Posted in music

Keith Moon (The Who)

the-whoThe late Great Keith Moon, The drummer with English rock group The Who, sadly pssed away on 7 September 1978. Born 23 August 1946, Moon grew up in Wembley, London and took up drumming in the early 1960s. After performing with local band The Beachcombers, he joined The Who in 1964, before they had recorded their first single. He stayed with the band during their rise to fame, He occasionally collaborated with other musicians, and later made appearances on radio and film,Moon took lessons from one of the loudest contemporary drummers, Screaming Lord Sutch’s Carlo Little, at ten shillings a time. Moon initially played in the drumming style of American surf rock and jazz, with a mix of R&B, using grooves and fills of those genres, exemplified by the noted Los Angeles studio drummer Hal Blaine. But Moon played faster and louder, with more persistence and authority. Moon’s favourite musicians were jazz artists, particularly Gene Krupa, whose flamboyant style he subsequently copied. He also admired DJ Fontana, Ringo Starr, and The Shadows’ original drummer, Tony Meehan. As well as drumming, Moon was interested in singing, with a particular interest in Motown. One band Moon notably idolised was The Beach Boys. During this time, Moon joined his first serious band, The Escorts, replacing his then best friend, Gerry Evans. In December 1962, he joined The Beachcombers, a semi-professional London cover band who played rock’n’roll and hits by groups such as The Shadows.]During his time in the group, Moon incorporated various theatrical tricks into his act, including one instance where he “shot” the group’s lead singer with a starter pistol. The Beachcombers all had day jobs, including Moon, who was working in the sales department ofBritish Gypsum. He had the most interest among the band members in turning fully professional, and thus in April 1964, aged 17 he auditioned for The Who, who were looking for a permanent replacement for Doug Sandom. The Beachcombers continued as a local covers band after his departure.

Moon’s arrival in The Who changed the dynamics of the group. Sandom had generally been the members to keep peace as Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend feuded between themselves, but because of Moon’s temperament, this no longer occurred, so the group now had four members who would frequently be in conflict. Although Townshend described him as a “completely different person to anyone I’ve ever met,” the pair did form a rapport in the early years, and enjoyed performing practical jokes and comedy improvisations together. Moon’s style of playing affected The Who’s musical structure, and while Entwistle initially found his lack of traditional time-keeping to be problematic, it created an original sound. Moon was known for his unique distinctive drumming style, which was dramatic, suspenseful and often eschewed basic back beats for a fluid, busy technique focused on fast, cascading rolls across the toms, ambidextrous double bass drum work and wild cymbal crashes and washes playing zig-zag across the kit with a wash of cymbal. He joined The Who in 1964 along with Roger Daltrey (lead vocals, harmonica and guitar), Pete Townshend and John Entwistle (bass guitar, brass and vocals), and played on all albums and singles from their debut, 1964′s “Zoot Suit”, to 1978′s Who Are You,

Moon was particularly fond of touring with The Who, since it was the only chance he regularly got to socialise with his bandmates, and was generally restless and bored when he was not playing with the band. This would carry over to other aspects of his life later on, as he acted them out, as if his life were one long tour”.Antics like these earned him the nickname “Moon the Loon”.Moon led a very destructive lifestyle. From the first days of The Who, he began taking amphetamines,and in an early interview for the New Musical Express listed his favourite food as “French Blues”.He spent his share of the band’s income madly, began visitingSoho clubs such as the Speakeasy and the Bag o’ Nails regularly, and the combination of pills and alcohol would continue to escalate into alcoholism and drug addiction later in life.We went through the same stages everybody goes through – the bloody drug corridor,” he later reflected, adding “Drinking suited the group a lot better”. According to Townshend, Moon began destroying hotel rooms when The Who were staying at the Hilton in Berlin on tour in autumn 1966.As well as hotels, Moon went on to destroy the homes of friends and even his own home, throwing furniture out of high windows and setting fire to buildings. Andrew Neill and Matthew Kent estimated that his destruction of hotel toilets and plumbing ran as high as £300,000. These destructive acts, often fuelled by drugs and alcohol, were Moon’s way of expressing his eccentricity; he enjoyed shocking the public with them. Longtime friend and personal assistant Dougal Butler observed: “He was trying to make people laugh and be Mr Funny, he wanted people to love him and enjoy him, but he would go so far. Like a train ride you couldn’t stop.”[74]Once, while riding in a limousine on the way to an airport, Moon insisted they return to their hotel, saying, “I forgot something.” On reaching the hotel, he ran back to his room, grabbed the television, and threw it out the window into the swimming pool below. He then left the hotel and jumped back into the limo, sighing, “I nearly forgot. In one case, The Who were due to perform at The Valley (the London home of Charlton Athletic F.C.). The band members were waiting in the dressing room for Moon to arrive. A witness described the drummer’s sudden entry to the building: “Suddenly, there was a great crash and Keith Moon dropped through the ceiling, having smashed his way through the corrugated iron roof.”

