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Operation Bellicose
Part of Combined Bomber Offensive

Maison Blanche airfield, Algiers June 1943
DateJune 20/21, 23/24 1943
LocationFriedrichshafen, Germany
La Spezia, Italy
Result Zeppelin Works: some factories hit[1]
La Spezia naval base: damage
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg RAF Bomber Command

Regulation WW II Underwing Balkenkreuz.png Luftwaffe

Italy-Royal-Airforce.svg Italian
Regia Aeronautica
Commanders and leaders
Wing Commander Gomm (Master Bomber)
56 Avro Lancaster (No. 5 Group RAF)
4 Avro Lancaster Pathfinders (No. 8 Group RAF)

The Operation Bellicose strategic bombing in World War II targeted the Nazi Germany Zeppelin Works in Friedrichshafen and the La Spezia, Italy, naval base and was the first use of shuttle bombing in World War II and the second use of a Master Bomber.[1] In early June 1943, a Central Interpretation Unit photo interpreter (Claude Wavell) identified a stack of ribbed baskets (Würzburg radar reflectors) at the Zeppelin Works. After Winston Churchill viewed the photos at RAF Medmenham on June 14, No. 5 Group RAF received the surprise orders on June 16 to attack Friedrichshafen during the next full moon.[2]

After take-off from Britain, Wing Commander Gomm (No. 467 Squadron RAAF) took over when the aircraft of Group Captain Slee developed trouble.[1] The Avro Lancasters bombed from 15,000 ft rather than the planned 10,000 ft due to heavy flak. First the Pathfinder Force (PFF) dropped offset markers at a distance from the target for the main bombing force to use unobscured by smoke. The second stage was to use 'time-and-distance bombing runs'[3] from a location on the Lake Constance shore along a measured distance to the target.[1]

The attack hit the V-2 rocket facility of the Zeppelin Works, which made Operation Bellicose the first mission that bombed a long-range weapon facility. From Friedrichshafen the planes refueled at Bilda, Algeria in North Africa.[4] On June 23/24, eight of the original Operation Bellicose force of 60 Avro Lancasters remained in Algeria for repairs, and the remaining 52 bombed the Italian naval base at La Spezia, Liguria, damaging an "oil depot" and an "armaments store", and continued to Britain without loss.[1]

Operation Bellicose map


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Campaign Diary". Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary. UK Crown. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  2. Irving, David (1964). The Mare's Nest. London: William Kimber and Co. pp. 65, 81. 
  3. Middlebrook, Martin (1982). The Peenemünde Raid: The Night of 17–18 August 1943. New York: Bobs-Merrill. p. 50. 
  4. Etherington, Andrew. "June 24th, 1943". The Second World War - A Day by Day Account. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 

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