Operation MANNA – or food from Lancasters


ON 17 SEPTEMBER 1944 Operation MARKET – the airborne part of MARKET GARDEN was launched as nearly 40,000 Allied paratroops tumbled from transport aircraft and the gliders that skidded to a halt over Holland.

But the Netherlands would not be liberated as quickly as it fell in 1940 and nine months later the fighting was still going on.

In an effort to aid the Allies the Resistance organised a rail strike to hamper the German transport and supply system. The Germans retaliated by withholding food from the Dutch.

Ten days after the parachutes bloomed in the September skies there was only enough food for two months.

The harsh freezing winter of 1944 cost the invader, conquered and liberator alike. Prince Bernhard Command in chief of the Dutch Armed Forces appealed to General Eisenhower on behalf of millions of Dutch citizens. People ate tulip bulbs. By March 1945 thousands of Dutch people were dead form starvation.

Churchill and Roosevelt were persuaded to help and negotiations were opened on their behalf with Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the Reichskommisssar

Out of these talks came the idea of safe air corridors, agreed drop zones and a commitment that aircraft flying in the corridors would not be fired on.

On 29 April 1945 two Lancasters braved bad weather to make a proving flight to one of the drop zones – the Duindigt racecourse near the Hague. The area was already known to the RAF – it had been a V2 missile site.

Having navigated by man-made landmarks the leading aircraft passed the last, a five-storey hospital marked with a red cross. Climbing to fifty feet (around 15 metres) the Lancaster lined up on the racecourse and opened its bomb bay.

The load of vital foodstuffs missed the flat racetrack and instead hit the stands, crashing through the wooden seating. As the aircraft pulled up and set course for home the crew saw a group of nurses on the roof of the hospital waving a Union flag.


Image: A page from Bob Upcott’s logbook. Upcott was the pilot of the first Lancaster to drop food over Holland. His aircraft was named ‘Bad Penny’ – after the expression that ‘Bad pennies always turn up’.Image from http://www.badpennybook.com/bobupcottgallery.html

The second Lancaster saw something else. A German tank trained its gun on the aircraft but didn’t fire.

The proving flight was a success and the order to begin the full operation was broadcast.

Monitoring RAF radio communications, the German’s sent troops to four of the six zones to ensure the operation wasn’t a cover for a mass parachute drop – in addition SS intelligence officers were instructed to open the supplies at random to ensure that they weren’t containing arms for the Dutch Resistance.


Image: An Avro Lancaster on Operation MANNA. Image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-32388511

Over the next ten days, 145 Mosquito aircraft marked the drop zones and, dropping from 300 feet instead of 20,000 feet (100 metres instead of 6,000 metres) more than 3,000 Lancasters delivered more than 6,500 tons of food. In a separate operation – CHOWHOUND – the USAAF dropping some 4,000 tons between 1 and 8 May. German forces surrendered on 8 May 1945.

Three aircraft were lost – one due to an engine fire and two in a collision. Several aircraft were found to have has small arms bullet holes.

More information:




‘Operation Chowhound: The Most Risky, Most Glorious US Bomber Mission of WWII’ by Stephen Dando-Collins published by St. Martin’s Press (2015).


Anzac Day According to a Kiwi


Anzac Day is the one day a year when kiwis get up before dawn, (that is unless the All Blacks are playing a game of rugby somewhere). To be a kiwi is to be an Anzac. One hundred and two years since those fateful landings on 25th April 1915, the events of Gallipoli and the legend it created are as central to New Zealand’s national identity as the All Blacks and Lord of the Rings. It is within our DNA. The same goes for our co-ANZAC across the ditch, the Aussies. Although, they may relate Anzac more to Aussies Rules and Kangaroos. So what is Anzac? And why is it so important?

Anzac is a product of the First World War. It didn’t exist before April 1915 and without the involvement of Lieutenant-General Sir W. R. Birdwood, the term and the legend would probably have never come to be. ANZAC is an acronym. It was created by Birdwood to act as a radio call sign for the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and stands for; Australia New Zealand Army Corps. Of course, when Birdwood came up with the term, it did not carry the legendary connotations that it does today. The Anzac legend relates to a moment when both Australia and New Zealand proved their worth, not only to Britain, but most importantly, to themselves. It is the birth of both nations sense of national identity that was not entirely dependent upon Empire. Gallipoli, through a baptism of fire, provided the means for this to occur. To understand how Anzac went from being a simple communication tool to being given Herculean status we have to look at what occurred from April to December 1915. We have to look at Gallipoli.

