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The battle and targets

Discussion in 'Battle of the Ruhr' started by brianw, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. brianw

    brianw Member

    Sep 6, 2011
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    Bridgend, Mid Glam.
    via War44
    By 1943 things were beginning to turn for the Allies, German forces had surrendered at Stalingrad, there were new anti-submarine weapons deployed in the Atlantic, the 8th Army was regrouping and re-arming at El Alamein in Egypt and American forces were well on their way to “island hopping” across the Pacific towards Japan.

    During the five months between March and July in 1943 the Royal Air Force was taking the fight to the Third Reich with some heavy bombing raids on the industrial heartland of Germany; the Ruhr Valley.

    The RAF bombed mainly at night to reduce the risk from Luftwaffe fighters although ground based defences such as anti-aircraft fire (flak) and searchlights still presented major problems.

    Most of these large scale night time bombing raids were marked by “Pathfinder” aircraft, usually Mosquitoes utilising the Oboe bombing radio aid although one famous raid was accomplished by Lancasters of a single squadron from a very low level using map reading and “dead reckoning” navigation. On the night of 16/17 May, 617 Squadron attacked and breached the Moehne and Eder dams in “Operation Chastise”.

    Almost all of Bomber Command’s aircraft types contributed to the battle; Wellingtons, Stirlings, Halifaxes, Mosquitoes in the Pathfinder role and the bulk of the “workload” being handed to the Lancaster squadrons. The RAF suffered an average loss rate of about 4.7% over 43 listed raids involving some 18,506 sorties. Over 5000 aircrew gave their lives during the battle.
    Some Mosquitoes were also deployed in the “nuisance raid” role; a high speed bombing raid with a small force of aircraft mainly dropping the 4000 lb high capacity bomb or “Cookie”, just to keep the German air defences off balance.



    During the battle, the Krupps armaments works at Essen was attacked on at least seven occasions, the first raid was on the opening of the battle on 5th March when some 440 aircraft attacked in three waves, however bombing accuracy wasn’t good despite the target being marked by Oboe equipped Pathfinders. On the night of 3rd/4th April 956 bombers targeted Essen and the Krupps works was finally put beyond use or repair following a raid with 600 aircraft on 25/26 July. The destruction of the Krupps works was even noted by Joseph Goebbels in his diary.



    A major logistical centre in the Ruhr and location of chemical, steel and iron industries, Duisburg was regarded as a primary target for RAF Bomber Command. As such, it is considered by some historians to be the single most heavily bombed German city by the Allies during World War II, with industrial areas and residential blocks targeted by Allied incendiary bombs. There were 299 air raids against targets in and around Duisburg between 1941 and the end of 1944 resulting in almost 80% of all residential buildings being totally or partially destroyed with some of the heaviest raids occurring during the battle.



    Bochum, now a university city in the heart of the Ruhr valley was also heavily bombed during the battle with the main targets being the coal and steel industries.
    One raid on the 4th November 1944, although not part of the battle which had officially ended at the end of July ’43 saw 700 aircraft attack the city and the Bochumer Verein steel plant; one of the largest in Germany. At the time, more than 10,000 high explosive and 130,000 incendiary bombs were being stored there. The resulting conflagration destroyed many of the surrounding neighbourhoods.



    Cologne was one of the most heavily raided cities in Germany, enduring 262 air raids during the war which almost completely wiped out the centre of the city. It was the first city to suffer “Operation Millennium”; a 1000 bomber raid on the night of 31st May 1942. Following the raid, Joseph Goebbels ordered a complete black-out of information about what he called “the Terror Raid”; the penalty for talking about the raid was death. There were just four heavy raids on Cologne during the battle but as a highly strategic target, the city and its surroundings were subject to bombing raids for the entire period of hostilities.



    There were two major raids against oil installations in and around Dusseldorf each of over 700 aircraft during the battle and also one or two Mosquito “nuisance raids”. Even after the Battle of the Ruhr officially ended raids continued on the city until the end of the war. As part of the campaign against German oil facilities, the RAF raid of February 20/21 1945 on the Rhenania Ossag refinery in the Reisholz district of Düsseldorf halted oil production there.



    Apart from the usual oil installations and industrial targets in and around the Dortmund area, the Dortmund-Elms canal (below) was also a major target and it was visited a number of times by RAF Bomber Command. Targets of the “Oil Campaign” included Hoesch-Westfalenhütte AG, the "Hoesch-Benzin GmbH" synthetic oil plant, and the Zeche Hansa coking plant; Allied bombing destroyed about 66% of the Dortmund homes and about 98% of the inner city area.
    The code word “Dortmund” was radioed to initiate the 1941 Operation Barbarossa campaign against the Soviet Union.



    The attack on Huls was the only daylight raid conducted by the USAAF using their B-17 “Flying Fortress” bomber aircraft during the battle. The American bombers specialised in the extremely hazardous high level daylight raids while releasing the RAF for night-time operations allowing for the policy of “round the clock” bombing.



    The RAF twice attacked the Nordstern synthetic-oil plant with over 400 aircraft on each occasion, however due to unserviceable equipment on the Oboe equipped Mosquito Pathfinder aircraft neither raid was successful.


    The Ruhrchemie AG synthetic oil plant at Oberhausen was attacked by 197 Lancasters on the night of 14 June. Mosquitoes equipped with Oboe “skymarked” the cloud covered target with parachute flares.


    On 21 June 1943 the steel works in Krefeld were targeted; large parts of the city's east were destroyed and the city centre was mostly consumed by a firestorm apart from the rail station which remained largely undamaged.

    Other oil and coal installations were also attacked at Mulheim where 557 aircraft destroyed some 64% of the town and also the Wuppertal region where post-war assessment by the British Bombing Survey estimated 94% destruction of Elberfeld.


    Remscheid Mechanical engineering and toolmaking were the main industries practised within the town. Remscheid was almost completely destroyed during a British bombing raid which caused a firestorm. Remscheid was the last bombing raid by RAF Bomber Command of the Battle of the Ruhr.

    The outcome of the battle

    Although Bomber Command lost over 5000 airmen to the battle, later analysis has shown that it was a decisive victory for the Allies.
    Steel production fell by 200,000 tons. The armaments industry was facing a steel shortfall of 400,000 tons. After doubling production in 1942, production of steel increased only by 20 percent in 1943. Hitler and Speer were forced to cut planned increases in production. This disruption caused resulted in the Zulieferungskrise (sub-components crisis). The increase of aircraft production for the Luftwaffe also came to an abrupt halt. Monthly production failed to increase between July 1943 and March 1944. "Bomber Command had stopped Speer's armaments miracle in its tracks".

    At Essen after more than 3,000 sorties and the loss of 138 aircraft, the "Krupps works...and the town...itself contained large areas of devastation" Krupps never restarted production after the second March raid.

    Operation Chastise caused some temporary effect on industrial production, through the disruption of the water supply and hydroelectric power. The Eder Valley dam had nothing to do with supplying the Ruhr Area. A backup pumping system had already been put in place for the Ruhr. The destruction of the Sorpe dam would have caused significantly more damage but since it was a stronger design less likely to be breached it was effectively a secondary target.

    Speer's Organisation Todt rapidly mobilized repairs, taking workers and forced labourers from the construction of the Atlantic Wall which ultimately meant that the defences at the Normandy landing beaches were far from complete and the casualties on D-Day much fewer than predicted.

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