Education Plan KS3

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Soldiers in Trenches

Dear Teacher

Thank you for choosing to teach your young students about the Berlin Airlift. We hope that these lesson plans will engage and inform your students, whilst creating some lively debate around an often forgotten but incredibly important chapter of Cold War History.

You’ll see that the pack contains 5 Activity Sheets and 1 Operational Log. Each individual two-sided activity sheet folds out to contain: briefing notes, headline facts, photographs, maps, discussion points and eye-witness statements. The Operational Log contains the actual tasks that each student will need to complete and should be returned at the end of the session. These resources have been created with exam syllabi in mind and offer an interesting and alternative way for GCSE teachers to deliver the topic of the Berlin Airlift.

Whilst this pack is a self-contained educational resource, there is much additional online material available to yourself and your students. During the course of this Heritage Lottery funded project, we filmed interviews with over 50 British Veterans of the Berlin Airlift - which can all be accessed via our website. You can also access additional photographs and other items of personal memorabilia, which you might like to incorporate into your lesson plans.

Legasee is a charity - our founding constitution is to advance the education of the public in the subject and effects of military activity, and to promote the conservation of records of Veterans personal experiences and comment for future public benefit. We currently have over 150 interviews with veterans ranging in age and involvement from WWII to Afghanistan.

Many thanks,

Martin Bisiker
Trustee and Founder
Legasee Educational Trust

Soldiers in Photo

Activity Sheet 01

Was Churchill right in saying,
“He that controls Berlin, controls Europe”?

Briefing notes
The surrender of Germany marked the end of the Second World War and the beginning of a new period in Germany’s history. The four main allied powers (the British, French, Soviets and Americans) were wary of a German resurgence and all agreed at the Yalta Conference in 1945 to temporarily divide Germany. Each of these post-war powers were granted their own zone of occupation. Despite being located within the Soviet zone, Berlin as the capital of Germany, was also split into four sectors.

Directing Air Traffic

An uneasy alliance

The division of Germany was supposedly a temporary measure, but the differing thinking of the Allied Powers meant that Germany soon found itself divided into a West and East Germany. All parties agreed that Germany owed them compensation for the war. It was how this compensation should be paid that differed.

Dividing Berlin
There were three key reasons for this:
1. Reparations vs. Aid

Stalin, the Soviet leader, believed that keeping Germany weak would prevent a further uprising and stripping their resources would ensure they suffered.

The Americans and the British believed that a peaceful Germany would ensure prosperity, heal the rifts and provide an opportunity to financially compensate for the war.

2. Growing suspicion

Soon after the division the Allied Powers sensed that Stalin wanted to expand Soviet power and his ideal of communism. Moreover economic disputes began to emerge concerning how goods were traded between the four German zones.

The Western Powers felt that the Soviets were becoming increasingly secretive about trade in the region.

3. The consolidation of Western Powers

As the political divides between the Soviet and the West deepened, there was increasing co-operation between the French, British and Americans. At the London Conference in 1948, the three countries agreed to unify their German zones and introduce a new currency.

Berlin destroyed

Over stepping the mark

The creation of a unified West Germany with its own currency was the final straw for Stalin. In retaliation and in an attempt to remove the Allies from Berlin, he began restricting Western transport to the city.

When the new currency was launched on June 20th 1948, Stalin responded by implementing a total blockade on all Western transport to Berlin. The roads, the railways and the rivers were closed.

This created a dilemma for the thousands of Western troops stationed in Berlin.

Could the Allies supply their own garrisons? And what about the 2.1 million citizens of Berlin? On the 24th of June and following some hastily prepared calculations by Air Commodore Reginald Waite, the decision was made to try and supply the city via the only route still available, the air.