When war broke out in August 1914, it was unclear if the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) would enter the conflict and on whose side. The country was technically neutral as far as the allied forces were concerned. However, due to a lack of dialogue with Britain, France and Russia, local political instability and a sense of loss of international importance, Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary. In November 1914, after the attack upon the Russian Black Sea ports the allies declared war on Turkey and now faced a war on two fronts. This was not an ideal situation as it would drain resources and man power from the already bogged down Western Front. The initial plan was twofold, by forcing the Dardanelle Strait it was hoped that the allies would not only be able to free the Russian ports, but also remove Turkey from the war by taking the capital Constantinople. This was to be achieved solely by the allied navy. It was hoped that a land invasion would not be required. However, on the off chance that a force would be necessary, the ANZAC forces were redirected (they were on route to Europe) and along with British, French, Indian and Newfoundland (Canadian) troops, were sent to Egypt to await orders. The initial plan failed as the allies had underestimated the level of the Turkish defence. The coastline was heavily defended by gun posts and the strait, heavily mined. At night on 25th April 1915, the land invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula began. Unlike their allied comrades, the ANZACs were delivered to the wrong beach. Now dubbed Anzac Cove, this section of coastline was not the easily traversed landscape that it was meant to be. Instead, the ANZACs were faced with cliffs which were difficult to scale in the dark. Due to this mistake, the otherwise surprised Turkish forces were able to regroup and form a strong defence. As a result, Gallipoli became another western front, where the only option was to dig in and fight. That, is exactly what both sides did for next eight months until an evacuation was finally ordered in December 1915. By then, approximately 60,000 allied soldiers and over 87,000 Turkish soldiers, had been killed.[1]

The Anzac legend focuses around two main conflicts during the eight month invasion, the attempts to take Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. Both attacks were part of a much larger plan created by Birdwood to take the Sari Bair range and force a way through the Turkish lines. Starting on the 6th August, the Australians were charged with taking Lone Pine which proved to be a success, but at a cost of more than 2000 casualties.[2] Lone Pine was the diversion to enable New Zealand and British troops to take their respective targets. The attack on Chunuk Bair, proved to be less successful. When Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone of the Wellington Battalion advanced up the hill with his men during the early hours of the 8th August, they found the site lightly defended. They were not allowed to mount a night time attack, but their presence did not go undetected and the Turkish forces lead by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), were quick to respond. New Zealand troops were able to take and hold the summit for the next two days. Then they were relieved by British units, who lost it. By the end of August, after a final attempt to take Hill 60, both ANZAC nations could barely make up an army between them. Despite the military failure and huge losses, both Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair are central to any Anzac day celebration. Each year thousands of Aussies and Kiwis go on a pilgrimage to attend the dawn service at either site. It is seen as a rite of passage, something every ANZAC must do at least once in their life time.

