View Full Version : Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris - Butch or Butcher?

3rd Dec 2009, 07:43
In his BBC TV series The Making of Modern Britain, Andrew Marr last night referred to ACM Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris with the alternative moniker ‘Butcher’. I’d always thought the nickname coined for him by his men in Bomber Command was actually ‘Butch’ – which, in the 1940s, didn’t have the connotations it has today, but simply meant vigorous or forceful.

So, is the pejorative ‘Butcher’ label wrong? I recall Bomber Command veterans a few years back complaining about a Canadian TV documentary that had played on it to discredit Harris and the RAF bombing campaign: they insisted he had simply been known to them, respectfully, as ‘Butch’.

Can any ex-Bomber Command folks confirm the facts?

Hugh Spencer
3rd Dec 2009, 09:04
In those days being 'Butch' was a description of a person who was very forthright and didn't stand for any nonsense, which describes Sir Arthur quite accurately. 'Butcher' was never used.

3rd Dec 2009, 10:02
'Butcher' was never used.

Thanks, Hugh. Just as I thought. Unfortunately, the erroneous 'Butcher' label has stuck, and history has been rewritten.

3rd Dec 2009, 10:12
Yer man Marr irritated me as well. He also made a point of referring to area bombing as "terror bombing". This link supports my memory of the great man's life and times;


I think "Bert" was a common name for any Harris in those times; certainly in the Merchant Navy. Some famous turn-of-the-century bike racing champion, I think.

3rd Dec 2009, 10:32
An example of the touchy-feely huggy-fluffs putting a new spin upon history. The Germans engaged in total war and received like for like. There were no "Smart Bombs" in the 1940s and the objective wasn't to terrorise (unlike the Stuka with its siren) but to destroy the German capacity to make war by destroying its industrial and communications infrastructure. There is no doubt that had a nuclear weapon been available to us in 1943 it would have been used and would have saved even more lives than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

And no, thats not a misprint. Bringing the war to an earlier conclusion than would otherwise be the case is/was a means of saving lives - on both sides.

That the bombing campaign went on as long as it did was the responsibility of the German High Command not "Bomber " Harris.

Hamish 123
3rd Dec 2009, 12:58
Marr's use of the phrase "terror bombing" infuriated me. That's the terminology used by the Nazis' propaganda machine, along with describing RAF aircrew as "terror flyers".

Absolutely pathetic application of today's "values" into a situation which soft-left types like Marr (or indeed anyone of us who didn't have to live through the war) can have no real comprehension off. Hindsight allows everyone to be an expert.

The entire series looked at recent British history through the prism of the anti-empire, left-biased "liberal" media person. God help us if it's that viewpoint which the next generation learns its history from.

Sorry, my mistake . . . . it already does.

Load Toad
3rd Dec 2009, 13:27
There was very little in the early years of the war that Britain could do to show that it could continue the fight against the evil Nazis.
There were still a lot of people in Britain and around the world who thought it would be best to cut the losses and try to work on some compromise with the evil Nazis.
There was a sizeable minority that thought that the Jews (and anyone the Nazis didn't like) would just have to suffer and make do.
Some people didn't agree with this view and realised the evil Nazis could not be placated, compromised with - indeed they intended to dominate by power as much of the globe as they could and in the process kill anyone that got in their way or they just didn't like.
In the absence of any other significant means to win the war bombing the opposition - the Nazis was considered a suitable, realistic and acceptable target. There was still the feeling early in the war that bombing would create such misery in the German population they would overthrow the Nazis or specifically Hitler and his mates.
Plus of course the moral of the British needed to be kept up AND the British had to prove they were not beaten. Winston and his mate in the US thus got themselves a lend lease deal on bombers.
But it was found that accurate bombing was not going to happen because the technology didn't exist. That plus the need to keep British moral up and the feeling that German morale could be beaten down meant area bombing.
We also had to show the Soviets that we were going to support them.
So a bomber command leader was needed who would single mindedly focus on this task. Though of course he would know it would cost many crew and kill many civilians.
So because for years people had tried to placate and accommodate Hitler, because no one wanted another war...Bomber Harris got called nasty names.
And then when the war was coming to an end people said 'Did we really have to do all that?' And then Mr. Harris and all his crews were not given respect because it was 'difficult' but people had forgotten why it had had to be that way.

Anything that doesn't specifically target and hit a military target could be called a 'terror' attack. What we should know (borne out from WW1, WW2 and the most recent examples...) now is that 'terror bombing' does not work to achieve the desired aim. In fact it does the opposite.

3rd Dec 2009, 14:41
Dont take Andrew Marr's programme too seriously, the whole series was "history lite" aimed at an audience with only the vaguest grasp of the major events of the 20th Century. Marr took every opportunity to dress up in silly outfits and attempted probably the worst Churchill impression I have ever heard! In his defence he did imply that the Germans started the ball rolling with their bombing of Coventry, but a 60 minute gallop through WW2 was never going to offer anything but the briefest snapshots of the major events.

Harris's reputation has stood up to far more rigorous examination than anything Marr could ever offer, so those of us on here who, like me, understand the huge task which Harris and Bomber Command faced, can treat Marr's casual misuse of Harris's nickname with the contempt it deserves.

3rd Dec 2009, 15:04
...the whole series was "history lite" aimed at an audience with only the vaguest grasp of the major events of the 20th Century.I agree. But a quick Google of 'Butcher Harris' shows how widespread this misnomer has become, condemning him in the same way that Vlad will always be thought of as an impaler.

Hamish 123
3rd Dec 2009, 16:04
The series was called "The Making of Modern Britain". What exactly did the impact of the so-called "terror bombing" on Germany (and the Dresden raid in particular) have to do with that? The bravery of the Bomber Command aircrew in the face of massive losses is certainly worth noting in said series, but the bomber offensive's impact on the Germany population?

What's the relevance?

It just smacks of Marr making his own pathetic little point. There is no rigourous editorial control within the BBC to challenge that item's relevance, as the BBC is staffed by the likes of Marr, and holds broadly similar views.

PPRuNe Pop
3rd Dec 2009, 16:12
This subject has been aired time and again. It always goes round in circles and I think the matter in this one has probably run its course. However, I will leave it for a couple of more days.

Incidentally,it is worth noting that for years, decade upon decade, it was proffered more times than anything else to do with the allied bombing, that Dresden suffered most with deaths figuring towards 100,000.

Dresden itself, issued the real figures about two years ago to be around 25,000 killed. Very much lower than those above. Still too many, of course, but London suffered more killed than Dresden did! Some 32,000.

That is war, as they say.

3rd Dec 2009, 16:14
This programme was defined for me by the hilarious sight of Marr prancing down a road in a Home Guard uniform. What on earth has happened to the BBC?

3rd Dec 2009, 17:02
Sam Wollaston in the Grauniad today

I wish my school history lessons had been more like Andrew Marr's The Making of Modern Britain (BBC2). It's not just his energy, his animated bounding about, his willingness to get involved, play soldiers, do a (not very good) Churchill impression, that makes it so engaging. It's also the way he mixes in little stories with the big ones. So along with D-Day, we learn about the imprisoned Italians and Austrians who made a little pocket of European culture on the Isle of Man. He gives it a humanness that makes it mean so much more. And now that's it, the second world war done, modern Britain made, end of the lesson. Boo.