There were three main airports within the allied controlled areas:

1. Gatow (British)
2. Tegel (French)
3. Tempelhof (American)

These three air corridors were the routes used to supply Berlin

For your task, consult
Lesson 1
on your
Search Icon Operational Log

Eye Witness

Jean Eastham

Staff Sergeant with the Auxiliary Territorial Service

“It was a Sunday morning so we thought we’d have a walk out, we only got a few yards down the road and there were Frauleins

coming towards us and they started spitting at us so I said about turn and we went back to camp”

Laurence Kennedy


“We went into Hamburg on the train and there wasn’t a building standing... it was a shock to the system, I mean as a Londoner I saw London being bombed but,

it was nothing like Hamburg... I couldn’t see how anybody survived in Hamburg it was horrific”

Alan Johnson

Worked at the Berlin air safety centre

“I would feel sad when I would see elderly ladies with tiny wooden trolleys with handles

collecting bricks from the rubble and taking them away and clearing them up”


Stat 1

British troops
in Berlin

2.1 million civilians

Stat 2
Stat 3

Airmen were instructed to pack for 10 days

Stat 4

tons of salt was required to give each person a pinch

15 tons of aviation fuel used to carry 3,000 tons of coal

Stat 5

1,700 calories per day for Berliners to survive on
McDonald’s-Big Mac Meal = 990 calories

Stat 5

Activity Sheet 02

Mission Impossible?

How to keep a city of 2.1 million people alive from the air?

Briefing notes
President Truman of the United States was adamant he wouldn’t leave Berlin to the Russians and agreed to put all his country’s efforts into forming a viable airlift organisation. The British Government felt that the Russian blockade was simply a demonstration of its power and the situation would be back to normal in a few days. The challenge of supplying a city via three narrow air corridors, just 20 miles wide, had begun.

Plane on water

More questions than answers

Ensuring that everyone had enough food to survive was only part of the problem. The Allied forces had to make sure that Berlin’s population could keep warm in the winter and that the city’s factories had the raw materials to keep manufacturing goods.

The British and Americans had to calculate how many tons of fuel, food and other supplies Berlin needed and how many planes would be required to fly it in. Prioritising this was not an easy task. Officials had to take into account a variety of factors such as the number of calories a person can survive on, how much coal should go to a family versus a factory and what items might impact upon public morale.

Loading coal onto a hastings

Some goods such as coal and machinery were heavy to transport. Others such as petrol or salt were dangerous to carry. Frozen food was also a challenge because of temperature changes in flight.

Evacuated children

The return leg out of Berlin also posed similar challenges. How long should a plane be kept on the tarmac? The sooner it was airborne, the sooner it could return with useful goods. But manufactured goods and the sick needed to leave the city. Read the eye witness accounts to find out more about the cargos transported on the airlift.

No bottled milk Directing air traffic
Poem by Pilot Alexander McLeish

For your task, consult
Lesson 2
on your
Search Icon Operational Log

Eye Witness

Dr. Joyce Hargrave-Wright

Recalls some of the more unusual loads she charted in her role with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

“And on the thousandth load which I believe was also coal, part of the load was contraceptives, I was one of the

very few that ever knew this and in fact it used to surprise people when I told them years later”

Bill Campbell

Loading Supervisor based at Wunstorf

“...We were told in no uncertain terms that we either had to do the loading of the plane perfectly or we were in trouble ... you’d have a court marshal and the

charge would be manslaughter.. anyway with due reverence to these rules ... you went off to load on your first aeroplane”

Pilot Dick Arscott

Recalling some of the things he carried out of Berlin

“We were taking out pianos and electronics and things like that ... but the main thing of course was bringing the elderly and the

youngsters and people who had medical difficulties and that was sad”


Stat 7

19 types of different aircraft used on the Airlift

It took 90 days to build the runway at Tegal

Stat 8
Stat 9

Civilian airlines were in sole charge of transporting liquid fuel

Stat 10

Number of days it took to calculate the entire operational plan

Stat 10

Weight saved by carrying dried potatoes over whole

Activity Sheet 03

Action Stations

What was life like in the world’s busiest airport?

