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15 October 2014
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RAF Bombing in Dresdenicon for Recommended story

by ATC Crawley 19 Squadron

Contributed by 
ATC Crawley 19 Squadron
People in story: 
Bob Calloway, Flying Officer Fudge
Location of story: 
Cambridgeshire, Dresden
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A3765431
Contributed on: 
09 March 2005

This is Bob Calloway's story - it has been added by a Volunteer from Crawley 19th Sqdn ATC, with permission from the author, who understands the terms and conditions of adding his story to the website.

When war broke out I was swimming in Ladywell Baths in South East London, I heard the sirens and they cleared us out of the baths and we were on our bikes, so we cycled to the nearest church — which we thought would be safe from the bombing as it was a House of God. Nothing happened to us that day — so from that moment on I have always had faith and a belief that someone was looking after me.

I didn’t used to tell people that I prayed and whatnot, but nowadays I’m not embarrassed about telling people that I go to church and pray.

I was about 17 when the war started and I was in a reserved occupation — making machine tools — which mean that I didn’t get called up. Now about 1940 the Germans really started to bomb England and London in particular. I was working in Woolwich, London in a factory doing the milling and turning for the weapon parts. When the bombs started to come down, the firm I worked for got slightly bombed so they couldn’t carry on in London. So we joined forces with a company in Leicester and I had to move up there. During my visits back to London to see the family, I would see all my friends in uniform, and it made me want to join up as well.

I tried to get into the Royal Navy, but as I was in a reserve occupation they wouldn’t take me. The RAF were more welcoming, as they had been loosing so many men in the skies that they wanted as many to join as they could who wanted to fly the aircraft. So I joined to RAF in 1943 and became a rear gunner, known by many as the ‘tail-end charlie’. I got my ‘Wings and Strips’ at the end of 1944 when I had completed all my training and was a qualified rear gunner.

By the end of 1944 all the forces were closing in on Hitler's men in the bunkers, so we all knew that there wasn’t long to go until the war was over. We knew that if Hitler were to try and escape from Berlin, it was mostly likely to be by train via Dresden, and therefore Bomber Harris ordered many bombers, myself included, to bomb Dresden and thwart his escape attempts. My job during the raids on Dresden was to stop the enemy aircraft approaching us from all angles, and I would use the intercom to warn ‘Fudgie’ (Flying Officer Fudge from Cumbria Coast) if there were any approaching aircraft. There was one occasion when we were coming back from an air raid and we were surprised by the Luftwaffe and they split up the formation of the British Bombers. Luckily we didn’t get attached by we did end up flying up North which was no good for me as I was stationed in Cambridge!! The next day we were able fly back down to RAF Whiten our home station.

I flew across to Dresden in total 5 times and I was scared, but because of my faith I knew that I would be okay and come back in one piece. On the ground I would have to salute and respect the senior officers — but up in the air we were like one big family, looking out for each other.

The sad thing that being in a aircrew was that the next day we would look on the notice board and see the names of the aircraft that hadn’t made it back. Certain aircraft would be missing, and there would be a couple of empty beds and it was terribly sad that they weren’t coming back. Eventually an officer would come round and collect the stuff from their locker and there would be new lads in to take their place. I feel that it was through my faith that my crew all came back okay and we didn’t loose anyone.

In 1945 when the war was over, it seemed like they didn’t know what to do with all the aircrews and the aircraft, so I ended up in a maintenance squadron in Henlow, North London. Due to my engineering background I was drafted to the Occupational Forces, in Wahn near Dusseldorf in Germany, 2 or 3 months later. Here I worked on the Mosquito squadron, helping to maintain the aircraft. In 1947 I finally got demobbed and returned to England, and I continued working in the RAF in Kiddbroke in London.

Later on I met my wife through my eldest sister and we married in 1950. We proposed to each other on top of a double decker bus on the way to see Billy Cotton and his band show.

