by Peter Hinchliffe
of us, at some time or other in our life, think that we would like to
write a book: many of us begin the task, and some of us complete it.
those of us who feel that in some way our life has been different from
of the majority of our contemporaries, the urge to commit our experiences
print is very strong. Those of us on both sides, Allied and German,
part in the arduous and indescribably bloody battle between RAF Bomber
Command and the German night-fighter force, the Nachtjagd, and who,
the odds, survived, can with justification claim that our experiences
of a special kind.
Many autobiographical books of varying quality by participants in the
bomber battle have appeared, far more by men who flew on the Allied
side, the victors, than by men who flew on the German side, the vanquished.
The reason for the disparity is not hard to find in simplistic
but widely-accepted terms the Germans had started the war and thus were
the villains of the piece while we, the Allies, had won the war and
were the heroes .
Right had triumphed over might. There were exciting personal
stories for us to relate, stories that could be told with pride, and
Britain and the allied countries there was a wide potential readership
for such tales. It was not so in Germany: there was nothing to be proud
in defeat and humiliation, and there were very few who wanted to read
and be reminded of a war that had brought them so much suffering, and
they had lost so comprehensively.
As time moved on and the extent and nature of the horrific crimes against
humanity committed by and in the name of the Germans during the war
emerged in their ghastly detail, so did public opinion, in both the
Republic and the so-called German Democratic Republic (which was neither
German, nor democratic, nor a republic), particularly among the post-war
generation, seek to allocate blame and responsibility for the dreadful
happenings. Once again, simplistic solutions to an unanswerable question
emerged and were accepted, and in the process anyone who had served
German armed forces was widely branded a criminal, no matter in what
capacity nor how bravely he had served his country.
Peter Spoden, the father of four sons, wrote this short book in an attempt
to explain, but not to justify, how he came to join the German Air Force
how he fought as a night fighter pilot to defend his country against
savage and merciless bombing of civilian targets by the Royal Air Force.
was not writing for a public readership, but for his grandsons, lest
should be infected by the widely-held view that all soldiers of the
Reich, including their father, were ipso facto war criminals and murderers.
The special nature of this book lies in the fact that it was not written
publication: had it been style and content would probably have been
it is the book is characterised by honesty, modesty, sincerity
and deep sadness. Peter does not boast about nor dramatise his many
victories, nor does he dwell on his crashes, his escapes by parachute
his injuries. His sadness is rooted in the tragic inexplicability of
inhumanity to man. He tells his story and leaves his readers - originally
foreseen as just his grandsons - to form their own opinions. I am glad
with the books publication in the English language there will
opportunity for readers outside his family to do so too.
Northiam, East Sussex, April 2003.
Hinchliffe, the author of the books "The Other Battle", Schnaufer
"The Ace Of Diamonds" and "The Lent Papers" has
translated Peter Spodens book.
book under the title "Enemy In The Dark" is available