26 June – 16 July 1940

The Nuisance raids

Following Germany's rapid territorial gains in the Battle of France, the Luftwaffe was forced to reorganise its forces, establish coastal bases, and rebuild after heavy losses. It launched small-scale bombing raids against Britain on the night of June 5/6 and carried out sporadic attacks throughout June and July.

The first large-scale attack occurred at night on June 18/19, when small raids scattered across Yorkshire and Kent involved a total of 100 bombers.

These Störangriffe ("nuisance raids"), which involved only a few planes, sometimes just one, were used to train bomber crews in both day and night attacks, as well as to test defences and methods, with the majority of flights taking place at night.

They discovered that carrying a large number of small high explosive bombs was more effective than carrying a small number of large high explosive bombs; similarly, incendiaries had to cover a large area to set effective fires. These practise flights continued all the way through August and into the first week of September. In contrast, the raids gave the British time to assess German tactics, as well as invaluable time for RAF fighters and anti-aircraft defences to prepare and practise.

The attacks were widespread: just 20 bombers set off alarms in 20 counties over the night of June 30th, and the first daylight raids took place on July 1st, on both Hull in Yorkshire and Wick in Caithness. The majority of the flights on July 3 were reconnaissance missions, but 15 civilians were killed when bombs hit Guildford, Surrey.

Throughout August, September, and into the winter, numerous small Störangriffe raids were conducted daily, with the goals of bringing RAF fighters up to battle, destroying specific military and economic targets, and setting off air-raid warnings to affect civilian morale: In August, hundreds of bombers were involved in four major air raids; in the same month, 1,062 small raids were carried out across the country.

Further reading