Why no Bomber Command Memorial?

I’ve just read an interesting article on the Today section of the BBC News website.

The infamous Bomber raid on Dresden took place 65 years ago this weekend. At least 25,000 people died in the devestating attacks on the city. The raid was carried out largely at the request of Stalin, but the scale of destruction – despite the city’s status as a munitions and transport hub – led to much controversery, particularly after the war. Dresden is still debated to this day.

More than 55,000 men of Bomber Command lost their lives in the Second World War. Despite this, and the crucial role they played in the war effort, they received no campaign medal, despite the fact that the Bomber Offensive was very much a distinct campaign. Sir Arthur Harris did not receive the peerage that many of his counterparts and superiors were awarded. It was not until 1992 that a statue of Bomber Harris was unveiled in London. Even then, it has suffered problem from vandalism.

But that lack of recognition is set to change. 65 years after the end of the war, plans are advanced for a permanent memorial to the brave air crews of Bomber Command, in Green park in the centre of London.

But why has it taken so long? One Bomber Command Veteran, Andy Wiseman, now 87, has a very interesting perpective:

‘”I think at one time bomber Command were the blue eyes of the war… Churchill’s Blue Orchids we were called at one time. I think it was Dresden which did destroy churches and museums inter alia and the German propaganda and there are far too man revisionist historians floating about. They should have been in Coventry in the 40s; they should have been in Auschwitz in the 40s, rather than in the cloistered peace of the universities. We don’t claim we’ve done necessarily more than other people, but we’ve certainly done as much as other people and to see a memorial to the women of Britain going up in Whitehall – bless them, I’m sure they played their part. But they didn’t play as much as a part as Bomber Command.”

Wiseman’s point of view does seem to fit in with the historiography. During the war it was fahionable to complement the Bombers, but as soon as peace reigned it became an unpleasant part of the war that politicians and historians felt convenient to forget, ignore and denigrate. Many historians have argued that the Bomber offensive was not as effective as we have been told. But that is besides the point. Bomber Command lost more men than any other comparable armed forces command during the war. While ships and armies fought battles in short sharp bursts, the Bombers went out into the skies over Europe night after night. Theirs was a war like no other. Bombers were about much more than the Dambusters.

My own research into Portsmouths war dead shows the scale of losses. Hundreds of men from Portsmouth died flying in Bombers, in hundreds of aircraft, over targets in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Norway, in the North Sea and in the English Channel. They are buried in hundreds of cemeteries and churchyards all over Europe. Its unacceptable that their contribution to the war effort has gone unrecognised just because it has been convenient for politicians to forget them and for Historians to denigrate them. By comparison, there are plenty of memorials out there to Fighter Command. There are plenty of Spitfires and Hurricanes still airworthy, there is only one flying Lancaster in the UK. Their part in the war was crucial too, but numerically in terms of losses and aircraft, it was much smaller. Yet history seems to have treated Fighter Command far kinder.

Approximately £1.5million has been raised so far, out of the £4million required. The Memorial Fund hope to see the memorial unveiled in March 2011.

Further Information about the Bomber Command Memorial can be found here.



Filed under Royal Air Force, World War Two

14 responses to “Why no Bomber Command Memorial?

  1. Hello
    Our association AAA GROUPES LOURDS is dedicated to the memory of french veterans of Sq 346 and 347 RAF who were the only 2 french squadrons in Bomber Command based in Elvington Yorkshire May 44/Oct 45
    my blog in french is paulbogaert.wordpress.com
    another blog by one of our members
    http://halifax346et347.canalblog.com/ (in french)
    We have a monument at Grandcamp-Maisy in Normandy and also in Elvington Yorkshire
    Will read with interest your blog

  2. Tom Proudfoot

    I think the Germans have a cheek objecting to a memorial to Bomber Command. After all they strated it, no they didn’t yes they did they invaded Poland lmao

  3. James Daly

    I find it very hard to argue with Bomber Harris when he said:

    “The Germans started this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and no one was going to bomb them. They gave sowed the wind, let them reap the whirlwind”

    At the risk of sounding like an ‘eye for an eye’ warmonger, in war you shouldn’t do anything that you wouldn’t we prepared to take on the chin yourself. I know some people say – rather naively – that two wrongs dont make a right, but one wrong ignored is better than one wrong left ignored. Its called consequences.

    Mind you, ordinary people suffered the most in strategic bombing in the war – British, German, Japanese, and all manner of other nationalities. Any memorial should be a reminder to never let those circumstances happen again where action like that is needed.

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