“I like machines but in wars all humans are their victims.”
Those are the very last words in Len Deighton’s Bomber, and they capture the essence of his recently re-issued antiwar novel.
Set in 24 hours of the summer of 1943, the book describes a bombing run made by the Allies against Germany and includes descriptions and dialogues from life lived on both sides of the conflict before and after the attack.
On the Allied side you get a glimpse of the bomber pilots and the ground crew at Warley Fen airfield during the breakfast on the day of the bombing. There is a bit more of the life they led during that fateful day, but not much needs to be known to make the book work.
On the German side you get to meet families, lovers, tradesmen, the Burgermeister, and so on in the small village of Altgarten. There are very human stories associated with them, some very touching, as there are on the Allied side.
Both Warley Fen and Altgarten are fictitious as are the people, but they are there to make the point that real, innocent, and not so innocent, human beings are involved on both sides, and they are killed and wounded, regardless of which side they are on.
When the bombing is done Altgarten is basically destroyed, and an unknown but large number of people are dead or wounded. The RAF lost forty-four bombers and over three hundred crewmen are killed or wounded.
And the wrong town was bombed.