Picture1Both at home in New Zealand and overseas Anzac Day has been commemorated every April 25th since 1916. Originally it was a means of rallying support for the war effort as well as a public expression of grief. What must be remembered is that in New Zealand we do not commemorate the Armistice, bells may toll to mark it, but as a population we do not really pay it much thought. Our day, is Anzac Day. To begin with, there was no fixed formula for how to commemorate the day. A service of some form would be held either in a town hall or local church. The Prime Minster would make an official speech which would be published in the various local papers the next day. Soldiers still away at war also marked the anniversary in different ways depending upon where they were. The 1917 troopship magazine Tiki Talk, documents how the Otago Reinforcement Regiment marked the occasion while at sea. The author opens by referring to the fame that the Anzacs have obtained. Two years after the invasion the legend had started to grow, helped in no small part by General Hamilton’s comment that, the Anzacs have no parallel not even in the sinister legends of Xerxes.[1] Xerxes and his invasion of Greece in 480BC seems to be a common comparison with the Anzacs. Both invade in a similar area, and both are defeated. But really, the Anzacs are more like the three hundred Spartans. Like the Spartans, when the deeds of the Anzacs are discussed we tend to forget that they were not alone in their invasion of Gallipoli. The British, French, Indian and Newfoundland troops are left out of the narrative. In both cases, the legend has clouded the historical events that inspired it to the point where fact is sometimes forgotten. The Anzac article in Tiki Talk goes on to outline the order of service of the day with remarks from the chaplain relating to the great sacrifice and how it stood as an example for those making their way to the front.[2] It was not until the 1920s that Anzac Day as we know it, started to emerge. In 1922, the New Zealand government officially created legislation that allowed for the 25th of April to be a national holiday.[3] As no bodies were ever returned home, New Zealand’s desire to commemorate their dead resulted in the building of more than 500 war memorials.[4] These became the focal point for the Anzac Day commemorations and as a result, the services became less of a religious occasion. It was not until 1931 that a National War Memorial was built. The idea put forward, was to build a Carillion in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. A carillon is the largest musical instrument in the world, and when its bells are played it gives a voice to the fallen. This was originally rejected by the New Zealand government as being too costly. However, prominent local families (including the author Katherine Mansfield) who had lost sons in the war, created the Wellington War Memorial Carillon Society in 1926 to cover the cost through fundraising. Within two years, they had raised £9,600 to pay for the carillons forty nine bells.[5] As this aspect of the build had been provided, the government agreed to finance the construction. Dedicated on Anzac Day 1932, more than 10,000 spectators attended the ceremony with thousands more crowding into nearby vantage points to hear the carillon bells ring for the first time and watch as the Lamp of Remembrance was lit.[6] The carillon is still at the heart of Anzac commemorations in New Zealand. The Second World War redefined Anzac Day. It was no longer a day to simply remember the war dead of the First World War and this remains true to this day. While the main focus is still Gallipoli, Anzac Day is about remembering all those who have not only died in military service to New Zealand, but for all those who served.


That in brief is the history of Anzac, according to a kiwi. But how does New Zealand commemorate it today? It all starts with the various dawn services taking place up and down the country with kiwis enjoying the delightful autumn weather while they wait for the first glimpse of sunrise. Then, it’s back home to devour freshly baked Anzac biscuits, or store bought as the case may be. Based on the biscuits the soldiers were given at the front, a modern Anzac biscuit is made from oats, coconut and way too much butter and sugar, they are chewy and delicious (see recipe below). Perhaps it is best we only make them once a year! Throughout the day, there are a number of ceremonies taking place across the country, but one of note takes place at the Atatürk memorial in Wellington. Turkey and New Zealand have a unique relationship due to what occurred at Chunuk Bair. General Atatürk, greatly admired and respected the kiwi soldiers and how they fought. Attached to this relationship is a phrase that Atatürk said;

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…are now lying in the soul of a friendly country…and are in peace…they have become our sons.[7]

At the time Atatürk’s words offered comfort to the mothers of fallen Anzacs. Now the phrase is part of the legend. The day ends with the Last Post at the Carillon, before the country turns its gaze to the live broadcast of the dawn service at Gallipoli. Due to the centenary of the Anzac landings, there is now more to Anzac Day than just biscuits and services and it extends throughout the rest of the year. In my home city of Wellington, the carillon and its fellow memorials were all cleaned and restored for the 100th anniversary in 2015. The area around the carillon has been transformed into the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, where new memorials are unveiled each year. This has allowed the people of Wellington to attend Anzac Day services on a scale similar to those in 1932. Two purpose built exhibitions are on until 2018. Te Papa’s, Gallipoli Scale of our War, created by Weta Workshop, refocuses the events of April to December 1915 by telling the tale of Gallipoli through the use of eight individuals who were there. A doctor, a nurse, a collection of kiwi Anzacs and one survivor, tell their unique view of Gallipoli in startling realism. This allows for an emotive response, but also clears away some of the cloud as it separates fact from legend. The other is Sir Peter Jackson’s Great War Exhibition. This one covers the entire war and places each battle in its correct context. While Gallipoli is mentioned it is not the focus. It allows for the whole kiwi war experience to be told which for some can be surprising, because the rest of the First World War is often overshadowed by Gallipoli. Both exhibitions are not to be missed. While the centenary has made Anzac Day current, it will be interesting to see if the increase in attendance among kiwis will continue once the anniversary is over.

One hundred and two years ago, the Anzacs created a legend that would long out live them. As the men who fought at Gallipoli have died, the legend has over taken the fact. If we forget the legend and all the new centenary additions for a moment, at its heart, Anzac Day is still a chance to reflect and pay respect to those brave kiwis who fought and died for home. Whether that was one hundred years ago or one year ago. Anzac day is about being a kiwi no matter where in the world you are. So, come Anzac day, this kiwi will be baking Anzac biscuits and paying tribute and respect.

