What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."
Fifty percent genius, fifty percent bloody fool.
|Richard Dimbleby (Getty)|
One can only imagine the mental and physical turmoil that Dimbleby was going through when penning his report but he went on to describe the actual bombing run:It was quite a long raid as the Wing Commander who took me stayed over Berlin for half an hour. The flak was hot but it has been hotter. For me it was a pretty hair-raising experience and I was glad when it was all over though I wouldn't have missed it for the world. But we must all remember that these men do it as a regular routine job.
At last our bomb-aimer sighted his objective below and for one unpleasant minute we flew steady and straight. Then he pressed the button and the biggest bomb of the evening, our three and a half tonner, fell away and down. I didn't see it burst but I know what a giant bomb does and I couldn't help wondering whether such a man as Hitler, Goering or Himmler or Goebbels might be cowering in a shelter. It was engrossing to realise that the Nazi leaders and their ministries were only a few thousand feet from us and that this shimmering mass of flares and bombs and gun flashes was their stronghold.Dimbleby closed his report with the following tribute to the boys of Bomber Command:
Perhaps I am shooting a line for them but I think that somebody ought to. They and their magnificent Lancasters and all the others like them are taking the war right into Germany. They have been attacking, giving their lives in attack since the first day of the war. "Per Ardua ad Astra" is the RAF motto and perhaps I can translate it as "Through hardship to the stars". I understand the hardship now. And I'm proud to have seen the stars with them.It should be noted that Richard Dimbleby flew and reported on twenty bombing raids, a remarkable feat for a civilian, considering that a full 'Tour' for Bomber Command consisted of thirty such missions. Not all reporters survived; on the night of 2nd/3rd November 1943, JMB Grieg of the Daily Mail and Norman Stockton of the Sydney Sun were both killed when the separate aircraft of 460 Squadron in which they were flying were shot down over Berlin. On the same night, two American correspondents were also flying. Lowell Bennett was also shot down but survived to become a prisoner of war and the only one of the four reporters to survive and return was arguably the greatest of them all - Edward R Murrow.
|Edward R Murrow|
Permit me to tell you what you would have seen and heard, had you been with me on Thursday. It will not be pleasant listening. If you are at lunch, or if you have no appetite to hear what Germans have done, now is a good time to switch off the radio, for I propose to tell you of Buchenwald. It is on a small hill about four miles outside Weimar, and it was one of the largest concentration camps in Germany, and it was built to last.
There surged around me an evil-smelling horde. Men and boys reached out to touch me; and they were in rags and the remnants of uniform. Death had already marked many of them but they were smiling with their eyes. I looked out over that mass of men to the green fields beyond where well-fed Germans were ploughing.
....hundreds of them. Some were only six. One rolled up his sleeve, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. D-6030 it was. The others showed me their numbers; they will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said "The children, enemies of the state." I could see their ribs through their thin shirts. The children clung to my hands and stared.
I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I have reported what I saw and heard, but only a part of it. For most, I have no words. If I've offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I'm not in the least sorry.
From Captain of Destroyer Flotilla to C in C Mediterranean:
HAVE ITALIAN SURVIVORS INCLUDING THE ADMIRAL. HE HAS PILES.
Reply from C in C Mediterranean:
I AM NOT SURPRISEDThe C in C Mediterranean was Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, who was well known for his somewhat lavatorial sense of humour.
Perhaps we should close with the person with whom we started but this time with an example of Churchillian humour. When leaving a somewhat stormy meeting with General de Gaulle, Churchill turned to Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff and said:
How can one do business with a man who looks like a pregnant llama surprised in the act of taking a bath?We shall just have to use our imaginations!
Bomber Boys - Patrick Bishop, Harper Press 2007
The Berlin Raids - Martin Middlebrook, Viking 1988
Make a Signal - Jack Broome, Putnam 1955
World War II on the Air - Mark Bernstein & Alex Lubertozzi, Sourcebooks 2005