Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britain?

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Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britain?

Post by BuddaBell123 » 08 Jun 2013 22:37

The widely accepted view is that Germany bombed British civilians first when a bomber flying over London lost its way and bombed a number of houses instead of factories, killing civilians. In retaliation Britain lead an all out bombing raid on Berlin killing civilians. Thus, it was Germany who started the bombing of civilians between itself and Britain. However, from looking into this topic there are those who suggest it was Britain as its bombing raids on Germany after declaring war on military targets did accidentally kill civilians. Some also say Churchill encouraged the Blitz by the bombing on German cities to then get America into the war, apparently Hitler didn't fully retaliate until at least 7 British bombing raids killing civilians had been, he had also warned Britain of retaliation, but the bombings continued. Is there any truth to this as I'd like to get to the bottom of this controversial topic.

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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by stg 44 » 08 Jun 2013 23:13

BuddaBell123 wrote:The widely accepted view is that Germany bombed British civilians first when a bomber flying over London lost its way and bombed a number of houses instead of factories, killing civilians. In retaliation Britain lead an all out bombing raid on Berlin killing civilians. Thus, it was Germany who started the bombing of civilians between itself and Britain. However, from looking into this topic there are those who suggest it was Britain as its bombing raids on Germany after declaring war on military targets did accidentally kill civilians. Some also say Churchill encouraged the Blitz by the bombing on German cities to then get America into the war, apparently Hitler didn't fully retaliate until at least 7 British bombing raids killing civilians had been, he had also warned Britain of retaliation, but the bombings continued. Is there any truth to this as I'd like to get to the bottom of this controversial topic.

-Oliver
The bombing of cities started in Poland by the Germans, so in that sense they attacked civilians first.
Now if you want to just talk about German and British bombing of each other's cities, then arguably Britain first targeted German ports, which would have potentially resulted in civilian casualties, but luckily didn't in 1939, but the initial policy was quickly changed and bombing ports was banned. It seems the Germans were the first to kill a civilian when bombing Scapa Flow though, which was under international law a military target and therefore eligible. Ultimately Germany didn't start targeting British civilians until the British had already started bombing German cities in hopes of hitting logistics targets in 1940. So by the time London was hit, city bombing had already been initiated during the Battle of France by Bomber Command, but they were targeting military targets in those cities by day, rather than area bombing. Germany had already bombing civilian targets in Poland though, with the same rationale, but held off hitting British cities until after France surrendered. Intentional bombing didn't start until after Rotterdam was hit, which technically was a defended military base that was legally targetable, though it had just surrendered, unbeknownst to the bomber pilots; in response Britain then authorized area bombing of industrial cities, though this would certainly result in civilian deaths; this order then was the first shot in the bombing of cities between Germany and Britain.

So to answer your question Britain was the first to intentionally order the bombing of non-military targets in German cities, while the Germans were the first to kill allied civilians in their bombing raids in Poland (and France, Norway, Holland, and Belgium).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic ... _June_1940
The Western Front, 1939 to June 1940[edit]
In 1939, following the German invasion of Poland, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany and the war in the West began. Britain attempted to bomb German warships and light vessels in several harbors on 3 and 4 September.[57] Eight German Kriegsmarine men were killed at Wilhelmshaven – the war's first casualties to British bombs;[58] attacks on ships at Cuxhaven[59][60] and Heligoland followed.[61][62] The 1939 Battle of the Heligoland Bight showed the vulnerability of bombers to fighter attack.

Germany's first strikes were not carried out until the 16 and 17 October 1939, against the British fleet at Rosyth and Scapa Flow. Little activity followed.[63] Meanwhile, attacks by the Royal Air Force dwindled to less than one a month. As the winter set in, both sides engaged in propaganda warfare, dropping leaflets on the populations below.[64] The Phony War continued.

