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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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