Book Review
RAF Bomber Command 1939 – 1945
RAF Bomber Command 1939 – 1945
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by: Darren Baker [ CMOT ]


Haynes has released another new book in their military range, this time looking at RAF Bomber Command during World War Two. The actions of bomber command during WW2 were maligned after the war due to the destruction of civilian centres of population in Germany during the war; this resulted in the men and women of Bomber Command both alive and those whose sacrificed everything in the service of their country not being awarded a specific medal unlike other branches of the military. 40 years after the war an unofficial medal was minted for Bomber Command personnel but I doubt their sacrifices will ever be truly rewarded. In this book from Haynes we are provided with an insight in what these men and women sacrificed and how they served.


This offering from Haynes covering RAF Bomber Command 1939 – 1945 is a hard backed book published in a portrait style. The author of the title is Jonathon Falconer who has released a good number of titles covering various aspects of Bomber Command, the men and machines. Inside there are 188 pages of good quality paper in a matt finish. The book consists of 17 main sections that are in most cases further broken down, these contents are as follows:
• Introduction

• Reaping the Whirlwind
1. The rise of the bomber
2. The six year offensive

• Organisation
1. The chain of command
2. The groups
3. Front line groups
4. Training groups
5. The squadrons

• Airfield Building
1. Expansion scheme bomber stations
2. A new airfield building programme
3. Lighting systems
4. A programme fraught with problems
5. Very heavy bomber upgrades
6. The end of the war

• Bomber Boys
1. The bomber crew
2. Bomber aircrew trades
3. Bomber aircrew commissioning policy
4. Training new crews
5. Tour length, survivability and morale
6. Lack of moral fibre

• The Aircraft
1. Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
2. Avro Lancaster
3. Avro Manchester
4. Boeing B17 Flying Fortress
5. Bristol Blenheim
6. Consolidated B24 Liberator
7. De Havilland Mosquito
8. Douglas A20 Boston
9. Fairey Battle
10. Handley Page Halifax
11. Handley Page Hampton
12. Lockheed Vega Ventura
13. North American B25 Mitchell
14. Short Stirling
15. Vickers Armstrong Wellington

• Bombs and Bullets
1. Fusing
2. Bomb handling equipment
3. High explosive bombs
4. Specialist HE bombs
5. Incendiary bombs
6. Cluster projectiles
7. Air dropped sea mines
8. Guns and power operated turrets
9. Guns
10. Power assisted gun turrets

• Finding the Target
1. Navigation and bombing aids
2. Maps and charts for air navigation
3. Bombsights

• Bomber Tactics
1. Leading the way: the pathfinders
2. Deceiving the enemy: 100 (bomber support) group
3. Keys to survival
4. Meteorology in Bomber Command

• Defending the Reich
1. The Kammhuber line
2. Wurzberg radar
3. New tactics
4. Tracking and snaring bombers
5. Fighter and flak control
6. Confounding the defenders

• Target for tonight

• Failed to Return
1. The Air Ministry regrets
2. For you the war is over
3. Missing research and enquiry service (MRES)
4. Finding the fallen
5. Identifying missing aircrew
6. War crimes against downed aircrew

• Bomber Repair and Salvage
1. Spares verses complete aircraft
2. Repair options
3. Shortages of essential parts
4. Manufacturers repairs organisation
5. Engine repair

• Operational Research
1. Operational research
2. Bomber Commands operational research section is formed
3. Investigating the bomber offensive
4. Data capture and analysis
5. Forward planning
6. Raid reports
7. Returned aircrew data
8. Investigating the effectiveness of bombing

• Appendix
1. RAF Bomber Command orders of battle

• Bibliography and Sources

• Index

The first four chapters and sub sections can be considered as an introduction to the efforts of Bomber Command to get ready for war and how best to tackle the tasks they were presented with. The section ends with the flesh and blood element of the equation and I strongly recommend that all readers take the times to read the section titled ‘Lack of moral fibre’ and give some consideration to the environment these men and women found themselves confronted with and how they were treated by those at the top.

The next two chapters and sub sections look at the aircraft used by Bomber Command during World War 2. Each of the aircraft usually gets a page to itself, but the intention here is to show the reader the aircraft and not to go into huge detail on the various models. This is followed by the section looking at the bombs, guns and turrets of the aircraft and I found this section surprisingly interesting as it covers an aspect usually overlooked. These two areas of the book are well presented and well worth taking some time on.

The next two chapters and sub sections look at getting the aircraft of Bomber Command to where they needed to be and achieve the desired result. These two sections are quite informative when it comes to the devices that not only got the aircraft where they were needed but also enabling those aircraft to hit their targets as accurately as possible for the time. The reader is also presented with a look at some of the issues that needed to be overcome such as fog and technology that protected the aircraft.

Next up is a look at the enemy of the time and the defensive structures and devices used. The Kammhuber line was a formable defence against air attack set up in three layers. This started with radar to pick up bomber streams heading for their targets; this enabled the second layer made up of fighters starting with the least capable aircraft to the best the enemy could bring to bear to be in the right area to prove most effective. The final layer was a combined defence of radar, searchlights and night fighters that took a heavy toll on the bomber aircraft heading for the target.

The chapter titled ‘Target for Tonight’ is a great read to guide you in a step by step look into planning and preparing for a mission. This is followed by you being lead through a night raid and the effects this action can have on the target. The area closes with the return home and the tasks that have to be completed before eating and sleep is the reward for making it home.

The section titled ‘Failed to Return’ looks at the heavy losses suffered by Bomber Command with some 47,000 bomber aircrew being killed in action and 8,000 killed in training and accidents, so 55,000 dead from Bomber Command alone during the dark days of World War 2. This section gives you a look at the notifications sent to relatives of the dead and captured from the War Department. An aspect covered here that may not be known by many is the care taken by Luftwaffe personnel of the dead aircrews, a care that is in stark difference to what would be metered out by civilians and other aspects of the German Forces. In the UK German aircrew would be buried with full military honours.

The section looking at Bomber repair and salvage was the only section that I did not find much interest in, but it is a worthy section that needs to be covered to provide a fuller picture to the reader.

The chapter covering ‘Operational Research’ provides the reader with a look at the tasks that needed to be taken in the background. This covers everything from picking the target to deciding who was going to carry out the mission and what steps could be taken to give the units the best chance of success.

The remaining three sections need no input from me.


This offering from Haynes provides the reader with an insight to what those in Bomber Command faced during the dark days of World War 2. I would have liked to see some aspects of the title split off into other publications, but this does cover all aspects of Bomber Command and I believe that is the intent of Haynes with this release. I do feel that anyone interested in this aspect of the Air War during World War 2 will find this a nice addition to their library.
Darren Baker takes a look at one of the latest military titles from Haynes written by Jonathon Falconer and covering RAF Bomber Command 1939 – 1945.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 9781785211928
  PUBLISHED: Sep 18, 2018
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

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About Darren Baker (CMOT)

I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...

Copyright ©2021 text by Darren Baker [ CMOT ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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