Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > Aircrew Forums > Military Aviation
Reload this Page >

Bomber Harris a 'colonial warmonger'

Military Aviation A forum for the professionals who fly military hardware. Also for the backroom boys and girls who support the flying and maintain the equipment, and without whom nothing would ever leave the ground. All armies, navies and air forces of the world equally welcome here.

Bomber Harris a 'colonial warmonger'

Old 20th Jun 2020, 09:26
  #81 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Under the clouds now
Age: 82
Posts: 2,179
Well said Chugalug2!
brakedwell is online now  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 11:19
  #82 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: East Anglia
Posts: 711
Thank you Chugalug2 … excellent!
FantomZorbin is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 11:36
  #83 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Singapore
Posts: 6
I did not really expect overwhelming approval in a British dominated military forum. Outside this filter bubble things would look different. There is a lot of speculation and interpreting going on here which is totally irrelevant to my argument. We are talking about a statue of a man who in the whole world is seen as a symbol for the systematic slaughtering of civilians. And him being seen as this symbol is actually more important than what happened in detail and what might have happened otherwise. Bombing civilians by the thousands with no other military justification than "breaking morale" is absolutely nothing to be proud of. Who has not understood this in 2020 is - to pick up that expression - a "lost cause" for sure.

The comparison of today's united Europe with a Europe being united by conquering clearly shows a mindset that is completely one of the past. It is sad to hear something like this but I have heard it many times before. Yet I have never met a person who was in favour of that statue. That's the reason I am posting in this thread, I want to hear what your arguments are. So far I am not impressed, I only see stubborn nationalism and militarism. To leave these behind was the real foundation of present day Europe. I guess we can at least all agree that Brexit was a good idea?
Jenns is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 11:37
  #84 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: london
Posts: 564
As I say to all revisionists and those that seek to pour scorn on Harris and the BC aircrew who lie in cemeteries in NW Europe, those men ,aside of Harris did not get the opportunity to join the debate that you enjoy and you are damm lucky the debate isn't in German. In which case most probably the debate would not be allowed at all!
rolling20 is online now  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 11:41
  #85 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Hampshire
Posts: 60
Originally Posted by Union Jack View Post
I readily accept the input from of the preceding three posters and, without wishing to deviate too far from the thread's specific subject, simply felt as an underwater warrior that the significance of the Silent Service's continuous war patrols was worth a mention, *specifically* but not exclusively, in relation to the posts I indexed. "Other fighting forces are available" - and their supporters are of course just as welcome to mention them on the same principle, should they so wish.

SLXOwft - For your interest, I had the pleasure of knowing both Mrs Johnny Walker and her aviator son.

Jack
Jack, thanks.

I am sure you understand I was trying to forestall any unjustified inter service sniping.

As we both know the Walker’s son Timothy was lost with HM Submarine Parthian. I have nothing but admiration for commanders like ‘Shrimp’ Simpson, Wanklyn, and Tomkinson and the men who served under them. I equally admire the Bomber Command crews. I was lucky enough to know someone who indirectly worked for Harris. Of whom, he said, had some failings as a man but he had no doubts about the job Harris asked him to do as a pilot and later as a squadron CO.

In 1992 the rest of Europe was looking forward to travelling and trading without border controls and to the Euro. In a process that has no equivalent in human history we had successfully put the animosities of the past centuries behind us. Yet some idiots needed to erect a statue that symbolizes them more than hardly anything else? Weren't you ashamed?
Jenns,
No, I was proud. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." As the philosopher George Santayana actually said.

I voted remain in the Brexit Referendum and would vote to re-join the EU. However, I consider the ECSC, EEC, EC and EU to have been consecutive beneficiaries of the peace, created by, what for Britain, was a pyrrhic victory, the Marshall Plan, and maintained by NATO, (initially) the occupation and denazification of Germany, and Nuclear Deterrence. This enabled the creation of widespread wealth which in turn supressed international rivalries. The erection of the Bomber Command memorial and a statue of MRAF Sir Arthur Harris Bt., GCB, OBE AFC were the righting of an historical wrong – their sacrifice and contribution to the defeat of tyranny had been ignored on the grounds of political expediency.

Historical events are often a matter of perspective, in a conversation with a Jens (funnily enough), who I worked with briefly, he stated he felt life was better under the DDR, in which he grew up. To paraphrase if you weren’t a political agitator the state looked after all your needs.

