Sunday, 29 January 2012

Putting Up A Black

The Mail on Sunday today included an article about the famous BBC recording of birdsong in an Oxted garden on 19 May 1942 which wasn't broadcast live as planned because a stream of RAF aircraft was passing overhead and the recording engineer didn't want to alert German radio monitors of a raid.
As the live radio broadcast was a long-established annual tradition, someone in Bomber Command HQ "put up a black" by allowing the bomber stream (which included Halifaxes, Stirlings, Hampdens and Manchesters as well) to route over Oxted on its way to Mannheim. So once "Chub" had been chosen as the Main Force target, staff officers at High Wycombe would have contacted Group HQs and the routes proposed by the AOCs of the Groups involved would have been agreed with the SASO.

Sadly, the main effect of the raid, from which eleven aircraft and their crews failed to return, was the bombing of woodland and open country around the target with only a small area of harbourside (next to the Rhine) businesses, eg a blanket mill and a timber warehouse destroyed, despite 155 aircraft outt of 197 despatched claiming to have hit the target.. All the same, they did amazingly well despite minimal training and navigational kit - mainly dead reckoning.

The recording is a fitting tribute to the sacrifice and courage of Bomber Command aircrew who have never received the thanks and recognition they deserved from the government which disowned them after the war.

4 comments:

Thud said...

The early days of bomber command never gets mentioned much...any good books?

Brian said...

Without hesitation, Max Hastings' Bomber Command has some excellent chapters on the early war. I must admit I'm looking for a book myself on Bomber Command from its establishment in 1936 and why it neglected the development of electronic navigational aids.

Thud said...

If you find anything decent let me know.

Brian said...

Thud,
You could try RAF Bomber Command and Its Aircraft (1936 - 1940) - Vol one of two. Abe's got a few good copies.
I'll keep looking.