The air raid

by | Apr 29, 2009 | Stories | 0 comments

As the evening draws near the people in the town begin to get their things ready for the night ahead. They have a quick meal and those who have shelters in their gardens put the blankets, food, torches and books etc, all the things that will help them through the night, into the shelter where they will go later.

Those who have to rely on the public shelters follow much the same procedure but use what ever means they can to get themselves and their goods to the nearest shelter. Then they walk or push prams or homemade carts etc loaded with their goods. Some will have suitcases or bags but some will just carry what they can in their arms. Slowly the different lines of people join together and become one thick mass as they reach the shelter. They are shepherded inside by wardens and all settle quietly to wait the night.

On the bomber station the airmen who are on the raid have a meal – they then go into the ops room where the station commander and weather men etc are ready to give them the target, weather expectations and the intelligence officer give the latest information on the targets defences. Then they collect their maps and flying gear and move to the marshalling area to go to the aeroplanes. Each crew climbs into the back of a small lorry and is driven to their aircraft at the dispersal area. Once there the crew climb into the aircraft, the mechanics have been working on them all day to ensure they ok. They have been filled with gasoline and the machine guns and bombs have been set in their bays. The pilots run through the checks on the machines and they are started up. On a signal they taxi up to the dispersal point. The pilots open the throttles and on another signal begin to move faster and faster and take off at intervals one after the other. Once all the machines have taken off the airfield becomes quiet and the commander moves to the bunker to follow the progress by radio and radar

In the target town all is quiet – there are no street lights and any vehicles or people have to move around the dark streets with small headlights or torches Wardens and policemen move around to ensure no lights are showing that would give the enemy help. Anyone in the street is shepherded home or to a shelter. Around the town ack ack guns and searchlight squads are making ready. They hope to shoot down some of the raiders. Hospitals are ready for the expected influx of casualties. The fire brigade and rescue groups are all up and ready to move once the action is joined.

In the bombers the pilot and navigator check and recheck their course on the charts. The bomb aimer ensures everything is ready, the radio operator also checks his equipment ready to send the ‘bombs gone’ signal back to vase. The gunners keep a keen eye out for any enemy night fighters out to stop the raiders. Steadily they move over the sea, then land again – the navigator checks the compass reading and give the pilot a new course heading. All the time the steady thump of the engines and outlines them the other aeroplanes flying around them.

As they reach the coast the enemy radar picks them up as do watchers on the cliffs etc. Orders are sent to the night fighter bases to scramble to attack the bombers. The radar station passes orders to the gun emplacements on their course to shoot once they are in range in the hope of stopping some at least from reaching their target. Information is passed to the guns and searchlight batteries once the target city is ascertained The police, firemen, rescue HQ etc at the target are all informed so that all can be ready

The plotters in the Air Force HQ move the small pieces around as the bombers slowly move towards the target city. Updates on the situation are passed to the city organisations. On both sides the tension rises. On the bombers the crews get ready to drop their deadly cargoes, the navigator gives the pilot adjusted headings. The pilot watches the ribbon of the city’s river as it comes into view and follows it along to the city. Around them blotches of black begin to appear as the guns open up. Tracers appear and die and searchlights roam the sky. Now and again one catches an aeroplane and holds it on its way to the target, the guns open fire at and – if they are lucky they hit it and the craft belches fire and smoke and disappears into the ground with a mighty crump. In this event the other crews would watch but also try to avoid the searchlights themselves. The sound of shells exploding around them would shake the aircraft and they would take evasive action. All the way to the target this cat and mouse action continued.

At the target city the sirens were sounded and any citizen out would take cover. The rescue services get ready for the onslaught. The guns and searchlights power up – the firemen and rescuers and hospitals all ready themselves. In the shelters the citizens huddle together as they wait for the bombs to drop – would they have a home at the end of the night? What will they find when they leave the shelters next morning? Babies and children grow restless and some cry, their mothers try to calm and comfort them – they worry about their husbands and sons – some in the forces but many in the rescue services in the city.

The bombers reach their target, the bomb aimer gets ready to drop the bombs – ‘bombs away’ – the radio operator sends the message back to base – the pilot feels the aircraft jump up as its load is lightened. Then he begins the journey home – the guns and searchlights are still in action all around him – he will not be safe until they reach their home base. Below the citizens hear the scream as the bombs fall and the thump as they land, the sound of buildings collapsing – the fire engine sirens sound as they rush to put out the fires, the rescue workers move to clear rubble and rescue those trapped there. All through the raid the defenders fight to minimise the damage to the city. Whilst the attackers try to reach home safely.

As the last bomber drops its load it turns and makes for home – some have been damaged, crews have been injured and killed, some machines have been shot down and crews lost.

Below in the city the sound of bombs falling ends, but the sound of falling masonry and burning continues. The firemen continue to fight the fires that engulf the city, ambulances ferry the injured to hospitals, the dead taken to makeshift morgues. In the shelters the population try to sleep and not worry about what has happened outside until later. Slowly the night passes – the bombers regain their base – their comrades watching for each plane to land – many damaged with dead and injured crews. One or two landed and burst into flames, some never returned. The men on the airfield walk slowly to the dispersal hut and the intelligence officer to make their reports.

Dawn breaks – in the city the civilians slowly emerge from the shelters and look around at their devastated city. All this damage from one raid! They slowly move to their homews (if they are still standing) to get breakfast and start the new day.

On the airfield the crews have completed debriefing and go to the mess hall for breakfast before going to bed. They sit down and look at the empty tables where the missing aircrews would have sat. How many dead, how many missing and how many captured by the enemy? Would they survive the next raid themselves/ In the city the people also wonder at their losses, would they survive the next raid or the one after that.

Both sides wonder how long they will survive.


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