The film is based upon a series of educational film clips shown to bomber crews to illustrate the principles of night bombing. Between these clips the film proper follows the progress of the crews from the training lectures through to the release of their bomb loads over Germany. Particular emphasis is placed on the tasks allocated to the pilots and navigators. Overall the film is not excessively technical, but is designed to encourage air crews to think about their tasks and how best to accomplish this; team work is the key.
Reel 1: “This film, made in April 1944, was produced to illustrate the reasons at that time for night bombing tactics, which were designed to minimise the effectiveness of the enemy night fighter and the Anti Aircraft defences” “Some of the Pathfinder marking techniques are also described, but it must be remembered that these and the enemy’s defence methods change as new equipment becomes available and new countermeasures are introduced” “The main principle however, remains the same; understand perfectly the Pathfinder marking technique for the night and adhere rigidly to your briefed route and timing” The film continues as crews leave their pre-flight briefing for an attack on Berlin: night time as they are driven to their Lancasters, taxi out and take off. Cut to the crew members at work during the flight. Aerial view of bombs exploding on the ground in Germany. Very long pictorial sequence – flashes reflected on faces of the crew, coloured flak exploding, searchlights, Lancasters cork-screwing. Some aircraft return home successfully, others do not. At the home airfield crews are seen disembarking and proceeding to a de-briefing. Cut to the commanding officer (CO) talking to the crews in a meeting room. He refers to the film they have just seen which is the raid described here: it is only a part of the operation mounted to conduct the night raid; behind any raid is the tactical planning, and a host of logistical requirements to be fulfilled. Knowledge of the enemy’s defence, and ‘knowing’ your enemy is essential. The role of intelligence is to gather this information. The CO relates a story – conveyed in a film they are about to view – of a bomber pilot shot down over Germany, was captured, able to escape and bring home a vast amount of intelligence, especially details of the Freya and Wurzberg radar systems. Film clip shows the captured pilot being entertained by a colonel in his commandeered chateau explaining the German defence system, hoping to get details of the British system in return; to no avail.
Reel 2: After dinner the colonel explains the structure of the German defence system which primarily consists of the Freya and Wurzberg radars, connected to the Command Centre, who forward the information to the relevant aircraft fighter and flak (Anti Aircraft) locations. Technical details of the Freya and Wurzberg radars are revealed to the pilot, as are the operations of the night fighter and flak defences; again to no avail. The rumble of approaching (British) bombers is heard, they fly overhead dropping their bombs, one hits the chateau, killing the colonel: the pilot collects the colonel’s report – a summary of the overall German defence systems – and makes his escape. The pilot duly arrives back at his bomber station in England with a wealth of technical information, new to the Intelligence Authorities. The film clip ends, the C O explains how each new German method is countermanded by measures developed by RAF Bomber Command.
Reel 3: The CO continues his discussion with the assembled crews, introducing the next film clip, which explains three bombing tactics: target body, the bombing run, air combat and a reference to flak. Flak is either light (controlled visually), or heavy (controlled by radar). The operation of the gunnery/radar equipment for heavy flak is explained. For a barrage attack light flak to 7,000 feet and heavy flak to 35,000 feet are employed as a barrier to incoming bombers; individual bombers are not targeted, their pilots have a choice of running straight or weaving (cork-screwing) through a barrage. Statistically, flying straight, the chances of a hit are less because the time taken to pass is less, but the pilot may prefer to weave. Bombers that stray off course will be targeted and encounter heavy predicted flak. The unwritten pilot’s rule is ‘barrage flak fly straight and don’t try to dodge; predicted flak make deliberately planned manoeuvres that allows the navigator to maintain the overall flight path during the run in and flight home’. Cut to the CO concluding the discussion, as he asks selected individuals to stand up and recall his instructions. The next film clip ‘Now for target marking’ opens to the crew’s rest room: an artistic sergeant (Clark) is drawing a picture as others look on. Several crew members ask Clark to use his skills to explain target marking with the aid of a series of diagrams drawn as he speaks. Pathfinder aircraft drop white flares before zero hour a few miles short of the target; they illuminate the target and a second wave of Pathfinders drop red flares on the target. At zero hour and onwards the Pathfinders drop green flares on the target, which become visible to the bomb aimers as the red flares extinguish, the signal to prepare for the run in and release their bombs.
Reel 4: Other crew members ask Clark to explain how the time to drop their bombs is estimated when flying at 20,000 feet and the green flares are seen five miles ahead. Clark prepares more diagrams as he explains apparent and actual centres of vision; better to overestimate distance to the target. Sky marking is used when the cloud cover is 10/10 (total coverage, concealing the target); flares are dropped about 5,000 feet below cloud level, which will be visible to the bomber pilot as areas of glowing light within the clouds. The discussion group concludes with individual crew members contributing towards a list of procedures /instructions to be followed during a bombing run; critically remain on your briefed track and arrive at the time allocated. The film closes as they proceed to their respective Mess for dinner.