ANZAC Biscuits

(Edmunds Sure to Rise Cookery Book 19th Edition 1983, page 19. Published by Edmunds Food Industries Ltd)


125g (4ozs.) Flour

150g (6ozs.) Sugar

1 cup Coconut

1 cup Rolled Oats

100g (3½ ozs.) Butter

1 tablespoon Golden Syrup

½ teaspoon Bicarb Soda

2 tablespoons Boiling Water


Mix together flour, sugar, coconut and rolled oats. Melt butter and golden syrup. Dissolve Bicarb Soda in the boiling water and add to butter and golden syrup. Make a well in the centre of flour, stir in the liquid. Place in spoonfuls on greased trays. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 180oC (350oF).



  1. A poppy being placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Wellington, New Zealand Defence Force, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/last-post-first-light/79277036/Thousands-attend-Anzac-Day-dawn-service-at-Pukeahu-park-in-Wellington, accessed 10 April 2017.
  2. Badge: ANZAC Remembrance Day, 1916 – 20, Gift of Mrs W.T. Richards, 1956, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, Wellington, Ref: GH023366.
  3. Dedication of the Carillon in Wellington. Ref: 1/1-020314-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22730639



[1] Sydney Waters, ‘ANZAC Day’, Tiki Talk Epistles of the Corinthians, 1917, (London: Argus Printing Company Ltd), Calman Family Collection, p.12.

[2] Ibid

[3] ‘A sacred holiday’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/anzac-day-1920-45, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 3-Sep-2014, accessed 16 April 2017.

[4] ‘Pukeahu National War Memorial,’ http://www.mch.govt.nz/pukeahu/park/national-war-memorial, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), accessed 12 April 2017.

[5] ‘Pukeahu National War Memorial: The National War Carillion,’http://www.mch.govt.nz/pukeahu/park/national-war-memorial/carillon, accessed 12 April 2017.

[6] ‘Pukeahu National War Memorial: The National War Carillion,’http://www.mch.govt.nz/pukeahu/park/national-war-memorial/carillon, accessed 12 April 2017.

[7] In Peace, Te Papa, Gallipoli Scale of our War, http://www.gallipoli.tepapa.govt.nz/saying-goodbye-in-peace, accessed 16 April 2017.

[1] ‘Anzac Day’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/anzac-day/introduction, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 7-Apr-2017, accessed 16 April 2017.

[2] NZ History, The Gallipoli campaign: The Sari Bair offensive https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/the-gallipoli-campaign/the-august-offensive, p. 5, accessed 16 April 2017.

The Secret War


MILITARY INTELLIGENCE in all its forms has always affected the course of conflicts, Bletchley Park for instance was crucial in the outcome of the Second World War. What is less well known is that Britain’s intelligence service did even better in the first war; the Room 40 intelligence agency at the Admiralty was instrumental in creating the Armistice in 1918.

The Imperial War Museum devotes a whole gallery to “The Secret War” with many artefacts connected with the “Hidden Dimension” of intelligence in the history of modern warfare.. The Museum is in the process of reorganisation to keep up with changing times and events so the Gallery is changing with it which is only right and proper. A change in presentation offers an opportunity for the Museum to present the history of British intelligence in a more coherent and logical way. The change is an opportunity to correct an erroneous impression of the history of code breaking and signals intelligence in the public’s mind. Many people think that the undoubted skills and successes of Bletchley Park began as the war began in 1939 – they did not. The incredible story of British intelligence began within days of the beginning of the First World War in 1914 and the “Park’s” success was built on foundations laid over a quarter of a century before. There is an uninterrupted thread of development in British intelligence that progressed for over the last century and the changes in the museum’s new presentation create an opportunity to tell the true story.


©IWM EPH 10095 Pipe with hidden compass

I used the ‘Secret War Gallery’ extensively in researching my books on the history of military intelligence.  I feel that not only was the Room 40 agency instrumental in finishing the First World War but once the war was over in 1918 its code breaking team but in a slimmed down form they maintained their expertise during the inter-war years.  That enabled the experienced group of code breakers to start their work in “The Park” only days before war was declared in 1939 with all the expertise that it had previously gained to use their skills during Hitler’s war.  Commander Alastair  Denniston who had done it all before in Room 40 led the development and success of “The Park’s” code breakers until 1942 when he stepped down, worn out in the service of his country. The Imperial War Museum’s presentation could emphasise the continuity of Britain’s Secret Service in the new presentation which they are about to design.  A new generation of visitors to the Museum should be told the rich and exciting tale of how the intelligence services began and progressed to make its indelible mark in the history of Britain’s conflicts.

