Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bombing of Helsinki in World War II

Bombing of Helsinki in World War II (SA-kuva)

The third great raid: 26–27 February

On the evening of February 26, a single Soviet reconnaissance aircraft was spotted over the city. It was a sign of the coming attack. The weather was clear, which helped the attackers. Again the Finnish Radio Intelligence intercepted messages of the forthcoming raid, this time 1 hour and 28 minutes before the bombing would commence - although the Soviets tried to uphold radio silence.

Five minutes later, the air surveillance grid, manned by Lotta Svärd-auxiliaries reported approaching bomber craft. A silent alarm was sounded in the city in good time before the raid. Street lights were turned off, trams and trains were stopped and radio transmissions ended. In this manner, the enemy had more difficulty finding its target. All citizens knew that they had to take cover.

The first bombers were picked up by Finnish radar 25 minutes before they would arrive at approximately 18.30. A few minutes later, the night fighters took off and flew to their predesignated positions. The AA-artillery had also been alarmed. The air raid warning was sounded at 18.45. AA-batteries opened up fire at 18.53. At 19.07 the first bombs started to fall.

This last great raid differed from the two previous ones. The battle lasted for some 11 hours and was divided into three different phases: the first one was in the evening and lasted for four hours and concentrated the attacks against the city, the second one was mainly focusing on the defending AA-artillery, but to little success, the last wave hoped to finally flatten the city, but the majority of the aircraft turned away when met with fierce anti-aircraft barrages and night fighters. The all clear signal was finally sounded at about 6.30 in the morning of February 27.

Despite that this had been the most massive raid, the damages were again quite limited: 21 people were killed and 35 wounded; 59 buildings were destroyed and 135 damaged.

The heavy anti-aircraft artillery fired 14,240 shots and the light AA-artillery 4,432 shots. Nine Soviet bombers were downed.

This time 896 bombers participated in the raid on Helsinki. They dropped 5,182 bombs of which only 290 fell on the city itself.