Impact of bombing on German towns
Catalogue reference: AIR 1/2104/207/36 p63
Catalogue reference: AIR 1/2104/207/36 p34

(a) Railways.

The consensus of opinion of our bombing by the German officials is summed up in the word "annoying." Judging from observations and conversations with German officials, this statement is neither an exaggeration or an under-estimate.

Raids have been far too frequent to allow them to belittle our bombing, and instances of really serious raids have left an impression on their minds never to be forgotten.

Considering the number of raids carried out on stations, the officials think they have been lucky, and sum up the damage caused as slight. The only exception to this was at Metz, where they state that the damage had been considerable. Instances of great raids, such as those previously mentioned at Metz, Thionville, Saarbrücken, and Ehrange have greatly impressed them. They stated, however, that in almost every case the damage was repairable within a short time.

They considered our shooting was moderate, but pointed out that it varied very much. As regards the stoppage and dislocation of traffic, they maintained that damage had never been so great as to entirely isolate a station for a period of long duration. The possibilities of this danger had been minutely investigated by those responsible, and the result, on the whole, had not caused more inconvenience than had been anticipated. They admitted, however, that alarming situations had occurred which, for short periods, had seriously upset their working arrangements. Whenever traffic had to be deviated from its original course it meant that the damage was such that trains would not be able to resume their normal running for some time. As a result of raids and alarms on Saarbrücken trains were constantly held up for two hours, or, on rare occasions, for even longer periods.

They stated that attacks on trains running on open lines between stations had been frequent, but this was outside their experience, and they professed not to know what effect it had had. In their opinion, the moral effect of attacking stations had been great. On occasions it had been difficult to prevent panic, especially at night, when the idea of giant machines, flying at a low height, was very terrifying, and greatly impressed the officials as well as the general public. They expressed surprise that these machines dare to come so low.

At Saarbrücken the enemy officials were very proud of their A.A. defence, which, they maintained, had contributed largely to their comparative immunity.

Thionville, they considered, was not sufficiently defended, a fact which very materially lowered the morale of the railway hands.

At Treves the mayor considered the railway station on the left bank of the Moselle of greater military importance than that to the east of the town, and could not understand how this had escaped almost entirely.

The opinion of the stationmaster at Ehrange is interesting. He considered that the moral effect of the raids had been very considerable, pointing out how people got no rest from them and from the alarms day or night. As far as the railway was concerned he denied that results of any military value had ever been attained at Ehrange, and even the delays caused could have been eliminated had there been urgent necessity.

All officials agreed as to the importance of attacking locomotive sheds, workshops, and permanent railway installations necessary to ensure smooth running of traffic. At Metz, for example, they emphasised the importance of the Montigny workshops, and at Thionville those of Basse Jeutz. The authorities admit that, generally speaking, the material damage has been constantly recurrent, with serious consequences on occasions. No effort was made, however, to belittle the moral effect produced, which had been considerable throughout the war, and reached its highest pitch in 1918.

It should be borne in mind that the above are the statements of German officials who, in some cases, have not undergone the trials and dangers of bomb raids.

The people of Metz appreciated the fact that surprisingly little damage had been done to the town itself, and all were unanimous in stating that they thought every effort had been made to avoid hitting the town.

(b) Blast Furnaces.

Generally speaking, the directors did not attach much importance to air raids. They were ready to admit the justifiability of bombing from a military point of view, but condemned the Allies' principle of attacking workmen's colonies.

With a few exceptions the directors asserted that the material damaged had been insignificant, and had not affected the war one way or the other. Such damage had invariably been repaired at once without any difficulty, and in very few cases had any stoppage of work resulted.

The moral effect of the various raids was admitted to have been very considerable: the constant alarms and attacks had got on the workmen's nerves. No difficulty had, however, been experienced with the workers, and very few had left the works during the war.

The directors stated that day raids caused them little inconvenience, but night alarms and raids were feared, and were spoken of as "exceedingly annoying" from every point of view.

Our shooting, they considered, was very erratic both by day and night. They were anxious to know what portion of the works was aimed at; the vital points, the buildings, the workmen's cottages, or the works as a whole.

Dates of Raids.- 16th May. 21st-22nd May. 24th June. 25th June. 5th July. 16th-17th July. 31st July. 18th-19th August. 2nd-3rd September. 5th-6th october. 23rd-24th October.
16th May.
Material Results. - The official report states that military traffic was diverted to the Neunkirchen-Saarbrücken line for six hours owing to damage to railway tracks caused by this raid.
British Official Report. - On 16th May our aeroplanes set out to bomb the factories and railway station at Saarbrücken. Twenty-four heavy bombs were dropped on the objective.
Material Results. - According to the official report, supplemented by conversations with the stationmaster, one bomb fell on a shunting engine, seriously damaging it.
Sections of rail were torn up on three tracks and traffic was suspended on these tracks for three hours.
Empty trains standing in sidings were also damaged.
A water main was destroyed.
Two bombs fell in the main workshops and caused considerable damage.
One bomb fell on the Brandenburg leave train, which was standing on track No. 18. Considerable damage was done, the train being set on fire.
As a result, 12 soldiers were killed and 49 wounded.
Considerable damage was also done to private property.
As a result of this raid traffic was suspended for eight hours.
Many reports had been received during hostilities stating that a troop train standing in the station was hit, killing and wounding a large number of soldiers.
Several bombs fell round the station, causing damage.
One bomb fell on the Malstatt station.
Six bombs fell on the Burbach works, but caused little damage.
The railway workshops were damaged.
The electrical tramway service was put out of action.
Damage was estimated at 40,000 marks.
The following report was received during hostilities:-
Captured Letter, dated 24th June.-"Aeroplanes came again to-day and dropped a lot of bombs; the streets look terrible. They dropped a bomb on the station and caused a fire. We are beginning to feel the war a little now."
25th June.
British Official Report. - On the morning of 25th June attacks were successfully carried out against the railway sidings and factories at Saarbrücken.
21st - 22nd May.
German Official Report. - Saarbrücken, 25th June. - "To-day Saarbrücken was again attacked by enemy airmen. Several bombs were dropped, causing material damage. Four persons were killed and eight seriously and eight slightly injured."
British Official Report. - On the night of 21st-22nd May many bombs were dropped on Saarbrücken station, causing a fire in a large shed alongside the railway. Material Results. - The Mayor stated that the majority of the bombs fell in the town north and south of the river Saar. Damage was confined to private property.
One bomb caused slight damage to Malstatt station.
German Official Report. - "Luxemburger Volkszeitung," 28th May. - "An air raid took place on Saarbrücken on the night of May 21st-22nd. Slight damage was caused."
5th July.
Material Results. - According to the official report, the Karthaus-Wasserbillig line was seriously damaged; rails were torn up and the traffic was suspended on the Wasserbillig-Igel line for 10 hours.
Traffic was delayed on other lines owing to the long duration of the attack.
British Official Report. - On the morning of 5th July Saarbrücken was successfully attacked.
24th June.
Material Results. - The Mayor's report states that several bombs fell on the shunting station, causing considerable damage to lines.
Two bombs fell near the workshops of the main station, but did little damage.
The remaining bombs fell in the town, causing damage to private property.
British Official Report. - On the 24th June, in spite of high wind and clouds, attacks were successfully carried out against the factories and sidings at Saarbrücken.
16th - 17th July.
German Official Report. - "Luxemburger Wort," 26th June.- "Several hostile aeroplanes attacked Saarbrücken. Several bombs were dropped and caused material damage." British Official Report. - On the night of 16th-17th July our machines bombed the Burbach works.

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