Bomber Command Summary of the raid to Pforzheim 23/24 Feb 1945

Effects of Bomber Command hitting the target. This picture shows Pforzheim ablaze on the night of 23/24 February, 1945. Pforzheim was deemed to be a communications centre and industrial target. An idea of the size of the fire raging below can be seen by the silhouetted Lancaster bomber in the upper left corner (circled).


367 Lancasters and 13 Mosquitos of 1, 6 and 8 Groups and a Film Unit Lancaster carried out the first, and only, area-bombing raid of the war on this target. 10 Lancasters were lost and 2 more crashed in France.

The marking and bombing, from only 8,000 ft, were particularly accurate and damage of a most severe nature was influcted on Pforzheim. 1,825 tons of bombs were dropped in 22 munutes. Local records show that an area meaduring 3 km by 1.5 km was completely engulfed by fire and that 'more than 17,000 people met their death in a hurricane of fire and explosions.' Fore Officer Brunswig from Hamburg, usually reliable, says that 17,600 poeple died. This was probably the third heaviest air-raid death toll in Germany during the war, following Hamburg and Dresden. The post-war British Bombing Survey Unit estimated that 83% of the town's built-up area was destroyed, probably the greatest proportion in one raid during the war.

Bomber Command's last Victoria Cross of the war was won on this night. The Master Bomber was Captain Edwin Swales, DFC, a South African serving with 582 sqn. His Lancaster was twice attacked over the target by a German fighter. Captain Swales could not hear the evasion directions given by his ginners because he was broadcasting his own instructions to the Main Force. 2 engines and the rear turret of the Lancaster were put out of action. Captain Swales continues to control the bombing until the end of the raid and must take some credit for the accuracy of the attack. He set out on the return flight but encountered turbulent cloud and ordered his crew to bale out. This they all did successfully but Captain Swales had no opportunity to leave the aircraft and was killed when it crashed. He is bured at the Leopold War Cemetery at Limburd in Belgium.


Source: Bomber Command War Diaries 1939-45