron Fullelove (Nav) recorded that Jock did a superb job of landing on only one wheel; none of the crew was injured; unsurprisingly, LM 752(P4-S) suffered so much damage (particularly to the port wing) that the aircraft was classified 'DBR'.{Damaged Beyond Repair} My research shows that 7 aircraft were lost on this final Cologne raid.

Cologne Cathedral lies untouched in the ruins

In World War II, Cologne endured 262 air raids by the Western Allies, which caused approximately 20,000 civilian casualties and almost completely wiped out the center of the city. During the night of 31 May 1942, Cologne was the site of "Operation Millennium", the first 1,000 bomber raid by the Royal Air Force in World War II. 1,046 heavy bombers attacked their target with 1,455 tons of explosives. This raid lasted about 75 minutes, destroyed 600 acres (243 ha) of built-up area, killed 486 civilians and made 59,000 people homeless. By the end of the war, the population of Cologne was reduced by 95%. This loss was mainly caused by a massive evacuation of the people to more rural areas. The same happened in many other German cities in the last two years of war. At the end of 1945, the population had already risen to about 500,000 again.

The Cathedrals survival is all the more remarkable considering its proximity to the railway station which was a prime target of the bombing raids.

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