The British government banned attacks on land targets and German warships in port due to the risk of civilian casualties.[65] For the Germans, the earliest directive from the Luftwaffe head Hermann Göring permitted restricted attacks upon warships anywhere, as well as upon troop transports at sea.[66] However, Hitler's OKW Direktive Nr 2 and Luftwaffe Direktive Nr 2, prohibited attacks upon enemy naval forces unless the enemy bombed Germany first, noting, "the guiding principle must be not to provoke the initiation of aerial warfare on the part of Germany."

After the Altmark Incident, the Luftwaffe launched a strike against the British navy yard at Scapa Flow on 16 March 1940, leading to the first British civilian death. A British attack followed against the German airbase at Hörnum on the island of Sylt,[67] hitting a hospital, although there were no casualties.[68] The Germans retaliated with a naval raid.

On 10 May 1940, Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, intending to drive through the Ardennes into France and strike a quick blow that would end the war. This assault initiated the Battle of France. As it began, three German bombers from KG 51 mistakenly bombed the German city of Freiburg instead of the French airfield of Dole-Taveux, having lost their way over the Black Forest. The Germans reported it as an Allied 'terror attack', and not until 1956, when the mistake was brought to light by researchers, was the myth dispelled.[55]

German bombing of France began on the night of 9/10 May. By 11 May the French reported bombs dropped on Henin-Lietard, Bruay, Lens, La Fere, Loan, Nancy, Colmar, Pontoise, Lambersart, Lyons, Bouai, Hasebrouck, Doullens and Abbeville with at least 40 civilians killed.[69]

On 12 May 1940, the British launched their first attacks on transport targets in the German industrial Ruhr Valley, including Cologne.[70][71] While Allied light and medium bombers attempted to delay the German invasion by striking at troop columns and bridges, the British War Cabinet gave permission for limited bombing raids against targets such as roads and railways west of the River Rhine.[72] The first British bombs fell on Mönchengladbach on the night of 11/12 May 1940, while Bomber Command was attempting to hit roads and railroads near the Dutch-German border; four people were killed.[73][74] Targets in Gelsenkirchen were attacked first on the 14/15 May.[75]
British response
Following the attack on Rotterdam, RAF Bomber Command was authorized to attack German targets east of the Rhine on 15 May 1940; the Air Ministry authorized Air Marshal Charles Portal to attack targets in the Ruhr, including oil plants and other civilian industrial targets which aided the German war effort, such as blast furnaces (which at night were self-illuminating).[89][90] The underlying motive for the attacks was to divert German air forces away from the land front.[91] Churchill explained the rationale of his decision to his French counterparts in a letter dated the 16th: "I have examined today with the War Cabinet and all the experts the request which you made to me last night and this morning for further fighter squadrons. We are all agreed that it is better to draw the enemy on to this Island by striking at his vitals, and thus to aid the common cause."[92] Due to the inadequate British bomb-sights the strikes that followed "had the effect of terror raids on towns and villages,"[91] On the night of 15/16 May, 96 bombers crossed the Rhine and attacked. 78 had been assigned oil targets, but only 24 claimed to have accomplished their objective.[93][94] On the night of 17/18 May, RAF Bomber Command bombed oil installations in Hamburg and Bremen; the H.E. and 400 incendiaries dropped caused six large, one moderately large and 29 small fires. As a result of the attack, 47 people were killed and 127 were wounded.[95][96] Railway yards at Cologne were attacked on the same night.[96] During May, Essen, Duisburg, Düsseldorf and Hanover were attacked in a similar fashion by Bomber Command. In June, attacks were made on Dortmund, Mannheim, Frankfurt and Bochum.[75] At the time, Bomber Command lacked the necessary navigational and bombing technical background and the accuracy of the bombings during the night attacks was abysmal. Consequently, the bombs were usually scattered over a large area, causing an uproar in Germany. Furthermore, on the night of 7/8 June 1940 a single French Navy Farman F.223 bomber attacked Berlin.[97] The attack occurred just days after Germany had bombed Paris.

Despite the British attacks on German cities, the Luftwaffe did not begin to attack military and economic targets in the UK mainland until 6 weeks after the campaign in France had been concluded.[91]

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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 09 Jun 2013 10:16

The Germans did it first on accident , The British did it first on purpose. I will not go into/discuss the motivations behind it.

