a child, during the war, media and government propaganda was such
that my image of a "Jerry"* was as an evil, hate-filled grotesque
green goblin like creature crouching over a bombsight gloating and
chuckling gleefully as he dropped bombs on us with one intent, to
kill us all. I never thought of them as being human!
image stayed with me, but slowly, over the years, having met German
ex airmen and soldiers, I began to realize that they were indeed
human beings just like us!
The catalyst of these mixed emotions came when I read a foreword
written for a book by a German ex bomber crew observer/air gunner
who had been asked to write about his experiences*** of the many
operations he flew over Great Britain during the war.
This evocative foreword** reads...
"I have not found it a pleasant task to comply with the wishes
of the editor by compiling a report on the air attacks in 1940-41,
taken from the notes set down in my daily diary at that time. These
operational flights over England, right at the beginning, were not
the only experiences in which I played a part, but are ones which
I would have been glad to have seen included since almost all entries
from my diary, when I now read them, give an impression of particular
anxiety. This aspect is, however, for the most part completely absent
in the usual war reports, which exclude fear and portray only "heroic
deeds". For today, in a completely peaceful era and nearly fifty
years later, the mental environment in which the crew of a bomber
plane lived, felt and acted in those times, with the surrounding
turmoil of war intensifying daily, cannot be understood by a generation
born later. What sort of young men were these, who took off day
and night at their own risk, carrying heavy bomb loads, and who
knew that with their bombs they had hit and destroyed not only ports,
docks and industrial targets but cities as well? Where they creatures
just full of arrogance and with no feelings?
Or were they youths who needed all their
strength for overcoming their daily fears, in order to give true
service to their Fatherland with the humanitarian thoughts of individuals
succumbing to the tremendous momentum of the immense efforts of
enemies grimly making war on each other?"
This foreword could have been written by a bomber crew member of
any nationality, all of which I feel were politically and patriotically
drawn into the war, and as the fear of being branded a "coward"
is greater than the fear of injury or death, they were, in John
Waynes words, doing "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."
** This appears in "Birds Eye Wartime Leicestershire". Terence C.
*** These appear in volumes 1&2 of "The Blitz Then And Now". Winston
G. Ramsey (see book
By T. Cartwright