Bombs on Ameland, who did it?

Discussion in '1940' started by trf81, Sep 7, 2018.


What do you think, English or German?

Poll closed Sep 14, 2018.
  1. English

    0 vote(s)
  2. German

    1 vote(s)
  1. trf81

    trf81 New Member

    Hello all, thanks for accepting. I write in English because my German writing is not as good. I can read and understand it well.

    I don't know if I am placing this thread in the correct subforum. If not, my apologies and please be so kind as to move it to the correct one.

    I am a journalist with a Dutch newspaper, and I am working on an article about the bombing of the Frisian town of Hollum, on the isle of Ameland. Ameland is a well-known Dutch holiday island; many tourists visit each year.

    Just after midnight on september 21, 1940, a bomb fell on a house in Hollum. It killed a 4-year old child and severely wounded her mother and 6-year old sister.

    There are almost no official documents about the airplane that dropped the bombs. The day after the bombing, somebody pulled a bombshell from under the rubble which had 'Karlsruhe' written on it. Sadly, the shall has not been preserved. It is unclear whether 'Karlsruhe' was engraved, written in chalk, or in some other way.

    I am looking for an answer to the question: was it a German airplane that dropped the bomb? Or was it an English airplane?

    Any help is much appreciated.
  2. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Welcome to the Forum trf81 for an event which is likely to be most interesting.

    A quick look at Bomber Command operations for the period 20-22 September 1940 reveals no account of operations against the West Frisian Islands.Raids were made against the Channel Ports in France and Belgium in conjunction with the Battle of Britain defence against a possible invasion by Hitler of the British Isles.

    On the night of 20 September there were raids conducted on German railways and canals, again targets which would be associated on invasion preparations by the Germans.

    At the start of the war, navigation by the RAF and the Luftwaffe was usually not very accurate and operations against targets were subsequently in error.Sometimes bombs were released many miles from intended targets and could fall on to friendly countries.For example during the phoney war, the Luftwaffe bombed the southern city of Freiburg,situated close to the French border, by mistake,causing many casualties. Geobbels accused the French of carrying out the raid,declaring it as an outrage before intelligence was established that it was a Luftwaffe was the error in navigation.

    However I think you may have supplied crucial evidence that the bomb would appear to be German. Karlsruhe had a well known armaments factory by the name of Patronenfabrik Karlsruhe in the Great War and I would think that the facility was in existence during the Second World War.I am not certain if German bombs would carry manufacturing detail but their Great War shells did.down to the month,year of manufacture and quality inspection mark indentations.

    As an aside,your English is perfect.I always find the English spoken by the Dutch has an attractive twang to it which to me identifies a Dutch national speaking English.From my own experience down in Alsace.I was speaking in my tourist French to an Alsatian and he asked,"are you a Netherlander"?
    alieneyes, HA96, 4jonboy and 4 others like this.
  3. trf81

    trf81 New Member

    Thanks for your lengthy reply Harry. Much appreciated and with very helpful information. Would your conclusion be that there is a bigger chance of it being a German airplane, because of the bombshell? I have also heard that the English sometimes chalked targets on their bombs. That's why it is such a shame that the shell, or pictures of it, have not been preserved cq made.

    Thanks for your compliments about my English. I have been an incurable anglophile since my teens, I studied English at university and have always felt a deep love for the language and cultures of the countries where it is spoken.
  4. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    With the evidence I would say that the bomb of German manufacture,it could have been jettisoned at sea if an aircraft was in difficulties but struck Ameland.I think there might be some general information on Luftwaffe operations against British targets for the night in question.Overall I cannot see a Karlsruhe reference on the bomb being associated with the RAF.

    Shells certainly carried the manufacturers data which was indented on the end of the shell case.Bombs,I would have thought would have carried some indented manufacturer's data but would have been obliterated on delivery.

    As regarding chalk marks etc on bombs,these were usually applied "ad hoc" by ground crews on bombs by RAF personnel and were informal, such as for example "A Present for Adolf" or "A Present for Hitler" and variations of these according to the humour of those bombing up can be seen in wartime photographs.No doubt the Luftwaffe ground crews would add their own "ad hoc" propaganda in chalk or something similar.

    I am wondering if the Dutch authorities conducted an inquiry into the bombing and the death and injury of civilians although you say there is little official documents to hand. Perhaps the type of bomb from the fragments could have been identified by Dutch specialists although I am aware that administration structures would have been in disarray and little help would have been forthcoming from the German occupation authorities.

    Incidentally are they any local residents available to reveal any further information on the incident...but as a journalist,I would think that you have followed up on this.

