1940s– Flying Over Berlin


Lydia Jacoby, Writer

It was August 25th, 1940. During a series of air raids by both German and British forces the month before, Hitler asked the British to accept peace; they refused. Still hoping to negotiate, Hitler prohibited German attacks against London and civilians. 

The night before, August 24th, 1940, a group of off-course German planes dropped bombs in central London. In retaliation, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) began preparations to do the same to Berlin. 

Charles’ breath caught in his throat. The commander of the RAF had delivered the news just seconds before. That night, Charles’ squad of British bombers were scheduled to fly into Berlin. Every member of the flight squad had been training for over a year in preparation for the event. They all knew this operation was inevitable; however, many were still hopeful that the war would be resolved before it came to this. 

After a short meeting, the commander dismissed them to get to work. The silence that loomed over the room after dismissal made the sudden screeching of chairs and rumbling of footsteps echo eerily off the brick walls. Eventually, everyone had dispersed into the long, winding stone halls of the headquarters in search of pens and parchment. Technically it was not permitted, but no one stopped the men from writing a quick letter to their families before returning to duty. Charles handed his letter addressed to Sandra, Gabriel, and Maria Bernard to the postman to start its journey to Northern Wales. The whole squad watched their precious letters trundled away in the back of the post truck. 

Charles made his way to the courtyard where twenty men were already arming the planes with a variety of bombs and artillery shells. He looked around for his plane which he would be flying with three other men: James, Joseph, and Stephan. Instead of his sight focusing on his plane, he found his eyes fixed on a woman. Although it was not uncommon for women to aid in war efforts, there were next to none in the ground schools of Britain. Since his arrival, the only women Charles ever saw were the occasional instructor or the commander’s wife. Nevertheless, this lady stood in the middle of the courtyard, her foot resting on a large bombshell with a calm glimmer in her eyes . Long, wide, black pants covered her slim legs. Her hair was done up in tight curls close to her head. If he hadn’t looked closely, he might have mistaken her for a man. As he watched, she made her way over to the very plane he had been searching for. Without taking his eyes off of the woman, he strolled over to the plane. As she turned, she caught sight of him and gave a broad smile. 

Holding out her hand in greeting, she stated, “Hello, I’m Amelia. I’ll be your co-pilot flying into Germany this evening.”