Briefing notes
Within weeks of the airlift starting, Gatow airport was receiving a thousand tons of supplies per day. As the airlift continued, new systems were introduced and efficiency improved. As it did, the daily tonnage increased to almost thirteen thousand tons. With aircraft landing and departing the runway every three minutes, Gatow became the busiest airport in the world. Uniquely, Air Traffic Controllers were also in charge of the flight paths of the Sunderland flying boats onto the River Havel. Situated a few miles to the West of the main airport, these flying planes were used to transport in salt which was corrosive to other aircraft.

Action Stations

EThe huge amount of air traffic and the limited space at Gatow, meant that aircraft had to be turned around as quickly as possible. During their time on the ground they needed to be unloaded, reloaded and checked that they were safe to fly. It was a team operation and in the early days air traffic controllers, loaders and aircraft engineers worked long shifts.

Behind the scenes an army of people ensured that the hundreds of employed people could eat, sleep, repair and recuperate.

And it worked. Aircraft were instructed to keep to very specific heights and speeds and would have to pass over radar beacons along their flight paths at an allotted time. Pilots were then requested to slow or accelerate so that they could land in a continuous stream. Once on the ground the loaders and unloaders had mastered their crafts and a Dakota could be unloaded in just enough time for the pilot and his crew to grab a cup of tea before making the return journey. Think about the number of people required to keep an airport operational.

Some of the operational roles carried out at raf gatow, berlin:

Teleprinter Op

Wireless Op

Flight Navigator

Flight Engineer


Radar Mechanic


Engine Fitter


Loading Supervisor


Air Despatch

Airframe Mechanic

Technical Adjutant



General Electrician


Radio Officer



Pay Clerk



GCA Unit
(Ground Controlled Approach)

Air Traffic Controller

RAF Police

Air Safety Control

Airfield Security


German exports Evacuated children Loading flying boat
Detailed entries on pilot John Eddy’s log book

For your task, consult
Lesson 3
on your
Search Icon Operational Log

Eye Witness

Albert Kingham

Cadet for the Air Training Corps

“About 20 miles out, you used to contact the Berlin authorities, tell them what you were carrying so that when you landed, almost

before the wheels had stopped turning, there were lorries alongside”

Terry Crowley

Aircraft Engine Fitter at RAF Uetersen

“The displaced persons were the poor people who had been ejected from their countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia and so on. They did all sorts of jobs.

They worked in HQ as office staff, lots of motor mechanics, lots of cleaners, as I mentioned. It kept them fully employed”

Alan Johnson

Worked in the Berlin Air Safety Centre

“We were detailing all the flights in and out of Gatow. We had a card and we noted the type of aircraft, the call sign, the pilot and what it was carrying and

when we had got the complete flight coming in or going out we would hand the card to Russians who were sitting as close to me as you are now”


1,398 flights in 24 hours,
carrying 12,940 tons of coal

Stat 12
Stat 13

Time taken to unload a Dakota

Stat 14

18,205,284 miles flown by RAF - equivalent to 732 times around the world

Stat 15

Allied supply plane took off or landed in West Berlin every 30 seconds

Stat 14

15 mins - time allocated for an engineer to check over an aircraft

Activity Sheet 04

What price success?

What were the impacts of the airlift?

Briefing notes
On the 12th of May 1949, the Soviets lifted the blockade without comment. There was no singing or dancing in the streets. The first lorries came into the city draped with banners and garlands and raised the odd cheer. There were no festivities at the airlift stations to mark the victory. Normal routines continued for the air and ground crews who were instructed to stockpile food and fuel supplies.
The Airlift had succeeded but at what cost? The Russians, former allies during the war, were now the enemy.

GCA Commadore Rex

The Airlift had a number of political, economic and military impacts:

1. Air traffic control systems were greatly improved in airports all around the world thanks to procedures developed by the Allied Air Forces during the Airlift.

2. Thousands moved from East Berlin to the wealthier West Berlin. This eventually resulted in the Berlin Wall being built.

3. The economic gap between East and West Berlin became more evident as West Berlin continued to prosper under the Marshall Plan.

