At 9.15 p.m. on Tuesday, 13 February 1945, Dresden’s air-raid sirens sounded as they had done many times in the previous five years, until then almost always in false alarm. By the next morning, 796 RAF Lancasters and 311 USAAF Liberators had dropped more than 4500 tons of high explosives and incendiary devices. More than 25,000 inhabitants (possibly many more) perished in the terrifying firestorm, and thirteen square miles of the city’s historic centre, including quantities of treasure and works of art, lay in ruins. It was Ash Wednesday, 1945. Almost a lifetime later, the name of the city continues to echo uneasily in our collective memory, and controversy about Dresden’s destruction persists. In this fascinating and meticulous new study, Frederick Taylor has intensively researched the German, British and American archives, and talked to the allied air crew and to the city’s survivors – whether Jews working as slave labourers in the munitions and radar factories, refugees, members of the German armed services, or civilians – to reveal the most complete portrait of the city and its fate ever attempted.