Why did the RAF bomb cities?

Extracts from a secret government memorandum dated July 24th 1943 relating to Hamburg

Catalogue ref: PREM 3/11/08

Extract a

2. Before we can express any opinion I think we must clear up a matter of fact.

At ‘X’ of his minute Sir Henry Tizard says that apart from submarines and shipping Hamburg is not industrially important.

The Ministry of Economic Warfare on the other hand rates the overall economic importance i.e. the contribution to the war effort as being fourth of all the cities of Germany, the first three being Berlin, Duisburg and Bochum/Gelsenkirchen. The M.E.W. give Hamburg the following key points:-

  1. Priority 1+ (highest possible)
    One liquid fuel (or substitute) target
    Two shipbuilding targets

  2. Priority 1
    Four transportation targets
    One public utility target
    Two liquid fuel targets
    Two non-ferrous metals targets
    One shipbuilding target
    One engineering and armament target
    One textiles target
    One rubber target

Extract b

  1. Priority 2
    Four public utility targets
    One solid fuel target
    One liquid fuel target
    Four non ferrous metals targets
    Five aircraft and aero engine targets
    Two shipbuilding targets
    Six engineering and armaments targets
    Four foodstuffs targets

  2. Numerous fuel, engineering, chemical and foodstuffs targets in Category 3

From the above it seems abundantly clear that Hamburg is much more than a dormant centre of peace time commerce and if so I do not think we should refrain from bombing it.