Airborne Interception over London
25th October 1943: Mosquito night fighters search for German bombers over the capital - just above the ceiling of the AA barrage
London had been spared the attention of Luftwaffe bombers for some time. With the nights growing darker they had begun to make an infrequent re-appearance, at first regarded as something of a novelty by Londoners. The raids may have allowed the Nazis to claim that they were 'hitting back' - but they could not possibly match the scale of devastation that the RAF and the USAAF were regularly inflicting on Germany.
The RAF night fighter interception units were ordered to adopt new tactics to take on the intruders. Theirs was a constantly evolving game of ever-improving aircraft performance and technological innovation. The ace night fighter John Cunningham and his regular Navigator, C.F. Rawnsley1, were ready for the new challenge:
It was probably for some purely political reason - intended, perhaps, as a timely counter to the growing suspicion that London’s defences had more sound than fury - that the decision was made to operate a couple of night fighters over what was known as the Inner Artillery Zone. The guns were to limit their fire to a height of eighteen thousand feet, and the fighters were to patrol at twenty thousand feet or above. I felt that the idea was merely for propaganda purposes with the hope that there might be a spectacular battle with plenty of cannon fire overhead, possibly finishing up with an impressive flamer.
Having watched the London barrage from afar, I hoped that there would be no errors in the height at which they set their fuses ; and remembering our battle over Southampton over two years before, I viewed with mixed feelings the prospect of sending down a flamer into the centre of London.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to World War II Today to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.