Moon also enjoyed throwing cherry bombs down toilets while on tour. In time, he eventually used dynamite to destroy toilets, leading to an estimated figure of $500,000 damage to plumbing and fixtures. Moon’s favourite stunt was to flush powerful explosives down toilets. According to Fletcher, Moon’s toilet pyrotechnics began in 1965 when he purchased 500 cherry bombs. Over time, Moon graduated from cherry bombs to M-80 fireworks to sticks of dynamite, which became his explosive of choice. Moon quickly developed a reputation of “leaving holes” in bathroom floors and completely annihilating the toilets. The destruction mesmerized Moon and enhanced his public image as rock and roll’s premier hellraiser. Fletcher goes on to state that, “no toilet in a hotel or changing room was safe,” until Moon had exhausted his supply of explosives. On one occasion, Townshend walked into a hotel bathroom where Moon was staying, and noticed the toilet had disappeared, with just an S bend remaining. In response, Moon explained that a cherry bomb was about to detonate, so he threw it down the pan. He proceeded to present a case of five hundred bombs. “And of course from that moment on”, recalled Townshend, “we got thrown out of every hotel we ever stayed in.”Entwistle recalled being close to Moon on tour, stating “I suppose we were two of a kind” … “We shared a room on the road and got up to no good,” and consequently the two of them were often involved blowing up toilets together. In a 1981 interview with the Los Angeles Times, he confessed, “A lot of times when Keith was blowing up toilets I was standing behind him with the matches.”On one occasion, a hotel manager called Moon in his room and asked him to lower the volume on his cassette music player; the manager said The Who were making “too much noise.” In response, Moon asked the manager up to his room. When the manager arrived, Moon excused himself to the bathroom, lit a stick of dynamite in the toilet, and shut the bathroom door. Upon returning to the room, he asked the manager to stay for just a moment longer, as he wanted to explain something. Following the explosion, Moon informed the startled manager, “That was noise.” Moon then turned the cassette player back on and proclaimed, “This is The ‘Oo.”on another occasion in Alabama, Moon and Entwistle loaded a toilet with cherry bombs after being told that they could not receive room service. According to Entwistle, “That toilet was just dust all over the walls by the time we checked out. The management brought our suitcases down to the gig and said: ‘Don’t come back …’

At The site of the former Holiday Inn inFlint, Michigan. Moon’s 21st birthday party there became a notorious event in rock folklore. Since this picture was taken, most of the building has been demolished.On 23 August 1967, while on tour as the opening act for Herman’s Hermits, Moon reached new levels of excess at a Holiday Inn hotel in Flint, Michigan. They were celebrating Moon’s 21st birthday, although it was believed to be his 20th at the time. Entwistle later said, “He decided that if it was a publicised fact that it was his 21st birthday, he would be able to drink.]Moon immediately began drinking upon arriving in Flint. The Who spent the afternoon visiting local radio stations with Nancy Lewis, then the band’s publicist. Moon later posed for a photo outside the Holiday Inn in front of the “Happy Birthday Keith” sign erected by the hotel’s management. According to Lewis, Moon was very drunk by the time the band took to the stage at the Atwood High School football stadium.[84]Upon returning to the hotel, Moon decided to start a food fight, and soon, cake began flying through the air. The evening culminated in Moon’s knocking his front tooth out. At a nearby hospital, doctors could not give him anaesthetic due to his inebriated state and he had to endure the removal of the remainder of the tooth without it. Back at the hotel, a melee erupted with fire extinguishers set off, guests and objects thrown into the swimming pool, and a piano reportedly destroyed. The chaos was halted only when police arrived, handguns drawn

