I make no apology for the timing of this piece, it’s quite deliberate and something that I’ve wanted to say for a long, long time.
I have heard many calls over the past few years for Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force in the 2nd World War to be regarded as War Criminals, in particular, their leader Sir Arthur (Bomber) Harris.
Well I for one don’t agree with that sentiment on any level. War is a dirty business, kill or be killed. One cannot sit in the comfort of one’s centrally heated home/office and condemn the actions of heroes from a different generation, unless you were there. If a survivor from Bomber Command were to pitch up and say “we were War Criminals, we don’t deserve our medals etc” I would listen to him. I still might not agree with him but I would afford him the respect of listening to him. Anybody else doesn’t have the right to make that accusation in my humble opinion.
A few startling statistics might help put things into perspective;
56% of Bomber Command were either killed in the air or died from injuries received.
12% ended up as Prisoners of War.
Only 14% survived being shot down.
Only 27% survived the war unscathed.
In total, 55,573 were killed with an average age of just 22.
During the course of World War Two, personnel from Bomber Command were awarded 19 Victoria Crosses, 9 of them posthumously.
Aircrews had a 1 in 4 chance of surviving a tour of 30 missions.
The life expectancy of a bomber aircraft was just 13 missions.
All of the men who flew with Bomber Command were volunteers
Bomber Command lost more men in one night, during a raid over Nuremberg in March 1944, than died in the entire Battle of Britain.
So don’t tell me that these boys were War Criminals, they were heroes every one of them and thoroughly deserve their magnificent memorial in London.
Last night was the anniversary of the famous Dambusters Raid On the night of May 16th, 1943, nineteen Lancaster bombers took off from Scampton in Lincolnshire. The bombs were 50 inches in diameter, 60 inches long and weighed 9250 lbs. Of this weight, 6,600 lbs was powerful RDX explosive. The bombs were not easy to deliver and the crews had to release the bomb while flying at exactly 220 mph and at a height of exactly 60 feet above the water. If the Lancaster was forced into a tight turn at this height, one of its wing tips would barely be above the surface of the water. Precision flying at its best was needed just to get the bomb in motion. To add to the difficulties, the crew had to drop the bomb at exactly 425 yards from the dam wall. There could only be 25 yards either side of this figure
Dambusters: All the brave men who took part (click here to see the fate of all those brave young men who flew this mission)
Now does anyone want to talk to me about War Criminals?
As an amusing postscript, Mrs Angry and I were on holiday in Sardinia one year and it became apparent that were the only English people in this particular resort. Anyway, one evening we were engaged in conversation by about 4 German couples who forced us to drink immense quantities of wine with them, taught us the meaning or Vorsprung Durch Technic and at the end of the evening bade us goodnight with that immortal line “You bombed our chip shop”, proof if any were needed that a) Germans can be generous, b) These particular Germans were not judgemental and c) they had a good sense of humour.