Yesterday the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales, unveiled the new memorial to the RAF’s Bomber Command of World War Two. The memorial, in London’s Green Park, contains a centrepiece statue of Bomber crewmembers, surrounded by a Portland Stone structure. Part of the roof is constructed from metal rescued from a crashed Halifax Bomber, recovered in Belgium.
The ceremony was attended by many veterans of Bomber Command, who of course are now well into their 80’s and 90’s. The event was also marked by an RAF Flypast, including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight‘s Lancaster Bomber – the only surviving flying Lancaster in Britain – dropping thousands of Poppies.
Several years ago I wrote about the injustices that Bomber Command and its veterans have suffered since the end of the Second World War. While the few of the Battle of Britain have been feted, the history of the many of Bomber Command has been largely hushed up out of political expediency.
After the end of the war, the fear of images of wrecked german cities such as Dresden led the authorities – Winston Churchill among them – to unofficially cover-up the role of Bomber Command during the Second World War. Yet more than 55,000 men of Bomber Command were killed on operations – thats around half of all who flew in Bombers. Bomber Command suffered higher losses than any other comparable Command in the British armed forces during the whole war. And while the Battle of Britain raged for several months during the summer and early Autumn of 1940, Bombing raids on Germany and occupied Europe took place from September 1939 until April 1945, only weeks before the end of the war.
I’ve always felt very strongly about the perils of post-modernist history. In a sense, those of us who did not live through the traumatic period 1939 to 1945 should not be able to understand completely what it was like for young men to go up into the skies of Europe night after night as they did. We can’t. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t at least try to form a grasp on what they experienced. And even more so, we shouldn’t try and airbrush parts of history just because they seem slightly unpalatable in the present – we are robbing future generations of their heritage.
I suppose a modern comparison would be the role of the British Army in Northern Ireland. As Ken Wharton‘s books have so eloquently shown us, the role of the British squaddie was a thankless task. Cast into a no-win situation, the British Army was effectively a sitting target for the various bands of terrorists and lawless thugs in the province. Although the British Army in Northern Ireland was often called an occupying force by the nationalist communities, it is usually conveniently forgotten that the Army was deployed to keep the pease after loyalists began targeting nationalists. No violence, no Army.
Yet as soon as the peace process gathered momentum, the role of the Army became marginalised. Instead, current affairs in Northern Ireland revolve around former hard-liners such as Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley, people who, in their own ways, did much to whip up and perpetuate the firestorm that the Army found itself in. Remembering he role of the Army would of course be embarassing to an ex IRA commander turned politician, so for the present, at least, it is consigned to the shadows.
It’s marvellous to see such a fine memorial being unveiled to the thousands of young men of Bomber Command, and I’m sure that it will become a well-known landmark in London.
- RAF Bomber Command memorial poppy drop seen from the air – Telegraph.co.uk (telegraph.co.uk)
- Robin Gibb campaigned for Bomber Command memorial (itv.com)
- Memorial to Bomber Command unveiled (radionz.co.nz)
- Queen unveils WW II Bomber Command memorial (cbc.ca)
- In pictures: Bomber Command Memorial (itv.com)
- Queen to unveil bomber memorial (bbc.co.uk)
- Every RAF Bomber Command base in England mapped (telegraph.co.uk)
- Queen unveils Bomber Command memorial in London (itv.com)
- Royals’ salute to Bomber Command (express.co.uk)
- Queen to honour WWII Bomber Command airmen (itv.com)
- Lancaster drops payload of poppies as Queen unveils Bomber Command memorial (dailymail.co.uk)
- Survivors of Bomber Command to be honoured by Queen (canada.com)
- Why we owe our freedom to the Bomber Command heroes (express.co.uk)
- Queen Elizabeth unveils Bomber Command memorial (examiner.com)
- Bomber Command Memorial unveiled in London (upi.com)
- RAF Bomber Command Memorial: After 67 years, the sacrifice of 55,000 airmen is honoured (telegraph.co.uk)
- Veterans see Queen unveil £7m Bomber Command Memorial (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Stunning images and video as Bomber Command veterans file in for the unveiling of memorial in Green Park (standard.co.uk)
- Queen to Unveil Memorial for Bomber Command (abcnews.go.com)
- Bomber Command memorial unveiled in UK (news.smh.com.au)
- Skies of London Turn Red As Bomber Command Honoured (thedailybeast.com)
- Bomber Command tribute airlifted (bbc.co.uk)
- RAF Bomber Command deserves to be remembered – with honesty | Richard Overy (guardian.co.uk)
- Queen unveils WWII bomber memorial (abc.net.au)
- Finally we honour the bravest of the brave: Queen arrives for unveiling of Bomber Command memorial 67 years after the end of World War Two (dailymail.co.uk)
- War Dead From Bomber Command Remembered (news.sky.com)