Peter Matthews is the author of SIGINT: The Secret History of Signals Intelligence in the World Wars ( Stroud, UK;The History Press, 2013. ISBN 9780752487342) and House of Spies: St Ermin’s Hotel, The London Base of British Espionage (Stroud, UK; The History Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0750964012).

Louis Arbon Strange – a man with a DFC in the First World War and another in the Second


Image: Lieutenant Louis Arbon Strange DSO; Dorsetshire Regiment, attached to No. 5 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. He would rise to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by the end of the First World War. © IWM (Q 68274).


LIKE MANY MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS, Louis Arbon Strange was an army officer, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and seeing service the Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry and the Dorset Regiment as well as No 5 and 6 Squadrons Royal Flying Corps.

During the First World War he was awarded the Military Cross (MC) and the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). He also invented a number of gun mounting as well as other items for use in the rapidly changing air-war.

On one occasion while he was testing a new gun mount, he spotted and moved to attack a German fighter flying nearby. Firing at the enemy ‘plane he found that he needed to change the ammunition drum on his Lewis gun mounted above the top wing of his aircraft.

It was then the he found the empty drum was jammed and wouldn’t unscrew.

Putting the control stick between his legs to hold the aircraft steady, he stood up on his wicker seat and tried to free the drum. A sudden jerk and the plane  flipped over, leaving Strange dangling from the useless gun.

Frantically  kicking and struggling, he managed to get back into the cockpit and regain control. Landing safely he was later reprimanded for ‘causing unnecessary damage’ to his aircraft’s instruments and seat.

In February 1921 he retired from the Royal Air Force (as the RFC had become by then) due to ill health and returned to farming.

But the aviation bug had bitten him hard and in the late 1920s he became a director and chief test pilot of Simmonds Aircraft Limited, flying the company’s products in several air races.

And that should have been the end of it.

But if course it wasn’t.

In April 1940, too old at fifty for a regular commission, he re-joined the RAF as a Pilot Officer – the most junior air force rank.

During the Fall of France in May 1940, Strange arrived at the former RAF base at Merville aerodrome in charge of a group of airmen from No 24 Squadron RAF. The airfield had been evacuated in the face of the German advance and any RAF aircraft that could not be flown away hurriedly disabled.

He and his party was to assess what – if anything – could be used for spares and shipped back to Britain.

He realised that a number of aircraft could be made flyable by cannibalising others. He and his men managed to get two into the air when two RAF pilots turned up unexpectedly.

A third aircraft –  a Hurricane fighter – was made ready but there was no one who could fly it. Despite the enemy being five hundred metres away from the airfield, Strange managed to arrange for his men to be evacuated and then took off in the repaired Hurricane. With most of its instruments missing and unarmed, Strange set a course for England.

Encountering enemy anti-aircraft fire he climbed to 8000 feet and was then attacked by several German Messerschmitt fighters, which he managed to evade and eventually brought the aircraft back to England. For this he was awarded a ‘bar’ (a second DFC) to the one he won in the First World War.

He continued to make his mark, playing a part in developing training for the UK’s parachute force as well as becoming the first Commanding Officer of the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit that would be instrumental in protecting merchant convoys in the Atlantic.

In 1945 he again retired from the military, returned to farming and continued to fly regularly in competitions.

He died peacefully in 1966, aged 75 years old.

More information:





The day Clemmie could have killed Winston Churchill


RAF CROYDON, NOVEMBER 1939 and two Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadrons – No 607 (County of Durham) and No 615 (County of Surrey) – are about to go to Merville in France and are being reviewed by First Lord of the Admiralty (and No 615’s Honorary Air Commodore since April 1939) Winston Churchill and his wife.

Both squadrons are equipped with the Gloster Gladiator – the last British military biplane to be built. With innovations like a fully enclosed cockpit and sliding canopy, four forward-facing fixed machine guns on the fuselage and wings, the aircraft had been introduced as a frontline fighter only two years earlier.

Now with the RAF expanding rapidly it was already obsolescent and RAuxAF squadrons were taking on the type as the Regular received the more powerful and capable Hurricanes and Spitfires.

