The successes of Bomber Command were purchased at terrible cost. Of every 100 airmen who joined Bomber Command, 45 were killed, 6 were seriously wounded, 8 became Prisoners of War, and only 41 escaped unscathed (at least physically). Of the 120,000 who served, 55,573 were killed including over 10,000 Canadians. Of those who were flying at the beginning of the war, only ten percent survived. It is a loss rate comparable only to the worst slaughter of the First World War trenches. Only the Nazi U-Boat force suffered a higher casualty rate.
On a single night, Bomber Command suffered more losses than did Fighter Command during the entire Battle of Britain.
The loss rate varied greatly as the war progressed and was considerably lower as the end of the war approached in late 1944 and early 1945. For most of the war, the majority of those who entered Bomber Command did not survive.
During the RCAF’s Halifax operations between March 1943 and February 1944, the average loss rate was 6.05%, producing a mere 16% survival rate (for a tour of 30 operations).
Canadian pilot and author Murray Peden recalls: “The crews faced formidable odds, odds seldom appreciated outside the Command. At times in the great offensives of 1943 and 1944 the short-term statistics foretold that less than 25 out of each 100 crews would survive their first tour of 30 operations. On a single night Bomber Command lost more aircrew than Fighter Command lost during the Battle of Britain. Yet the crews buckled on their chutes and set out with unshakeable resolution night after night. They fell prey to the hazards of icing, lightning, storm and structural failure, and they perished amidst the bursting shells of the flak batteries. But by far the greater number died in desperately unequal combat under the overwhelming firepower of the tenacious German night fighter defenders.”
Yet despite the chilling odds, the flow of volunteers never faltered. The price was known to be enormous, but it was a price which continued to be paid with unquestioning courage. If today it represents a debt which can never be repaid, it is at least a debt which must never be forgotten.
Statistical Summary of Bomber Command’s Operations
Total sorties: 392,137
Total aircraft lost: 12,330
Tons Dropped: 955,044
Total mines laid: 47,307
Canadian Bomber Command Losses Statistics
The Museum’s Best Estimate for the Number of Canadians Killed While Serving with Bomber Command is 10,250.
RCAF (Overseas) Bomber Casualties by Aircraft Type [Hugh Halliday Statistics]
- Halifax 3675 (32.8 %);
- Lancaster 3349 (29.9 %);
- Wellington 2586 (23.1 %);
- Stirling 523 (4.7 %);
- Hampden 296 (2.7 %);
- Whitley 280 (2.5 %);
- Mosquito 259 (2.3 %);
- Blenheim 127 (1.1 %);
- Manchester 123 (1.1 %)
- Total: 11,218
These numbers include non-Bomber Command operations and aircraft such as the Mosquito and Blenheim in non-bomber variants.
These numbers include 379 Americans who were serving in the RCAF.
These numbers do not include Canadians in the RAF.
RCAF Airmen killed in RCAF Squadrons by Aircraft Type [Hugh Halliday Statistics]
- Hampden 92 (2.2 %);
- Lancaster 985 (23.5 %);
- Wellington 707 (16.9 %);
- Halifax 2407 (57.4 %);
- Total: 4191
Bomber Command Training Units, RCAF Squadrons, and RAF Squadrons [BCMC Statistics]
- 1498 (14.0 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed training at Bomber Command OTU’s and HCU’s.
- 4255 (39.9 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed on RCAF Bomber Command Squadrons.
- 4906 (46.0 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed on RAF Bomber Command Squadrons.
Bomber Command Casualties by Year [BCMC Statistics]
- 1939 -10 (0.1 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
- 1940 -73 (0.6 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
- 1941 -532 (5.0 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
- 1942 -1809 (17.0 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
- 1943 -3031 (28.4 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
- 1944 -4081 (38.3 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
- 1945 -1121 (10.5 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
Visit ‘Canada’s Bomber Command Virtual Memorial‘ to search for individual names, squadrons, and dates.
“All your operations were planned with great care and skill.
They were executed in the face of desperate opposition and appalling hazards,
they made a decisive contribution to Germany’s final defeat.
The conduct of the operations demonstrated the fiery gallant spirit which animated your aircrews,
and the high sense of duty of all ranks under your command.
I believe that the massive achievements of Bomber Command
will long be remembered as an example of duty nobly done.”
-Winston S. Churchill