Made my point for me, I think (see above).


3rd Dec 2009, 17:12
The UK's area bombing srategy was the brainchild of Sir Charles Portal and Winston Churchill (with the backing of the Chiefs of air staff etc). Arthur Harris merely pursued this strategy with ruthless efficiency. When, towards the end of the war and in it's immediate aftermath, it became apparent that public opinion was rapidly starting to question area bombing on moral grounds, Churchill and Portal rapidly distanced themselves from this most unsavoury aspect of 'total war' and tried (v successfully) to make Harris out as the public scapegoat. Hence the lack of a Bomber Command Campaign Medal (which to this day is a national disgrace and a most obvious insult to the bravery of the bomber boys whose courage has never been surpassed IMHO) and the continuing antipathy to Harris, the crews, and all they stand/stood for. Disgraceful, in the same league of treachery as the userping of Dowding and Park by Sholto-Douglas and Leigh-Mallory......:(

3rd Dec 2009, 20:07
Hence the lack of a Bomber Command Campaign Medal (which to this day is a national disgrace and a most obvious insult to the bravery of the bomber boys whose courage has never been surpassed IMHO)

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear - the old chestnut about the lack of a Bomber Command Medal. Just to put the record straight, there were eight campaign stars awarded after the war. One was the 1939-45 Star, issued to all who had put in sufficient time in any of the fighting services, and all but one of the others were theatre awards, (Africa, Italy, Burma, etc) which were available to all who had served the requisite time in that theatre, no matter which arm of the service they had served in.

The exception was the Aircrew Europe Star, which was only awarded to aircrew who had flown operationally over Europe from the beginning of the war up until D-Day. Whilst many Fighter Command aircrew were awarded this star, the vast majority of recipients were quite naturally members of RAF Bomber Command. Far from being denied a medal, Bomber Command aircrew were among the few recipients of an award specific to their role, rather than the theatre awards given to all others. There was, for example, no particular medal given to the submarine service, the airborne forces, commandos, or to many others who could claim that their services were particularly deserving of mention - they received the same campaign star as all others in their theatre. Indeed in Europe, those fighting in the BEF in France up to the time of Dunkirk received no award, whilst those flying over them were qualifying for the Aircrew Europe Star.

I never know where this story comes from, but it is continually repeated by those not in possession of the facts. Bomber Command were not insulted in this way. Their exploits may well have been subject to grossly unfair comment in the post war years it is true, but in the matter of medals they were certainly not slighted - quite the opposite some might say.

4th Dec 2009, 08:48
Ref my first post atop this thread, I've contacted Andrew Marr and will report any reply - but don't hold your breath...

4th Dec 2009, 10:54
famous turn-of-the-century bike racing champion

Tut tut GBZ - that was Reg Harris!!!


4th Dec 2009, 11:11
The campaign to raise money to fund the Bomber Command Memorial is well established and is two thirds of the way to the target of £3m. This is a very worthy cause and I hope that many more people will support it.

4th Dec 2009, 12:29
....there were eight campaign stars awarded after the war...and of course, the Arctic Ocean is part of the Atlantic. ;)

4th Dec 2009, 16:22
And your point is?

If you are referring to the recently awarded clasp awarded to those who served on Arctic convoys I would admit that this might create a precedent for a similar Bomber Command clasp on the Aircrew Europe Star. However as around 80 - 90% of the recipients of this star were Bomber Command Aircrew, this seems a fairly pointless exercise. Personally I have always thought that once you start down this slippery slope you will get all sorts of special interest groups pleading their own case, until veterans resemble those heavily laden retired Russians you see who can hardly stand up as a result of the hardware weighing them down

Russian and American War Veterans at the Central Museum of Armed Forces in Moscow (http://cruises.about.com/od/russianrivercruises/ig/Moscow---Capital-of-Russia/World-War-II-Veterans.htm)

4th Dec 2009, 17:04
Personally I don't like the man Marr-I don't like his politics and I don't like the face and flappy ears.He does tell a good story though-but whether its true or no largely generally depends on where it fits in the marrpolitosphere-ie you sometimes have to take it with a large pinch of salt-sometimes outrageous lies are heard to spout from that ugly gob, entertaining to some, though it may.
Of course others can and do find him downright offensive.
Anyone who has been quoted as repeating the old dogma "if you tell a lie often enough, people will begin to believe it" -has to be taken with great caution.

In regard to Harris, I personally believe he took air power way beyond the importance it had.Now don't get me wrong, I'm aware the essential nature of air supremacy-but to think that it alone could win the war for you-was fundamentally flawed.Repercussions were that places like Dresden-obliterated at the war's end with no real military value, ensuring the mass cremations of thousands of civilians-was an absolute catastrophe.

Lastly back to la Marr-any man who resorts to the courts and injunctions to prevent the public knowing a part of his family life that he'd prefer them not to know-says a lot about the essential nature of a man I could never trust.

Brewster Buffalo
4th Dec 2009, 20:27
I think it is often assumed that area bombing was Harris's idea but he was simply appointed to carry it out.

5th Dec 2009, 06:55
So, will Bomber Harris get the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square?

5th Dec 2009, 09:58
My goodness wouldnt that be good. It would certainly put the cat among the pigeons (if there any left there after Ken tried to have them exterminated!). Personally I'm not holding my breath though.

5th Dec 2009, 11:44
Have to say I grunted in the armchair (as Milady Teeters says I increasingly do) at the "Butcher" error ....

But then Marr also used film of Stukas to illustrate the bombing of Liverpool!

Enormous drop tanks or AAR d'ye think?:ugh:

5th Dec 2009, 11:49
It is true that last year a group of German historians put the actual figure of the dead in Dresden as between 18.000 to 25.000. It should also be pointed out that after the bombing the authorities in Dresden also put the figure as around 20 - 25.000. However, Goebbels and the Reich propoganda ministry decided that it would paint the Allies in a worse light if the figure was increased to 100.000 dead.

It often appears that he was right, especially amongst the the huggy fluffy crowd.

Hugh Spencer
5th Dec 2009, 13:52
Tony Rennell wrote an article in the Daily Mail dated 14th February 2004 where he put to rights the myths about Dresden. "It had a vital role in the final military manoeuvrings of the war on the Eastern front........Dresden records were accessible.......people of Dresden were kidding themselves about their city's peaceful nature........it housed 127 factories....switched to war work.....Zeiss, camera makers, made bombaiming apparatus and time fuses......typewriter and sewing machine factories were turning out armaments......waffle and marzipan factories were making torpedo parts.....an arts and craft workshop was producing wooden tail assemblies for V1 flying bombs, machine guns, searchlights, ,aircraft parts, field telephones and two-way radios....peaceful Dresden was a war factory and a fortress......and a vital link in the German rail network"

Barksdale Boy
5th Dec 2009, 15:20
Read Frederick Taylor's book: Dresden. It's very persuasive and, most importantly, well researched history.

5th Dec 2009, 21:18
I think it's Taylor's book that claims that the loss of life in Dresden was exaggerated by the East German authorities, as part of Cold War propaganda. People know about Dresden and Hiroshima, not Hamburg and Tokyo, which were more destructive.

From what I've read, the British authorities had serious qualms about area bombing, but did it because they couldn't do anything else (like frontal attacks in WW I, which the generals knew were pretty hopeless, but the army wasn't well enough trained to do anything else).