Political actions are often driven by expediency. “…If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that... ." Abraham Lincoln – the ‘heroic’ emancipator of US slaves in a letter to the New York Tribune, 22 August 1862. George Washington wished to free his slaves but didn’t in his lifetime partly because he was economically dependent on their labour. As an historian, to me the abolition of chattel slavery is a welcome fruit of the industrial revolution which had made it increasingly irrelevant to those who had political power. As with most historic changes the conditions have to be right and those in the right place get the credit.

Finally, a word on Field Marshal Haig. He was, for example, forced to launch the Somme offensive before he was ready in terms of training and quantity of artillery. This was due to a combination of political direction and to relieve the French whose position at Verdun was, in the declared opinion of Petain, about to collapse. Haig was always looking for new tactics and technology to improve the chances of a decisive victory and lessen casualties.

Apologies to all for the massive thread drift.
SLXOwft is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 12:21
  #86 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: West Sussex
Age: 78
Posts: 4,315
Jenns, your weary game of moral equivalence is better suited to being played out on Social Media. This is a Military Aviation Forum, albeit a "British dominated" one (a damning verdict in your book no doubt). Most here have served or indeed are serving. They know full well the awfulness of war and how important it is to avoid it at all costs, including meeting the costs of carrying a big stick and speaking softly. When it cannot be avoided then it must be conducted such as to end it ASAP in victory lest delay means it ends in defeat. As has been already pointed out, the only way of taking the war directly to Germany (with whom we were at war, not just with the NAZI Party, the SS, the Gestapo, or even the Wehrmacht, but with Germany) was by bombing, and the only practical way of bombing was by bombing at night. The technology of the time meant that the only practical targets on the whole were cities. For the most part we could at least find them and create the disruption of the German War Economy that would otherwise have flourished unhindered. Techniques and technology allowed for some improved accuracy and hence aiming for particular areas within cities, but to all intents and purposes Area Bombing (ie of cities) was the national policy (not just of Arthur Harris) throughout the war. If it hadn't been then it is my opinion that the Allies would have lost the war. By pinning down enormous German resources (particularly those of ground and air elements of the Luftwaffe) to defend against what was essentially a second front (as confirmed by that suave survivalist, Speer), it allowed for the advance of land armies from the East, South, and West that led to Germany's defeat. You may see all that as British self justification but I see it as the price of freedom. You pays your money and you takes your choice (to pick up yet another expression).

As to:-
We are talking about a statue of a man who in the whole world is seen as a symbol for the systematic slaughtering of civilians.
You really need to get out more!

Last edited by Chugalug2; 20th Jun 2020 at 12:32.
Chugalug2 is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 12:26
  #87 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Swindonshire
Posts: 1,931
Originally Posted by Jenns View Post
I did not really expect overwhelming approval in a British dominated military forum. Outside this filter bubble things would look different. There is a lot of speculation and interpreting going on here which is totally irrelevant to my argument. We are talking about a statue of a man who in the whole world is seen as a symbol for the systematic slaughtering of civilians. And him being seen as this symbol is actually more important than what happened in detail and what might have happened otherwise. Bombing civilians by the thousands with no other military justification than "breaking morale" is absolutely nothing to be proud of. Who has not understood this in 2020 is - to pick up that expression - a "lost cause" for sure.

The comparison of today's united Europe with a Europe being united by conquering clearly shows a mindset that is completely one of the past. It is sad to hear something like this but I have heard it many times before. Yet I have never met a person who was in favour of that statue. That's the reason I am posting in this thread, I want to hear what your arguments are. So far I am not impressed, I only see stubborn nationalism and militarism. To leave these behind was the real foundation of present day Europe. I guess we can at least all agree that Brexit was a good idea?
Ignoring some of the spurious hyperbole and false comparisons in there for a moment...

You're dangerously close to the 'Harris was just as bad as Hitler' moral equivalence nonsense that sees certain historians, many of them genuinely extreme right wingers (as opposed to how the British media defines XRW). There was military justification for bombing whether you like it or not. The evidence is there, in countless files, that Germany's ability to wage war was the target. Morale was but one component of that effort. Although this draws in the counter-factual to an extent because of the technology and likely outcomes of its employment, had the US and UK possessed precision weaponry of the sort available 20-25 years after the war (not now), morale would never have come into the equation. Nowhere, in Bomber Command's pre-war planning, was hitting civilians part of the equation. When the area campaign began just before Harris took over, it was still not part of the plan. Morale and 'dehousing the German worker' only came into play as a brutal perceived necessity once the campaign was underway.