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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by Hop » 15 Jun 2013 13:28

The widely accepted view is that Germany bombed British civilians first when a bomber flying over London lost its way and bombed a number of houses instead of factories, killing civilians.
This supposed first "accidental" bombing of London happened on the 24 August. In reality Britain had been repeatedly bombed before then. The first raid on London to cause large scale civilian casualties was on 15 August, when the Germans bombed Croydon airport. Many of the bombs missed. A perfumed soap factory was hit killing 60 civilians.

Something over 250 British civilians were killed by bombing in July 1940 alone.
In retaliation Britain lead an all out bombing raid on Berlin killing civilians.
Britain carried out bombing raids on military targets in Berlin. On the first night of raids most of the bombers aborted without bombing Berlin because they couldn't identify the targets they had been assigned. No German civilians were killed in that first raid. The second raid resulted in either 8 or 10 killed (sources vary)
Thus, it was Germany who started the bombing of civilians between itself and Britain.
First you have to define "bombing of civilians".

The first British/German civilian bombing casualty was James Isbister. He lived on the Orkney Islands. The Germans carried out bombing attacks on shore based military installations in the Orkneys in March 1940. Isbister was killed by stray bombs that fell outside a row of houses. Was that "bombing of civilians"?

The British government recognised that ANY bombing risked civilian casualties. When the war started they limited British bombing attacks to German warships at sea or a sufficient distance from land. German warships in ports were off limits.

If by "bombing of civilians" you mean mass attacks on cities, the first between Britain and Germany was the bombing of London on 7 September. That resulted in hundreds of dead. Over the month of September about 7,000 British civilians were killed.

Bomber Command's first deliberate bombing of a city, rather than a military target in a city, was the attack on Mannheim in mid December 1940. It was planned as a direct response to the German attack on Coventry.
However, from looking into this topic there are those who suggest it was Britain as its bombing raids on Germany after declaring war on military targets did accidentally kill civilians.
James Isbister was killed before Britain dropped a single bomb on Germany.

More to the point, though, the Germans bombed Poland causing mass civilian casualties. They bombed Norway causing significant civilian casualties. On 9/10 May they bombed targets all over France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

On 10/11 May Britain began bombing German military targets immediately behind the German advance. The war cabinet kept the ban on Bomber Command attacking targets elsewhere in Germany. On 14 May the Germans bombed Rotterdam, killing about 900 civilians (Dutch reports at the time put the figure at 30,000 or more). Bomber Command was allowed to attack military targets elsewhere in Germany after that.
Some also say Churchill encouraged the Blitz by the bombing on German cities to then get America into the war, apparently Hitler didn't fully retaliate until at least 7 British bombing raids killing civilians had been, he had also warned Britain of retaliation, but the bombings continued. Is there any truth to this
Not really, no.

The Germans bombed Poland without a single Polish bomb falling on Germany. They bombed Norway without a single Norwegian bomb falling on Germany. They bombed France, Belgium and the Netherlands without a single French, Dutch or Belgian bomb falling on Germany. The reason Britain wasn't heavily bombed at the same time is because the Germans were bombing the closer targets first.

From 11 May Britain restricted its bombing of Germany to small attacks on military targets. As soon as France was defeated, the Germans began much larger scale bombing of Britain.

British civilian deaths from air raids, 1940:

Jul: 258
Aug: 1,075
Sep: 6,954
Oct: 6,334
Nov: 4,588
Dec: 3,793

The Germans didn't begin a central register of air raid casualties until October 1940. Deaths from then on:

1940 (Oct - Dec) - 349
1941 - 2,785
1942 - 4,327

Look at those figures and ask yourself who began mass civilian bombing. It wasn't until 1943 that the RAF inflicted as many casualties on Germany as the Luftwaffe inflicted on Britain in August and September 1940 alone.

