Dam and Blast

David Lodge

The Dam Busters, shown on BBC Television one Sunday afternoon recently, must be the perfect war film for people like myself who don’t really approve of war, or of the military mystique of competitive valour and unquestioning obedience to authority, or of the exploitation of these things for purposes of entertainment, but nevertheless go weak at the knees at the image of a flak-scarred Lancaster bomber coming in to land on a dandelion-strewn airfield at dawn somewhere in East Anglia in 1943.

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[*] The most recent addition to this literature is Dresden 1945: The Devil’s Tinderbox, by Alexander McKee (Souvenir Press, 334 pp., £8.95, 3 June, 0 285 62515 2). Though written without great finesse, and adding little that is substantive to David Irving’s The Destruction of Dresden (1963), McKee’s book is remarkable for the large number of eyewitness accounts, both German and Allied, that he has gathered together, vividly describing the apocalyptic horror caused by the area bombing of Dresden on 13/14 February, 1945. Anyone who still doubts that this raid was wholly indefensible on moral, military or political grounds should read it.