Virtual Lecture – Was the RAF bombing campaign in the SWW the most crucial factor in winning victory?

24 March 2023

At 6.00pm on Friday 24 March 2023, Marcus Gibson examines just how important the RAF bombing campaign was to Allied victory. The lecture will be live-streamed online via Crowdcast.

Wellingtons at dusk, circa 1940.

Talk Outline 

This research highlights not only the immense direct physical damage inflicted over the years on German industrial production but also on the often much more powerful indirect effects imposed.

The direct damage on cities, industrial plants, communications and rail and canal systems, on tank, U-boat and aircraft production, is both well known and well documented. In particular the Allied air force raid on Hamburg in 1943 put the fear of God into leaders not only inside Germany but also outside, such as in Italy and the Balkans.

However, it is the cascade, the accumulation of devastating indirect effects on which I have principally focused. The bombing prompted the Nazis to initiate the militarily worthless V-weapons programme – which absorbed 40% of its R&D capacity alone.

Secondly, the bombing compelled the Germans into commission a gigantic underground construction programme – another huge diversion of manpower and materials. Around 1 million personnel were devoted to air defence and another 1.2 million were diverted into repair operations.

The need to construct underground manufacturing sites significantly delayed by up to two years development of the Me 262 jet aircraft and, due to bombing, the offsite construction of the advanced Type-XXI U-boat meant that only one of the hundreds built ever saw service. This outcome was invaluable to the Allies.

Next, and perhaps most significantly, some 80% of the vital 88mm guns and thousands of other AA guns were removed from crucial battlefronts in the East, Italy and France in order to protect the cities and industries of Germany.

From early 1944 onwards Soviet armies met a greatly weakened anti-tank defence, and within months had advanced hundreds of miles. Similarly, the withdrawal of most fighter aircraft to Germany gave Allied ground forces near-total air superiority over France and the Eastern front, and made it impossible for the Germans to undertake effective aerial reconnaissance. Indeed the two biggest Soviet operations of 1944-45 met with complete surprise.

Finally: the expenditure of ammunition. If it took between 1 and 20 88mm rounds to destroy an Allied tank; it took 250 rounds just to damage a single Allied bomber. As a result, the Germans then suffered not only from a giant increase in ammunition consumption but also from a huge wastage of that ammunition.

My conclusions have resulted from a wide variety of sources, ranging from interviews with RAF personnel in the public domain, academic reports and research in, mainstream books on German history, published interviews with German military officers post-war, and German industrial data.


This lecture will be livestreamed via the RAF Museum’s Crowdcast channel.


This lecture is free but registration is required to attend. Follow the link below for quick and easy registration.

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About Marcus Gibson

Marcus Gibson has worked as a research journalist for more than 30 years at The Financial TimesThe European newspaper and BBC Radio News R4, focusing on general news and, most recently, on British enterprise and emerging small technology companies. His collection of FT articles takes up 200 pages on archive site Factiva.

He has reported from three Olympic Games, from Bosnia in the early 1990s and on major news stories such as the sinking of the Baltic ferry ‘Estonia’. He has also contributed to Time magazine, South China Morning Post and The Melbourne Age.

In 2018 his report on Brexit for Westminster think-tank Civitas revealed the sharp rise in UK exports to non-EU countries since the Referendum, and discovered that the majority of the UK’s vast Services Exports have never been properly audited by the ONS.

In 2004 he started Gibson Index Ltd, a company that researches and compiles information on 70,000 UK SMEs. He has written two books: in 1984, he edited ‘The Dictionary of the British Heritage’ for Cambridge University Press, and co-wrote in 2004, ‘Bootstrapping Your Business’, with US software entrepreneur Greg Gianforte.

He now has two books nearing completion: one on RAF Bomber Command and a second on Canada’s role in two world wars. Marcus was educated at Stowe, the English public school. He lives in London.

About the RAF Museum Research Programme

The RAF Museum’s 2023 programme includes Lunchtime Lectures at the RAF Museum, Cosford; Air Power Lectures, co-organised with the Centre for War and Diplomacy at Lancaster University; and Air Power Seminars, co-organised with the University of Wolverhampton. You can attend these lectures in person or join us online as we live-stream from the venue.