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75th anniversary of Coventry Blitz being honoured

Published 14/11/2015

The ruins of Coventry Cathedral after the Medieval building was destroyed by Luftwaffe bombs
The ruins of Coventry Cathedral after the Medieval building was destroyed by Luftwaffe bombs

When the drone of Luftwaffe bombers had faded more than 560 people were dead and a city's industrial heart was aflame in one of the Second World War's most infamous air raids.

This weekend marks the 75th anniversary of the Coventry Blitz on November 14, 1940 - an 11-hour night of terror hatched by the Nazi war machine, as tons of high explosive bombs were dropped on the Midlands city.

Events marking the deadly date culminate in a peace and reconciliation concert at the iconic Coventry Cathedral this evening, with a memorial service tomorrow.

For those few still left alive today who witnessed the horror of successive nights of attacks, it will be a poignant occasion.

The huge raid, involving hundreds of bombers criss-crossing the skies, delivered a payload of thousands of fire bombs which burned through the city centre destroying factories, homes and the medieval cathedral.

At the time, the Germans claimed it was the biggest raid of the war, with Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels coining the term "Coventried" to describe any similar destructive raids.

Coventry was a key target as a centre for armaments, munitions and aeroplane engine production, with the November raid preceded by a series of deadly attacks on the city into the month of October.

So great were the casualties that the victims of those combined raids were buried in a mass grave at the city's London Road cemetery - where a stone memorial records more than 800 names.

Many of the victims were blown to pieces and could not be identified.

Michael Logan was just six when the shelter he was in was blasted apart in an October raid, as he huddled in the dark with his mother, father, and two brothers.

The bomb claimed the lives of his parents, and his younger brother leaving him orphaned in the midst of the war.

Brave rescuers desperately dug at the rubble, pulling him and elder brother Patrick from the debris and to safety.

His brother went to live with grandparents in Ireland, but he went to live with his uncle in the city.

Now 81-years-old - and speaking from the Coventry home he shares with his wife of 58 years, he said: "I was brought up not to like the Germans."

Many years afterwards, a cousin told him his mother had been pregnant when she was killed.

He also recounted how his father nearly escaped the deadly bomb altogether, as he was in the pub drinking with friends.

Mr Logan, a retired Rolls-Royce aeroplane factory fitter, said: "Someone went to tell him that the sirens had gone and everybody had gone to the shelter."

He added: "If he'd have stopped in the pub he probably wouldn't have got killed. But it wasn't to be."

Mr Logan admits he gained a hatred for the Germans when he was old enough to know what had happened the night his family were bombed on October 12, 1940.

But he has learned to forgive after he was given the chance to travel to Dresden in Germany in 2010.

While there, he met the survivors of the British and American raids launched in February 1945 which killed up to 25,000 people and left the eastern German city a devastated shell.

Recounting the meeting, he said: "We were having a meal and a chat, and they felt a bit sad for me and I said 'I don't hate you now, because you've been through what I've been through', and Dresden got a real hammering.

"I don't want to go through life with this hatred in my body, because it won't do you any good will it.

"They had to go to war like our lads and I don't hate the Germans now.

"I don't hate the Germans, you can't hate them can you, not when they showed me photos of what happened in Dresden. They lost a lot of people in Dresden. Lots.

"It was their leader that made the German people go to war. Hitler and his henchman.

"They couldn't say anything to him, could they. They were scared of him weren't they, when you think of it."

That spirit of reconciliation has been at the centre of the events which mark the anniversary, with the ruins of the city's old cathedral in the shadow of its new building a physical reminder.

The Dean of Coventry's cathedral, John Witcombe, said: "The ruins speak of the honesty of the truth of destruction in the world.

"We have honesty about all the violence and the damage that's around in the world, still embodied in the ruins, but in the new cathedral, this extraordinary space full of hope and beauty and healing."

He added: "It's an incredible space and if it hadn't been for the destruction, we wouldn't have this new cathedral, so it is a message of hope."

The Very Rev Witcombe said he believed the cathedral was "the best thing about Coventry".

He said: "I hope nobody will be offended by saying that. This cathedral is the iconic building of the city, everybody knows the story, people come here for all sorts of different occasions, but this is the heart of it really."

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