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Warriors of the Night Disc 1

16 May 2013

Warriors of the Night Disc 1

Warriors of the Night Disc 1, 2003, DVD, 90 minutes

Warriors of the Night Disc 1, 2003, DVD, 90 minutes

Warriors of the Night Disc 1, 2003, DVD, 90 minutes

Warriors of the Night is a three DVD set produced by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum – the mission of which is to keep history relevant by maintaining aircraft and flying them. The museum has a number of aircraft and one of which is seen in flight as well as in mood video quite often – an Avro Lancaster. There are a total of four episodes bringing the viewer from the beginning until the first all out early morning raid over Berlin.

The subject of Warriors of the Night is the night bombing campaign prosecuted by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the course of World War II in Europe as well as Luftwaffe counter measures. RCAF veterans as well as Luftwaffe veterans provide comments and observations – seeing and hearing these fellows provides a context to the history beyond what can be provided with analyses and media.

Disc 1 has the episodes Nightfighters 1939–1941 and Millenium to Gomorrah 19421943


Nightfighters 1939–1941

Nightfighters has wonderful and uncommonly seen flying footage of a low flying Heinkel He 111 and Boulton-Paul Defiant at another time. The first efforts of daylight strategic bombing by the RAF are described as well as their miserable results at their high cost – and similarly with the Luftwaffe which shifted strategy to the London Blitz night bombing (the first nocturnal battle on large-scale). So the RAF sought the safety of the night and the technical contest began. The RAF sending bombers to targets more or less individually. The rapid development of radio direction finding and ground based radar detection and interception are addressed with an entrancing mix of historical footage, modern-day footage and interviews.

A detailed description of the German Würzburg Giant ground based detection radar is given in a lively and interesting manner. The viewer learns of its significance since it had the capability to detect aircraft at ranges of 50 to 70 kilometers with an accuracy of 0.25 degrees. We learn that accuracy was sufficient to measure the distance between the Earth and the Moon with unusual accuracy after the end of World War II.

The end of the episode concludes with the sobering observations that RAF Bomber Command was losing its part of the war with a loss rate that would only be exceeded by the German U-Boat crews. The Luftwaffe as winning the war in the night skies which had troubling political ramifications with regard to keeping Russia in the war as well as Great Britain’s efforts to maintain a position as a major player with the Allies.


Millenium to Gomorrah 1942–1943

RAF Bomber Command had to alter its strategy to keep itself in the war as well as to keep Britain at the table when the Allies made their plans. Operation Millenium was the offspring of these dire requirements – the first thousand plane raid. Halifax and Lancaster heavy bombers made large bomb loads possible (needed due to the extremely poor accuracy) and the bomber stream was developed to counter the German Himmelbett air defense system. The explanation and how these came about are intriguing. Seeing the mass of personnel and technology brought to bear to pit a nightfighter, or gun crews, against a bomber as well as the bombers defensive tactics is indeed humbling.

The simplified demonstration of a nocturnal intercept (though done in daylight for filming purposes) of a Lancaster with an A-26 Invader (standing in for a Luftwaffe nightfighter) with a former nightfighter pilot, Peter Spoden, guiding the pilot is chilling. One can see the attacking aircraft slowly and methodically approach the bomber from behind and below at amazingly close quarters to employ upward firing cannon, Schräge Musik.

The technological race of both active as well as passive radar devices on both sides is adequately addresses but many devices were not mentioned — otherwise this would have been a documentary about electronics, not about the combatants.

The bomber stream tactic was effective, though losses were still high they became acceptable in the grist mill of war, and the German counter efforts expanded to also use daytime fighters during the night in a tactic the Luftwaffe termed Wilde Sau (Wild Boar). The coordination of searchlights and Flak against the RAF is told quite viscerally by RCAF crewman such as Fred Passmore.

RAF Bomber Command was drawing even though suffering a high casualty rate all the same, as were German cities.

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