Examining an Incendiary Bomb Dropped on Dresden

At We Have Ways Festival 2022 I ran into friends from the Dunkirk 1940 Museum and they were displaying an interesting piece – a British 4lb Incendiary Bomb which had reportedly been dropped on Dresden in February 1945.

The bomb is believed to have been buried in backfill when the city was rebuilt after the war and then recovered during later construction.

I’ve included in this video some footage from a 1942 New Zealand film demonstrating the capabilities of incendiary bombs which features a British 4lb bomb, similar to the one displayed by the museum, and some contemporary footage of the bombing of Dresden to illustrate what terrible weapons incendiaries could be.

Bibliography:

Footage:

Staff Film Reports No. 46: Dresden Bombing Footage, US Army Signal Corps’ Army Pictorial Service

Incendiary Bomb (1942), New Zealand Archives, (source)

Further information on British incendiaries:

British Explosive Ordnance – Cluster Projectiles Part 2 (source)

U.S.N.B.D. – British Bombs & Fuzes; Pyrotechnics, Detonators, Incendiary Bombs (source)


The Development of British Incendiary Bombs during the Period of the 1939-45 World War, Ministry of Supply, (source)

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SOE Sabotage – The Incendiary Case

Following on from our last video & article looking at Explosive Coal, we continue our series looking at some of the sabotage weapons developed by Britain’s SOE during the Second World War.

We’re lucky enough to have some unique colour footage showing the of testing of some of these explosive devices and in this article we will examine an incendiary-filed case.
In this piece of 16mm colour footage, filmed in 1940 by Captain Cecil V. Clarke, we see what appears to be an attaché case containing three medium-sized bottles, which likely contains a mix of petrol and paraffin or some white phosphorus, prepared for testing at the bomb range at Brickendonbury in Hertfordshire, a Special Operations Executive training and research centre codenamed Station XVII. It’s believed that these films may have been produced as teaching aids for the agents trained at Station XVII and this film may have been shown during a lecture.

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A still from the footage showing the case being set up at the test range (IWM)

While incendiary briefcases, attaché cases and even suitcases are listed in the 1944 SOE Descriptive Catalogue of Special Devices and Supplies they were quite different from this case. They were primarily designed for the quick destruction of documents and items carried inside them. They used sheets of potassium nitrate to burn the case’s contents.
The incendiary case seen in this footage on the other hand appears to be designed to be clandestinely placed and detonated with a delay fuse, to set nearby flammable objects on fire. What was described as a ‘Delayed Action Incendiary’.

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The Incendiary Suitcase entry from the SOE’s Descriptive Catalogue of Special Devices and Supplies

In this footage of another separate test we get an idea of the destructive capability of just one of the bottles.

It’s possible that this incendiary case was a proof of concept test for the later cases or perhaps a demonstration of a concealed incendiary device Station XVII were working on. SOE developed a large number of bespoke explosive devices for various missions, so while this device may not have become ‘standard issue’, it may have been developed for a specific purpose.


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Bibliography:

SOE’s Descriptive Catalogue of Special Devices and Supplies, c.1944

SOE’s Secret Weapons Centre: Station 12, D. Turner

SOE: The Scientific Secrets, F. Boyce & D. Everett

The footage is part of the Imperial War Museum‘s collection © IWM MGH 4325 and is used under the Non-commercial Use agreement.