Striking by Night
Even before the war, the British saw the need for big bombers capable of reaching well into Germany. Three of Britain’s main aircraft firms – Short Brothers, Handley Page, and A. V. Roe (Avro) – produced the Stirling, Halifax and Manchester respectively. The twin-engined Manchester was redesigned with four Rolls Royce Merlin engines and called the Lancaster. It became the outstanding British bomber of the war.
Even with the right aircraft, the problem was to get a bomber to its target at night. The rapid development of radar to assist navigation and bomb-aiming was vital. New bomb designs and target-marking techniques were developed. There was a constant battle against the enemy’s technology, resulting in radar and radio counter-measures that included early warning, jamming, and deception.
Behind the fighting front there was a technological race in the development of weapons and communications. Radio-guided bombs, jet aircraft, the V-2 rocket and the atomic bomb were hardly imagined at the beginning of the war; by the end they were in established use. Electronic warfare advanced rapidly with the introduction of radar. The Germans were notable innovators, but Hitler overestimated the impact of the V-1 and V-2 missiles, and slowed the development of the jets, notably the twin jet Me262, by insisting they be used in a fighter-bomber role. His new weapons could not turn the tide against the growing allied might.