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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February 2005, 15:59 GMT
Remembering the Dresden bombing
By Jacqueline Head
BBC News

Dresden after the bombing
Thousands were killed and the town was destroyed in the attack

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of one of the most controversial Allied operations of the Second World War, the Dresden bombing.

British forces were ordered to bomb the German town, but were later condemned for their actions. An RAF veteran and a survivor of the bombings recall their experiences.

Peter Twinn, 83, from Theydon Bois, Essex, was a Flight Lieutenant in the 149 Squadron who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

I was a rear gunner. The aircraft had three gun places. The main one at the rear turret was where I was stationed.

My job was to stay in the turret, searching the sky for German fighters and if we saw one, we would tell the pilot to take evasive action, and then we'd carry on.

We were briefed to bomb Dresden, because we were told that Churchill had received a request from the Russians to bomb Dresden, because it would help the push on the East.

When we got to the target we found a limited number of anti-aircraft fire and few search lights, so it was very easy to bomb.

We bombed the town and then came back home, and as far as we were concerned that was that.

It was our duty to carry out the bombing and we hoped it would help to bring an early finish to the war.
Peter Twinn
We had an operation to do and we'd done it.

But a few weeks later some MPs voiced opposition, that it shouldn't have been done in the first place.

Then Churchill said we shouldn't have done it. That meant the [RAF] Bomber Command was in the wrong, and it has been in the wrong ever since.

We were so upset at our own leaders - that we should be punished for doing what we were told to do.

We had no choice in the matter.

It was our duty to carry out the bombing and we hoped it would help to bring an early finish to the war.

All bombing is horrendous. We were at war with Germany, and they started it in the first place. When you think of London and Coventry, there's no difference [in damage done].

When we were returning home you could see the clouds tinted red even from 100 miles away.

The shock was tremendous. The smell of burning flesh, I can still have it in my nostrils.
Friedericke Clayton
With hindsight now it possibly was an unwise move. But on the other hand we were helping out the Russians, and they were our allies.

When you go on an operation like that you have your objective, you drop your bombs and get back safely.

You're not considering the rights and wrongs of what you're carrying out.

Friedericke Clayton, 79, a German who now lives in Exmouth, Devon, was 19 when the bombing occurred.

Rubble in Dresden
Rubble was all that remained from many buildings

I was at war service when the news came that Dresden had been bombed.

I heard the sound of the planes. It was like a humming that gets louder and louder. I still have nightmares about it.

We were released from war service and allowed to go home.

I lived about 12 miles out of the main town, and luckily we weren't hit.

On the train [home] I didn't know where I was, it looked like I had entered another country. The shock was tremendous; the smell of burning flesh - I still have it in my nostrils.

It was a dull day and the clouds were still hanging over the city. I didn't see anybody, there was no life. It was a dead town, just rubble. It was just devastation and it was a hell of a shock to your system.

It was very well organised with how it was bombed. It was meant for the city and the city was gone.
Friedericke Clayton
When the British came down they set down what we called Christmas trees, because they were all lit up.

Dresden had one main road, it was old fashioned, the buildings were made of wood and stone and things that burnt easily.

Then the bombers came in two flights, and killed 35,000 people.

I lost an aunt and her daughter.

On the second day of bombing, the animals broke out of the zoo and ran towards the river, and so did the people running away from the fire. The aeroplanes, they had machine guns and they shot the animals and the people.

One of my aunts, she lived near the main train station. She lost everything.

Her husband was a teacher and she was a housewife. They tried to dig in the rubble to find something, anything, but found nothing.

They eventually built their own house out of the debris.

The girls that returned from war service with me, their houses were destroyed.

It was very well organised with how it was bombed.

It was meant for the city and the city was gone.

See footage of the Dresden bombing

Clergy in Dresden cathedral visit
11 Feb 05 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Queen in state visit to Germany
02 Nov 04 |  Europe
Dresden ruins finally restored
22 Jun 04 |  Europe
Dresden under siege once more
17 Aug 02 |  Europe

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