PRE-WAR AND POST-WAR LOSSES

Bomber Command was formed in July 1936 as the threat of a second European war became ever greater. It continued to operate throughout the war and into the difficult, cold war period as it adapted to form a significant part of the country’s nuclear deterrent. It was finally merged with Fighter Command to form Strike Command in 1968.

During its thirty-two year history it was transformed from a small force of ‘regulars’ flying bi-planes and small, underpowered bombers such as the Fairey Battle to a formidable force of some 125,000 air and ground crew who were collectively capable of razing a city in a single night using heavy bombers employing state-of-the-art navigation and bomb-sight technology.

After the ending of hostilities, it underwent yet another transformation as it adapted to a new world order and was soon called upon to become part of the country’s nuclear deterrent using a new breed of jet-powered bombers such as the mighty Vulcan and Canberra. Few, if any, major units in the armed forces went through such huge changes in so short a period of time.

Having spent the past six years recording the losses sustained by Bomber Command during the war years, it Is fitting that IBCC should complete the task by including the airmen lost in the pre-war and post-war periods too. We are proud and honoured to announce that these airmen have now been included in the on-line Losses Database.

During the pre-war period, 210 losses were incurred, mostly due to training incidents of one form or another, in aircraft as diverse as the Hawker Hind biplane and aircraft which would continue to see service through the war, such as the Bristol Blenheim and Vickers Wellington.

The post-war period details the loss of some 404 airmen. (Note that IBCC defines the post-war period as beginning on 1st January 1946, so that the losses sustained during repatriation flights such as Operation Exodus are included as war-time losses). Once again most were lost as a result of accidents during training exercises, although amongst their number is F/Sgt. John Hannah VC, who died in June 1947 as a direct result of smoke inhalation injuries sustained during the operation in which he won his decoration in 1940. As ever, there are many interesting accounts such as the Handley-Page Victor which crashed in June 1966 whilst giving a flying demonstration to the press.

The additional losses recently included brings the total losses now documented to 58,438. Four more panels will, when funding permits, be added to the existing 271 memorial walls to give these airmen their rightful place around the Spire at the International Bomber Command Centre. Please consider helping us by contributing to the cost of the new memorial walls.

In the meantime, they can be viewed on the IBCC website by following this link: https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/

To view the pre-war and post-war losses in particular, you may select a date range or choose the aircraft or station in question using the drop-down menus. Of course, individual airmen may also be located and their details viewed.

Dave Gilbert

Losses Archivist