Frisky and the (Baby) Blitz

The initial weeks of the 371FG in England were fairly placid, at least at home base. But on the night of 23 April 1944, the Luftwaffe changed that and for the first time gave Frisky an idea of what it was like to be on the receiving end of an air raid:

“…On the night of 23 April, enemy aircraft appeared in the area and a terrific anti-aircraft barrage drove them off…”
371FG History, April 1944

British anti-aircraft guns in night time action (Military History of the 20th Century Blog)

British anti-aircraft guns in night time action (Military History of the 20th Century Blog)

Perhaps unbeknownst to most in the group, Frisky had witnessed a part of what was called the Baby Blitz (or the Little Blitz). This was German Operation Steinbock (Unternehmen Steinbock im Deutsch), a renewed campaign of aerial bombing against Great Britain, which began on 21 January 1944 and lasted until 29 May 1944.

Operation Capricorn (Steinbock in German) was a campaign of retribution against Britain as Germany was being hammered by the Combined Bomber Offensive of the RAF Bomber Command and USAAF Eighth Air Force. The Germans mustered over 500 bombers, He 177s, Ju 88s, Ju 188s, and Do 217s, to conduct this campaign. Of the 31 night air raids in this period, 14 were in the London area.

A German Luftwaffe Dornier Do-217 bomber appears ready for a mission (WWII Vehicles.com)

A German Luftwaffe Dornier Do-217 bomber appears ready for a mission (WWII Vehicles.com)

Following German aerial photo reconnaissance of England in April, 1944, which showed concentrations of shipping in the Portsmouth – Southampton and Plymouth – Brixham coastal areas and other ports in southwestern England, the Luftwaffe switched to attacks against these southern ports. The last attack on London in this campaign was the night of 20 April.

German Luftwaffe Heinkel He 177 “Grief” bombers make their way west in darkening skies (World War 2 Eagles Blog)

German Luftwaffe Heinkel He 177 “Grief” bombers make their way west in darkening skies (World War 2 Eagles Blog)

On the night of 23 April 1944, the Luftwaffe bombers tried to hit the harbor facilities at Bristol, and also some night fighter airfields in the Bristol area. A total of 117 aircraft were sent on this mission, with some 93 actually reaching a target area. Although the German bombers utterly failed to hit their intended target, they still dropped 59 tons of high explosive and 79 tons of incendiary bombs over a wide area of western England, including Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire, and East Somerset, to the west, north and northeast of Bisterne. The bombs that fell nearest to Bristol landed at Batheaston, some 25 miles away, at 0205 hours.

A Ju 188A-3 of Kampfgeschwader 6 (KG 6) being loaded with bombs. Western Europe, 1944

A Ju 188A-3 of Kampfgeschwader 6 (KG 6) being loaded with bombs. Western Europe, 1944

In return for this harassment of bombing, the Luftwaffe lost ten aircraft, and four more crashed on return in France. One Ju-88 was shot down at 0210 hours by a defending RAF Mosquito night fighter over Hill Deverill, in Wiltshire, some 30 miles northwest of Bisterne. Three of the four-man crew survived and became prisoners of war.

Three of the four man crew of one of the German bombers belonging to the 4th Staffel of KG30, which was shot down on the night of 23 April 2014 near Hill Deverill.  Left to right are Pilot, Unteroffizier. Rudolf Detering (POW);  Gunner, Unteroffizier  Helmut Trauwald (Killed in Action); Observer, Unteroffizier Johann Agten (POW) and Radio/Op, Unteroffizier Ruell (Uffz Walter Kempter 's (POW) predecessor).  The aircraft is a Junkers Ju 88 similar to the version they the night of their fatal mission flew (Ju 88A-14).  It is painted in the “Wellenmuster” wave pattern camouflage.  (Aircrew Remembrance Society)

Three of the four man crew of one of the German bombers belonging to the 4th Staffel of KG30, which was shot down on the night of 23 April 2014 near Hill Deverill. Left to right are Pilot, Unteroffizier. Rudolf Detering (POW); Gunner, Unteroffizier Helmut Trauwald (Killed in Action); Observer, Unteroffizier Johann Agten (POW) and Radio/Op, Unteroffizier Ruell (Uffz Walter Kempter ‘s (POW) predecessor). The aircraft is a Junkers Ju 88 similar to the version they the night of their fatal mission flew (Ju 88A-14). It is painted in the “Wellenmuster” wave pattern camouflage. (Aircrew Remembrance Society)

So Frisky was not the target, but witnessed a lively night on 23 April 1944, as the Baby Blitz took place in the night skies over England. It was the first but not the last air raid experienced by the 371FG in WWII. In this case, during Operation Steinbock, the Germans mainly succeeded in expending their own bomber force, losing over 300 aircraft in five months of effort. Thus they significantly reducing their own capability to respond to the Normandy landings in June. Which was well enough already as Frisky had a lot of other work up ahead anyway.
References

Operation Steinbock, Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Steinbock

G.A.F. [German Air Force, Luftwaffe] and the Invasion of Normandy, 1944, at: http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/gaf_invasionnormandy.htm

Axis History Forum, Luftwaffe operations over Britain 1944-45, at: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=44323

Bristol During World War Two, at: http://humanities.uwe.ac.uk/bhr/Main/ww2/1_13.htm

Buckle Cottage website, Information on loss of aircraft at Hill Deverill, at: http://www.atsx91.dsl.pipex.com/luftwaffe_ju88.htm

Bundesarchive Picture Database, Ju-188, at: http://www.bild.bundesarchiv.de/cross-search/search/_1398231208/?search%5Bview%5D=detail&search%5Bfocus%5D=3

WWII vehicles.com website, Germany’s Dornier Do 217 heavy bomber, at: http://www.wwiivehicles.com/germany/aircraft/bomber/dornier-do-217.asp

World War 2 Eagles Blog, Heinkel He 177 Greif – PHOTOGALLERY, at: http://ww2eagles.blogspot.com/2012/02/heinkel-he-177-greif-photogallery.html

Military History of the 20th Century Blog, British AA guns in night time action, at: http://militaryhistoryofthe20thcentury.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html

Aircrew Remembrance Society, Mission: Bristol – England, 23 April 1944, Ju 88 loss at Hill Deverill, at: http://www.aircrewremembrancesociety.co.uk/styled-15/styled-21/styled-113/index.html

Junkers Ju 188, Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junkers_Ju_188

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