Moonlit raid on Peenemunde
18th August 1943: Nearly 600 bombers hit a small but vital target - as RAF Bomber Command makes one of the most important bombing raids of the war
On the 17th August as the USAAF headed out for their daylight raid on Schweinfurt, the crews of RAF Bomber Command were being briefed for their raid that night. This time they would be flying in moonlight, which was usually avoided, and the Intelligence Officers stressed the importance of the target that required this.
Bomber crews were briefed that they would be bombing a factory building new radar-controlled night fighters at Peenemunde. It was obviously in their interests to destroy such a target. It had been given such a priority that not only would they be bombing in moonlight but they would be doing so from half the usual height.
The ‘boozer’ light, flashing on my panel, gave the first warning that we were being followed, and then Lanham picked him up from the rear turret. ‘Fighter, fighter. Stand by to cork-screw port.’ ‘Standing by.’ ‘Mid-upper from rear-gunner. He’s at seven o’clock low. There may be a pair. …
In fact the true purpose of the raid was to destroy the V-2 rocket programme. The fact that British intelligence even knew of its existence had to remain secret. The bomber crews could not be put fully in the picture - crews that survived being shot down would inevitably be interrogated about their targets.