The real question about Harris, I thought, was his persistence in area bombing when alternatives were available: either the diversion of aircraft to anti-submarine patrols, or a more directed targeting plan, which was possible by 1944. Perhaps a combination of theory and inter-sevice rivalry? He seems to have been pretty inflexible, which at one point was a virtue, but then, later, not so much.

Hugh Spencer
6th Dec 2009, 13:26
We are all very comfortable in our modern society but by 1945 the majority of the people were asking ' When is it all going to end ? Over 5 years of war meant that something had to done. Dresden was still being used as staging post for troops and the people were living amongst war factories. Our equipment was better than previous years but targetting individual factories without damaging domestic properties was impossible. In warfare there will always be casualties among civilians especially if military installations are among their houses. It still happens today, even with the sophisticated weaponery available. How did we know that the war was going to end soon ? Sitting back and not doing anything was not an option.

Brewster Buffalo
6th Dec 2009, 15:05
"Ellingen, a small town with 1,500 inhabitants in Bavaria, was bombed by the 8th American Air Force in February 1945. An interview with the lead navigator reveals that Ellingen was selected as a "target of opportunity" simply because it had a road running through it. A few weeks later, British Bomber Command attacked Wurzburg, a medium-sized town with next to no industry of military importance. In only 20 minutes, incendiary bombs destroyed 82 per cent of the town, an even greater proportion than in Dresden.

....documents....show that once Germany's industrial centres were virtually all destroyed, Bomber Command Intelligence began to select towns initially, not for their military value, but because they were easy for the bombers to find and destroy. A briefing note by an American Air Force general shows that raids on rural places such as Ellingen also had the political purpose to deter the Germans from ever starting another war."

These raids are difficult to justify nowadays and perhaps even then?

6th Dec 2009, 16:38
As someone who was a youngster in London during WW2 and suffering bombing, V1 & V2 attacks, and hearing of Coventry and the Baedeker raids, the idea of German towns being bombed seemed a pretty good idea at the time. Before anyone says two wrongs don't make a right, they should try listening for a V1 engine to stop and then the long pause before the explosion.

Been Accounting
6th Dec 2009, 18:49
Did he attend a Bristol UAS dining-in night in late '84 or early '85?

PPRuNe Pop
6th Dec 2009, 23:05
Bombing mistakes still occur today-but they do not involve the mass killing by the thousand-of civilians, women and children-in such a dreadful manner.

Sorry, but that means that you ignore that the Luftwaffe were bombing 9 skittles out of us LONG before Dresden. AAMOF Dresden was only a small part in the scheme of things. Hamburg and other big cities suffered much worse bombing. It is also important to remember that bombing was highly inaccurate at the beginning of the war and for a long time after. Civilians could not be discounted, and inevitably they just happened to be in the way. Sad but true.

But......as someone mentioned above, you have to have been involved in bombs being dropped around you, V1's with your name on the engine and V2's with anybody's name on the engine! It was not nice and you sure as hell wished every day that the RAF bombers were doing their worst for you.

Dan Winterland
7th Dec 2009, 02:20

It's much the same as the arguments about the sinking of the Belgrano in the Falklands war. Why did it happen? It was because there was a war on. It was total war, a nasty war and if the Germans had the capability to do it to the UK, they would have done.

And they started it.

7th Dec 2009, 22:22
As this has gravitated to Dresden (as these things inevitably seem to), perhaps the words of the great man himself are useful;


By December of 1944 we had devastated or very seriously damaged 8o per cent of all the cities in Germany with a population,before the war, of more than 100,000; yet more cities, especially in the east of Germany, were
devastated in 1945.

With the German army on the frontiers of Germany we quickly set up GH and Oboe ground stations close behind the front line and this ensured the success of attacks on many distant objectives when the weather would otherwise have prevented us from finding the target. At the same time the bombers could fly with comparative safety even to targets as distant as Dresden or Chemnitz, which I had not ventured to attack before, because the enemy had lost his early warning system and the whole fighier defence of Germany could therefore generally be out-manceuvred. In February of 1945, with the Russian army threatening the heart of Saxony, I was called upon to attack Dresden; this was considered a target of the first importance for the offensive on the Eastern front. Dresden had by this time become the main centre of communications for the defence of Germany on the southern half of the Eastern front and it was considered that a heavy air attack would disorganise these comnmnications and also make Dresden useless as a controlling centre for the defence. It was also by far the largest city in Germany, the pre-war population was 630,000, which had been left intact; it had never before been bombed.

As a large centre of war industry it was also of the highest importance. An attack on the night of February 13th-14th by just over 8oo aircraft, bombing in two sections in order to get the night fighters dispersed and grounded before the second attack, was almost as overwhelming in its effect as the Battle of Hamburg, though the area of devastation, 1600 acres, was considerably less; there was, it appears, a fire-typhoon, and the effect on German morale, not only in Dresden but in far distant parts of the country, was extremely serious. The Americans carried out two light attacks in daylight on the next two days. I know that the destruction of so large and splendid a city at this late stage of the war was considered unncessary even by a good many people who admit that our earlier attacks were as fully justified as any other operation of war. Here I will only say that the attack on Dresden was at the time considered a military necessity by much more important people than myself, and that if their judgment was right the same arguments must apply that I have set out in an earlier chapter in which I said what I think about the ethics of bombing as a whole.

"I was called upon to attack Dresden; this was considered a target of the first importance for the offensive on the Eastern front." As Hugh Spencer rightly reminded us, Dresden was a significant, high value, industrial centre.

Modern war is mechanised and dependent on industry. Arguably then, industry is a legitimate target. Industry, of course, is a civil activity.

avionic type
7th Dec 2009, 23:49
As an 8to 14 year old during WW2 and saw the aftermath of the bombing of Bristol, Manchester, Coventry and Bath and kept awake during the bombing of Bristol and Manchester ,and being very frightened all I can say is" Good old Sir Arthur Harris" and all the Bomber aircrew . they hit back at Germany the only way we could and it certainly kept the moral of the British People up during that time and frankly we couldn't have given a toss how many people were killed over there it was all out war with suffering on both sides .So I'm with Rotorfossil and Prune pop and all I can say to end the matter is all those people who were not born and did not suffer at that time, Harris may not have won the war but he certainly shortened it as Albert Speer the German Minister of Production said 3 more raids like Hamburg and we would have collapsed at that time our morale broken, but we didn't have the capacity to do it and the chance was lost.

8th Dec 2009, 07:15
There were surprisingly few troops left to hold Berlin so where were their men going?-they certainly weren't heading west.They were heading north to Berlin. Stalin requested interdiction and we provided it. Its in the official histories for those who wish to read the facts rather than the propaganda, but of course researching history is hard work if you don't enjoy that sort of thing. I make a hobby of naval history, but you pick up a lot of across-the-board stuff along the way.

8th Dec 2009, 09:11
We no more knew on 12 Feb.45 that "the war was over", than we knew on 5 August 1945 that Japan was "ready to surrender". Armistice, maybe...back to 1938 borders, recoil, the better to spring... but Unconditional Surrender, Occupation, subjugation to the barbarian...oh, no. Remember Churchill's June 1940 words about (MPs and all) Brits choking on their blood as they fought the invader...remember "better dead than Red": Germans and Japanese civilians loved their Homeland just as we did/do. For them, all of their enemies, not just the Eastern one, were bad guys. They would fight on to the last kitchen knife until their own blood nourished the Motherland.