4. Stalin’s plan to spread communism throughout Europe was contained.

5. Europe was now divided between the capitalist and democratic West and the communist East.

6. Germany was divided into two countries. The Western “Federal Republic of Germany” and the Eastern “German Democratic Republic”.

7. Berlin continued to be governed by four powers.

8. Western Europe was unified by the Soviet threat.

9. The Berlin Airlift marked the start of the Cold War; a state of tension and distrust between Soviet and Western powers which lasted until 1991.

10. Political relations deteriorated between the Soviets and the West.

11. The Soviets tested their first atomic bomb in August 1949. The Arms Race began.

12. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was created in 1949. This committed the USA to defending Europe against the Soviets.

13. In 1954 the Soviets formed the Warsaw Pact which combined the military power of all communist states in Europe.

14. In its campaign to stop the spread of communism, the USA became involved in wars in Korea and Vietnam.

Sunderland Buoy Dakota Fuel

For your task, consult
Lesson 4
on your
Search Icon Operational Log

Eye Witness

Fred Danckwardt

Station Intelligence and Security Officer at Gatow Airport

“We thought it was going to go on for a long time and it suddenly stopped. You know, quick as that. I think Stalin had realised that we weren’t going

to be beaten and of course he was losing face. We were feeding Berlin and we were starting small industries there as well. Which was important”

Alec Chambers

Air Refuelling

“I think most of us came to terms it was something worthwhile doing that we were you know helping Berliners and it was a

stand against the communists who had we backed out of Berlin would have gone as far as the English Channel”

Leo Hatcher

Rigger on the Sunderland flying boats

“You could see the Russian post down the road, and say we’ve got a Russian soldier here, he’s absolutely drunk come and fetch him. And they did with a pick

up truck. One shot him in the head, one shot him in the chest and they drove off, just like that. Pretty horrific.”


Stat 17

Airlift delivered
tons of goods

Stat 18

Cost of the airlift to the UK

Stat 19

Approximately 40,000 Nuclear bombs existed in 1986

Stat 20

Winston Churchill coined the phrase Iron Curtain in 1946

Stat 21

1949 - the year NATO was formed to defend Europe against Russia

Activity Sheet 05

A New Dawn

Was the Berlin Airlift a Humanitarian Act or the First Battle of the Cold War?

Briefing notes
Opinions vary about the motives of the Western forces in setting up the airlift. It’s undeniable that they had their own troops to protect but sustaining 2500 people was a very different prospect to feeding and fuelling a city of 2.1 million. The Uk was itself in a post-war recession with food rations, a cruel winter and a poor harvest doing little to bolster morale or a feeling of sentiment towards the Germans. And in America, President Truman’s aspirations to break his country’s isolationism were treated with suspicion by congress which was reflected in the opinion polls. On paper an airlift might be possible but at what cost? Were the Allies trying to save the city’s desperate citizens from starvation or was the it a political tactic to stem Stalin’s advancing Soviet power?


Fundamentally the Western Allies and Stalin had two opposing ideas on War Reparations. The Russian concept was to strip the Germans of their natural resources and ensure that the nation suffered. The Allies felt that stability and a manufacturing base would enable the country to start paying back the enormous financial cost of the war.

Facing down the Russians would be a huge gamble because their forces were massively outnumbered, but still they decided to press ahead with a new currency. This was the final straw for Stalin who closed all routes into Berlin.

The Russians didn’t conceive that an Airlift would work but 10 months later and following a mild winter, they conceded defeat and re-opened rail, river and road routes into the city.

They might have lost the battle of wills but there were now other ways to win a war. In August 1949 the Russians tested their first nuclear weapon.

United States Air Force monitoring of Russian acts of aggression
Atom blast Yalta

The Yalta Conference held in February 1945, was the WWII meeting of the heads of the the UK, USA and Russia. It’s aim was to establish a new European order once the war had ended. Many items were tacitly agreed but within a year relations between Russia and the Western Allies had all but disintegrated.