Senior Air officers were concerned - not about 'image' but because they were instinctively uncomfortable with the thought that women and children were being killed and wounded. They weren't a bunch of callous senior officers, but were able to put those concerns aside, or to rationalise them, or to suppress them by seeing the target for tonight as being some sort of inanimate object (buildings) and pretending to themselves that these objects weren't surrounded by people. They adopted other 'coping' mechanisms. Harris's approach was to accept the fact that bombing would lead to deaths of civilians because this was the only way of winning the war. It wasn't about terror bombing, but about destroying (or attempting to destroy) Germany's ability to wage war.

You try to compare 'today's united Europe' with a 'Europe being united by conquering' as though there's a complete separation. Today's united Europe arose because the Allies conquered Germany. The western allies then set about attempting to ensure that the continent was not riven by further major wars through the establishment of the ECSC, EEC, EC and EU. But this stemmed from conquest.

Bombing was a 'necessary evil' to try to bring about the destruction of Germany's ability to fight, to liberate nations conquered by Germany and try to ensure that the war ended as swiftly and with as few casualties as possible on the other side.

To apply the standards of today to those trying to defeat one of the two most vile, inhumane regimes in modern history is fallacious. Harris' statute stands as a tribute to the men he led (remember, there was no Bomber Command memorial at the time Harris' statue was erected). Those protesting against the statue fail to realise that without the likes of Harris and the men he led (and literally millions of others at sea, on land and in the air), Hitler would've triumphed.

It's not about being British, or imperialist, or xenophobic, or right wing, or nationalistic or racist, or anti-European- it's about seeing history properly rather than attempting to shape it retrospectively to fit modern agendas which try to make crass moral equivalences between 1945 and 2020 and if that means twisting the context or the reality to fit the 'truth' desired, then those busily propagandising the history for their own ends couldn't care less. Bombing was not a 'nice' thing, it was an awful, terrifying, horrific thing. But it made a significant contribution to the defeat of an awful, terrifying, horrific thing, far greater in the scope of its evil and immorality - Nazi Germany. Implicitly comparing Harris to (say) Heydrich or Dietrich is nothing more than fake moral equivalence and dangerously close to an apologia for the Nazis.

So, no, it isn't much of a surprise that people are objecting to the line you're trying to spin. Just as it's no surprise to see you adopting an attitude of contemptuous moral superiority to those who dare to disagree with your world view.
Archimedes is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 13:03
  #88 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Singapore
Posts: 6
I think I have already made my point about the perceived symbolic significance of the statue in as few words as possible. I do not agree with most of your efforts for justification but that discussion would be endless and unproductive. As I mentioned before it is also irrelevant to my argument. The only thing I want to add is that I am in absolutely no way looking for "moral equivalence" or comparisons so please do not imply that. My initial provocation was just based on the observation that "following orders" is not an excuse. At least it brought up some decent arguments. Whether I agree with them or not is also not relevant.
Jenns is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 13:17
  #89 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Hong Kong
Age: 76
Posts: 316
Jenns

Perception seldom equates to reality.
Barksdale Boy is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 13:19
  #90 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: West Sussex
Age: 78
Posts: 4,315
So it's all about you and your perceptions, in which case whether you agree with others' 'decent arguments' or not is indeed irrelevant. Take your provocations elsewhere Jenns. "Following orders" to justify a war crime is indeed indictable. Harris carried out legal orders, and to portray him as a war criminal is unjustifiable and, as already pointed out, an insult to the 55,573 brave men who died carrying them out. Go away!
Chugalug2 is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 13:22
  #91 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: A place in the sun
Age: 78
Posts: 856
Thank you SLXOwft and Archimedes for saying so eloquently all that I would have liked to say too. I support your views 100%. My career was as a civil pilot, but most of the captains I first flew with in BOAC were ex-Bomber Command. As you would expect, some had very mixed views as to the morality but knew it was the only way that Britain could take the war to Hitler at that time. They were all very brave men who fought for the liberty and peace we now enjoy. They knew their ultimate goal was right even though the method used was a very blunt instrument. As others have said here, all war is horrible, my family suffered too. But once you go to war, you have to fight it with all your might.

