Battle of Berlin (Kindle)
Bomber Command over the Third Reich, 1943–1945
The Battle of Berlin, the bombing of the ‘Big City’ as it was known to the crews of RAF Bomber Command, raged from 18 November 1943 to the end of the war in Europe in 1945. It is recalled here both by those in the air over capital of the Third Reich, as well as those who suffered under the bombing onslaught.
At the start of the Battle of Berlin, Sir Arthur Harris had predicted that the ‘Big City’ would ‘cost between 400-500 aircraft’, but that it would also ‘cost Germany the war’. He was proved wrong on both counts. Berlin was not ‘wrecked from end to end’, as Harris predicted on 3 November 1943 – ‘if the USAAF will come in on it’ – although a considerable part of it was destroyed. And the ‘Main Battle of Berlin’ did not cost Germany the war; a grinding land campaign had yet to be fought. More than 9,000 bombing sorties were flown during the battle on round trips of about 1,200 miles to Berlin and back.
Berlin was bombed by four Allied air forces between 1940 and 1945. British bombers alone dropped 45,517 tons of bombs, whilst the Americans a further 23,000 tons. By 1944, some 1.2 million people, 790,000 of them women and children, about a quarter of Berlin’s population, had been evacuated to rural areas. An effort was made to evacuate all children from Berlin, but this was defeated by parents and many evacuees who soon made their way back to the city. However, by May 1945, 1.7 million people – 40% of the population – had fled the city.
This fitting tribute to those who died in the relentless struggle to knock Berlin, and hopefully Germany, out of the war resonates with eye-witness accounts and background information which the author has painstakingly investigated and researched. The result is a hugely fascinating and highly readable narrative containing very real and unique observations by British and Commonwealth aircrew and, equally importantly, the long-suffering citizens of Berlin, and well as the capital’s defenders.
Up to the end of March 1945, there had been a total of 314 air raids on Berlin, eighty-five of these in the last twelve months. Estimates of the total number of dead in Berlin from air raids range from 20,000 to 50,000; the relatively low casualty figure in Berlin is partly the result of the city’s formidable air defences and shelters.
The Battle of Berlin was not a defeat in absolute terms, but in the operational sense it was an offensive that Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris and his aircrews could not win. ‘Berlin won’ concluded Sir Ralph Cochrane, the Air Officer Commanding 5 Group RAF Bomber Command. ‘It was just too tough a nut.’
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Peter Coxall
The Battle of Berlin rates as one of the finest books that I have read on RAF Bomber Command during WW2. It concentrates on the major bombing operations against Berlin and their impact on a wide spectrum of participants. .
I really appreciated the fact that the author covered the bombing raids from many perspectives, the RAF aircrew and groundcrew, German Luftwaffe pilots, civilians on the ground in Germany and the UK, a number of senior Nazi leaders, aircrew families etc. There are many powerful and emotional, individual stories covered in the book. Clearly the author has undertaken a vast amount of research.
The young aircrews endured terrifying missions on a regular basis, knowing full well that the odds were stacked against them to complete the required tour of 30 operations. Their life expectancy was appallingly short, the book mentions six weeks for novice crews. There were many ways of dying, all of them appallingly unpleasant. The stoic bravery they displayed must never be forgotten. We must also not forget the courageous role played by Stirling and Halifax aircrews, who had a much higher chance of being shot down than the Lancaster bombers.
I was previously unaware that the British regularly broadcasted fake messages, in perfect German, to confuse Luftwaffe night fighter crews. Long Hitler speeches were also read out over the frequencies used by the German pilots. British dirty-tricks at their best!
My only slight complaint about the book is that my parents weren’t mentioned! My Father flew on a number of these raids with 57 Squadron, one of which was almost his last. My Mother was a WAAF in the Intelligence section at RAF Scampton. Luckily, they both survived the war otherwise I would not be writing this review.
This is a most comprehensive and detailed account of the many attempts by Bomber Command in their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to assert such dominance over the capital city of the German Reich during World War 2 that Germany would not be prepared to continue the war. Many readers who are likely to be interested in this title will already have more than a passing knowledge of the role that Bomber Command played in the Second World War, and the evolution of public perception of those who played a part from heroes to something somewhat less glorious as the memory of war recedes. Wherever individual readers’ views lie on that continuum of opinion, this book does justice, at least, to the memory of the young airmen involved and their undoubted heroism in facing appalling odds and the likelihood of death, awful injury or capture and imprisonment. As always in accounts such as these it is difficult to capture in anything like equal terms the suffering of the citizens on the receiving end of the RAF’s bombing.NetGalley, K Manley
The research that underpinned this book was immense and provides an intensely personal and human examination of the typical experiences of Bomber Command crews. For many, it will be painful reading; indeed, it would be hard to write an authentic account of the experiences of those involved which would be anything but harrowing in many respects. Notwithstanding this, it is a book that adds to the history of this ‘battle’ that endured for so long and adds a dimension that is sometimes missing.