Demonising Dresden, carpet bombing generally is untutored (esp. by the Philosophy tutor Prof. A.C.Grayling, whose Down Among the Dead Cities, in every UK Public Library, holds Bomber Command aircrew to be collective war criminals). The most effective way to reduce a castle under siege was not to clamber up its defended walls, but to poison the well and interdict resupply; the purpose of Henry VIII's Royal Navy was to bombard ports and interdict resupply: both bring Weapons of Mass Destruction onto the civilian population. Get the job done, so our boys can come home. It was civilian starvation of the Central Powers caused by Allied Naval blockade that was seen by our Leaders as having won WW1. Blockade/interdiction of supply, this time maritime+aerial, was the strategy adopted by UK in 1937 (KGV battleships and (to be) Stirling/Halifax/Lancaster), adopted in 1941 by US' Two-Ocean Navy and Ford Liberators en masse, and by (less effective) Russian, Italian and German attempts at Heavies.

"Carpet bombing" created no new "frightfulness": just that by 1944 the Allies' Combined Bomber Offensive was doing the job that Zeppelin and Gotha had attempted last time. If you want to demonise Dresden, you must in logic seek to outlaw aerial bombing generically. That's precisely what the League of Nations explored, 1929-33. But when one Nation was suspected of seeking monopoly advantage, we good guys had to gird. CBW was/is in that category...and in February and August,1945 when rubble had removed their fear of our retaliation, Germany/Japan could have put up a last barricade of spores, to choke the invader to stalemate. Hitler is believed to have ordered exactly that in Berlin in May,1945.

8th Dec 2009, 12:07
It depends on whether you are British or German. If you were women and children stuck in Dresden and being bombed ,choice of description is obvious.I know someone who survived the Bombs in Germany with two small children and the attack sounds really heartless.
I also had an uncle who flew over and bombed Germany and he was shattered after seeing later reports.

8th Dec 2009, 19:45
Usual nonsense posted on this thread regarding Harris, Dresden and area bombing.

By 1945, WW2 was total war. No-one in 2009 can even begin to understand the thought processes of those involved.

No-one knows how many people died in Dresden, the place was packed with refugees, a fire storm does not leave much in the way of evidence.

The primary purpose of the Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki raids was to show the Soviets the effectiveness of the Allied bombing machine.

Harris was doing his job, nothing more. He was rather good at it.

Hamburg x 6 could have finished the Germans in late 1943, although the end result would still have been the Red Army rolling into Berlin.

Harris could have flattened Berlin in 1944 if he had sufficient resource, although the end result would still have been the Red Army rolling into Berlin.

The hand ringers can ring their hands in 2009, but that's because Harris and his ilk did the job they were told to do 1939 - 1945.

I recognise that Harris' greatest strength was also his greatest weakness, he was inflexible. A few raids on the dams after 617 had visited would have delayed reconstruction, a few raids on the U-boat pens during construction would have severely hampered the effectiveness of the U-boats.

Europe was generally at peace from 1945 to the 1990s as a direct result of the threat of enhanced area bombing.

PPRuNe Pop
8th Dec 2009, 21:08
I am afraid this thread is once again following the path of previous arguments. In other words it is now repetitious with one opinion against several others and gets nowhere. The same 'ol stuff and almost everyone has right or wrong point of view.

Trying to impress with your own opinion is never a good idea. It tends to raise a few hackles at best - but always leaving a bad after taste.

Even historians can't agree, but Max Hastings probably holds the best view of Bomber Command I have ever seen.

8th Dec 2009, 23:26
Can I try a bit of nuance?

It seems generally agreed that the democracies believed deliberate bombing of civilians was unethical, and the British Cabinet knew they might be accounted war criminals under victor's justice (though that would have been the least of their problems). Against Britain (though not Poland), Luftwaffe bombing policy at first stuck to military targets (including Coventry, where the civilian slaughter was collateral damage from attacks on war industry, and the Luftwaffe did have the means for precision attacks). The British adopted area bombing because they couldn't do anything else, and it was decided that it was crucially important to keep some sort of offensive activity going, whilst the USSR was taking such appalling losses. Given the nature of the German regime, it seems a reasonable decision, though taken with much difficulty, and subject to ongoing criticism within Britain during the war. Thank God, no-one then was irresponsible enough to assume that all means were legitimate in war. Harris was appointed after the decision was taken; it was not his policy.

It does seem that Harris subscribed to the belief that strategic bombing was the decisive war-winning strategy. In a sense, that was right, but the technical means were not available until 1945. People sneer at politicians for believing that 'The bomber will always get through,' but they always did. Until nuclear weapons, though, one bomber was not enough, and the loss rates were critical.

Harris promised that he could destroy Berlin, and other cities, but he didn't, and he couldn't reasonably have asked for more resources. He opposed alternative uses of air power; apparently, he was reluctant to use Bomber Command for the interdiction strategy before the Invasion of Europe, and that is recorded as one of the great successes of bombing. Harris was undoubtedly right in opposing 'panacea' targets when Bomber Command was having difficulty getting bombs within three miles of the target, but once improved techniques were developed, it is arguable that it would have been more effective in shortening the war to switch to oil targets. That would still have meant huge German civilian losses, of course. It is, by the way, totally wrong to suggest that they deserved it. The major area of destruction in Hamburg was working class housing in the most anti-Hitler (and Anglophile) region of Germany.

One can see that the British authorities were uneasy about the area bombing policy, because they talked in terms of de-housing and attacks on morale. Thank God they still had a moral sense, even though the case for what they did was a reasonable one at the time.

It is of course absurd to hold individual members of Bomber Command personally responsible, even if one does believe that the later part of the area bombing campaign was morally wrong.

Blaming Harris looks like a convenient way of finding a scapegoat for a policy that was controversial at the time, and after the War and eventual allied victory, came to look more regrettable.

The real case against Harris seems to me that, like Leigh-Mallory, he had a grand theory of the use of airpower which he refused to change in the light of experience. War is about the use of violence; the case that could be made is that Harris did not use violence in the most directed way possible, thus shortening the war and minimising the total suffering. Which is a much more complicated business than just sloganeering and calling him "Butcher."

Oh yes, I was exposed to bombs and doodlebugs, though I was too young to have any memory of it.

9th Dec 2009, 07:09
Harris subscribed to the belief that strategic bombing was the decisive war-winning strategyIt was the fundamental belief of the RFC/RNAS and the RAF (esp. Lord Trenchard) from the very earliest days. Reinforced by the bombing of Guernica, this belief was the reason behind the evacuation of children from British south eastern cities in 1939/40 - long before any serious bombing had begun. Coventry, The "Blitz", Hamburg, Dresden etc. were the natural result of this universal fundamental belief.

Today we have a fundamental belief that nuclear weapons are the decisive war winning strategy; now that the nuclear cat is out of the bag, so to speak, where might that belief lead us?

The major area of destruction in Hamburg was working class housing in the most anti-Hitler (and Anglophile) region of Germany.
The aiming point was the docks. Not surprising, given that it is a major German port. So lets be clear about this, in the same way that the working class East End of London took a pasting, the objective was destruction of the docks rather than terrorisation of the civilian population.

