Bitter-sweet memories of Berlin Airlift

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For David Edwards, a veteran of the Berlin Airlift, there is one memory that sums up the contradictions faced by Allied forces struggling to supply a city they had recently tried to wipe off the map.

He and his unit had saved their sweet rations and were holding a Christmas party for local Berlin children. As he lifted a young boy onto a chair, he saw the boy only had one arm.

With a sickening flash he realised that only three years earlier the allies had bombed the very people they were now trying to save.

Three years after the end of World War II, Joseph Stalin had drawn the Iron Curtain across Europe, leaving western-occupied West Berlin isolated deep in Russian-controlled East Germany.

In an attempt to expel the western powers from the city, Stalin shut all supply routes except for three narrow air corridors.

The allies responded by launching a ceaseless procession of cargo planes to feed, heat and clothe the two million people of West Berlin. The operation that became known as the Berlin Airlift lasted over a year and cost 39 British lives.

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