This is a fascinating archive concerning the Allied bombing of Germany during World War II. It consists of 7 maps of German cities made by the Royal Air Force (RAF) especially designed for the use of British-Commonwealth and American pilots on their final approach towards bombing their targets. Dating from 1942 to 1944, the archive features an important and diverse selection, including maps of Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt am Main, Nuremberg, Pölitz (now a part of Szczecin, Poland) and Hanau (Hessen).
Two types of maps are represented in the archive. The ‘target maps’ (exemplified by Maps #1, 4, 6 and 7 following) are printed in bold black and purple colours (with pink used to highlight the “bullseye”) so as to be easily read by a flight navigator in the cockpit. The overall shapes of the urbanscapes and their major details are very clearly expressed. This was important as reading maps in mid-flight (often at an altitude of 9,000-11,000 feet) was always challenging, as the light was poor, the ride was turbulent (and frequently traumatic, if enemy defenses were deployed), and navigation was often severely impaired by inclement weather.
The maps highlight specific targets within the cities, such as railway stations or factories, which are cited in the upper margin of the map, often corresponding to keyed numbers on the map itself. Also, along the top margin are the city’s geodetic coordinates and elevation, while some of the maps feature space for ‘Notes’. On the map, the key targets are represented by pink-coloured sections (being the ‘bullseye’) with concentric circles at 1-mile intervals radiating outwards. The direction of true north is noted at the top of the map, while along the sides are degree vectors at regular intervals. Urbanized, built-up areas are coloured in purple, while forested tracts and infrastructure (road and rail lines, etc.) are coloured black, with fields left in grisaille. The contract employed on the maps simulates the appearance of the city at night, when most bombing sorites occurred.
Also featured are ‘outline maps’ (exemplified by Maps #2, 3 and 5 following), which show the overall shapes of the urban, built-up areas of cities, such that they could be easily identified at night, even under difficult conditions. The cities appear in bold white against a grisaille background. Details are intentionally sparing, as quickly representing the general character of the urbanscape was the priority.
Also included in the archive is an original ‘Bomber Command Flight Engineer Log’ (4 pp.), that was meant to be filled in by a bomber engineer upon a sortie’s return home, reporting on the mission and the condition of the aircraft. The log if here left blank, but its presence provides an extra slice of life to the maps which all shows signs of military use.
The maps present in the archive are all extremely rare. They were issued in only very small print runs for the classified use of RAF-Commonwealth and USAAF (United States of America Air Force) pilots. Not many of the maps survive and examples only very rarely ever appear; it is indeed truly extraordinary to find such an archive of seven maps, not to mention their accompaniment by a bomber flight engineer’s log.
The Archive’s Maps in Focus:
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
Berlin (Germany) / Target No. 6(d)(vi)70 – Tempelhof Marshaling Yard and Anhalter and Potsdamer Stations.
[England: Royal Air Force]: 20 April 1943.
Off-set print in black, purple and pink, with one of the target sites circled in pencil (Good, wear along old folds, slight marginal tears), 44.5 x 34.5 cm (17.5 x 13.5 inches).
Berlin, being the capital of the Third Reich, was the ultimate Allied target. Yet, for the first half of the war, it proved difficult to attack, as it lay 1,000 km from London. However, improved Allied aircraft and the degraded state of Nazi air defenses saw the situation change in 1943. From that point, the RAF led by Air Marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris, mounted the first direct large-scale air strikes upon Berlin. Known as the Air Battle of Berlin, this series of massive air raids commenced on the night of November 18/19, 1943 and lasted until March 1944, with the Allies launching almost a ceaseless series of raids upon Berlin, featuring around 800 bomber craft per night. The aim was to paralyze the nucleus of the Nazi regime and demoralize the citizens of ist capital.
While much carnage was unleashed, and certainly the Nazi war effort suffered, the Allies’ Berlin Campaign is generally thought to have been a failure, as it did not significantly weaken the operations of the Nazi high command, nor did it immobilize the city. Moreover, the Allies’ losses in both aircraft and manpower were astounding and it has been argued that such resources should have been better allocated elsewhere. That being said, Berlin was irrevocably altered, as many of its most famous monuments were severely damaged or destroyed.
The massive air raids, led by the U.S. Eighth Air Fleet, in early 1945 were more devastating and effective, as they managed to completely disrupt the normal operation of Berlin, while taking out many key targets.
The present ‘target map’ shows all of greater Berlin and had as its ‘bullseye’ the city’s central rail termini and related infrastructure, coloured in pink. Within the target zone are three main sites identified by letter: X = Anhalter & Potsdamer Goods and Passenger Stations; the Y = Tempelhof Marshaling Yard; and Z = Tempelhof Goods Yard. Notably, the location of the Potsdamer Station is circled in manuscript, in pencil.
