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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Book leads NZ airman to the man who killed his relative

 

Stephen Harris briefly thought Luftwaffe Nachtjagd ace Paul Zorner had killed his great-uncle, Col Jones. Further research ruled that out, but at the Wellington launch of Under a Bomber’s Moon, a guest came forward with questions about the death of his second cousin in that same Leipzig raid in which Maurice Askew was shot down, on 19-20 February 1944. This time the trail through time led straight to Zorner.

 

Wellingtonian David Saunders, a former RAF and RNZAF squadron leader, grew up knowing his father’s cousin had died bombing Germany. Skipper Squadron Leader Anthony Saunders (25) was on his 49th op when a Messerschmitt ME110 piloted by Oberleutnant Zorner picked up his 156 Squadron Lancaster north of Hanover.

Zorner describes the kill

In his autobiography Nächte im Bomberstrom (Nights in the Bomber Stream) Zorner described what happened in the early hours of 20 February.

“The weather was ideal for an attack from behind, the grey mist layered particularly densely on the horizon. I was able to approach the opponent undetected to within 100 metres and at 03.02 hours fired between the two port engines. The wing began to burn fiercely immediately. The bomber plunged vertically and struck the ground at 03.04 hours, north of Hanover. Now I set off further east in my search.

“It took only a few minutes before Wilke [radar operator] had the next target in his [SN2] device. At 03.14 hours I could make out the bomber against the starry sky, slightly above me, so I had to climb to 6000 metres. I approached from behind and beneath and a moment later opened fire into his left wing from a distance of 80 metres. As I saw no flames I made ready to attack a second time and throttled back. Suddenly, however, about 20 seconds after my first burst of fire, there was a powerful explosion in the enemy machine, a large chunk of debris  came back very close to my own machine and the bomber began to burn in several pieces and to go down in flames. The wreckage struck the ground near Wesendorf [north of Braunschweig] at 03.17 hours, spread over a relatively wide area.”

The second of these was Saunders’ Lancaster. It was Zorner’s 28th ‘kill’ and the second of four he claimed that night. The crew is buried in the Hanover War Cemetery. Saunders’ DFC was gazetted after his death.

 

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