The aircraft being inspected were fully armed and fuelled up, ready to depart after the review. The ground crew and admin elements of both squadrons would be leaving at the same time in two Armstrong Whitworth Ensign transport aircraft escorted by the Gladiators.

Once away from the British coast they were expecting trouble.

Such were the peculiarities of the gun firing mechanisms that they could only be cocked for firing when on the ground and once made ready, even turbulence rocking the wings could set the guns off.

Flight Lieutenant James Sanders was ‘B’ Flight Commander with No 615 Squadron and had the pleasure of hosting Mr and Mrs Churchill.

While Winston examined one of the underwing gun pods on Sander’s Gladiator, the Flight Commander was making Clementine comfortable in the cockpit. Showing proper interest in such things Mrs Churchill asked questions and prodded dials before her fingers found the gun firing mechanism.

Image: The Fighter Collection’s Gloster Gladiator Mk II at IWM Duxford. Note the machine guns located on the side of the fuselage (in front of the squadron markings) and in the pod under the wing. Image © R Maddox 2017.

At that moment only a quick and heavy slap from the flight lieutenant on the hand of the wife of the future prime minister saved Mr Churchill’s life.

Image: Pilots of No. 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron RAF gathered together in front of their Gloster Gladiator Mark IIs at Vitry-en-Artois, France, sometime between December 1939 and April 1940. © IWM (C 511)

Later in France on 29 December 1939 in what was the RAF’s and No 615 Squadron’s last sortie of the year ‘Sandy’ Sanders was flying Gladiator N2308 (KW-T) when he chased a Luftwaffe Heinkel He-111 bomber possibly from WeKuSta 26, a weather reconnaissance unit.

Once on the ground Sanders is said to have lodged a claim for damaging, possibly destroying the aircraft before he lost sight of it – although like many other documents from the RAF’s time in France his combat report for that day does not appear to have survived.

Neither does history record who was more surprised by the attack – the Heinkel crew or Flight Lieutenant Sanders.

This is an revised version of a post written by the author for the  Kenley Revival blog website.

More information:







The ‘Bädeker Raids’ or how the German and British bombing campaigns escalated


“WE ARE GOING TO SCOURGE THE THIRD REICH FROM END TO END. We are bombing Germany city by city and ever more terribly in order to make it impossible for her to go on with the war. That is our object; we shall pursue it relentlessly”.

Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, Air Officer Commanding RAF Bomber Command, radio address – 28 July 1942.

I will strike and strike again until this criminal and his land are broken”.
Adolf Hitler referring to Churchill and England in a speech to the Reichstag following the attacks on Lübeck and Rostock.

EARLY SUNDAY MORNING, March 29 1942 and the light of a full moon picked out the RAF bombers nearing Lübeck on the Baltic coast. The force of 234 aircraft attacked – some at low-level – in three waves.

THE STRATEGIC BOMBING OF GERMANY, 1942-1945 (C 2367) Vertical aerial photograph taken during the major raid on Lübeck on the night of 28/29 March 1942, showing the glare of incendiary fires in the Altstadt (upper left), illuminating the Klughafen on which a number of barges can be seen moored. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205023091


When the raid was over – after two hours and just before 3 am – 400 tons of bombs (including 25,000 incendiary bombs) had been dropped over the city.

German records that state the damage covered 190 acres, that 1,425 buildings were destroyed and more than 11,000 more either seriously or lightly damaged. Fifteen thousand people were made homeless. Twelve RAF aircraft were lost.

This was the first major RAF Bomber Command strike against a major target and greatly shook the German authorities, partly because it was a German city but also because of the cultural significance of Lübeck, a city with many buildings dating back to the 12th century.

Indeed it was the fact that the Altstadt (the old town) had many hundreds of buildings of ancient wooden construction in narrow streets that helped push onto the target list.

Following analysis of the bombing of Coventry the RAF had determined a good ‘mix’ of high-explosives and incendiaries and an optimum bombing period – the result being to start a blaze that would overwhelm the firefighting capabilities.

Lübeck was in Harris’s words “… built more like a fire-lighter that a human habitation”.

He went on to say “The main object of the RAF attack on Lübeck was to learn to what extent a wave of aircraft could guide a second wave to the aiming point by starting a conflagration.  I ordered a half an hour interval between the two waves in order to allow the fires to get a good hold… Lübeck was not a vital target, but it seemed to me better to destroy an industrial town of moderate importance than to toil to destroy a large industrial city,,, I wanted my crews to be well, ‘blooded’ as they say in fox hunting, to have a taste of success for a change.”