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Message 1 - Re: RAF Bombing in Dresden

Posted on: 10 March 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

I am puzzled by your account of your service with No. 356 Squadron. The squadron was formed at Salbani, India, on 15 January 1944 and remained in the Far East until VJ Day. It left the Cocos Islands in November 1945 and was disbanded on 15 November 1945. No. 356 Squadron never served in Europe. See here http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/h356.htmlAbout links

The RAF made only one raid on Dresden (Operation Thunderclap on 13/14 February 1945), not five. The bombing of Dresden had nothing to do with Hitler possibly leaving Berlin by train. The bombing had been requested by the Russians at the Yalta Conference on 4 February.

 

Message 2 - Re: RAF Bombing in Dresden

Posted on: 11 March 2005 by Ron Goldstein

Hi Peter

I also confess to being puzzled about this entry, all the more since I came across this article :
A2062810. This does not show any activity from 356 Squadron as being based in the UK.
My other query, like your own, is the number of raids quoted for attacks on Dresden. Most sources for information show only two raids.
If we have patience I'm sure all will be revealed

Ron

 

Message 3 - Re: RAF Bombing in Dresden

Posted on: 11 March 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Ron

The two authoritative books I use are "The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany 1939-1945" Volume III, Part 5 'Victory' (published by HMSO, 1961, and just about impossible now to get hold of now) and "The Bomber Command War Diaries" (Midland Publishing, revised 1996).

The first book I mentioned is the most authoritative. At page 108, regarding Dresden:

"... it was, in fact, first bombed by the [American] Eighth Air Force on 7th October 1944", and a footnote to this adds:

"The Eighth Air Force made the following attacks against Dresden: [I omit details] 7th October 1944; 16th January 1945; 14th February 1945; 15th February 1945; 2nd March 1945; and 17th April 1945" adding "The statement made in 'The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol III, p.731, that 'the heavy bombers had left (Dresden) alone until 1945' is, therefore, not correct."

The Bomber Command War Diaries show that the RAF bombed Dresden only once, on the night of 13/14 February 1945.

Peter

 

Message 4 - Re: RAF Bombing in Dresden

Posted on: 14 March 2005 by Sprey

Hi Peter and Ron , I notice your are questioning this post telling of the Dresden raids. I was about to do the same. There may some elements to believe in it.

It is true that the raids had nothing to do with Hitler escaping anywhere, he certainly wouldn't have gone towards the Russian front.At the time there were genuine reasons for tactical reasons for the raids

I am not aware of any RAF/RCAF squadron going five times to Dresden, at least during the period that this story describes.

Regards. J B.

 

Message 5 - Re: RAF Bombing in Dresden

Posted on: 14 March 2005 by Ron Goldstein

Hi John

Thanks for coming in on this one, I for one, am happy to rely on your expertise.

My only experience in RAF matters relates to research I did on my late brother's death whilst he was serving with 166 Sdrn at Kirmington.

All best wishes

Ron

 

Message 6 - Re: RAF Bombing in Dresden

Posted on: 18 March 2005 by Sprey

Ron Goldstein - WW2 Site Helper

You are welcome.
I have noticed one or two questionable posts appearing and enjoy the repartee. J.

 

Message 7 - Re: RAF Bombing in Dresden

Posted on: 12 April 2005 by Spedding109

My father used to tell the story of his visit to Dresden - he was a member of 109 Squadron, who were the Pathfinders for the mission.

He also said that he returned the following night, but that no Pathfinding was necessary since the fires were still visible the next night from 300 miles away. Whether the next night's mission was also to Dresden, or this was a comment on how visible it was, I am not sure.

Regards

RS

Message 1 - Bombing in Dresden

Posted on: 26 November 2005 by rafarchied

There are one or two anomalies in the article most of which have been previously pointed out. I can vouch for the fact that there was only one raid carried out by the RAF albeit with an interval in the middle to effect maximum damage. I was on the second wave of this attack with No 115 Sqn, Witchford. We were briefed that the German administration of the war could no longer be conducted from Berlin and was therefore being moved to Dresden. Hence the raid. However I now believe there were other considerations. One being to fulfil an aggreeement with the Russians and secondly to demonstrate to the Russians the lethality of our airpower in case they had further ambitions after the war. AHD

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