Teaching Bomber Command – online sources – can you help?

In two months, I’ll have finished my sabbatical and be back to teaching and writing at the same time. The prospect is pretty terrifying. I will also be putting on two new courses – since I’m coming back half way through the academic year, I needed to offer one-semester units. One of these will be on the British army on the Western Front, and the other on Bomber Command in the Second World War. I am currently constructing a wordpress blog to support the latter, and I’ve been looking for good online sources to put on it or link to from it.

Some thoughts on the first ones to pop up on Google

The RAF’s Bomber Command 60th Anniversary site is a useful starting point, if predictably focused on units, commanders and famous raids. The ‘Background’ section has some good basic points and orders of battle. I rather like the cutaway picture of the Halifax bomber, which could be a good way to get students to visualise the fighting environment for Bomber Command aircrew (not too sure about the UFO come dinghy flying next to it though!)

Bob Baxter’s Bomber Command site is slightly more cluttered, but more obviously a labour of love. As well as details of planes and airfields, it also has quite a lot of veteran testimony and some interesting aiming point photographs from later on in the war.

The Bomber Command Association’s website is extremely professional looking. It focuses on individual stories – many of which are accessible in pop ups on different pages – and particularly the staggering nature of Bomber Command’s losses. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it doesn’t engage too deeply with some of the more potentially morally troubling aspects of British strategic bombing – which is presented here implicitly as purely a reaction to German aerial attacks and national crisis in 1940.

I’ll also be adding plenty of links to online sources for primary research on Britain in the middle part of the 20th century.

Has anybody got recommendations for sites they think are particularly good, or useful for teaching? I’d be particularly interested in collections of images, or German or American sites.


3 Responses to Teaching Bomber Command – online sources – can you help?

  1. Rob Dale says:

    What an interesting sounding course. Having been brought in Kent, in and around Battle of Britain airfields. I now find myself spening at a lot of time in North Yorkshire, surrounded by Bomber Command infrastructure.

    As you probably already know, Heslington Hall on the outskirts of York, and today tha home to most of the central admin offices for the University of York, as HQ for Group 4, Bomber Command. Which was always a matter of fascination as an UG.

    I also play cricket once a year in a village called Burn, just to the south of Selby. A very large six away from the ground is the huge Burn RAF bases. The sataillite image on google maps reveals what a huge site it was, and what an impact it must have had on the local community. http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=Burn+North+Yorkshire&ie=UTF-8&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&resnum=1&ct=title

    he local pub is full of Bomber Command mementos, including a huge display of bomber crews and their machines. Afraid I can’t remember the name.

    There is a website showing what many of these bases, including burn, look like today. http://airfields.fotopic.net/c1487949.html
    Very interesting from the perspective of looking at the impact of WW2 on the landscape, and the memorials left behind.

    Heslington Hall, as you probably already know,

  2. Dan says:

    Hi Rob,

    The satellite image is very striking – one unit of the course is going to be about life on and around an airbase, so that is useful. In that unit, I’ll be particularly focusing on RAF Oakington – modern photos of which I was pleased to find on the airfield memorials site here – http://airfields.fotopic.net/p47673573.html – and which until recently had been turned into a holding centre for asylum seekers.

    Something I still need to think more about is how to integrate searching and using the web into the delivery of the course. I’m going to see whether I can get the students to post up and review sites, but I’m not sure if I can make that part of the assessment until I’ve had a dry run.

  3. Ross Mahoney says:

    Dan – I’ll have a look to see what I can find but you might want to give Peter Gray at Birmingham a shout as he is just finishing his PhD on Strategic Leadership at Bomber Command.

    Here is a good link to an online copy of AP 1300, the RAF’s War Manual. This is the doctrine that guides the RAF druing the Second World War. Gives an interesting insight into the ideas of the RAF and how they were not as single minded as previously assumed.



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