Tuesday, 21 February 2012

RAF Bomber Command Evaders

While Bomber Command was developing its tactics and weapons, the Germans had not been idle. In February 1941 Bomber Command had lost about 2% of aircraft sent to attack Germany, a year later the figure was 4.8%. This was perilously close to the 5% figure that was conventionally held to be the maximum loss rate that an air campaign could sustain for any period of time.

Not all of those aircrew in bombers marked down as being lost were killed. Most aircrew perished with their aircraft, but many others managed either to bale out or to effect a landing. In turn, most of these aircrew who managed to get down safely in occupied countries were captured by the Germans - almost all of these who came down in Germany itself were apprehended. Nevertheless, a considerable number managed to escape capture. The organisation tasked with trying to get these “evaders”, as they were known, back home was MI9.

The importance to Britain of getting evaders back was not restricted to having valuable aircrew returned to operational duties. These evaders often spent weeks, even months, in occupied Europe and were dependable sources of information on conditions under German control and how the civilian populations were coping. As with so much to do with the war, the work of MI9 did not really get going until after the fall of France in 1940. Up to that date it had been thought that relatively few downed airmen would fall behind enemy lines and those that did would probably be captured. Only when it became clear that many hundreds of aircraft would be operating over enemy territory and that a good number of men would be shot down was the organisation stepped up.

By the summer of 1942 the training of aircrew included a section on evasion that had been devised by MI9.

from RAF BOMBER COMMAND AT WAR by Rupert Matthews

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