The Man Who Tried to Stop the Dresden Raids

Between February 13th and 15th, 1945, British and American bombers dropped nearly 4,000 tonnes of bombs on the refugee-crammed city of Dresden. David Spark relates how an officer at the British Air Ministry tried to get the raids called off.

Dresden after the bombing
Dresden after the bombing

In 1944, Wing-Commander Jim Rose had been head of the air section at Bletchley Park, the ULTRA centre which broke the German codes and provided strategic and operational intelligence. He later received the American Legion of Merit award.

After Rundstedt’s offensive in the Ardennes in Belgium in late 1944, Bletchley Park was asked to review the failure of intelligence to predict it. F.L. Lucas (of King’s College, Cambridge) and Peter Calvocoressi wrote a report criticising the Air Ministry. Rose recommended that Calvocoressi should run its operational intelligence department. He got the reply: ‘No, you must come.’

So in February 1945, Rose was made the Ministry’s deputy director of operational intelligence, working with a director who was away much of the time. He explained: ‘For three years we had supplied the ministries and the commanders-in-chief with intelligence. I suddenly found how it was being used by Bomber Command.’

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