The present map may relate to the largest air raid ever conducted upon Berlin, being the attack of February 3, 1945, led by the USAAF. That night 1,500 bombers, escorted by 1,000 fighters, rained hell down upon the metropolis. The main objective was to take out the Tempelhof Rail Yards and the Potsdamer and Anhalter Stations, as the Allies believed that these facilities were currently being used to outfit the 6th Panzer Division, on its way to battle the Soviets along the Eastern Front. The attack was controversial amongst the Allied high command but was given the go-ahead upon the robust intervention of General Eisenhower.
The raid was a great success, as it completely destroyed the Anhalter Station and finished off the Potsdamer Station (which was already disabled by earlier bombing raids), while doing great damage to the Tempelhof Yards. Moreover, the surrounding city centre was largely destroyed, while Berlin’s residents were psychologically terrorized in way that was never achieved before. By the morning, 2,900 Berliners were dead and 120,000 were left homeless.
Allied aerial assaults upon Berlin continued without mercy until the Soviets entered the city in April 1945. By the end of the war Berlin had been struck by 363 air raids, that dropped almost 70,000 tons of bombs, ruining much of the city and forcing 1.7 million (40%) of its residents to flee.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
Berlin / Scale 1:250,000.
[England: Royal Air Force]: 1st February 1944.
Off-set print in grey (Good, wear and slight separations along old folds), 44.5 x 34.5 cm (17.5 x 13.5 inches).
This is an ‘outline map’ of Berlin, and while Map #1 shows many details of the city, this work is intentionally sparing so as to prioritize clarity to give a broad overview of the urbanscape that could be quickly glanced and comprehended by bomber pilots during their final approach to target.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
Munich / Scale 1:250,000.
[England: Royal Air Force]: 18th January 1944.
Off-set print in grey, (Very Good, wear along old folds), 44.5 x 34.5 cm (17.5 x 13.5 inches).
The present ‘outline map’ of greater Munich would have been used by Allied pilots to recognize the Bavarian capital at night. Munich was the birthplace of Nazism and one of the greatest industrial centres of Germany (ex. home to BMW, etc.), and was naturally a prime target for the RAF and USAAF. However, its location deep in the south of the country protected it from serious attack, at least until the Autumn of 1943, when the Allies were able to mount massive, daring raids. The attacks intensified throughout 1944, with some involving over 1,000 Allied aircraft. The raid on the night of April 24-25, 1944 was especially devastating, as the Allies executed low level attacks (from an altitude of 700 feet), made possible by the severely reduced state of the German air defenses.
Due to the city’s unique role in creating the Third Reich, the British specifically ordered civilian neighbourhoods to be targeted for psychological effect, such that 81,000 homes were completely destroyed, leaving 40% of the city’s residents homeless. The air raids in and around Munich succeeded in severely degrading German industrial production during the war’s home stretch.
By the end of the conflict, the city had been hit with 450 mega-bombs, 612,000 high explosive bombs and over 3 million incendiary devices. Over 50% of the entire urban area was levelled, with the historic centre being nearly annihilated, in part by ‘carpet bombing’.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
Frankfurt / Main (Germany) – Target No. 6(d)(vi)67 / Railway Marshaling Yard.
[England: Royal Air Force]: March 19, 1942.
Off-set print in black, purple and pink (Good, wear along old folds), 44.5 x 34.5 cm (17.5 x 13.5 inches).
This ‘target map’ depicts Frankfurt am Main, the banking hub of the Third Reich, as well as a major industrial centre. The focus of the map is the Hauptbahnhof (central railway station), represented by the large pink area located in the dead centre. Within that zone are three specific sites marked for destruction, identified by letters: A = the Railway Marshaling Yard; B = the Railway Workshops; and C = Goods Station.
The Allies mounting 70 air raids against Frankfurt over the course of the war, dropping almost 30,000 tons of high impact bombs, destroying Germany’s largest medieval city centre. The bombing of Frankfurt was initiated by the RAF early in the conflict, but it was not until the Autumn of 1943 that the raids intensified and became truly impactful.
The January 29, 1944 raid by 863 bombers of the US 8th Air Fleet resulted in the first catastrophic damage to the city, taking out a large part of the Hauptbahnhof and wrecking much of the financial district. Awesome attacks continued to befall Frankfurt, with particularly massive strikes occurring on March 18 and 22, 1944. By the end of the war, 90,000 of the city’s 177,600 apartments were destroyed and its population had shrunk from 553,000 (in 1939) to 230,000.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
Nurnberg / Scale 1:250,000.
[England: Royal Air Force]: 18th January 1944.