    Looking forward to anything else you can reveal.
    alieneyes, HA96, 4jonboy and 2 others like this.
  5. HA96

    HA96 Member

    Harry et all,

    this a story which reminds me of the bombing and attacks of Schaffhausen -Switzerland in WW2. Local swiss historians still argueing about: Was it the Us Air Force, or the RAF?
    The german border with important industry so close and the border line in a zick zack way. It was easy to miss the actual targets.
    Harry Ree likes this.
  6. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Active Member

    Someone will confirm or shoot me down, but German bombs landed on Dublin.
    HA96, Harry Ree and trf81 like this.
  7. trf81

    trf81 New Member

    Thanks for the info. There are some Dutch official/government documents about the attack. In some, it is suggested that it was the English, but the question is how trustworthy these source are. People were bound to blame the English so as not to upset the German oppressor.

    We also contacted some locals who were present at the scene. They provided us with some helpful info as well as some nice elements for the eventual newspaper story. Some of them have seen the bombshell, but cannot remember how 'Karlsruhe' was written on it.
  8. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    As said Bomber Command records show no ops which would fly or likely to overfly the Frisian Islands on the date of the incident.During this period Bomber Command was occupied with operations against the Channel Ports in the so called Battle of the Barges to prevent Hitler launching his Operation Sealion. As I see it the northerly targets would have been Antwerp or any other ports on the Scheldt estuary but the main target were concentrated in the Pas de Calais region with Boulogne being a principal target.

    As regards enemy airfields in France,Belgium and Holland,there were also frequents raids on these which were supporting the bombing raids and targets which were in the fuel supply chain during the period from June to December. (recorded in Air Ministry Bulletins) Specific airfield target numbers are not mentioned in the September Bulletins but there are reference to such raids such as that on September 3 when five Luftwaffe airfields in the Pas de Calais were raided causing destruction of six aircraft on one airfield and the destruction of airfield ground facilities on the airfields.

    (Source.....Battle of Britain J M Spaight late Principal Assistant Secretary,Air Ministry.His publication was quickly updated being first published in May 1941,reprinted the same month,then reprinted twice June 1941.)

    The English would be blamed through the efforts of the Goebbels Propaganda Ministry and Dutch press censorship would result in no suspicion being allowed to fall on the Luftwaffe.Consequently the occupied countries had their governments in exile and the British government directing the BBC to transmit news etc to these countries to counteract the German press and German controlled press propaganda with news accuracy.Listening to the BBC news was regarded as a criminal offence and likely to result in severe penalties for the individuals who were caught listening to enemy broadcasts as you would be aware of.

    (As the war swung in favour of the Allies,German servicemen themselves were drawn into listening to the BBC news to ascertain the accurate state of the war)

    I think the case hinges on the reported "Karlsruhl" being identified with the device dropped.

    Good luck with the newspaper article.
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    It is true that Dublin was bombed by the Luftwaffe.Western targets were conducted from Brittany airfields,principally from Meucon north of Vannes. Brittany was also the location of navigation beams which radiated north over the British Isles...signal strength was reported to be effective to as far as Manchester.

    It was claimed that British beam bending/interference was responsible for the incorrect identification of Dublin as a target but that has been largely discounted and it was thought that navigation error was responsible.

    An article in the After The Battle magazine some time ago gives a very good account of the Luftwaffe bombing of Dublin.
  10. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    Thanks for the reminder.As I said before,I found as a motorist that the run of the German/Swiss border can be confusing at Schaffhausen with examples of escaped POWs being caught out there by the complex run of the border.

    Little surprise that Allied aircrews were caught out by the complexity which required the utmost navigation to avoid bombing neutral territory.Having said that there appears to be no targets of strategic significance there and the border was not at this point clearly defined by a river,the Rhine being the German/Swiss border to the west of Schaffhausen.
  11. Harry, Goebbels accused the French of bombing Freiburg? I understood they blamed us; certainly the Freiburger Zeitung of December 11, 1940 reported Onkel Adi speaking to armaments workers the previous day:
    „Da fiel es diesem großen Strategen Churchill ein, den unbeschränkten Luftkrieg bei Nacht zu beginnen. Er hat ihn in Freiburg im Breisgau begonnen.“ (Then it came to this great strategist Churchill to begin unrestricted aerial warfare at night. He started it in Freiburg im Breisgau.)
    Btw, the Luftwaffe’s intended target was Dijon 137 miles away (cf. “Große Sache.” Der Spiegel, 26 Apr 1982).

    Also, Swiss historians argue over who bombed Schaffhausen? While the RAF are responsible for the attacks of 11/12 June 1940 on Geneva (5 dead), Renens (2 dead, 8 injured), Daillens (7 injured), along with Basel and Zürich (no casualties I believe?), I understood that we never attacked Switzerland after that (I suspect at least partly due to switching to night-bombing, with Swiss towns presumably advertising their neutrality by being ablaze with light).

