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These control bunkers, aptly dubbed ‘battle opera-houses’ by the Luftwaffe personnel who worked there, served as clearing-houses for the information on Harris’ intentions that arrived from every source including the highly advanced German radio-monitoring units; but they were also the system’s Achilles Heel, because it was from here that the fighter controllers directed the airborne fighter formations by running commentary into the bomber stream. M. on October , , the Duty Officers in these western control bunkers were informed by telephone from the Paris Headquarters of Funkhorchregiment West – the Radio Monitoring Regiment – that the position was ‘Eagles five-hundred’.

Heavy bombers. Within a short time, the Ruhr’s powerful batteries of -centimetre and -centimetre searchlights had illuminated a patch of sky across which Herrmann’s pilots could make out some fifty to sixty four-engined bombers crawling towards Cologne. The bombardment of Cologne began three quarters of an hour after midnight and lasted for two hours. By the time the unwelcome attentions of their own flak guns forced the seven fighters to break off the engagement they claimed to have destroyed twelve of the thirty-two British aircraft which did not return from Cologne.

During this raid, Major Herrmann employed brilliant yellow and white fighter flares for the first time in addition to relying on the glare of the batteries of searchlights to illuminate the cloud layers; he and his growing band of freelance fighters could see the British raiders clearly silhouetted against the clouds. ’The successes of the fighter squadrons were not without impact on Bomber Command’s aircrew morale: a thirty-mile creep-back of bombs on this occasion testified to the unwillingness of a large number of crews to ‘press on’ into the heart of the target area where eight days before so many of their comrades had been lost.

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Apocalypse 1945. The Destruction of Dresden by Charles Irving

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