Sunday, 21 March 2010
153 Sqn. 21st March 1945 - Hildesheim
These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.
On 22nd March, at around breakfast time, 15 aircraft took off to attack the rail junction and marshalling yard at Hildesheim, which lies some 20 miles south-east of Hanover. 227 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups took part in the raid and 4 Lancasters were lost. Although the target was the railway yards, the surrounding built-up areas also suffered severely in what was virtually an area attack. This was the only major Bomber Command raid of the war on Hildesheim and the post-war British survey found that 263 acres, 70 per cent of the town, had been destroyed.
S/Ldr Gee relates how their route lay over the Ruhr area where, not surprisingly, they came under heavy A/A fire, to the extent that "the smoke and explosions of the shells bursting could be smelled and heard clearly". Six aircraft were hit, but all survived to bomb their target and return to base. Given a strong long-range fighter escort and in clear visibility the force was able to drop accurately without distraction.
About 1,500 civilians were killed in the attack, of which about 500 could not be identified
After the end of the war townspeople were suffering terribly, 34,000 of the cities population had remained homeless, like in many cities preference was given to quickly build housing, and concrete structures took the place of the destroyed buildings. Fortunately, the churches, two of them now UNESCO World Heritage Sites, were rebuilt soon after the war. During the war, the valuable world heritage historic material had been hidden in the basement of the city wall.
In the 1980s, the historic market place of Hildesheim, which had been destroyed in 1945 as well, was reconstructed in the authentic style using old photos and construction plans. From 2000 on, the Altstadtgilde, a private association dedicated to the embellishment of the city, started collecting funds to reconstruct the Upended Sugarloaf and bought the piece of land where the building had stood before the war. Many inhabitants donated money for the project, as the Altstadtgilde intended to give the building to the City of Hildesheim as a present. The City Council, however, hesitated a long time before accepting the present, but finally the building permit was granted on 4 February 2009.
The reconstruction using 60 cubic meters of oak wood and 728 wooden pegs was started on 27 October 2009. Many inhabitants of Hildesheim provided old photos and drawings for the project, as the original construction plans were not preserved. The construction of the foundation was completed on 9 November 2009 and the Roofing Ceremony was held on 3 February 2010. The building is to be inaugurated on 22 March 2010, exactly 65 years after the destruction. The Upended Sugarloaf will be used as a café afterwards. The Association Altstadtgilde as building sponsor estimates that the total costs of the reconstruction will amount to € 1,500,000.
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