Saturday, 23 May 2015

Photo of last wartime raid discovered


Photo of last wartime raid discovered 

With the 70th anniversary of VE Day still fresh in our minds from a fortnight ago (did anyone see the celebrations on the B.B.C. and particularly the veterans' march past the Prince of Wales - what about that old boy at the end who insisted on getting out of his wheelchair to shake hands with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall?!  What a chap!), it's easy to forget that the war was still raging in Europe almost right up until the moment of surrender on the 7th May.

Photograph discovered of 'last RAF bomb dropped on Germany'

This fact has been brought home again recently thanks in part to the discovery of a previously unseen photograph showing preparations for an RAF bombing raid on the German port of Kiel, with the date (written on the bomb, no less!) of the 2nd May 1945 - only 5 days before Germany's unconditional surrender.  Even more interestingly, this raid - by de Havilland Mosquitoes of 608 Squadron, based at Downham Market in Norfolk - has been confirmed as the last hostile operation undertaken by Bomber Command in the Second World War, so this photograph is most definitely an important historical document of the very last days of the conflict.

It was a fitting closure to aerial operations in the Second World War that Kiel was chosen as the target for this final raid (as it was feared that the remnants of the German Navy would make a last-minute dash for Norway, then still in Axis hands, from the town's large sea port) as it was also one of the very first targets to be bombed by the RAF back in September 1939 (as immortalised in the 1939 British propaganda film The Lion Has Wings, starring Merle Oberon and Ralph Richardson - from which the above clip is taken).

As is the way with newly-discovered photographs we marvel at the snapshot in time that they provide, which in this case is heightened by the knowledge that it was taken less than a week away from one of the defining events of the 20th century - the end of one of the world's bloodiest and all-encompassing wars.  An otherwise everyday wartime activity is thrown into stark relief by the fact that it turned out to be the last such action of the war and one wonders about the awareness of the men in the photo - what were their hopes and feelings on that last raid; did they know it would all be over in a matter of days?  We'll likely never know the answer to that question now since the original owner, pictured in the photo, passed away in 1979 (having, like so many of his generation, never talked about his experiences) but nevertheless it's welcome news that an historically-important image has been found and saved for the nation, fittingly in this the 70th anniversary year of the war's end.

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