Hitler was (perhaps predictably) furious when he heard of the attack and made a speech to the Reichstag saying of Churchill and England I will strike and strike again until this criminal and his land are broken”.

On 14 April Hitler ordered a series ‘Terrorangriff’ – terror attacks – the bombing of historic or aesthetic cities in England.

Back in Germany Rostock (home to one of the oldest universities in the world as well as the only Heinkel aircraft plant in northern Germany) was attacked over four successive nights starting on April 27 1942. This prompted Joseph Goebbels the German Minister of Propaganda to note in his diary: “Following Rostock, I now consider it absolutely essential that we continue our rigorous reprisal raids. Like the English, we must attack centres of culture, especially such as have little anti-aircraft.”

At a press conference Baron Gustav Braun von Stumm a German State Department propagandist promised “We shall go and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars* in the Bädeker Guide”. He was quickly reprimanded for the statement by Goebbels.

But the phrase ‘Bädeker Blitz’ was soon coined.

The first cities chosen – Exeter, Bath, Norwich and York were all attacked in April.

THE AFTERMATH OF A BAEDEKER RAID, CANTERBURY, KENT, ENGLAND, UK, 1942 (Q(HS) 299) A general view of damage to St Augustine’s Abbey and the surrounding area, following the Baedeker raid on Canterbury. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205202547

Canterbury was attacked on 1 June in retaliation for Operation Millennium, when 1,047 aircraft – virtually any aircraft that could carry bombs to Germany – took off to attack Cologne. In the event 868 aircraft bombed Cologne – another historic city, with a cathedral that dates back to 1248.

Richard Overy in ‘The Bombing War’ notes that Weston-super-Mare was (curiously) also added to the list of official Bädeker targets by the Luftwaffe. The town was attacked on the nights of 27/28 and 28/29 June 1942.

Besides being historic cathedral towns they had little else in common, except perhaps of being of little real value to the war effort.

A German propaganda poster in IWM’s Churchill War Rooms in London. The poster refers in part to a speech made by Adolf Hitler in September 1942 and ends by stating it will all end badly for Britain.

Although military targets would still be hit there was a new aim – each side was now trying to break the will of the enemy’s civilian population.

Harris again in June 1942: “The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everybody else and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.

To mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the attack on Canterbury there is a talk on Saturday 3 June 2017. Details at:  http://www.canterbury.co.uk/Canterbury-Bädeker-Raids-75-years-on/details/?dms=3&venue=3122130&feature=1001&AskRedirect=true

*Some sources state that this is a mistake or a mistranslation as the Bädeker books used only a two-star rating system.

Battle of Gravelle – April 1917


On 23rd and 24th April 1917, during the Battle of Arras, the 63rd Royal Naval Division attacked the village of Gavrelle with the 189th and 190th Brigades of the Division. The objective of the attack was the village of Gavrelle and the high ground beyond. The assault was largely successful, but when on the night of 24/25th April when the assault brigades were relieved in place by 188th Brigade, which included 1st and 2nd Battalions Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI)(1), the Division was in a pronounced salient.

To push forward into the salient from the line of the 24th April was impossible until the flanking formations moved forward, but it was hoped that something could be done about the dominating German position on the high ground northeast of Gavrelle, which included the Windmill position.

Image: The windmill at Gavrelle © Royalnaval division.co.uk


1 RMLI attacked from the 2nd Division lines on the left of the salient, but was held up in the German wire or in the German front line trench by enfilade fire from a position that had held up the attacks on the 23 April.

2 RMLI, fighting independently on the right, were initially more successful and the Gavrelle Windmill was captured by a platoon commanded by Lt Newling RMLI. They held the windmill position throughout the day against multiple counter attacks by the Germans even though the remainder of the battalion was forced back to their starting positions.

The capture, defence and holding of the Windmill was described as a “very brilliant operation” which significantly strengthened the hold of the Division on Gavrelle. However, the strength and determination of the Germans had been underestimated and both Royal Marine Battalions paid the cost, suffering disastrous losses.

There were more than 500 casualties in 1 RMLI, including the Commanding Officer and six other officers; in 2 RMLI, 10 officers and 200 other ranks were killed and the total casualties for the battalion were nearly 600.