    A couple of good articles here on the bombing of Switzerland from the USAF Air University, which detail the difficulties of bombing accurately in general and particularly when near to neutral countries:
    Helmreich, Jonathan E. “The Diplomacy of Apology: U.S. Bombings of Switzerland during World War II.” Air University Review, May–June 1977, 19–37. (Direct link to article via web archive; link to pdf of magazine with illustrations)
    Helmreich, Jonathan E. “The Bombing of Zurich.” Aerospace Power Journal, Summer 2000. (Direct link to article via web archive; link to pdf of magazine with illustrations)

    En passant, even today, although accuracy has far improved, it falls short of the impression given by military spokesmen showing cherry-picked footage of guided weapons hitting their targets. In Vietnam, ‘48 percent of Paveways dropped in 1972–73 around Hanoi and Haiphong achieved direct hits, compared with only 5.5 percent of unguided bombs dropped on the same area a few years earlier.’ (Boot, Max. “From Saigon To Desert Storm.” American Heritage. Vol.57, No.6, Nov./Dec. 2006.) So thirty years after WW2, 94.5% of bombs missed their target and the shiny new laser-guided gizmos still missed 52% of the time. Nor had things much improved even by 1991 (last link will require either a proxy or pasting link into a search engine and using the cached result); and the US Central Command website releases a ‘Monthly Civilian Casualty Report’ resulting from NATO air strikes in Syria, and as of end of August, admit to ‘at least 1,061 civilians’ unintentionally killed.
  12. Addendum.
    Wrt to the Max Boot link, after his performance on Tucker Carlson in 2017, I can but hope he was a better journalist in 2006; but far from denigrating the PAVEWAY, Boot’s article rather ‘bigs it up’, so if his stats are inaccurate that would imply the reality is even worse(*).

    The more advanced PAVEWAY III is unimpressive (compared to the impression given by cherry-picked footage):
    Burton, James G. The Pentagon Wars: Reformers Challenge the Old Guard. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1993. 113–114, & footnote. (Bold added)

    (* Or he might just be a poor salesman. E.g. the B-17 Flying Fortress—an apt moniker for the B-17F with its twelve .50 cal. MGs, and yet apter for the B-17G with the single nose .50 replaced by twin .50s in a chin turret—was so-named by a journalist, Richard Williams, who was extremely impressed with the prototype Model 299’s surprisingly modest five .30s.)

    Also, although we did not attack Switzerland after the 1940 attacks (as far as I can determine), we did regularly overfly Swiss territory, e.g. on our way to attack Italy. I had it in mind that I read this in Sir Arthur Harris’s Bomber Offensive but cannot find it there. In trying to track down where I read of our deliberate violations of Swiss airspace, I came across this promising book: Wylie, Neville. Britain, Switzerland, and the Second World War. Oxford University Press, 2003. What glimpses of its contents are afforded online show that I was wrong in believing the Swiss advertised their neutrality by keeping their lights on: the Swiss actually imposed a blackout from 6 November 1940 to 12 September 1944. That seems an extraordinarily unnecessary risk and they are surely very fortunate not to have been bombed by the RAF by mistake—and that we didn’t demonstrates the fantastic skill of our crews and our ‘boffins’ in developing navigational aids such as Gee, Oboe and H2S (these technologies also adopted by the USAAF).
  13. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Taking the bombing of Freiburg and the propaganda war which followed.

    The raid on Freiburg on May 10 1940 was used by the Goebbels propaganda ministry to align and take advantage of the situation of the war which had changed from the Blitzkrieg to the air offensives which developed from the early autumn of 1940.

    On the afternoon of the Freiburg raid,German radio accused the French Air Force of the bombing,the point being that this would be the excuse of future bombing operations against French civilians.At the time the Germans did not know what the outcome would be for what would be named the Battle of France.With the defeat of French and British forces,the Freiburg propaganda had run its course.

    Then 7 months after Freiburg was bombed, this German propaganda was re-erected and subject to a new direction when the British, as represented by WSC, was accused of bombing Freiburg by Hitler in a speech at the Borsig Werkes on December 10 1940.This is the speech recorded in the Freiburger Zeitung on the following day.The object was again,as to the French, to provide an excuse for the bombing of the British civilian population.The Germans for their part released communiques quoting raids on London which started on September 7 1940 were "well deserved reprisals for Britain's crimes against the German civilian population".

    Looking back at another speech,this time by Goring at the same armament works but on September 9 1939.He declared, "If the British aeroplanes fly at tremendous heights and drop their ridiculous propaganda in German territory,I have northing against it.But take care if the leaflets are replaced by one bomb,then reprisals will follow as in Poland".

    Later the Germans produced the propaganda film,Baptism of Blood to show what this "threat of frightfulness" meant in practice.
    StrangerHereMyself likes this.
  14. trf81

    trf81 New Member

    Thanks for all your replies. It is now more clear to me than ever that the refined German propoganda machine could well have spun the story so as to accuse the British of the Ameland bombing.

Share This Page