9th Dec 2009, 07:18
Luftwaffe bombing policy at first stuck to military targets (including Coventry, where the civilian slaughter was collateral damage from attacks on war industry, and the Luftwaffe did have the means for precision attacks).

That’s interesting, when compared with;
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/09/coventry-blitz-hitler-revenge (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/09/coventry-blitz-hitler-revenge) and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1892714.stm (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1892714.stm)

and various other commentaries on the “Baedeker” raids. It’s hard to imagine now, but nearly every town in Britain used to have its factories and workshops (not sure about Torquay, though).

10th Dec 2009, 04:41
I said 'subscribed' to the belief in strategic bombing, precisely because Harris didn't make it up. Two organisations that didn't act on that belief were the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force, so it wasn't quite a universal belief. It works out that it needs nuclear weapons to make strategic bombing really decisive. It works out that the theorists of strategic bombing got the calculations wrong because extrapolation from the results of Imperial German bombing of civilians in WW I wasn't a reliable guide; not a moral failing, but a technical miscalculation, which also, by the way and not irrelevantly, had the effect of making a very good case for promoting a large, totally independent strategic air force, in both Britain and the US.

At Hamburg, I am sure that the crews were told that the aiming point was the docks, and in a sense it was, but the planners knew that bombing would not be accurate enough to make this a precise strike on the docks, in the way that Luftwaffe raids on the London docks were, in a sense, precise. From what I have read, the bomb loads were designed to be effective for destroying housing, not attacking industrial installations. Policy was publicly described as 'de-housing,' wasn't it, not 'precision strikes with unfortunate collateral damage'. The docks were at an easily identifiable point in the middle of an easily locatable target.

I was careful to say (I hope) that the Luftwaffe raids were on more or less 'legitimate' targets AT FIRST. Of course the later raids were deliberately aimed at civilian targets of cultural, but no military, significance. The evil tyrant justified them as retaliation for attacks on the medieval centres of German towns. It seems to have been hard for everyone to realise how inaccurate bombing, and especially the early bombing of the RAF, was. It took the Butt report to get the British authorities to realise it, but there was probably a genuine belief by many under the British bombs that if a hospital, church or cultural monument was hit, it was the object of deliberate targeting (which, of course, was not the case, except for a general preference for targets that would burn well).

I'm not at all wishing to demonize Harris, nor to suggest any kind of moral equivalence between the British authorities and the Hitler regime. But area bombing was a subject of doubt and anguish on the part of the British authorities (which is one reason why there is not moral equivalence), and was rejected for a long while by the USAAF.

Even those of us who were alive during WW II (even if not especially conscious, like me) are surely far enough away from it that we can consider issues with a bit of detachment, and can acknowledge the qualities of people like Harris and Churchill without pretending that everything they did was perfect.

It kind of matters, because war isn't going to go away, and the question of morality in war-making is therefore really important (and very, very difficult).

I am, by the way, sure that if I had been old enough (which, God knows, was not very old), and had had the courage and skill to be in Bomber Command (and I know I would NOT have had either of them), I would not have been engaged in earnest moral enquiry. But we can now see more clearly, without pretending to be morally superior.

10th Dec 2009, 07:25
Policy was publicly described as 'de-housing,' wasn't it, not 'precision strikes with unfortunate collateral damage'Now there's the moral dilemma. Are not the men who work in the docks (i.e. in 1940,large numbers of stevedores rather than a few container handlers) part of the dock facilities? And where did they tend to live? In the 1940's, the working man's mode of travel was Shank's Pony and the working folk lived in housing immediately adjacent to where they worked. The aiming point was marked by the Pathfinders, with the markers refreshed between waves to reduce "creep-back" and concentrate the bombing. Incendiaries were the weapon of choice for warehouses and workers' homes.

Nothing changes the fact that Harris was in command of "Bomber Command" and the job of Bomber Command was the destruction of the enemy's capability to wage war. Harris did the job he was given and he did it very well. He was far more concerned with reducing his own loss rates than worrying about German civilian losses. I suppose that in his opinion, reducing civilian casualties was the business of the German government. It is certainly mine.

Load Toad
10th Dec 2009, 07:48
OK - let's just take the names out of the equation and simplify things a bit.

Were the Allies butchers for prosecuting the war against the Axis powers to the full extent that they did or not?

If the answer is yes - what degree of 'butchery' would YOU be prepared to allow if it was your call at that time?

10th Dec 2009, 11:16
Two organisations that didn't act on that belief were the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force, so it wasn't quite a universal belief.

It is quite true that the Soviet contribution to the strategic bombing campaign was minimal, although I believe there were some raids of limited scope early on. The Soviet air force was predominantly a tactical battlefield force, and in this area was undoubtedly very effective. What is also clear is that the post-war attitude of the USSR was that the defeat of Germany was an inevitability with or without the help of the other allies. Indeed as I discovered when studying in Russia, the British and American contribution to the defeat of Germany is all but ignored in teaching the history of the war, a situation which I understand has changed little in recent years.

In fact when the Red Army crossed into Germany they were fighting a country whose industrial capability and air power had been all but devasted thanks entirely to the efforts and sacrifices of RAF Bomber Command and the US Eight Army Air Force, something that the Soviets were always unwilling to acknowledge. Certainly many thousands of civilians had lost their lives in this process, but as Blacksheep points out, a high proportion of those civilians were part of that industrial capability.

10th Dec 2009, 13:12
Just how effective was the Allied Bombing campaign?

Data exists that shows the Germans produced approximately 17,000 fighter aircraft annually during years '43 and '44 and 4,000 in the first quarter of '45. That does not suggest a very good success rate in my book.

The Air Force (American for sure) have always claimed the ability to utterly destroy the enemy by means of Strategic Bombing....but never have.

If one leaves Nuclear Weapons out of the equation....I hold that shall always be the case.

Load Toad
10th Dec 2009, 13:50
Aye - did they have enough fuel or good pilots for them? No.
Were the guns and people they needed to defend their cities from attack (and the night fighters etc) missed from the 'frontline'? You bet.

10th Dec 2009, 18:22
I think that the post-war pontificating about the bombing campaign misses one very important point. All the senior politicians and commanders of the British armed forces had fought and been effected by their experiences in the trenches during the First World War. These memories must have been an important factor in deciding strategic thinking during the Second World War as none of them wanted a return to a murderous land campaign on the Western Front that they had experienced during the First World War.

Load Toad
10th Dec 2009, 22:19
I think very much so. Of course the governments of the day on the Allied side wanted to win the war with as few casualties to 'our' civilians and military and infrastructure. The Axis side were responsible for their people. So all options would be pursued to end the war as quickly and on the most favourable terms possible. Only after the war can you say 'Should have done a bit more of that, a little less of this...'. Can you imagine saying to your population in time of war 'Well just in case things look bad afterwards IF we win - we'll just have to accept more casualties and horror because we really want to go as lightly as possible on the opposition who were firmly believe by the way are a bunch of genocidal maniacs...'

Also the Germans really had planned and hoped for a short war that would not use strategic bombing - so they didn't have the equipment to carry it out. It wasn't that they didn't want to or hadn't indulged where they could. But it turned into total war. Ain't it a bugger when you reap what you sow?