Within a year of the Yalta Conference relations between Russia and the Western allies had all but disintegrated.

Across the bulk of Eastern Europe a secret police force was seeking out and silencing opponents of Communism. The effect was to create a protective barrier around Russia should war break out again.

Sir Winston Churchill’s quote at Fulton in May 1946 spelt out British mistrust of Stalin, “From Stettin in the North to Trieste in the South an Iron Curtain has descended over Europe”.

Romania - 1946 the Communists won the election

Poland - Non-communist leaders were killed and in 1947 they won a sham election with 400 of the possible 450 votes.

Hungary - Despite winning only 17% of the vote, Communists held all positions of power in the Government.

Bulgaria - Another election with a landslide victory to the Communists.

Greece - Attempted Communist take-over lasting 4 years.

For your task, consult
Lesson 5
on your
Search Icon Operational Log

Eye Witness

Freddie Montgomery

Served with the Women’s Royal Army Corps at HQ Schlottenburg

“They had a lot of hope for a new start, as long as we stayed, their one big fear was that we would

be driven out and the Russians would take over the whole city”

Air Marshall Sir John Curtis

A Flight Navigator with 59 Squadron

“We brought out anything that was manufactured in Berlin, to keep the Berlin factories going and the people employed... I remember, light bulbs as a

matter of interest. And we took out children, too, as many as possible, and anybody who was ill or needed special treatment”

Dick Arscott

Flew with 46 Squadron

“The Russians used to buzz us and I was attacked by a Yak that went over the top of me at about I don’t know about 20 feet, 30 feet and I happened to see that he was coming round for a 3rd

attack from about 11 o’clock so I decided that I’d had enough of this and I turned the aircraft straight into him and it was a matter of chicken and luckily he was the one that opted out”


Stat 22

2,500 British Troops in Berlin
300,000 Russians surrounding them

Stat 23

25 British Airlines took part in the airlift

Stat 24

25.06.1948 - the day the Deutsche Mark was introduced

Stat 25

Only 4,000 of the city’s 125,000 street lights worked

Stat 26

39 - British Servicemen were killed


Activity 01

Task: Look at this map. Annotate onto it the approaches that each country had towards their zone in Germany and why relations between Russia and the Western Allies broke down.

Activity Map 1

Take it further: Clement Attlee was Britain’s Prime Minister during 1948. He was faced with three choices when Stalin blockaded land and water access to Berlin. In the boxes below detail the pros and cons of these three options.


Supply the Berliners by air?

Hand over the city of Berlin to the Soviets?

Military action against the Soviets?

Activity 02

Task: Imagine that you are working for the Armed Forces. Your job is to decide what cargo should be flown out on the next Sunderland flying boat. Using the information presented in the activity sheet and the cargo list shown here, decide which cargo you will take.

Activity 2

Take it further:
Which items did you think were the most and least important to transport? Write a paragraph explaining your decisions.


Activity 03

Task: Looking at the list of jobs on the activity sheet imagine you are working at Gatow airport. Pick a job role and write a diary entry describing your typical day. Include descriptions of your work, how you felt at the time and describe some of the challenges you faced.

Take it further:
Who do you think had the toughest job at Gatow? Write a brief paragraph to justify your decision.

Activity 04

Task: Arrange the impacts listed on the activity sheet onto the graph below. Think carefully about the scale of each impact and how long it lasted.


Take it further:
Pick three impacts from your graph. Write a paragraph to explain why you placed them where you did.

Activity 05

Task: Arrange the impacts listed on the activity sheet onto the graph below. Think carefully about the scale of each impact and how long it lasted.

Two Columns

Take it further:
Decide which opinion you agree with. Prepare a short speech for a debate on this issue. Outline your evidence and explain why you think the opposing viewpoint is incorrect. You can use this writing frame to help you plan your speech:

I think that the Airlift was a humanitarian/political mission

My second reason for holding this opinion is...

My third reason for holding this opinion is...

I do not agree with the point of view that the Airlift was humanitarian/political mission because...