"I suppose it was a most poignant moment for me. Having served with the RAF during the war, I attended a service at St Clement Danes, the RAF church in central London, some 20 years ago where the Queen unveiled the statue of Sir Arthur Harris – Bomber Harris as he is usually labelled. That event was accompanied by jeering protesters whose unapologetic cry was: “Harris was a war
I was both shocked and surprised at the outburst of venom against Sir Arthur Harris. The raucous tones pierced like shrapnel. As a non-believer, I had come to that church two decades ago simply to salute comrades who had been among the 55,573 bomber crewmen killed as they flew to counter-blitz Nazi Germany. That was 44.4 per cent of Bomber Command’s entire aircrew force of 125,000. Were we war criminals, simply obeying orders regardless? Was the whole thing an astronomical waste of lives, British and German? Could it be that some of our fellow citizens actually regarded our war-time service as an act of murder?
Many of my fellow RAF mates, like me, were committed socialists. So was everything we did in dropping bombs on German towns, cities as well as specific military targets an unpardonable debasing of our socialism? Had we simply conformed by obeying orders? More to the point, I wondered those 20 years back, did these protesters believe there was an alternative, apart from surrender? Were we being accused, by definition, of being accomplices simply by obeying orders from this man Harris – whom some of our crews used to label “Butcher Harris”?
In fact, was the entire Bomber Command an army of “war criminals” submissive to leaders such as Harris? Such were the reflections which, inevitably, sifted through my mind during that St Clement Danes Church service two decades ago.
All of which tended to emerge again, recently, when the same Queen, 20 years older, unveiled the magnificent, long overdue, monument to Bomber Command on the edge of London’s Hyde Park.
Except, this time there were no protesters crying out “murderers”. Check out rest of article here.