Churchill did, Harris did, and the men under him did. You have to judge people and their actions in the light of the knowledge and values of the time, not those which are held now.
Bergerie1 is online now  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 13:41
  #92 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Singapore
Posts: 6
I was not talking about my perceptions, I was talking about the perceptions outside this filter bubble. And these perceptions lead to protests from day one. It required to guard the statue 24h a day. And perception is often more important than reality. Many wars have been started over perceived threats.
Jenns is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 14:22
  #93 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Under the clouds now
Age: 82
Posts: 2,179
Originally Posted by DODGYOLDFART View Post
I was a small lad living in the southern outskirts of London for most of WWII. I still have strong memories of the Blitz, the Bedecker raids and then the doodlebugs and V2 rockets. I also remember standing in the playground of my school and cheering as our bombers and the USAF streamed overhead on their way to targets on the continent. This was vengeance personified for the damage Hitler did to our country. So I for one am happy to applaud Bomber Harris for what he did, including the morale boost he gave to my family and school friends.

Perhaps I should also mention that I had members of my family flying in those bombers and thank God they were among the lucky ones who served with pride and without regret. So stuff the Hampstead Thinkers and their cohorts.

DOF, i remember being woken up by Lufrwaffe raids on Liverpool in the early nineteen forties. We moved in with my grandfather, who lived in the very east of Rhyl, when my father, who was in the regular army, went to France. He came back from Dunkirk and was posted to North Africa after a very short stay in UK, then was killed there in 1943. I joined the RAF as a UT pilot at the age of 17+ in 1955 and left in 1972 to join the airlines. Since then my eldest son has lived and worked in Southern Germany for 26 years, is married to a German girl and has a daughter at Munich University. My son has dual British/German nationality, mainly because of Brexit. I love Germany and like the German people very much, but I still think Harris was the right man for the job at that time.
brakedwell is online now  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 15:03
  #94 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: The Beloved Province
Age: 58
Posts: 12
Jenns, your argument is specious at best, but generally it is a load of old tosh. You are talking about the perceptions of a minority of UK citizens within yet another ‘filter bubble’. Whilst some of those protesting have genuine grievances, quite a few are there because they feel that they have the right to protest...just as long as it’s ‘anti-UK’, ‘anti-military’ and ‘anti-anything that doesn’t fit my world view so it must be wrong’.

I generalise, but some of the nice ‘woke’, middle-class youngsters who are there are the self-same posse who turned up at ‘wee Greta’s’ Save the Planet demonstrations, and disrupted our cities during the ‘Extinction Rebellion’ protests, having been dropped off in Mummy’s ‘Chelsea tractor’ then picked up by Daddy in his Rover, before flying to Antibes on their third holiday of the year. If you asked them to pick out Dresden on a map of Germany then they’d probably look at you blankly. And God forfend if you would ask them when D-Day was or who Churchill replaced as PM in May 40!!

It’s so simplistic to look upon percieved rights and wrongs through the prism of time. Nowadays potential collateral damage and civilian casualties are considered in fine detail by planners and ‘targeteers’! But as Hartley (‘LP’ not ‘JR’ of blessed Yellow Pages memory) stated in ‘The Go Between’…’The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there’.

Bomber Command took and sustained the fight to the enemy from the very first day of the war to the last. As has been previously stated the offensive not only caused damage to the German war industry and economy, and the morale of the German people, it also tied up millions of able-bodied men and thousands of 88mm flak guns in anti-aircraft defence; the ''Acht Acht, which, used in their other role was perhaps the predominate anti-tank weapon of WWII! But it also ensured the mobilisation of tens of thousands of men who as part of the Technische Nothilfe (TeNo) organisation, were responsible for air raid rescue and response, and relief work. Men for whom the Wehrmacht would have given their eye teeth from mid-1943 onwards.

It is easy evincing moralistic arguments in these strange times that we find ourselves; where the iconoclasts I described earlier seem to have free reign to destroy anything that doesn’t fit their particular world view…and damn those who don’t agree with them.

However, what we should not lose sight of are the men who went out night after night, in some cases literally throwing up or soiling themselves with fear before climbing into their ac, to do the job for which they volunteered.

I remember meeting an Australian Bomb Aimer at a former Bomber Command squadron reunion in about 1990. For an Aussie he was quietly spoken and self-effacing, but, as the weekend wore on he became more outgoing and we had some good conversations. After the Champagne Lunch on the Sunday (well more Champagne than lunch, shall we say!!) he took me to one side, produced a battered old box, handed it to me and told me to have a look inside. Only a bloody DFC and Bar!!! I asked him what he had done to be awarded those. His reply ‘Only my job, mate’!

