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Humbling Account of Real Men
on 10 March 2007
Having read many Bomber Command books, i found this one particularly good. The authors bring out a roller coaster of emotions within the reader... sorrow, joy, anger and pride to name but a few.
It is a very full and riveting read with extremely brave and moving accounts of the exceptionally well disciplined men of Bomber Command (all volunteers) led by an equally disciplined and robust commander (Harris).
The book is very well balanced in its views, making the reader aware of the fact that the 'tail end' of the war was a very uncertain time and certain logistical decisions, such as Dresden, were certainly justifiable at the time considering the climate of 'total war' and the fact that there could not be any 'give' whatsoever, not to mention the fact that Harris was leaned upon from above to hammer Dresden (which was actually bristling with war industry, contrary to popular belief) to assist Russian movements into Germany.
Some of the more personal accounts left me with a lump in my throat. Sad, sad tales of aircrew dying on thier very last op, often just shy of the airfield after getting through a very rough Ruhr Valley sortie, and the sad tale of the POW who'd been incarcerated since 1940 and kept motivated by letters from his loyal wife to be, whom at the end of the war, excitedly put banners up and gathered family for his return, only for him to be killed as the overloaded Lancaster bringing him home crashed.
The pyschological strain on the aircrews was massive, going from the relative comfort of rural English airbases to horror of major bombing raids deep into Germany, losing comrades at an alarming rate, witnessing gory death in its dirty glory then returning to the almost tranquil countryside of England a few hours later to sit and ponder whether they were next for 'the chop'.
After the war the aircrews were shunned and no specific campaign medal was allotted to them which leaves the reader angry and dismayed. The public effectively turned against them.
To quote one Lanc airman, Miles Tripp... 'The plain fact is that when one's survival is threatened, one is grateful to those who offer protection. Once the danger is past, one is ashamed that ones intellectual theories were so easily overruled by a primitive instinct or emotion and the erstwhile helpers are an immediate target for the hostility caused by this sense of shame'