I feel today having spent more than 50 years researching and writing about Bomber Command in WWII that we have with the desecration of the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park made a giant step backwards.
When I began my research, the part that Bomber Command played in winning the war in Europe was not thought of in the same way as other campaigns and not to be spoken of too highly.
As the years went on, things started to change. People could read and see how much they had contributed. But today, it seems we are back where we started.
I have a very good friend in Eastbourne, who will be 95 next birthday. He flew 47 operations as a mid-upper gunner with Bomber Command. He does not want to be thought of as a hero but to be appreciated for what he did to prevent the UK along with Europe being taken over by Hitler’s Nazi regime. The consequences of this happening cannot be comprehended.
How he must feel today I am not sure but wondering if his service and the great losses of 57,000 were worth it.
I attended the unveiling of the memorial in 2012 and sat with many thousands of Bomber Command veterans who felt at last we have been recognised, many passed on before seeing this and always felt in some ways that they came out of WWII as criminals.
Over the years I spent in research, I met and became good friends with Sir Arthur Harris who was the CinC of Bomber Command from 1942 to 1945. He told me many times and in his after dinner speeches at Bomber Command dinners ‘War is totally immoral but when you are in such a war as WWII you have to make sure you do not lose’.
This campaign against Bomber Command began in 1945 when the Labour Party came into power.
During WWII Churchill’s deputy as Prime Minister was Clem Attlee, and when in 1945 a list of targets was drawn up by the Air Ministry, not Harris I hasten. Berlin was top and Dresden second on this list of targets to be attacked. With Churchill being out of the country, it was Attlee who gave Harris the order to bomb Dresden. So like all people in the services when you are given an order you have to carry it out.
When the war ended in May 1945, Churchill drew up a list of senior commanders in WWII to be made Lords which many were such as Montgomery. On this list, Harris but by the time it came to submission Labour were in power and Attlee PM and Harris’ name omitted from the list when Churchill asked Attlee why he was told I did not agree with the bombing campaign and will not submit Harris‘s name forward and so the seed was set people latched on to the fact that Harris and Bomber Command were not thought of in the same way as having played a great part in the victory in Europe.
Today having with my books played some part in making sure that what they had done to bring this victory was there for all to read I feel very sad, they deserved so much more not even a medal but again far to late a small insignificant clasp with Bomber Command on it was all they got.
RAF Historian and Author
Bakers Farm Park,