On July 25 1943, following a 5-month air campaign against Germany’s industrial Ruhr district, the RAF began a 10-day series of air raids on Hamburg known as Operation Gomorrah.

Due to unusually hot and dry weather, the July 27 raid on the city’s working class districts produced a swirling vortex of superheated air that ignited a firestorm with temperatures reaching 800°C. Many civilians jumped into waterways; others were asphyxiated in bomb shelters as the firestorm consumed oxygen. Over 10 days, 42,600 citizens of Hamburg were killed and 37,000 injured in Operation Gomorrah.


In May 2014, my wife and I visited Hamburg on a research trip for the book I am writing about the Battle of the Atlantic in 1942. Our visit to the St. Nikolai Church memorial museum beneath the bombed-out church was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had.

Hamburg 0514              165805_St Nikolai Memorial




Lira Walter was here. Mother is alive. Father is dead.