70th Anniversary of RAF Bomber Command Taking on Dresden

70 years ago, on Tuesday 13th February, RAF Bomber Command and Allied forces launched one of the biggest bombing raids of World War Two on the German city of Dresden.

It came during the final months of the war when the Nazis were in retreat.  Allied forces on the ground were making good progress towards Germany, and so too were the Soviet Army from the east. But Allied commanders decided to continue their bombing campaigns on major German cities in order to facilitate ground troops’ advance and to stop the German war machine.

Ever since the bombing raid took place it has been a controversial topic; questioned as unnecessary and unethical.   There is no doubt that the air force had changed forever the way wars would be fought. Air power was able to access enemy territory from a safe distance and destroy crucial military locations, transport hubs, and power supplies. The decision to go ahead with the raid is thought to have been made, in part, by Bomber Harris – the Commander in Chief of Bomber Command, and since then the controversial bombing has marred the reputation of Bomber Command.

On the night of 13th February RAF Bomber Command undertook two bombing waves on Dresden. The first was made by the Five Group of squadrons based in Lincolnshire, northern England, which took their own Pathfinders with them to help locate the targets.  The second wave followed that same night; then the next day the US Eighth Air Force took over and continued to pummel the city.  Dresden was completely destroyed with around 25,000 killed, however this figure is disputed since the Nazis at the time may have exaggerated the figure for their own benefit.

The bombing of Dresden was a strategic military decision, since the city was a central hub for the Nazi’s war machine. Major military weapon and vehicle factories were based there, and it was a vital junction for the railways in Germany’s east. Once this hub was destroyed, the Germans could no longer send troops out to fight the Soviets advancing from the east, the Lincolnshire Echo reports.

In an effort to reinstate the reputation of Bomber Command the Lincolnshire Bomber Command Memorial Trust is planning to open an International Bomber Command Centre, to commemorate, recognise and remember those who fought during World War Two — in particular the air men who took part or lost their lives in the bombing raids all over Germany.  During the bombing raid of Dresden, Bomber Command lost eight aircraft, with five from Lincolnshire.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE