On This Day In History: A British Bombing Raid Destroys Much of Hamburg

On this day in history in 1943, Hamburg was to suffer one of the worst days in its history. The British in retaliation for earlier raids on London and the other English cities. It was the worst British bombing raid on Hamburg and it killed over 40,000 people and left much of the city in ruins.

The British raid on Hamburg was part of Operation Gomorrah. This involved night-time raids on several industrial German cities. The British launched waves of bombers over Germany, despite fierce fire from the ground and attacks by fighter planes. The British mainly launched the Lancaster Bommer. They had large payloads of bombs and has machine guns to defend themselves against the German night fighters of the Luftwaffe.

But the night of the 28th Hamburg suffered more damage and casualties than in the  three previous years of bomb attacks. In a little under an hour that some 2000 tons of explosives were to fall on Hamburg. Many of these were incendiary bombs and they caused massive fires and this led to the expression of a firestorm. A firestorm was when various fires caused by bombs merged together into one huge fire.  The citizens of Hamburg were terrified by the fires and many were burned alive. Those who hid in air raid shelters for security died as the fire sucked all the oxygen away. Many of those who died were burned beyond recognition. The German air defense managed to shoot down many British bombers but they did not defend the city from the devastation of their bombs.

The German emergency services to the response was inadequate. They had not anticipated such an attack and Operation Gomorrah was to usher in a new more intense phase of the allied air campaign against Germany. The German fire fighting service did not do enough to stem the advance of the fires, that caused so much damage and deaths. Although it could be argued that even if they had, they could not have done much more than they did, because of the ferocity of the bombing.

Lancaster 2
RAF Lnacaster Bomber

In his memoirs, a British RAF lieutenant stated that

“not many fires but one… I have never seen a fire like that before and was never to see its like again.” Despite the terrible loss of civilian life, there strange and awful irony: The horrific bombing runs affected Hitler’s war machine only marginally. It did more to wound the morale of the German people and

The air raids chief objective was to destroy or limit Hamburg’s role in the German war machine.

The horrific bombing only slowed down  Hitler’s war effort  only marginally. The munitions factories were soon up and running. It is estimated that despite Operation Gomorrah, the German war machine was able to be back in full production within ten days. The raids did have a very negative impact on the morale of the German population.