30 May marks the 75th anniversary of the First 1000 Bomber Raid – an overnight bombing of Cologne by the RAF in 1942 and notably one of the largest attacks in World War Two history.
The 1000 Bomber Raid was a key turning point during the war as Bomber Command had previously faced continued criticism over its ineffectiveness. After a change in leadership, newly appointed Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris assumed command with a mission to prove a point: the Allies were stronger than ever and were not going to lose the war.
More than a thousand aircraft took part in the raid on the night of 30th May 1942, with thousands of aircrew involved. Never before had so many planes been used in one bombing mission, the average number of aircraft available for a raid at this time was just 416 so Harris drew on all available resources.
According to historian Steve Darlow, the raid, codenamed 'Operation Millennium', was a clear demonstration of the blunt destructive power of the bomber. The attack was a 90-minute concentrated bombardment, opening with incendiaries on the centre of the target, lighting the way for the crews in their wake. The following bombers would then drop their explosives.
The 1000 Bomber Raid ultimately had a significant influence on the progress of the Second World War, sending a tremor through Nazi Germany. In total, Bomber Command lost 41 aircraft and crew – brave heroes who risked their lives for the good of the world.