10th Dec 2009, 22:28
1917 Minister of Munitions WS Churchill, The Great War/III, Newnes,1933,P1605: Allied 1919 Offensive was to include “Poison gases of incredible malignity (which) would have stifled all resistance and paralysed all life on the hostile front (No) doubt the Germans too had their plans” - informing his 6/40 Finest Hour speech: “the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science”.

11th Dec 2009, 09:29
Also the Germans really had planned and hoped for a short war that would not use strategic bombing - so they didn't have the equipment to carry it out.

Very true LT. Additionally, the Luftwaffe was subordinate to the Land forces. As we often observe, the Land commanders rarely see further than highly mobile and long range artillery; the aeroplane.

Load Toad
12th Dec 2009, 09:08
There are other things to remember. The whole idea of another brutal war in Europe was the last thing people wanted and politicians certainly had to look at any way to end the war without involving heavy losses. So yes we the allies did look at poison gas, setting fire to forests and crops, causing insurrection in Germany, getting Hitler assassinated by the military who might then look for a peaceful resolution etc.
Also the USA was basically cooperating with Britain and specifically due to Churchill producing long range bombers; the point is - that it was felt that bombing would bring home to civilians the horror of war (as many had experienced on the battlefields of The Great War) and thus hopefully result in the civilian population overthrowing the Nazi leaders. Somehow.
Harris was appointed to prosecute the war to the best of his and bomber commands ability with the equipment at his disposal.

You start talking about Dresden ass a specific case well I'm very sorry but - go away and read Human Smoke or such like.

26th Dec 2009, 20:48
Could Harris have brought Germany to her knees in 1943, early 1944? If you believe Speer then yes. Harris never had a clear run at Berlin, winter 43/44 was unforgiving (although it can be argued that foul weather gives cover to the bomber offensive). As I recall, max British expenditure on Bomber Command was approx 25% of total British war effort at any one time, with the benefit of hindsight this should have been 70% in mid/late 1943, of which the majority should have been Mossies in various forms. German defences would have been saturated, Me 262 and He 219 night fighters not available in any numbers, collapse to follow? But who - at the time - would have gambled on such an approach with the limited knowledge available?

Perhaps the effectiveness of conventional bombing by early 1945 can be measured by the raids on Tokyo in Feb/March 1945.

Various scenarios involving Bomber Command at a tactical level from June 6th 1944 onwards can be considered: close support at Omaha to assist US landings, the drive to Caen is achieved by day 4, Arnhem is winnable (617 and 5 Group to destroy Panzers concealed in wooded areas .... mind the bridge). All achievable ... with hindsight.

Robert Cooper
27th Dec 2009, 03:07
Harris did what he had to do. If some of you folks were getting bombed and machine-gunned in in the streets like we were then you probably would agree that anything that gave some pain back to the enemy was worthwhile.

Personally, having lived through it and being bombed out twice, I wish he had obliterated the whole evil bunch.

Brewster Buffalo
30th Dec 2009, 13:03
"Bert Harris of Bomber Command came to see me this morning during the COS (Chiefs of Staff) meeting. According him the only reason why the Russians army has succeeded in advancing is due to the results of bomber offensive!!! According to him I am certain that we are all preventing him from winning the war. If Bomber Command was left to itself it would make much shorter work of it all!" Field Marshall Lord Alanbroke War Diary for 13 October 1943 then Chief of the Imperial General Staff

If you devoted 70% of the war effort to the bomber offensive then other activities would need to have been curtailed. Say no invasion of Sicily/Italy (with Italy remaining in the war?) or no attacks in the far east. As Germany disperses its war production so bombing cities is going to have a lesser effect. Also is a government that was prepared to exterminate millions going to be concerned about a few thousand deaths of its own people every night.

Where strategic bombing did have an effect it was on the petrol refining, storage facilities etc and transportation system - perhaps targets not suitable for night attack?

Perhaps the RAF should have considered returning to day attacks supported by its own P-51 squadrons?

longer ron
30th Dec 2009, 15:39
It seems to be quite fashionable to belittle Bomber Commands contribution to the overall picture.
It was a war of attrition,quite often the German aircraft manufacturing output is quoted as failure of the night bombing,but the quality of a/c being produced by slave labour in the various dispersed sites was abysmal by 1944.
Dresden keeps being wheeled out as a 'war crime' when in actual fact it contained factories producing high quality military optical equipment.
Sure Harris made some targetting errors,but how much of that was down to political interference ? or perhaps even his own staff ?and how many wartime leaders made no mistakes ?
Just the disruption to transport links etc must have been colossal,but I do agree that BC perhaps should have used more mosquitos as a way of reducing our own casualties.

31st Dec 2009, 10:44
Greater production and use of the Mosquito is a good point. We should remember, though, that Messrs de Havilland’s original intention was to use “not war essential” cabinet making capacity and “not war essential” wood to make a useful contribution to the war effort. From the skilled workforce available, there was a limit to production capacity. Additionally, much of the wood needed started life across the Atlantic. This had to be transported by sea as sheets or finished sub assemblies, thus competing with other essential material in limited convoy capacity.

Perhaps more useful would have been the abandonment of Stirling and Wellington production much sooner and turning the capacity over to Lancasters.

Hugh Spencer
31st Dec 2009, 15:30
Further to the question as to whether bombing oil installations was safer by night or day, we attacked them four times at night during March '45 and twice in April. One attack was made in daylight on Farge on 27th March.

1st Jan 2010, 14:35
It's certain that the Red Army advance would have been slower if the Bomber Command offensive had been reduced, additional 88s for the Eastern Front is a primary reason. But did the Red Army require assistance from Bomber Command to defeat the Wehrmacht? Probably not, very little in the way of meaningful assistance available in December 1941 outside Moscow. Would the Red army have reached Berlin in 1945 without the efforts of Bomber Command? Absolutely not, but perhaps by 1947?

The "what-if" scenario of Bomber Command crushing Germany in mid/late 1943 can only occur if Speer's view is accepted, and this would mean 6 (or more) successive 1000 bomber raids during the short window when Window was effective, which could only occur if sufficient resource was available, and no-one other than Harris would have approved sufficient resource in -say - early 1943 to achieve this.

If the 6+ raids are as effective as Hamburg then there is little in the way of industry to relocate and very little to relocate it with. I can't envisage Italy standing alone against the Allies if Germany collapses.

If Mossie output is to be increased without reducing convoy resource then build them in Canada and fly them over, recognising that there will be losses on transit.

All written with the wonders of hindsight..

1st Jan 2010, 15:14
Hugh Spencer. I've read your profile. My respects Sir; the real story from someone who did it.

2nd Jan 2010, 01:22
Mike7777777. Nearly 1100 Mosquitoes were built in Canada and, as I understand it, that was to industrial capacity. There were significant ferry losses and pre delivery test flying hours were extended in an attempt to reduce it.

Now, had there been a "metal" mosquito?

Load Toad
2nd Jan 2010, 09:50
I think it's irrelevant - if the RAF only had Mosquitoes the Nazis would have concentrated only on high speed night fighters. The mixed forces flying in day and night must have been an utter pain in the backside for defence planners.

2nd Jan 2010, 09:55
regarding that point. If the RAF only had Mossies (and therefore no way to deliver anything bigger than a cookie, remember). Wouldn't the Germans have needed the 2 seat Me 262 Nachtjager to intercept them at height? Or have I oversimplified that?