Sadly Moon’s wild lifestyle began to undermine his health, music, and his reliability as a band member. During the 1973 Quadrophenia tour, at The Who’s debut US date in the Cow PalaceArena, Daly City, California, Moon ingested a large mixture of tranquillisers and brandy. In a 1979 interview, Townshend claimed that Moon had consumed Ketamine pills,[88] while Fletcher claims he took PCP. During the concert, Moon passed out on his drum kit while the band was playing the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The band stopped playing and a group of roadies carried Moon offstage. They gave him a shower and an injection of cortisone, then sent him back onstage after a thirty-minute delay. Moon passed out for good during the song “Magic Bus” and was again removed from the stage. The band continued without him for a few songs. Finally, Townshend asked, “Can anyone play the drums? – I mean somebody good”. A drummer in the audience, Scot Halpin, came up and played for the rest of the show. In the 1970s, Moon also suffered from a number of tragedies, notably the accidental death of his chauffeur, Neil Boland, and the breakdown of his marriage. He became addicted to drink, particularly brandy and champagne, and started to acquire a reputation for decadence and dark humour, giving him the nickname “Moon The Loon”. After relocating to Los Angeles during the mid-1970s with his personal assistant, Peter “Dougal” Butler, he attempted to make his only solo album, the poorly received Two Sides of the Moon. By the time of The Who’s final tours in 1976, and particularly during filming of The Kids Are Alright and recording of Who Are You, the gradual deterioration of his condition started to show, he blacked out on stage, and he was hospitalised on several occasions. Moon moved back to London in 1978, and died in 7 September 1978 after overdosing on Heminevrin, a drug designed to help curb alcohol abuse.

His eccentric and often self-destructive antics of Rock’n’Roll excess off stage have since become the stuff of legend and he is mentioned in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the greatest of all rock and roll drummers, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock Hall as a member of The Who in 1990. Moon’s legacy, as a member of The Who, as a solo artist, and as an eccentric personality, continues to garner awards and praise, including a Rolling Stone readers’ pick placing him in second place of the magazine’s “best drummers of all time” in 2011, nearly 35 years after his death.

Posted in aviation, Health

Group Captain Leonard Cheshire Baron Cheshire, VC OM DSC Two Bars DFC

Best known for his work for disabled people, Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and Two Bars, DFC was Born 7 September 1917. During the Second Worl he became a highly decorated British RAF pilot d War.Among the honours Cheshire received as a pilot is the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.He was the youngest Group Captain in the RAF and one of the most highly decorated pilots of the War but after serving as the British observer on theNagasaki nuclear attack he resigned from the Air Force. He founded a hospice which grew into the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability and he became known for his work in conflict resolution; he was created Baron Cheshire in 1991 in recognition of his charitable work. Leonard Cheshire was born in Chester, and was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, Stowe School and Merton College, Oxford. Whilst at Oxford he became friends with John Niel Randle. On one occasion at Oxford he was bet half apint of beer that he could not walk to Paris with no more than a few pennies in his pocket; he won his bet.He went to stay in Germany in 1936 with a family in Potsdam and whilst there, witnessed an Adolf Hitler rally. Cheshire caused great offence by pointedly refusing to give the Nazi salute. Cheshire graduated in jurisprudence in 1939.

After learning basic piloting skills with the Oxford University Air Squadron, after the outbreak of the Second World War, Cheshire joined the RAF as a Pilot Officer. He was initially posted in June 1940 to 102 Squadron, flying Armstrong Whitworth Whitley medium bombers, from RAF Driffield. In November 1940, Cheshire was awarded the DSO for flying his badly damaged bomber back to base.In January 1941, Cheshire completed his tour of operations, but then volunteered immediately for a second tour. He was posted to 35 Squadron with the brand new Handley Page Halifax and completed his second tour early in 1942, by then, a Squadron Leader. August 1942 saw a return to operations as CO of No. 76 Squadron RAF. The squadron had recently suffered high losses operating the Halifax, and Cheshire immediately tackled the low morale of the unit by ordering an improvement in the performance of the squadron aircraft by removing the mid-upper and nose gun turrets along with exhaust covers and other weighty non-essential equipment. This allowed the bombers to fly higher and faster. Losses soon fell and morale rose accordingly.