He was of the late ‘44/early ’45 generation highlighted in John Nichols’ ‘Tail End Charlies’ and he had operated over Leipzig, Chemnitz and Dresden during THUNDERCLAP. I asked him, straight out, if he ever felt any guilt. His reply…‘Guilt, no – but, yes, compassion for those innocent Germans under the bombs’. When I asked about he conduct of the war I’ve always remembered his words…’Those b*s*a*ds started it, we had to finish it’. This was also the view of those BC veterans that I spoke with in my own Squadron Association. No hatred or animosity against the German civilians…but as ‘Joey the Cripp’, as the ordinary German called Goebbels (behind his back, obviously) put it himself ‘Total War – Shortest War’. They had lost too many family and friends to worry about what cosseted ‘woke’ teenagers would think of them in 75 years’ time.

Lastly, being a young, well young-ish, arrogant FJ Nav, I asked the Aussie Bomb Aimer why didn’t he become a navigator, the brains of the outfit, like me?! His answer was refreshingly honest! As an 18-year old in 1943 the RAAF brought a Lancaster to Sydney on a fundraising tour. For a small fee you could see inside the ac. When he realised that the Bomb Aimer lay on top of the forward escape hatch, he realised that he’d found the best position in the ac!!
OJ 72 is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 15:20
  #95 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Dark Side of West Wales
Age: 81
Posts: 117
Just to add a slightly lighter touch to this thread, including our friends from the DDR I would like to jump forward to 1958 and a bit beyond. I believe in the middle of the cold war quite a lot of blokes who are still on here served in RAFG on one of the two Canberra B(I)8 Squadrons. Then the bombing technique was LABS with a bucket of sunshine of about 20k tons of TNT equivalent. I am also fairly certain that one of the targets allocated by NATO HQ was again Dresden. The reason was quite simple Dresden was was/is a potential pinch point for the troops and weapons of the USSR and designed to stop reinforcement from the East. It was Harris that was largely blamed for the 1945 raid after the war, when it was clearly a joint decision. Incidentally I hope we are safe now from the ramifications of the OSA.

Funny how history has a nasty habit of repeating itself but in this instance thank God, a repetition was not needed.

Last edited by DODGYOLDFART; 20th Jun 2020 at 16:57.
DODGYOLDFART is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 16:18
  #96 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Swindonshire
Posts: 1,931
Originally Posted by Jenns View Post
I think I have already made my point about the perceived symbolic significance of the statue in as few words as possible. I do not agree with most of your efforts for justification but that discussion would be endless and unproductive. As I mentioned before it is also irrelevant to my argument. The only thing I want to add is that I am in absolutely no way looking for "moral equivalence" or comparisons so please do not imply that. My initial provocation was just based on the observation that "following orders" is not an excuse. At least it brought up some decent arguments. Whether I agree with them or not is also not relevant.
You might consider using more words, since your points as they stand seem to suggest that you aren't aware of the whole moral equivalence debate, particularly that prompted by Jörg Frederich.

You also seem not to understand that the 'following orders' debate for Harris is much more complicated than you presuppose (see Grayling, Cox, Gray, Garrett and Burleigh to name but five, and probably lob in Richard Overy as well). This gives the impression that you'd quite happily have seen Churchill, Truman, Portal, Spaatz, LeMay, Sinclair, Cherwell and others treated no differently to those who set out to exterminate an entire religious faith, and who regarded millions of Europeans as racial inferiors.

It also means that you are, even if not intending to do so, eventually going to get to the point where we're suggesting that all the members of Bomber Command were war criminals too, because they were 'following orders'. It's far more complex and contested than your posts present.

Last edited by Archimedes; 20th Jun 2020 at 19:37.
Archimedes is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 19:04
  #97 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 387
"Every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you're not a good soldier. ... I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal." Curtis LeMay
Brewster Buffalo is offline  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 19:12
  #98 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Posts: 334
Any human being who fought and triumphed over the Nazi regime deserves respect and a chestful of war medals as far as I am concerned.

- Ed
cavuman1 is online now  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 19:20
  #99 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Under the clouds now
Age: 82
Posts: 2,179
I have two points to make Brewster Buffalo. You haven’t a clue about the military and you are on the wrong forum to add your insulting insults.
brakedwell is online now  
Old 20th Jun 2020, 19:38
  #100 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Dreamland
Posts: 558
Originally Posted by brakedwell View Post
I have two points to make Brewster Buffalo. You haven’t a clue about the military and you are on the wrong forum to add your insulting insults.

Those words BB quotes are widely attributed to le May. I think there is some truth to them. Luckily he was on the winning side.
Harley Quinn is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.