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Honouring the heroes of Bomber Command on the 75th anniversary of the First Thousand Bomber Raid

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.


RAF pilot in the cockpit of a bomber aircraft

Looking out of the cockpit of a bomber aircraft (Photo courtesy of Jo Lancaster)

RAF aircrew

RAF aircrew (Photo courtesy of Jo Lancaster)

A bomber crew

A bomber crew (Photo courtesy of Jo Lancaster)

Aerial reconnaissance

Aerial reconnaissance image taken over Cologne, Germany, after the First Bomber. Photo shows the partially destroyed exhibition hall (Osthalle) and railway sidings on Koln-Deutz. (UK Crown Copyright / MOD. Courtesy of Air Historical Branch, RAF)

Bomber Command pilot Jo Lancaster DFC

Bomber Command pilot John Oliver 'Jo' Lancaster DFC

An Avro Lancaster

An Avro Lancaster taxying prior to take-off from its base at Scampton, Lincolnshire, on third Thousand Bomber Eaid, an attack on Bremen, Germany, during the night of 25/26 June 1942. (UK Crown Copyright / MOD. Courtesy of Air Historical Branch, RAF)

Learn more about Bomber Command

Discover more about the brave men of the Bomber Command. If you would like to help support the upkeep of the Bomber Command Memorial, please make a donation.

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