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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by Hop » 15 Jun 2013 14:06

Now if you want to just talk about German and British bombing of each other's cities, then arguably Britain first targeted German ports, which would have potentially resulted in civilian casualties, but luckily didn't in 1939, but the initial policy was quickly changed and bombing ports was banned.
The British government banned the RAF from attacking ports from the start of the war. Only German warships at sea or in harbour a sufficient distance from land could be attacked.
Ultimately Germany didn't start targeting British civilians until the British had already started bombing German cities in hopes of hitting logistics targets in 1940. So by the time London was hit, city bombing had already been initiated during the Battle of France by Bomber Command, but they were targeting military targets in those cities by day, rather than area bombing. Germany had already bombing civilian targets in Poland though, with the same rationale, but held off hitting British cities until after France surrendered. Intentional bombing didn't start until after Rotterdam was hit, which technically was a defended military base that was legally targetable, though it had just surrendered, unbeknownst to the bomber pilots; in response Britain then authorized area bombing of industrial cities, though this would certainly result in civilian deaths; this order then was the first shot in the bombing of cities between Germany and Britain.
The first British area bombing raid was on 16 December 1940.

Looking at bombing of targets on land, risking civilian casualties:

1939
1 September - Germany bombs Poland

1940
16 March - Germany bombs Orkneys
19 March - Britain bombs Hornum seaplane base on island of Sylt

9 April - Germany bombs Norway
10 May - Germany bombs France, Belgium and Netherlands
11 May - Britain bombs Germany immediately behind German lines
14 May - Germany bombs Rotterdam
15 May - Britain bombs military targets elsewhere in Germany
7 September - Germany begins area bombing of British cities
16 December - Britain begins area bombing with attack on Mannheim
So to answer your question Britain was the first to intentionally order the bombing of non-military targets in German cities,
No. British bombing policy was to attack military targets only until December 1940.

The War Cabinet on the 15 May authorised bombing in Germany east of the Rhine:
To authorise the Chief of the Air
Staff to order Bomber Command to
carry out attacks on suitable
military objectives, (including
marshalling yards and oil refineries)
in the Ruhr as well as elsewhere in
Germany; and that these attacks
should begin that night with
approximately 100 heavy bombers.
National Archives CAB/65/13/9

The word "military" is underlined in the original cabinet records.

On 10 September, several days after the start of the Blitz on London, the War Cabinet told BC that if they could not find their assigned military targets, they should instead bomb another military target in Germany:
In view of the indiscriminate nature of the German
bombing attacks, the orders with regard to pilots bringing
back their bombs should be relaxed. It is not the
intention that pilots should bomb at random or that they
should never bring back their bombs, but every attempt
should be made to bomb alternative or last resort targets
if it is impossible to locate the primary target.
National Archives CAB/65/9/8

On 12 December 1940 the War Cabinet authorised an area attack on a German city for the first time:
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL said that the Prime
Minister, who was unable to be present that evening,
Operation
was in favour of a modification of our bombing policy
against Germany. He had asked that the matter
should be discussed by the War Cabinet in order that
action, if it was to be taken, should not be delayed.
THE CHIEF OF THE AIR STAFF said that it
was now widely appreciated that the Germans had
altered their bombing policy against this country.
The Prime Minister had given instructions for plans
to be prepared for retaliation in kind.
Up to the present we had never sent more
than 80 bombers to attack one town, and we had never
concentrated on the destruction of a town as such.
We had been faithful to our policy of picking out
military targets. / Usually a degree of dispersion
had resulted from the fact that there had been three
or four such targets in the towns which we had visited.
The political question for decision by the Cabinet
was whether we were to concentrate as formidable a
force of aircraft as we could command, with the
object of causing the greatest possible havoc in a
built-up area.
The War Cabinet reached the following
conclusions
(a) While confirming our existing air
policy, agreed that the maximum scale
of attack should, by way of experiment
be concentrated, on one night in the
near future, against a single objective.
National Archives CAB/65/16/12

By the way, I wouldn't trust Wiki on a subject like this. There are far too many apologists trying to rewrite history. In this they are aided by Wiki's policy on published sources. For example, to take the last line you quoted from Wiki:
Despite the British attacks on German cities, the Luftwaffe did not begin to attack military and economic targets in the UK mainland until 6 weeks after the campaign in France had been concluded.[91]
This is a direct quote from the German historian Horst Boog. It is so laughably false it's hard to see how a respected expert on the Luftwaffe could have claimed it in the first place.

