Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Brits Bombing Warsaw? Info Sought, Please!

Loran diagram. source

Otto Gross, who contributed two previous guest posts to this blog, one about his Nazi father, one about Enigma, writes in with a question. Can one of the many highly intelligent and informed Bieganski-the-Blog readers help? Please post any information or leads you may have on this question to the comments section of the blog. Thanks!

Otto writes:

I'm reading a book called "Scientists Against Time," published in 1946, about the NDRC/OSRD. In the chapter on radar and the development of the navigation tool called LORAN, the author has a line that puzzled me.

Talking about the creation and use of the Sky Synchronized (SS) type of LORAN. "A modification, using the reflected sky wave at night to synchronize the master and slave stations, proved so accurate that the British used it for blind bombing as far east as Warsaw."

It goes on to mention it being used for 22,000 bombing missions, though I'm sure that's throughout the theater and not just Poland.

The time reference would have been somewhere between October 1942 and 1944.

I was unfamiliar with the Brits bombing Warsaw. Ever hear of this or know a Polish historian who might know details or point me to a reliable source?



  1. Found this:

    Later on it turns out that the woman’s husband had died in a bombing of Warsaw by the British of one of the many munitions plants in the city that the Germans had set up to help with their war effort.

    I can check the dates in Wladyslaw Bartoszewskis monumental work "1859 dni Warszawy".

  2. Artur, thank you! I knew I could rely on you!

    and aren't you operating in your third language?


  3. Thank you. That's very helpful.
    I was surprised by the reference I saw. I read a lot of WW2 primary and secondary sources related to the book I'm writing and I hadn't recalled hearing anything like this. I assumed it was related to damaging the war supply targets within occupied territory. The LORAN system developed by the US was much more accurate than the British equivalent, GEE, but as the article points out bombing had unintended victims. The fact that the Brits used LORAN and not GEE tells me that they were trying to be as accurate as possible.
    I started writing to solve a mystery but I'm finding out that there were so many hard choices made.
    If you do have any dates that would help. Any help is greatly appreciated. I'm going to look at newspaper coverage, but I expect I'll head up to the Roosevelt Library one day to see if this was discussed.
    Thanks again for the help.


  4. Trusty reference librarian just sent this:

    Not sure if this will help but there are some articles that discuss
    Great Britain's bombing of Warsaw in an effort to assist the Polish home
    army during the Warsaw uprising in 1944. I'm attaching one of the
    articles that discuss the issue. However, it appears that the bombings
    were conducted by the RAF doing flyovers and not by relying upon radar
    to launch from a distance.

    1. Thanks Trusty Reference Librarian - there's a special in Heaven and heart for reference librarians... :>}

      Back on topic though.

      The uses of radar are for more than just detecting objects from a distance. LORAN used two radar signals from known positions to measure where the plane was. Radar/radio/etc travel at 186,000 miles a second so if I pick up a signal from one station after N milliseconds and a signal from a second station at X milliseconds, I can use it to figure out where I am. This was used to accurately get planes to a certain target. Before this cloud cover, fog, or just a lack of moon-light would make finding the right target difficult.

      The first flights developing LORAN were by K blimps out of Lakehurst, NJ, heading to NYC and then out to Montauk, Long Island. The windows were blacked out so there was no cheating and ground observers were parked along the route.
      The blimps never varied from the designated route more than a quarter mile the whole way and back.


  5. from facebook reposted with permission:

    The allies sent planes over warsaw during the 44 uprising dropping supplies. I posted an album of photos of the drops on The Way Back: Untold Stories of Poland in WWII. I've never heard of the Allies bombing Warsaw. They wouldn't even bomb the factories at Auschwitz when the Poles asked them to because they didn't want to divert attention from the main war effort--Normandy, etc.

  6. I have looked in several books but not been able to find any confirmation about any RAF-raid on Warsaw.

    British RAF-plane did fly to occupied Poland 1942-44, but the aim was to transport Polish agents ("Cichocemni"), money and supplies (radio stations).

    But...on several occasions the Soviet Air Force bombed Warsaw. Soviet planes raided Warsaw already on the 23th of June 1941.
    The greatest Soviet air raid occured on the night between 12 and 13 of may 1943. According to German sources over 100 people died and several hundred were injured. Nearly 1 000 lost their homes.

    I will give it one last chance to find something about RAF. But I imagine that if it did occur, then information about it should not be so hard to find.

  7. I never heard of the British bombing strategic targets in German-occupied Warsaw. I did read about them bombing targets in Stettin (Szczecin), Koenigsberg (Kaliningrad), Danzig (Gdansk), and even Posen (Poznan).

    However, even if the British did bomb targets in Warsaw, the effect of this bombing was nil compared with the systematic German destruction of Warsaw, most of which was not military related at all. For a list of books dealing with the rebuilding of Warsaw almost from scratch, please click on my name in this specific posting.

  8. Thank you all. If/When I find out more, one way or another, I'll post something here.
    My research involves the development and uses of radar and some incidents that happened in 1942 and one of the books mentioned it. So far the book is spot on, so I'm thinking there might be something to it, albeit unintended damage.
    One more mystery to figure out.

    Thanks again.


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