I have also seen it argued elsewhere (sorry if this has been mentioned already, the thought has just popped into my head with mention of the Mossie) that deletion of the defensive guns would have made such as the Lancaster fast enough to avoid interception. Doesn't the 310mph max speed of the Lancastrian destroy that argument?

Hugh Spencer
2nd Jan 2010, 11:18
Thanks, Herod.

Load Toad
2nd Jan 2010, 11:23
Ah, but the Germans adapted 'planes to become night fighters and if there were only high speed bombers operating at night - they would only have had to concentrate on high speed night fighters and radars. The He 219 wasn't bad and not the only 'plane the Germans had available or in development.

2nd Jan 2010, 12:53
Yes, I see what you are saying regarding other high speed types, but would any of the piston fighters available for conversion/development have had sufficient speed in the climb to get to the Mossies in time? Wasn't this a perpetual thorn in the Luftwaffes side throughout the Mosquito's wartime career?

I don't doubt that they had aircraft equal to or even slightly ahead of the Mossies performance by 1944. But was the margin enough to effect an interception of a high flying high speed threat?

I suppose much would depend on warning times.

longer ron
2nd Jan 2010, 18:02
I didnt mean to replace all heavy bombers with mossies LOL,but they were very difficult to intercept,the germans seemed to be having trouble developing any useful a/c,their whole procurement procedure seems quite chaotic and riddled with politics (even more than ours !!),luckily for us they spent the entire war fiddling with a/c to try and make them suitable for some impossible specifications,imo they would never have been able to get enough high speed night fighters into service for that reason.
Istr that the mossie had a very high cruising speed,and I absolutely agree that the 'round the clock' bombing must have been a real pain and drain on the hun resources.

Brewster Buffalo
3rd Jan 2010, 13:48
The main criticism of Harris was his unswerving belief in city bombing to win the war. Once the allied armies were safely established in France he received a new directive in September 1944 making the petroleum industry his "first priority".

However Harris continued to devote the majority of his effort to city bombing so for the last 3 months of 1944 only 14% of attacks were on oil targets whilst cities received some 53%.

Not surprisingly this led to deterioration in his relations with higher command with Harris writing to the Chief of Air Staff to "..consider whether it was best....that I should remain.."

In the end the CAS declined to accept his resignation offer. The official historian commenting that "no other course at this stage of the war was open.....which would not have been a remedy worse than the disease."

Tyres O'Flaherty
3rd Jan 2010, 17:46
This book about the lancaster, by Leo Mckinstry (excellent read btw) contains a lot of background about Harris's views and his battles with the hierarchy over the direction of the offensive.

Lancaster: The Second World War's Greatest Bomber: Amazon.co.uk: Leo McKinstry: Books (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lancaster-Second-World-Greatest-Bomber/dp/0719523532)

4th Jan 2010, 09:52
I'm reading that book now having recieved it for christmas. Not very far in yet but I'm very impressed and still enthralled so far. His earlier Spitfire book covered lots of fascinating stuff that didn't appear in other histories of the Spit I've read, so I'm hoping for similar again

Lightning Mate
4th Jan 2010, 11:26
Mr. Spencer,

I salute you Sir.

Hugh Spencer
4th Jan 2010, 11:52
Thanks, Lightning Mate

3rd May 2010, 17:48
Perhaps more useful would have been the abandonment of Stirling and Wellington production much sooner and turning the capacity over to Lancasters.

This book: Lancaster: The Second World War's Greatest Bomber: Amazon.co.uk: Leo McKinstry: Books (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lancaster-Second-World-Greatest-Bomber/dp/0719523532) Recounts Harris' continued efforts to see the end of Stirling and Halifax production and retool for Lancasters. But, it seems, HP and Shorts insisted on being allowed to continue to manufacture their own designs.
Harris was quite scathing with regard to even the Halifax as he felt that his needs would be better served with a whole Lancaster force. Even in wartime he seems to have come up against vested, comercial interests.

longer ron
3rd May 2010, 18:48
Yes Jim...I am afraid nothing much ever changes !!
I fact the Lancaster was almost put out of production in its early days by lobbying from the other manufacturers,Chadwick did some super quick mods (istr mostly weight reduction by removing non essential gear).
I have read a little of the internal politics vis a vis german aircraft procurement/production...it was even worse than ours (lucky for us)

rgds LR

3rd May 2010, 21:23
I have read a little of the internal politics vis a vis german aircraft procurement/production...it was even worse than ours (lucky for us)

I wouldn't know about that LR.

Incidentally, this book: From Bouncing Bombs to Concorde: The Authorised Biography of Aviation Pioneer Sir George Edwards OM: Amazon.co.uk: Robert Gardner: Books (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bouncing-Bombs-Concorde-Authorised-Biography/dp/0750943890) describes a 'Metal Mosquito', designed and flown by Vickers. Sir George Edwards stated that as long as the wooden Mosquito was in production the metal version would get nowhere, it didn't.

The essential charcteristic of the Mossie was not so much its woodeness, more the fact that it was fast, unarmed and high flying. Turrets, the bizarre, expensive and finally useless notion, (conceived, perhaps by someone who saw aircraft as airborne battleships) undoubtedly cost many more lives, in British night bombers, than it saved.

longer ron
3rd May 2010, 21:34
Ernst Heinkel's Autobiography is a very illuminating read !!

9th Jul 2010, 06:55
Hugh Spencer - 61 Squadron

Hugh - thanks again for confirming my belief, at the start of this thread, that Harris was never called 'Butcher'. You have my utmost respect for your time in Bomber Command in those terrible times.

A relative of my wife, a mid-upper gunner called Len Millar, was among your old squadron's losses in July 1942. He's buried in Belgium.

9th Jul 2010, 10:18
I recall reading "Butch's" official Dispatch at the end of WW2 [ I think it's in one of his biographies] in which he said that we would never again see the mass bombing raids of that war - future wars would be more likely conducted by men with bombs in suitcases. How prescient was that!?

9th Jul 2010, 12:08
My dad (Halifax F/E) usually refers to Arthur Harris as "Butch" meaning butcher but with the subject of the butchery being the aircrew not the Germans. It is meant as a term of endearment in the usual Brit black humoured way.

Double Zero
11th Jul 2010, 13:27
I'm far too 'young' to have served in WWII, but I've had the honour of working with the late Ray Grayston ( Dam Buster Flight Engineer ) and other bomber pilots inc' Halifaxes etc - naturally all thought their aircraft type was the best.

I've always thought that I'd fancy my chance wazzing around in a fighter, but it took REAL GUTS to sit in a bomber formation.

I'd have reacted exactly as Harris did; we didn't have Paveways,( and claims for bomb sighting such as the Nordern were rather optimistic ) -and have a look around Portsmouth & Plymouth not to mention Coventry - very little of the old cities left thanks to Goering's lot; and thanks to British decoys I'm walking on Luftwaffe bombs whenever I work on my boat's mooring...

