Battle of the Ruhr

05 March 1943 - July 1943

The battle of the Ruhr was one of three major bombing offensives launched by the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command in 1943-44. Its targets were the cities and towns of the Ruhr Valley, Germany's industrial heartland. The battle began with an attack on Essen on the night of 5 March 1943. The Ruhr, nicknamed "Happy Valley" by bomber crews, proved a difficult target to attack due to the haze generated by its industrial plants and a high concentration of German defences. Increasing numbers of German night fighters, equipped with radar and various electronic targeting devices, exacted a heavy toll on the attacking bombers. They were still able to inflict significant damage though, resulting in the relocation of a great deal of the industry located there. Post-war analysis, however, indicated that the impact upon German industry by the attacks on the Ruhr was not as great as had been believed.

The battle of the Ruhr also included renowned "Dambuster" raids mounted on the night of 16 May 1943 against three Ruhr valley dams - Möhne, Elder and Sorpe. The first two dams were breached, releasing destructive floods, but ultimately little disruption was caused to industry. The dams were repaired by October.

The concerted attacks against the Ruhr continued until July 1943 when Bomber Command's mounting losses caused the offensive to be called off. On 11 June 1943 the command had 726 bombers crewed and operational, by the last raid of the offensive on 9 July this had fallen to 623. The battle of the Ruhr killed around 15,000 Germans and 5,000 British and Commonwealth air crew.