Cheshire was amongst the first to note there was very low return rate of Halifax bombers on three engines; furthermore, there were reports the Halifax was unstable in a “corkscrew” which was the manoeuvre used by bomber pilots to escape night fighters. The test pilot Capt. Eric Brown DSC, flying uncrewed except for an accompanying flight engineer, undertook risky tests to establish the cause and were told a representative of Bomber Command would fly with them. Brown remembers “We couldn’t believe it, it was Cheshire! We were astonished to say the least. I asked him not to touch (the controls) and to his ever lasting credit he never commented at all, he just sat in the second pilot’s seat and raised his eye brows at what we were doing !” The fault was in the Halfax’s rudder design and Cheshire became enraged when Handley Page at first declined to make modifications so as not to disrupt production.During his time as the Commanding Officer of 76 Squadron at RAF Linton, Cheshire took the trouble to recognise and learn the name of every single man on the base. He was determined to increase the efficiency of his squadron and improve the chances of survival of its crews, to this end he constantly lectured crews on the skills needed to achieve those aims. The crews knew he was devoted to their interests and when, on an operation to Nuremberg, they were told to cross the French Coast at 2,000 ft (the most dangerous height for light flak). Cheshire simply refused, stating they would fly at 200 ft or 20,000 ft. Typically, Cheshire inspired such loyalty and respect that the ground crews of 76 Squadron were proud to chorus “We are Cheshire cats!”.

In 1943, Cheshire published an account of his first tour of operations in his book, Bomber Pilot which tells of his posting to RAF Driffield and the story of flying his badly damaged bomber (“N for Nuts”) back to base. In the book, Cheshire fails to mention being awarded theDSO for this, but does describe the bravery of a badly burnt member of his crew.Cheshire became Station Commander RAF Marston Moor in March 1943, as the youngest Group Captain in the RAF, although the job was never to his liking and he pushed for a return to an operational command. These efforts paid off with a posting as commander of the legendary 617 “Dambusters” Squadron in September 1943. While with 617, Cheshire helped pioneer a new method of marking enemy targets for Bomber Command’s 5 Group, flying in at a very low level in the face of strong defences, using first, the versatile de Havilland Mosquito, then a North American Mustang fighter.On the morning before a planned raid by 617 squadron to Siracourt, a crated Mustang turned up at Woodhall Spa, it was a gift for Cheshire from his admirers in the U.S. 8th Air Force. Cheshire had the aircraft assembled and the engine tested as he was determined to test the possibilities of the fighter as a marker aircraft. He took off, in what was his first flight in the aircraft, and caught up with 617′s Lancasters before they reached the target. Cheshire then proceeded to accurately mark the target (a V-1 storage depot) for the heavies which landed three Tallboys on it. He then flew back and landed the Mustang in the dark.

This development work in target marking was the subject of some severe intraservice politics; Cheshire was encouraged by his 5 Group Commander Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane, although the 8 Group Pathfinder AOC Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett saw this work as impinging on the responsibilities of his own command.Cheshire was nearing the end of his fourth tour of duty in July 1944, having completed a total of 102 missions, when he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the only one of the 32 VC airmen to win the medal for an extended period of sustained courage and outstanding effort, rather than a single act of valour. His citation noted:In four years of fighting against the bitterest opposition he maintained a standard of outstanding personal achievement, his successful operations being the result of careful planning, brilliant execution and supreme contempt for danger – for example, on one occasion he flew his Mustang in slow ‘figures of eight’ above a target obscured by low cloud, to act as a bomb-aiming mark for his squadron. Cheshire displayed the courage and determination of an exceptional leader. Itlso noted a raid in which he had marked a target, flying a Mosquito at low level against “withering fire”.

When Cheshire went to Buckingham Palace to receive his VC from King George VI, he was accompanied by Norman Jackson who was also due to receive his award on that day. Cheshire insisted that despite the difference in rank (Group Captain and Warrant Officer), they should approach the King together. Jackson remembers that Cheshire said to the King, “This chap stuck his neck out more than I did – he should get his VC first!” The King had to keep to protocol, but Jackson commented he would “never forget what Cheshire said.” Cheshire was, in his day, both the youngest Group Captain in the service and, following his VC, the most decorated. In his book, Bomber Command (2010), Sir Max Hastings states “Cheshire was a legend in Bomber Command, a remarkable man with an almost mystical air about him, as if he somehow inhabited a different planet from those about him, but without affectation or pretension”. Cheshire would always fly on the most dangerous operations, he never took the easy option of just flying on the less risky ops to France, a habit which caused some COs to be referred to derisively as “François” by their men. Cheshire had no crew but would fly as “Second Dickey”, with the new and nervous to give them confidence.

