Blood-Red Pall over the Heart of Nazi Germany



Blood-Red Pall over the Heart of Nazi Germany


A newspaper cutting referring to an attack on Berlin. Peter Twinn and Alec Gilbert have been quoted with comments on the cold and the fires in Berlin.





One newspaper cutting


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Crew of a Lancaster prepare for the take-off.

“News of the World” Special Correspondent

A BOMBER COMMAND STATION, Saturday morning. – With one exception, all the big fellows who roared out of this station after dark last night are back and “bedded down.”
They are back from those smoking, smouldering, glowing ruins that once were the proud city of Berlin.
Their crews, and the crews from other stations up and down the land, flung another 1,000 plus tons of high explosive and fire-bombs on to the stricken heart of Nazi-ism in the night.
Enormous fires spreading over the city and merging into a giant cauldron of unbroken blaze, turned Berlin’s sky into a blood-red pall, still clearly seen by our returning bombers 200 miles away on the journey home.
This is a near-to-death blow for Berlin.
Smashed, blasted, and burning, the centre of the Reich must be a hollow tooth of a city this morning.
In the cold, grey hours I have talked on this mighty airfield with those men of the R.A.F. just returned from a six hours’ trip of destruction.
Grim and set-faced, their eyes red rimmed and tired, and their bodies drooping from fatigue, these boys did not gloat or exult over the night.
“It must have been mass destruction over there. Thank God I was not one of the Berliners!”
In that phrase a young pilot – the youngest I should imagine from this station – summed up the reactions of the rest.
Their only feeling was that of a job done, and done well.
When they left Berlin after little more than a quarter of an hour of terrific, concentrated attack, a sea of flame glowed scarlet and gold behind them.


It was the first bombing assault by the whole crew of one Lancaster – F for Fanny. Young Bob Langley, a sergeant, of Ferryhill, Co. Durham, piloted her, and with him were two 19-year-old lads flying to their baptism of fire – Bert Oliver, the rear gunner, whose home is at Ashtead, Surrey, and his pal, Bob Smith, of Glasgow, looking after the mid-upper gun.
There was still a suspicion of awe in their voices as they talked of the experience.
“It was a sight that near scared you. Those fires down there… They spread with hardly a break.”
That was Oliver. Smith added: ”It was like looking down on a giant fairground with all the lights on.”
[Inserted] X [/inserted] Out in the darkened airfield, as the twinkling navigation lamps of the returning planes pin-pricked the sky, I met the crew of “A for Apple,” the first of the returning Lancasters to lay down her wheels on the runway.
Rear-Gunner Peter Twinn, of Richmond, Surrey, stepped down, stretched himself, and sighed.
His eyelashes were ice-covered; the tears had frozen.
He rubbed his eyes with the back of a gloved hand.
“It was 30 below zero the whole way,” he confided. “My moustache froze as I licked it. “But I still would sooner have had the cold up there than the heat Berlin got last night.”
Twinn’s colleague, Sergt. Alec Gilbert, of Southampton, “A for Apple’s” engineer, backed up with: “After the war I want to go to Berlin and take a bus ride around the place just to see what it’s like. This is our fourth trip there in eight days and I’ve still noticed nothing but fire.”


Other crews were also making their fourth Berlin attack since the blasting of the city began little more than a week ago.
They disclosed in rich experience of the great Battle of Berlin that the anti-aircraft defences had been considerably strengthened for this latest attack.
Many mobile batteries of anti-aircraft guns ringed the capital to replace the batteries wiped out in the hail of bombs of previous raids.
The searchlights, too, had been reinforced by dozens, and the bombers constantly found themselves picked up and “coned” by 30 or 40 as they swept in to drop their loads.
Meanwhile, night-fighters overhead flung wide their patterned-lanes of parachute flares in desperate endeavour to outline our giants over the sprawling target.
But as the minutes passed by and bombs screamed down by the ton, the guns began to fade.
One by one they ceased fire as an overwhelming weight of high explosive tore earthwards and the flames took a grip that finally enveloped the city.

Continued on Page Three


George Harrison, “Blood-Red Pall over the Heart of Nazi Germany,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 12, 2024,

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