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Sobre l'autor

Sinclair McKay is a features writer for The Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday. He is also the acclaimed author of the bestselling The Secret Life of Bletchley Park.

Inclou el nom: Sinclair McKay

Obres de Sinclair McKay

Bletchley Park Brainteasers (2017) 144 exemplars
Secret Service Brainteasers (2018) 25 exemplars


Coneixement comú

Data de naixement
20th c.
Llocs de residència
London, England, UK



I have visited Dresden three times; I read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five many years ago, and began to explore the history and consequences of the firebombing of the city. But Sinclair McKay's book was the first account I've ever read of the raid from beginning to end, with both some detailed scene-setting and an account of the city's fortunes in the post-war era, first as part of the DDR and then latterly after reunification. This bracketing of the account of the bombing is important, setting the story in context both before and after the war.

The book uses eye-witness accounts from both sides of the conflict to describe the events of the bombing raid in horrible detail. At the same time, the account is very even-handed. Although the question as to whether the bombing of Dresden was a war crime or not is examined, McKay does not come down on either side; for him, the story of the post-war reconciliation is more important. He devotes some time to the account of the restoration of the Frauenkirche and the role of British charities and craftsmen in that work. He also explores the use of Dresden in propaganda both during and after the war. In particular, he goes into some level of detail over the varying accounts of the death toll; many have found it convenient to inflate the death toll in Dresden, partially to attempt to paint the Allies in a poor light. Some accounts have inflated the death toll by as many as ten times; the persistence of this number might make you wonder who really won the propaganda war.

McKay devotes space to examining the personality and reactions of Arthur 'Bomber' Harris, in charge of RAF Bomber Command. Many have tried to depict him as a war criminal precisely because of the bombing of Dresden as well as other German cities such as Cologne and Hamburg; McKay's analysis suggests that he was firmly in the mainstream of military thinking at the time on both sides. Ultimately, McKay says, if the bombing of Dresden was a war crime, so was the bombing of Coventry, London, Guernica, Rotterdam or Warsaw.

For someone who has done so much research, McKay has some odd omissions, though. The German author Karl May, often erroneously described as a writer of 'Westerns', is referenced but his connections with Dresden are not; the Pragerstrasse, the main street leading from the central railway station to the centre of the Altstadt, is described a lot but its post-war reconstruction is only referenced for its blocks of apartments and not for the three monolithic buildings built as hotels that for a long time were its most notable architectural feature. Also, Dresden Mitte railway station is not mentioned. This was a considerable structure, having a large steel-framed overall roof; in the bombing, all the glass in the roof was shattered, but the structure itself remained. It was demolished in the immediate post-war years, not because it was unsafe but because of the costs involved in restoring the roof.

(On the other hand, I had a real "I never knew that!" moment when McKay casually comments that Oliver Dowding, in charge of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, regularly attended séances after the war to try to contact the souls of the young airmen who fell during the war. McKay includes this in part to emphasise the adulation given to fighter pilots in post-war Britain and contrast it with the rather more muted official attitude towards Bomber Command crew, especially when it comes to the political significance of statues and monuments.)

McKay also mentions Freeman Dyson, the physicist, who as a young conscript was put to work by the RAF doing statistical analysis of the outcomes of bombing raids. He provides an interesting pen-portrait of the young Dyson, and then later goes on to talk about some of his doubts and concerns over the bombing of Dresden. Nowhere does he mention that in later life, Dyson went to work on the USA's Project Orion, the ultimate swords-into-ploughshares project that proposed building a spaceship powered by exploding atomic bombs behind it. Orion attracted a number of scientists, including Edward Teller, precisely because of its potential as a pacifist icon (odd though that may seem to us now). As an expression of Dyson's own unease at the bombing of Dresden, this would have made an interesting counterpoint.

But none of these omissions really change the impression this book will leave on the reader. Given that I know some of the parts of Dresden, I could easily visualise the places being talked about, even though my most recent visit was ten years in the past. I first visited in the decade immediately following reunification, and at that time the city still presented a very East German appearance. In contrast, on my last visit (itself more than ten years ago), I was surprised by the amount of new building that had gone on since my previous one, and the casual traveller now might not imagine any of the horrors of the bombing if they were merely passing through. And such has been the amount of time and effort expended in restoring parts of the Altstadt, there are few obvious memorials to the victims of the bombing unless you know the history of the city. And then, the very city itself becomes that memorial; and its story needs retelling to future generations to show who the victims of war really are, and how reprehensible are those who cause war to be waged, no matter what their justification.
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RobertDay | Hi ha 8 ressenyes més | May 20, 2024 |
excellent book, carefully describes the people, work and environment of Bletchley Park in the late 30's
chsread | Hi ha 26 ressenyes més | Jan 28, 2024 |
I only got partway into this and then I lost interest.
karenchase | Hi ha 2 ressenyes més | Jun 14, 2023 |
I fear the popularity of this book may suffer from poor publicity. The silhouette of Conan Doyle on the cover and subtitle "The case that Conan Doyle couldn't solve!" is misleading - Doyle's involvement throughout this novel is minimal and has no bearing on this true crime novel.

I found the extreme attention to historical detail stifling at times. Halfway through the book and we hadn't even made it to trial yet!!! Whilst no doubt exceptionally well researched and accurate I wish it had been confined to a page or two and not pages upon pages spent on tangential links to the key players...

For lovers of historical crime novels - this is for you.....
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MerrylT | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | May 18, 2023 |



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