In 1940, in a desperate act of ruthless determination unmatched since the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kébir, RAF Bomber Command launched a fercious, unprovoked attack on the city of Berlin. The appalling loss of citizen life ensured that Arthur "Bomber" Harris (pictured) would be provided with a front row seat at the Nuremberg Trials right next to his fellow "war criminal", Admiral James Somerville.
Last Throw of the DiceAfter the defeat of France, Winston Churchill advised the House of Commons that "the whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned against us". And so events transpired, because by mid August, the RAF's communication system had been knocked out by waves of German bombers. It appeared inevitable that Britain would very soon be "fighting on the beaches".
"[Mers El-Kebir] will rouse the whole world against us - we all feel thoroughly ashamed" ~ SomervilleTo achieve this impressive feat of arms, the Luftwaffe had sent over a thousand planes per day, destroying many of the radar stations in Southern England. Then Hermann Göring directed the attacks to the second key to the RAF defence, sector stations. By mid August, they had all been destroyed and Britain no longer had an organized air defence.
"I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier" ~ HarrisChurchill needed a "game changer" big time, seizing upon an act of provocation that would cause Adolf Hitler to change the direction of the Battle of Britain out of anger rather than calculation. Accordingly, he instructed Bomb Command to launch a wave of attacks that would "eradicate" German Cities.
In so doing, Churchill was relying heavily on the "strategic bombing" doctrine of Giulio Douhet who argued that a nation could be brought to its knees by massive bombing attacks against the centers of population, government and industry. Undettered, and with air supremacy over the English Channel, the German High Command prepared to launch Operation Sea Lion...