About The Book

Under a Bomber’s Moon is the true story of a New Zealand navigator-bomb aimer with the Royal Air Force and a German night fighter pilot as they fight for success and survival over night time Germany during the bitterest years of the Second World War. In early 1944, after completing one tour of operations and winning the Distinguished Flying Cross for his exploits, the New Zealander, Colwyn Jones, was killed during a raid on Berlin.

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About The Night War Over Europe

During the Second World War the night sky over Europe was one of the most lethal places to wage war. By 1945 almost half of the airmen who flew with Bomber Command and a third of the Luftwaffe night fighter crew pitted against them had been killed. Many German cities became moonscapes of rubble, their inhabitants the first to experience the reality of ‘total war’ – itself a glimpse of the destructive potential of the nuclear age about to explode in the Far East.

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Inside the Enemy's Aircraft

Some of the most exciting combat episodes in Under a Bomber's Moon are seen through the gunsight of Otto-Heinrich Fries's Messerschmitt ME110. To get a sense of what it felt like inside the Luftwaffe fighter that almost killed Col Jones several times I didn't have to travel far from my home in Berlin. - Stephen Harris

The Messerschmitt ME110 in which I now sat had seen combat over the frozen wastes of northern Russia and retirement on the outskirts of Wanaka, New Zealand. Now it had ‘come home’ to Berlin where it is one of only two fully restored ME110s still in existence, out of 6600 built. (The other is at the RAF Museum at Hendon, northwest London). Its journey to Wanaka before ending up in Berlin intersected with my own travels in the footsteps of Col and of a former Luftwaffe night fighter pilot who cut his teeth in the ME110, Otto-Heinrich Fries.

My path to the Berlin Messerschmitt began before it led me to Fries. When I turned up at the monthly gathering in early 2007 of the Berlin Jägerkreis - the grouping of former German military airmen - I met the man who had been flying this particular Messerschmitt the day it was shot down over Murmansk, northern Russia, in 1942. Gerhard Sarodnick had escaped unharmed, but the ME110 was left where it fell and was slowly claimed by the ice over the next 50 years. Then the thaw following the Cold War allowed the largely-intact aircraft to be retrieved in 1992. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the wreck was salvaged and put up for auction. Its buyer was a New Zealander, Sir Tim Wallis, of Wanaka Warbirds fame.

After Sir Tim almost died in a plane crash in 1996, the unrestored ME110 was put up for sale, along with several other aircraft in the Warbirds’ collection, including two JU 87 ‘Stuka’ divebombers. This time, the German Technology Museum in Berlin bought it and has completed the restoration. The museum’s head of air and space travel, Holger Steinle, allowed me to inspect the cockpit. Steinle has had frequent contact with the New Zealand film maker, Peter Jackson, so when I phoned he made an immediate connection between kiwis and a fascination for old aircraft. Steinle asked only that I remove my shoes - and not fall off the wing.

Wedged in the metre-wide cockpit space between the canopy side panels, the grey, metal seat is tucked down more like a scoop than a chair. It sits amid a constellation of instrumentation and small copses of levers – brakes, throttles, control column, reflector gunsight. The pilot in this cramped cockpit is dwarfed by the broad wings to each side, and he seems as much a function of his instruments as the other way round. It is an amazing fusion of form and function. From this brief cockpit immersion I gained a small  inkling of what Fries had to master just to take off and keep his aircraft in the air, let alone to use it as a weapon in the dark against an enemy also trying to kill him.

 

Copyright: underabombersmoon.com

 

 

 

 

Please click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged version of  the Heinkle He-219, located at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) at Dulles Airport, Washington, DC