Thursday, May 13, 2010

A long overdue commemoration of courage

I'm delighted to read that the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command of World War II is at last to have its own memorial erected in London. The Daily Mail reports:

A memorial to the 55,000 airmen of Bomber Command who died helping defeat Hitler has finally been given the go-ahead.

The £2.5 million [about US $3.7 million] monument will recognise the extraordinary sacrifice, courage and dedication of the young men – 65 years after the Nazis were crushed.

Council chiefs overruled local objections to give permission for the tribute to be built in Green Park, close to Buckingham Palace.

The decision is a massive victory for campaigners who blamed Britain’s failure to honour members of Bomber Command who lost their lives fighting tyranny on ‘political correctness’.

After the war there was widespread unease over the controversial tactic of carpet-bombing German cities which caused up to 600,000 civilian casualties.

Part of the memorial, which will be unveiled in August next year, will be constructed from sections of melted down aluminium from a Halifax bomber shot down over Belgium in May 1944.

. . .

The men of Bomber Command suffered ten per cent of all the casualties in the war.

Fewer than 3,000 of the 125,000 bombers, who came from all over the world including the Commonwealth, are still alive.

There's more at the link.

Unlike the USA, where veterans of the US Army Air Force's European bombing campaign during World War II have been honored ever since, successive British governments have avoided recognition for their own bomber veterans. The enormous destruction and loss of civilian life caused by the RAF's night bombing campaign have been an issue of conscience for many. Nevertheless, the men of Bomber Command carried out the orders of their superiors, and for years on end perished in great numbers in order to provide at least some offensive action against Germany. My father was among them for a time; I've written before about his wartime service. Their courage deserves this long-overdue recognition.



John Peddie (Toronto) said...

You can honour courage and sacrifice of front-line airmen without necessarily agreeing on all the decisions made in the "higher echelons" of Bomber Command.

My older cousin lost his life in an RCAF Lancaster over France in 1944-age 19.

Subject is a tad close to my heart.

Old NFO said...

Good on them, even if it IS a tad late... sigh...

Unknown said...

Unfortunately the recognition comes to late for many. WWII was a fight for national survival, from 1940 onwards Bomber Command was the only offensive arm to challenge Germany.

Respect the few, Honour the many