The casualties of both battalions represent the greatest loss of men on land in a single day by the Royal Marines throughout the Great War, (the deaths at Jutland on 31 May 1916 totalled 589 officers and men). The total casualties for the Division between 15 April and 29 April were 170 officers and 3,624 other ranks of which 40 officers and 1000 other ranks were killed.

Extracted and adapted from Article for the Royal Marines Association © RMA 2017

(1) In 1855 the three traditional Royal Marine Divisions (Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth) were merged and then divided into two separate organisations: The Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI) and the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA)

Following the inevitable review after the First World War the two organisations were merged once more and in 1922 became an integrated Corps once more.

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Felicity Peake – A Widow’s Tale or How an Air Commodore also founded the IWM Friends


WITH THE SECOND WORLD WAR not a month old John Charles McKenzie (‘Jock’) Hanbury was one of the first Fighter Command casualties when he was killed in a night flying accident on 1 October 1939.

Jock Hanbury  – from No 615 Squadron (County of Surrey), Royal Auxiliary Air Force and based at RAF Croydon – was a member of the Truman brewing family and had married Felicity Hyde Watts less than five years before at St Margaret’s church Westminster in 1935.

Image: Dame Felicity Peake (née Watts) by Bassano Ltd, 1949 NPG x84313 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Born 1 May 1913, the daughter of a Manchester industrialist, she and John had met on a cruise to the West Indies in 1933, shortly after she had been presented at Court.

Together they took up flying as a hobby, each gaining their pilot’s licence. With war looming and Jock having joined the RauxAF, Felicity became an aircraftwoman, second class (ACW2) with 9 Auxiliary Territorial Service issuing equipment.

In June 1939 the Womens’ Auxiliary Air Force was formed to free up men in support roles for front line duty and she was called up and commissioned into the WAAF as a Company Assistant – the lowest commissioned rank in the service.

In May 1940 after a spell as a code and cypher clerk, she was posted to RAF Biggin Hill, where as a Section Officer in charge of 250 WAAF personnel she was present when aircraft of Luftwaffe Kampfgeschwader 76 (Bomber Wing 76) attacked the airfield on 18 August 1940, part of a coordinated plan to neutralise 11 Group RAF, London and the south east’s air defence. To do so would leave a clear path to the capital open to invading forces.

The attack killed 38 and severely damaged the WAAF accommodation blocks, as well as other buildings.

After it was over, Hanbury went from door to door in Biggin Hill village finding accommodation for those that needed it. Because of this and other actions, she is credited with helping keep the airfield operational and as a result received one of the first – perhaps THE first – military MBE awards.

It is said that the lead female character of Section Officer Harvey (played by Susannah York) in the film ‘Battle of Britain’ – especially the aftermath of the airfield attack scene – was inspired by Hanbury at Biggin Hill.

Image: Filming ‘The Battle of Britain’ at Duxford in 1968. Section Officer Harvey (Susannah York) standing near the bodies of the dead after a Luftwaffe attack. © http://www.panoramio.com/photo/4071920

In January 1941 she joined the WAAF recruiting team at the Air Ministry, where she toured the streets in a loud speaker van calling on women to join up. By its peak in 1943 there were 182,000 women in the service and around 2,000 joining each week.

Hanbury’s rapid rise through the ranks took her to a variety of home and overseas posting until at the age of 33 she was appointed Director of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force on 12 October 1946.

With the war over she was to oversee the transition from war footing to the peacetime service.

In 1949 Air Commodore Hanbury became the first Director of the new Women’s Royal Air Force. That same year she was made a Dame of the British Empire (DBE) as well as serving as an Honorary Aide de Camp (ADC) to King George VI.

Until she retired from the RAF in June 1950 she continued her work to integrate women within the new RAF structure. She laid particular emphasis on pay and conditions, enabling women to have career paths on equal terms to their male colleagues.

In 1952 she married Air Commodore Harald Peake, director of RAF public relations (later chairman of Lloyds Bank) whom she had met a decade earlier.

Retired from the RAF she lobbied on behalf of RAF causes including the RAF Benevolent Fund and St Clement Dane’s Church.

She became (among other things) a trustee of the Imperial War Museum in 1963, chairman of the museum from 1986 to 1988 and founded the Friends of the Imperial War Museum.

Felicity Peake was born 1 May 1913 and died 2 November 2002. The Guardian newspaper concludes her obituary with the words ‘She was much liked and admired, not least for her elegance, style and unfailing courtesy.’

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