Cheshire had strong feelings on any crew displaying LMF (Lack of Moral Fibre, a euphemism for cowardice) when subject to the combat stress of Bomber Command’s sorties (many of which had loss rates of 5% or more). Even as a brilliant and sympathetic leader, he wrote “I was ruthless with LMF, I had to be. We were airmen not psychiatrists. Of course we had concern for any individual whose internal tensions meant that he could no longer go on but there was a worry that one really frightened man could affect others around him. There was no time to be as compassionate as I would like to have been.” Thus Cheshire transferred LMF cases out of his squadron almost instantaneously (like every other RAF squadron did at the time) This was also because he argued that a man who thought he was doomed would collapse or bail out when his aircraft was hit, whereas Cheshire thought if he could survive the initial shock of finding his aircraft damaged, he had more of a chance of survival.

On his 103rd mission, Cheshire was the official British observer of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki.His vantage point was in the support B-29 Big Stink. He did not witness the event as close up as anticipated due to aircraft commander James Hopkins’ failure to link up with the other B-29s. Hopkins was meant to join with the others over Yakushima, but he circled at 39,000 ft instead of the agreed height of 30,000 ft. He tried to justify this by the need to keep the VIP passengers out of danger, but Cheshire thought that Hopkins was “overwrought”.”Many assumed that it was Nagasaki which emptied him; as Cheshire kept pointing out, however, it was the war as a whole. Like Britain herself, he had been fighting or training for fighting since 1939

After the war, Cheshire lived with his wife Joan at the “VIP (for Vade in Pacem – Go in Peace) Colony” he established for veterans and war widows at Gumley Hall, Bedford Gardens – one of several new ventures he started after leaving the RAF in 1946. Joan followed him to Le Court, near Petersfield,Hampshire (a mansion which Cheshire had bought from his aunt) where, with three children of her own, Joan took charge of the nursery. Cheshire and Joan Botting subsequently investigated many religions, from Seventh Day Adventist to Methodist to “High Anglo-Catholic” – but none of them provided the answers they were looking for. Cheshire’s aim in establishing the VIP Colony was to provide an opportunity for ex-servicemen and women and their families to live together, each contributing to the community what they could, in order to help their transition back into civilian life. He hoped that training, prosperity and fulfillment would result from united effort and mutual support. He saw the community as one way of continuing to work towards world peace. The community, however, did not prosper and the project came to an end in 1947.

In 1948, Cheshire heard about the case of Arthur Dykes, who had been one of Cheshire’s original “VIP” community at Le Court, and was suffering from cancer. Dykes asked Cheshire to give him some land to park a caravan until he recovered, but Cheshire discovered that Dykes was terminally ill and that this diagnosis was concealed from him. He told Dykes the real position and invited him to stay at Le Court. Cheshire learned nursing skills and was soon approached to take in a second patient, the 94-year-old bedridden wife of a man who had just been taken off to hospital after suffering a stroke. She was followed by others, some coming to stay and others to help. Although Le Court had no financial support, and his situation was financially perilous most of the time, money somehow always seemed to arrive in the nick of time to stave off disaster.

Dykes died in August 1948. After completing the arrangements for his funeral, Cheshire idly picked up a book a friend had sent him. It was One Lord, One Faith by Vernon Johnson, a former High Anglican clergyman who, against every cherished instinct and prejudice, had converted to Roman Catholicism because, as he put it, “I could not resist the claim of the Catholic Church to be the one true Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ to guard and teach the truth … She alone possesses the authority and unity necessary for such a Divine vocation. In the meantime, Joan Botting had converted to Jehovah’s Witnesses. On Christmas Eve, 1948, Cheshire was received into the Catholic Church. The next day, Joan Botting and her children, Mavis, Gary and Elizabeth, moved out of Le Court for good. In 1949, eight patients were staying at Le Court.Six months later, there were 28. Cheshire dedicated the rest of his life to supporting disabled people, combining this with lecturing on conflict resolution.In 1948, Cheshire founded the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, which provides support to disabled people throughout the world. It is now one of the top 30 British charities.

Other organisations set up by Leonard Cheshire are:The Ryder-Cheshire Foundation,set up by Leonard Cheshire and his wife Sue Ryder at the time of their marriage in 1959. It now mainly operates in two fields: the rehabilitation of disabled people, through ENRYCH and the prevention and treatment oftuberculosis, through Target Tuberculosis. In 1953, Cheshire founded the Raphael Pilgrimage in order to enable sick and disabled people to travel to Lourdes.The Leonard Cheshire Disability & Inclusive Development Centre is a joint project by Leonard Cheshire Disability and University College London (originally set up in 1997 as the Leonard Cheshire Centre of Conflict Recovery).Cheshire founded the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief, a UK charity in whose benefit the Roger Waters concert The Wall – Live in Berlinwas held. Cheshire opened this concert by blowing a Second World War whistle.Cheshire was also concerned about future remembrance and was influential in the concept of the National Memorial Arboretum, founded by David Childs. CHeshire sadly passed away 31 July 1992. However his legacy lives on And The amphitheatre at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas is dedicated to the memory of Leonard Cheshire.

