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From one who took part in the raid ...
on 9 March 2007
I have just finished this magnificent book, and I have to say the chap that finished reading was not the one that started! I am searching for a word that fits my thoughts and the only one that comes to mind is "chastened" and I am sure a lot of my colleagues will feel the same.
After I finished the "firestorm" chapter, I had to leave the remainder of the book for a few days for, as the author knows (and despite having read Martin Middlebrook's version a few years ago), those of us that caused it had no knowledge of the extent at the time and for many years afterwards. It was not that I felt guilty, saddened perhaps, that that sort of thing should have to happen in the cause of fighting a war.
I was very interested and impressed with the way the author covered the history of Hamburg in the early chapters which, despite a reasonable education in N. London, I was totally unaware of the association with this country, perhaps because of the general attitude that all Germans were bad 'un's. It certainly came through at my school, and of course we were growing up in the atmosphere of their annexation of the Sudeten land, Munich agreement, Poland invasion, and finally the War. I likened the "shape" of this story to an aircraft lifting off and climb (history),the levelling off (his run up to the bombing) the actual bombing, turning for home and descent (aftermath and retribution) which was beautifully written.
The extraordinary thing for me, was that I flew over Hamburg and the Rurh towards the end of 1945, and was stationed at one stage at Wilhelmshaven with our mobile OBOE convoy, even so, this book had a greater effect on my thinking. In all probability, because I have finally grown up, and lost some of that "serve the b*****s right" mentality, which is no bad thing!
Finally, the author - for me - summed the whole episode up on the last page when he says ...."since 1945 Germany has only been deployed in peace keeping operations, in marked contrast to the USA, Britain, France, and the USSR, who have waged wars in almost every corner of the planet". Perhaps some good did come out of the carnage. Thank you Keith.