Bomber Command: History in Focus

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This education resource encourages inquiry learning and discussion in the classroom. The Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) trained Australian aircrew before sending them to the United Kingdom to fly on offensive air operations during World War II. Men from many Commonwealth and allied countries, including Australia, served in the British Bomber Command. Use this printable postcard to engage your students.

Department of Veterans' Affairs
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Series
History in Focus

Men from a range of Commonwealth and Allied countries, including Australia, served in Bomber Command. During the Second World War, Bomber Command started with daylight precision attacks on military targets but was compelled to adopt night operations when casualty numbers increased. Few crews managed to drop their bombs within eight kilometres of the target in the dark, so high command switched to 'area bombing' — attacks on German cities.

Bomber Command's most famous operation was the Dam Busters raid of May 1943, which attacked the Ruhr Valley's reservoirs. From April 1944 area bombing gave way to operations in support of the forthcoming Allied invasion of western Europe, Operation Overlord, and attacks on cities resumed before the end of the year. An Australian recalled the raids: 'Square miles are alight … with pulsating explosions … Over this cauldron the hundreds of bombers are silhouetted … some banked, some under attack — for fighters follow us even here … the nearby shell-bursts … toss us like a canoe in rapids'.

As the command's capability increased and navigational techniques improved, raids became more accurate and more devastating, culminating in the infamous attack on Dresden in February 1945. From 1944 as the German Air Force — the Luftwaffe — suffered increasingly heavy losses, Bomber Command returned to daylight operations while also continuing night raids.

Bomber Command's final operations involved flying liberated prisoners of war from mainland Europe to Britain. More than 55,000 of some 125,000 Bomber Command aircrew lost their lives in the war, one of the highest loss ratios of any service, and a total which included some 5500 Australians. The bomber offensive against Germany was Australia's costliest Second World War campaign.

After the Second World War, Bomber Command operated during the Suez Crisis of 1956. Its aircraft also deployed to the Middle East and Asia, serving during the Indonesian Confrontation and being involved in atomic testing. In 1968 Bomber Command combined with Fighter Command to form Strike Command.

Seven pilots wearing flying gear stand smiling in front of an aircraft.
A Lancaster crew of No. 460 Squadron RAAF, Bomber Command, at RAF Station Binbrook in England, April 1944. Six of these seven men were killed on 28 April 1944 when their aircraft was shot down during a bombing raid on the German city of Friedrichshafen, and the sole survivor became a prisoner of war. AWM 081318

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