Posted in aviation, Events

The Blitz and the Battle of Britain

The Blitz took place Between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941 during which there were major aerial raids (attacks in which more than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped) on 16 British cities. Called The Blitz (shortened from German Blitzkrieg, “lightning war”) it was the period of sustained strategic bombing of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Over a period of 267 days (almost 37 weeks), London was attacked 71 times, Birmingham, Liverpool and Plymouth eight times, Bristol six, Glasgow five, Southampton four, Portsmouth and Hull three, and there was also at least one large raid on another eight cities. This was a result of a rapid escalation starting on 24 August 1940, when night bombers aiming for RAF airfields drifted off course and accidentally destroyed several London homes, killing civilians, combined with the UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s immediate response of bombing Berlin on the following night.

Starting on 7 September 1940, one year into the war, London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London. Ports and industrial centres outside London were also heavily attacked. The major Atlantic sea port of Liverpool was also heavily bombed, causing nearly 4,000 deaths within the Merseyside area during the war. The North Sea port of Hull, a convenient and easily found primary and secondary target for bombers unable to locate their primary targets, was subjected to 86 raids within the city boundaries during the war, with a conservative estimate of 1200 civilians killed and 95% of its housing stock destroyed or damaged. Other ports including Bristol, Cardiff, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Southampton, and Swansea were also targeted, as were the industrial cities of Birmingham, Belfast, Coventry, Glasgow, Manchester and Sheffield. Birmingham and Coventry were heavily targeted because of the Spitfire and tank factories in Birmingham and the many munitions factories in Coventry; the city centre of Coventry was almost completely destroyed. The bombing did not achieve its intended goals of demoralising the British into surrender or significantly damaging their war economy. The eight months of bombing never seriously hampered British production, and the war industries continued to operate and expand. The Blitz did not facilitate Operation Sea Lion, the planned German invasion of Britain. By May 1941 the threat of an invasion of Britain had passed, and Hitler’s attention had turned to Operation Barbarossa in the East. In comparison to the Allied bombing campaign against Germany, the Blitz resulted in relatively few casualties; the British bombing of Hamburg in July 1943 alone inflicted some 42,000 civilian deaths, about the same as the entire Blitz.

Battle of Britain

Within hours of the UK and France declaring war on Germany on 3 September 1939, the RAF bombed German warships along the German coast at Wilhelmshaven. Thereafter bombing operations were against ports and shipping and propaganda leaflet drops. Operations were planned to minimize civilian casualties. From 15 May 1940 – the day after the Luftwaffe destroyed the centre of Rotterdam – the RAF also carried out operations east of the Rhine, attacking industrial and transportation targets. Operations were carried out every night thereafter.

Although not specifically prepared to conduct independent strategic air operations against an opponent, the Luftwaffe was expected to do so over Britain. From July until September 1940 the Luftwaffe attacked RAF Fighter Command to gain air superiority as a prelude to invasion. This involved the bombing of English Channel convoys, ports, and RAF airfields and supporting industries. Destroying RAF Fighter Command would allow the Germans to gain control of the skies over the invasion area. It was supposed that RAF Bomber Command, RAF Coastal Command, and the Royal Navy could not operate effectively under conditions of German air superiority.

The Luftwaffe’s poor intelligence meant that their aircraft were not always able to locate their targets, and thus attacks on factories and airfields failed to achieve the desired results. British fighter aircraft production continued at a rate surpassing Germany’s by 2 to 1. The British produced 10,000 aircraft in 1940, in comparison to Germany’s 8,000. The replacement of pilots and aircrew was more difficult. Both the RAF and Luftwaffe struggled to replace manpower losses, though the Germans had larger reserves of trained aircrew. The circumstances affected the Germans more than the British. Operating over home territory, British flyers could fly again if they survived being shot down. German crews, even if they survived, faced capture. Moreover, bombers had four to five crewmen on board, representing a greater loss of manpower. On 7 September, the Germans shifted away from the destruction of the RAF’s supporting structures. German intelligence suggested Fighter Command was weakening, and an attack on London would force it into a final battle of annihilation while compelling the British Government to surrender.