The British airlift system operated from several airports in the Hamburg area flying south-east through the northern corridor into Berlin, to RAF Gatow in the British Sector. Returning aircraft used the centre corridor, turning for home around Hamburg or landing at Hannover.
When the Soviets decided on a punitive ground action they selected the airfields around Hannover as targets. Tank and mechanized divisions crossed from the Soviet occupation zone and drove across the flat terrain of the Hannover Plain.
Britain maintained only two divisions in Germany at the time, with individual units quartered all across the British zone. The 7th Armoured Division – the ‘Desert Rats’ – were closest and scrambled to organize and load fighting vehicles before heading out to stop the Soviet thrusts. The ‘Desert Rats’ sought to buy time for the arrival of brigades from the 2nd Infantry Division.
Both sides were equipped with a mix of World War II and brand new fighting vehicles. The British ended the war with their best tank – the Comet - just coming into the service. These were now being replaced by the Centurion and the very latest Mark 3 carried a 20pdr (84mm) gun. The Soviets were in the midst of introducing a new organization for their forces in Germany, creating modern tank and mechanized divisions. Just coming into service was the T-54, armed with a 100m gun.
[With acknowledgements to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Blockade]
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