The battle of France concluded on 22 June. 6 weeks from 22 June is 3 August. 258 British civilians were killed by German bombing in July, before the Germans began attacks on Britain, according to Boog.

The truth is that the Luftwaffe began large scale operations against Britain before the end of the Battle of France, not 6 weeks after.
The Germans did it first on accident , The British did it first on purpose.
Only if you assume the Blitz on London and other British cities, and the tens of thousands of civilian dead that resulted, was an accident. Again, the first deliberate British attack on a German city, rather than on a military target in a city, was the attack on Mannheim on 16 December. By then about 20,000 British civilians had been killed by the Luftwaffe.

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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by phylo_roadking » 15 Jun 2013 15:35

The widely accepted view is that Germany bombed British civilians first when a bomber flying over London lost its way and bombed a number of houses instead of factories, killing civilians.
This supposed first "accidental" bombing of London happened on the 24 August. In reality Britain had been repeatedly bombed before then. The first raid on London to cause large scale civilian casualties was on 15 August, when the Germans bombed Croydon airport. Many of the bombs missed. A perfumed soap factory was hit killing 60 civilians.

Quite correct; "all" this was was the first bombing inside Hiter's own expressed limit of the Greater London area.
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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by redcoat » 15 Jun 2013 17:30

The first German's civilians killed in a bombing attack on a German urban area was at Freiburg im Breisgau on the 10 May 1940, 57 people were killed when 3 aircraft dropped over 60 bombs on the town.
The aircraft in question were 3 He 111's of III/KG51 which bombed the town in mistake for the French airfield at Dole Tavaux in poor weather.

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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by BuddaBell123 » 29 Jun 2013 19:22

Where did you get all this information from Hop? As I'd like to look at some of the sources myself.

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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 30 Jun 2013 00:56

Hop wrote:
Only if you assume the Blitz on London and other British cities, and the tens of thousands of civilian dead that resulted, was an accident. Again, the first deliberate British attack on a German city, rather than on a military target in a city, was the attack on Mannheim on 16 December. By then about 20,000 British civilians had been killed by the Luftwaffe.
:roll: , No , it is only if you create a false assumption by omitting Frederick Lindemann from the narrative, and his homicidal desire to murder Nazis. a.k.a. -any German,by any means , even before the war . Obviously such a fictional character as Lord Cherwell did not have any influence over the leadership of Bomber Command, given his close relationship with Churchill. Or his subsequent influence over Bomber Harris.I.E. We ain't talking about the later silly "de-housing" /area bombing excuse he cooked up later.

And that is all I got to say about this topic. To go further simply can't be done in this forum.

Good day,
Last edited by ChristopherPerrien on 30 Jun 2013 01:05, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by phylo_roadking » 30 Jun 2013 01:03

Christopher, there's only ONE problem with that - Lindeman had no role...zero...until Churchill came to power in May 1940. He played NO role in the early formulation of Bomber Command's policies or targeting directives before that at all.
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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by Hop » 30 Jun 2013 18:49

Where did you get all this information from Hop? As I'd like to look at some of the sources myself.
it comes from a lot of places. The UK national archives have the war cabinet papers online, you can search for various bit regarding the development of bombing policy: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/cabi ... p=sa-33636 The cabinet papers are free to download.

The cabinet papers also have a weekly resume of military operations that details some of the German attacks against the UK.

Most of the stuff on British bombing operations comes from the Bomber Command War Diaries or the report by the British Bombing Survey Unit. The Other Few: The Contribution Made by Bomber and Coastal Aircrew to the Winning of the Battle of Britain has details of the targets attacked by BC during the summer of 1940.