Off-set print in grey (Good, wear along old folds, slight marginal tears), 44.5 x 34.5 cm (17.5 x 13.5 inches).
The present ‘outline map’ of Nuremberg was meant to approximate the city’s appearance form the air at nighttime. Nuremberg, famously the hometown of Albrecht Dürer and other great historical figures, was a city of immense cultural importance, with one of Germany’s largest pre-war old towns. It was also part of a major industrial zone, as well as the heartland of Nazism (i.e. the ‘Nuremberg Rallies’), so was a prime symbolic and military target of the RAF and USAAF. However, the city lay deep within Germany and was heavily defended, such that all missions to bomb Nuremberg were very risky for the Allied crews.
It was not until 1943 that the Allied air war caused significant damage to Nuremberg, with the raids intensifying through 1944. The present map, issued on January 18th of that year, would have been available for use during the great majority of these missions.
On February 2, 1945, a raid involving 521 British bombers, dropping 6,000 high impact bombs, hit Nuremberg, almost totally destroying its historic city centre and killing 1,800 people. The raids continued with intensity until April 11, 1945, when virtually the entire city was in ruins, with some areas described as ‘steppes’. The city finally fell to the American on April 20, 1945, after the brutal Battle of Nuremberg.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
Pölitz (Germany) – Target No. 1(a)(iii)40 / Hydrierwerke Pölitz.
[England: Royal Air Force]: 14 September 1943.
Off-set print in black, purple and pink, with the mission identification line “21/12/44 OP #30” written in manuscript blue pen in the ‘Notes’ section in the upper margin (Good, wear and slight separations along old folds), 44.5 x 34.5 cm (17.5 x 13.5 inches).
This ‘target map’ features Pölitz (today Police, Poland), an industrial town in Pomerania, just north of the major port of Stettin (Szczecin). Pölitz was home to one of the most important Allied bombing target in Germany, the Hydrierwerke Pölitz, a massive synthetic oil plant that converted coal from Silesia into kerosene and gasoline, and which is represented upon the map by a large pink zone in the dead centre. Founded in 1937 by the industrial behemoth IG Farben, and since greatly expanded, by early 1944 the plant supplied 15% of Germany’s synthetic fuel (the Third Reich was heavily reliant upon this source, as their access to petroleum was very limited).
Pölitz was located very far to the east and was difficult for the RAF and USAAF to attack, while it was heavily defended by flack towers. The Allies mounted their first large raid upon Hydrierwerke Pölitz on May 29, 1944, during which the attacking planes were hit by much flack, preventing them from scoring decent hits. Numerous other raids followed, with the present map seemingly referring to a mission conducted on ‘December 21, 1944’, as noted in manuscript, in blue pen, in the ‘Notes’ section (top margin).
These raids, while damaging to the plant, failed to strike a knockout blow. Finally, a massive RAF raid on the night of February 8-9, 1945, involving 475 Lancaster bombers, scored direct hits and rendering the plant inoperable. This was consequential, as it severely depleted the Third Reich’s fuel supply in Eastern Germany as the Soviets were moving towards Berlin. Pölitz fell to the Soviets in April 1945, and the salvageable technical equipment was stripped and taken to Russia as ‘war reparations’. The plant was never rebuilt, but today the site is open to guided tours.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
Hanau (Germany) – Target No. 2(f)8 / Deutsche Dunlop Gummi Co. A.G.
[England: Royal Air Force]: June 1944.
Off-set print in black, purple and pink (Very Good, wear along old folds), 44.5 x 34.5 cm (17.5 x 13.5 inches).
This ‘target map’ focuses upon Hanau, a small city in Hessen, about 25 km east of Frankfurt. Perhaps best known as the hometown of the Brothers Grimm, until the war it boasted a lovely medieval centre. However, Hanau was also an important industrial hub, home of the Deutsche Dunlop Gummi Co. A.G., one of Germany’s largest tire manufactures (here represent by the pink rhombus-shaped ‘bullseye’ at the dead centre of the map), as well as other factories producing military supplies.
The RAF threatened the city early in the war, but it was not until September 25, 1944 that Allies sorties scored direct hits, resulting in significant damage. From that point onwards, RAF and USAAF raids become frequent and the present map, printed in June 1944, would have been available for use during these missions.
The Dunlop tire factory, along with a good part of the old town, was severely damaged during an USAAF raid on the night of December 12-13, 1944. On March 19, 1944, 85% of Hanau was levelled by a massive RAF attacked comprising 279 planes that dropped 1,200 tons of bombs. The attack was a devastating psychological and material blow that led to the city’s surrender to the US Army only few days later.
References: N / A – Archive elements are very rare, no records traced.