Dresden bomber aircraft
Germany

Dresden 75: The Day Allied Bombers Attacked The German City

BFBS Radio has spoken to Sinclair McKay, Journalist and Author of Dresden: The Fire And The Darkness on the anniversary of the bombings.

Dresden bomber aircraft

"It was an incredibly beautiful city that had attracted artists from Venice, had attracted the greatest artists and musicians too," said Sinclair McKay, Journalist and Author of 'Dresden: The Fire And The Darkness'.

Speaking to BFBS Radio, Mr McKay discussed what has become one of the most controversial Allied acts of the Second World War.

On 13 February 1945, British aircraft controversially attacked the German city of Dresden.

The UK and its allies dropped almost 4,000 tons of explosives and incendiary bombs, killing 25,000 people and devastating one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

"It had that really rich vivid cultural life and that historic centre was just left an alien wilderness of molten rubble and flesh," said Mr McKay. 

Before the bombings, in the final months of the war, Dresden was around 250km from the Eastern Front, where Nazi Germany was defending against the advancing Soviet Union.

It was known for its architecture and cultural appeal as the capital of the state of Saxony.

Then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill expressed doubts immediately after the attack.

"[Churchill] had a kind of moment of moral anguish where he suddenly sent off this intemperate memo saying he renounced this meer act of terror, it was an extraordinary event that continues to cause enormous passion and debate now," said Mr McKay. 

A memo by Mr Churchill reflected the anxiety about the bombings.

"It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed," he wrote.

"The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing."

Though some have questioned the military value of the city, with many of those killed German civilians. Hundreds of thousands of Germans were seeking refuge there.

However, local factories provided kit and munitions to the Nazis, who frequently travelled through the city.

The British lost six bombers throughout the assault, three of which accidentally hit by friendly bombs.

Cover image: US National Archives.