As Basil Fawlty said, " You started it ! "

29th Apr 2013, 08:45
Journalist and author Leo McKinstry, in his 2009 book on the Lancaster, quotes another veteran (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=eDHF9gwqUF0C&pg=PT75&lpg=PT75&dq=butch+or+butcher+harris&source=bl&ots=2_COieYz5T&sig=yWe_fSBIae-BbhPoZ-ZsZMvA8pY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pAF9UeSrKsib1AXa64DwAg&ved=0CDUQ6AEwATgK) as exploding the myth that Harris was ever called 'Butcher' (in addition to ex-61 Sqn crewman Hugh Spencer earlier in this thread). But the book does reveal that Mrs Harris called her husband 'Bud'...
Needless to say, I never heard back from Mr Marr, but wish him well with his continuing recovery.

5th Jan 2019, 18:52
The World at War. Episode12. "Whirlwind: Bombing Germany"
Uncreditted comments before theme tune and opening credits:

"If you couldn't get the Kraut in his factory, it was just as easy to knock him off in his bed, and if old granny Shucklegruber in the next street got the chop, that's hard luck"

Marvellous stuff !

5th Jan 2019, 21:58
My former girlfriend's uncle was an engine fitter in the RAF during the 2nd WW,sadly he died about 10 years ago.But he told me that,along with a rigger,he was detached to a small airfield at Lacey Green in Buckinghamshire,where they were billeted in a farmhouse.They were sent there to look after a couple of light aircraft provided for the use of Arthur Harris,firstly an Auster,and then a Stinson (Reliant ?) 'given' to him by the Americans.They did daily inspecions,refuelling and prop-swinging when required My uncle,for that is what I called him was also required to fly with Harris at times to carry out similar tasks at the destination.But also he sometimes travelled with him in his car.He told of one occasion when they were travelling rather quickly around the back lanes at night,when they were flagged down by the police,The policeman cautioned Harris,and said that if he continued to drive in that manner he would end up killing someone! Wherupon Harris drew himself up and said "Constable, MY JOB IS TO KILL PEOPLE"

After D-day he went over to europe,presumably to carry on with his duties there,and at one stage was billeted in the stables at versailles,where his job was to dismanle a V1 flying bomb for
shipment back to the UK.

6th Jan 2019, 19:27
My older brother flew a full tour on Bomber Command Halifaxes and Lancasters and insisted that it was "Butch" Harris and not "Butcher".

6th Jan 2019, 21:52
Some of those with whom I once attended a dinner in Dresden hosted by Elbeflugzeugwerke some 60 years after the appalling destruction of their city had, shall we say, 'other' names for Harris...

6th Jan 2019, 23:10
My father was in Nightfighters for 4.5 years. Starting in Bostons, then Beaufighters with the earliest airborne radar and then Mosquitos. He and his pilot worshipped Harris to their last breath but both died before the monument in Green Park was finally made. The father of one my best friends was in the Hitler Youth because that was how it was and he lost family in Dresden. My father did go to Dresden - but not on that particular big raid.

His parents died in October 1944 when a V2 landed on their surburban house five miles south of Heathrow. So my father did what had to be done with what they had. Yet my father had a lot of sympathy for the German people and how they had been lied to and bad things done in their name - just as over here and in all wars and continues to this day. For father and his pilot, Harris was second in importance only to the King and he was always bitter how the politicians threw him to the dogs and did not give him the credit for his work, the way other commanders were. He did what he was asked to do. They also had huge respect for the Luftwaffe and, in the 1980s, became friends with a German Night Fighter pilot.

My father and his pilot did 3.5 tours, some 105 operations (without looking it up in his log books) and they both became DFC and three bars.
My father's pilot stayed on, gained the DSO and rose to Air Commodore.

It was war and the first victim of war is always??.

7th Jan 2019, 12:00
At the height of the Battle of Britain, my grandmother, aunt ( who was a young child at the time) and great aunts, waved to what they thought was a Spitfire returning to its nearby base. It was in fact a 109 at tree top height. It proceeded to fire at them, they all got wedged in the door as they ran inside. Bits of house flying off all around them. They were shocked and bruised but other wise unharmed. It then proceeded to shoot up the local bus. Soon after my great uncle joined the RAF from a deferred occupation. He lost his life some 2 years later in the service of Bomber Command aged 22. As Harris stated, 'they sowed the wind....'

7th Jan 2019, 14:11
" Elbeflugzeugwerke some 60 years after the appalling destruction of their city had, shall we say, 'other' names for Harris... "

To which you should have replied: 'Warsaw, Rotterdam, Coventry, Baedeker raids ...'

You shouldn't really start something you can't finish.

7th Jan 2019, 14:24
To draw back from the specifics of this war: We must bear in mind that this is what human beings (us) do and have always done. As technology has changed, so we have used it to wage nastier war. Human beings are highly tribal animals and have always maimed, tortured and killed their neighbour.

What has really changed is that, by WW2, photography (still + movie) and sound recording had advanced greatly. As has been stated in this thread, the memory of WW1 was clear in the mind (both my grandfathers were involved, one was at the Battle of Jutland and the other flying SE5a's) and the terrible events of the first ensured better reporting of the second.

Technology, aircraft in particular, enabled a new kind of war and so humans made a new kind of war. Just as they continue to do so today. Lots of 'smart' bombs and missiles kill civilians, by accident or design.

8th Jan 2019, 18:05
As has been stated in this thread, the memory of WW1 was clear in the mind

The horrors of WW1 influenced the thinking and policies of politicians and military commanders in WW2. Londoners were terrified by Zeppelin attacks in the first war, even though the airships' destructive effort was a tiny fraction of what was to come a quarter of a century later. The Londoners' anger was compounded by the apparent ineffectiveness of the RFC and the RNAS in intercepting the invaders. The main problems were the inadequate performance and weapons of the defending aircraft and the lack of experience of their pilots, because superior aircraft and experienced pilots were being dispatched to what were considered more important theatres of fighting. On the night of 25 April 1916 a young pilot was sent up from Hounslow aerodrome to find and attack a Zepp sighted over northeast London, the LZ97, commanded by Hauptmann Linnarz. The pilot reported that he got to within 2000 feet of the airship but after opening fire his gun jammed. His name was Captain Arthur Harris, RFC.

8th Jan 2019, 18:15
Wow!! Thanks Discord, that is a fascinating piece of information.

As we know, the agressor usually has the upper hand and it can take a long time to overreach them - as we see in each new battle and war to this day. The attack on NYC in 2001 beiing a classic example.

8th Jan 2019, 22:36
My father did a tour (Halifaxes from Topcliffe, Yorkshire), and would be dismayed at the attitude shown to Harris nowadays. Like so many at the time, his own father had been killed in the WW1 trenches. It does give you another view on things. Subsequently he was on Dakotas in Burma. There has never been any of this negativity against the campaign there.

There was an extremely straightforward task, and that was to win against an extraordinary aggressor who had galvanised his whole country likewise against most of the countries of Europe. Bear in mind everything done was with the approval of Churchill and the Government, Harris was not the ultimate decision maker.

9th Jan 2019, 00:46
One of the original problems experienced by the allies when it came to shooting down Zeppelins was the conventional bullet just passed through the airship, causing minor leaks but no significant damage, when an incendiary element was added to the ammunition the end of the airship, as a weapon of war, was spelled out.

15th Jan 2019, 00:24
Last Friday I was talking to a, now, elderly woman who was a child in the East End during the war. She spoke about the morning they emerged from the shelter and found that more than half their school had been destroyed. Lucky it was a night time raid and that it was not being used as a shelter. Both sides wanted the war to end quickly.