December 18th, 1939 - On this day in World War Two, during the Battle of Helgoland Bight—Luftwaffe planes shoot down 12 of 22 RAF Wellington bombers.
This battle would be the first named battle of World War Two, and began the longest air campaign of the war, code named Defense of the Reich, which would not end until May 8th of 1945 with Germany's defeat.
After Germany and the USSR had defeated Poland in September of 1939, the phony war set in, and the battle would generally would not change until the spring of 1940.
But, while the lines on land did not move, the German kriegsmarine was very active in the waters of the Atlantic.
The u-boat was having a heavy toll on allied shipping, and the British, fearing being starved out and running out of supplies, decided something had to be done.
So what did they do? They devised a plan to aerial bombard the German surface ships at Heligoland Bight so they could not support the U-Boats which are causing so much damage.
Originally 24 Vickers Wellingtons took off. Two turned back owing to engine trouble before reaching German airspace. The German reaction was slow. Eventually they scrambled strong fighter aircraft forces to intercept. Just over 120 aircraft, 80–100 German and 22 British, were involved but only 44 German fighters made contact with the British bombers.
The RAF did lose more planes compared to the Luftwaffe, and it forces the Royal Air Force to come to terms with the need to carry out night time bombings as the risk of daylight raids was thus proven too risky.
Also, with victories like this, and the success of the German Wehrmacht in 1940-1941, the Luftwaffe began to strongly believe that its bases in mainland Germany were invulnerable to enemy attacks. This would make it hard for the Luftwaffe to respond to allied bombing of mainland Germany. This picture depicts the fuselage of a Wellington prototype.
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