This is a gripping account of the ill-fated RAF raid on May 3, 1944, on the Panzer tank depot and military barracks at Mailly-le-Camp south of Rheims in northern France, part of the softening up process on German military targets, in preparation for the D-Day landings. Raids like this over occupied France were considered relatively low risk affairs and only counted for one third of a mission for the crews concerned. In total, 362 RAF bombers, Lancasters, Mosquitoes and Halifax, from bases in England took part in a raid and although no-one involved anticipated disaster, 42 Lancasters never returned home. Almost incredibly, those who planned the attack were apparently unaware that four German night fighter bases were located nearby. Luftwaffe fighters wreaked havoc on the bombers as they circled a marker in bright moonlight awaiting the order to attack their target.
This is the story of that battle, bitterly contested and ever-remembered by those who were engaged, one among hundreds that were fought in the skies over Europe between the RAF's bombers and the Luftwaffe's night-fighters in the course of World War II. It lasted less than 60 minutes but cost 255 lives.