If you want corroboration of any of events/dates I listed, just ask, or try a Google search.
No , it is only if you create a false assumption by omitting Frederick Lindemann from the narrative, and his homicidal desire to murder Nazis. a.k.a. -any German,by any means , even before the war .
Lindemann's desires are immaterial. Bomber Command first carried out attacks on German military targets after the Luftwaffe had carried out attacks on military targets in Western Europe. Bomber Command carried out its first area attack in mid December 1940, by which time around 20,000 British civilians had been killed in area attacks on British cities.

Those are facts. Whether or not Lindemann or anyone else wanted the RAF to attack German cities earlier, it didn't.

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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by Alanmccoubrey » 30 Jun 2013 20:32

It really doesn't matter who did it first, it matters who did it better because they won.
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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by BuddaBell123 » 03 Jul 2013 16:11

A question for Hop: When the RAF began bombing raids on Berlin that in the end enraged Hitler resulting in his order to bomb Britain's towns and cities to kill British civilians. Did the RAF bomb military targets in Berlin? Or did it bomb the civilian population?
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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by phylo_roadking » 03 Jul 2013 19:24

Oliver, the crews were briefed for industrial targets - paticularly the Siemans-Haaske factory - but AA fire kept them too high for accurate aiming on factories embedded in urban areas; bombs did fall in residential areas...but most of the "overhsoot" actually fell in woods and open fields.
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Re: Who Bombed The Others Civilians First? Germany or Britai

Post by Hop » 03 Jul 2013 22:36

Did the RAF bomb military targets in Berlin? Or did it bomb the civilian population?
It certainly attempted to bomb military targets. Information from The Other Few: The Contribution Made by Bomber and Coastal Aircrew to the Winning of the Battle of Britain, night operations on 25 August:

12 Blenheims to airfields in France

21 Wellingtons to the Siemens factory in Berlin and marshalling yards at Hamm, Scherte and Koln. Because of heavy cloud only 1 claimed to have attacked the Siemens factory. Five claimed to have hit the marshalling yards, 1 a gas works at Texel, another bombed a concentration of flak and searchlights.

46 Hampdens to Berlin. 10 claimed to have bombed Klingenberg power station, "another target in the vicinity of the power station was also attacked". 1 crew claimed to have bombed the Henschel aircraft factory, another claimed to have hit a viaduct 10 miles south of Berlin, others attacked Pangsdorf airfield (15 miles south of Berlin) and marshalling yards on the outskirts of Berlin.

22 Whitleys to the Siemens works in Berlin. 2 claimed to have bombed. Another aircraft bombed "part of the defences of western Berlin". Another attacked the dockyard at Bremen.

British bombers at the time were forbidden from jettisoning bombs over land and many of the aircraft returned with their bombs or dumped them in the North Sea on the flight home.

The war diary of the Wehrmacht has no mention of this night's operations. They mention the next night, but call that raid the "first" on Berlin, which tells something about how many bombs were actually dropped on the city by BC that night.

So Bomber Command certainly attempted to bomb military targets that night. The true answer to your question, though, is probably "neither".

Bombing accuracy wasn't very good at the time. We've already seen how the first German civilian casualties from bombing were caused by German aircraft that were about 100 miles off course (in broad daylight, too). They were attempting to bomb an airfield in Dijon but actually bombed a school in Freiburg. Hours earlier the Luftwaffe had dropped bombs on fields outside Canterbury. They were supposed to be bombing targets in France, Belgium or the Netherlands (probably one of the Channel ports). The RAF was no better.

Bombing military targets inevitably meant civilian casualties as well.
When the RAF began bombing raids on Berlin that in the end enraged Hitler resulting in his order to bomb Britain's towns and cities to kill British civilians.
Some people will claim Hitler never ordered bombing of civilians. However, it had been going on before the first RAF raid on Berlin. As Richard Overy puts it:
The raids on Berlin were in reality retaliation for the persistent bombing of British conurbations and the high level of British casualties that resulted. In July 258 civilians had been killed, in August 1075; the figures included 136 children and 392 women.
So by the time of that first British raid on Berlin around 1,000 British civilians had already been killed by German bombing.

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