The excellent presentation to Vaga Probus by Wing Commander (Retd) Phil Angus was a fascinating insight into “Bomber” Harris’s personality and the wartime bombing campaign which he directed.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris was a man of great determination who inspired absolute loyalty in his subordinates. In 1939, Britain was ill prepared for war. It was suffering badly in the blitz, and although the Battle of Britain was an outstanding victory, we had no means of taking the fight to the enemy except for bombing. In 1942, when Harris took over Bomber Command, our aircraft were wholly inadequate. Harris masterminded the creation of a heavy bomber capable of carrying heavy loads deep into Germany, and the Lancaster was born. 7,377 were built. With this massive power and hundreds of airfields at his disposal, Harris set about repaying the Germans for their destruction of out towns and cities. Many targets were not strategic but included cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and infamously, Dresden. The aim was to bomb Germany into submission. Bomber crews suffered massively, enduring extreme discomfort in cold, cramped conditions for many hours. . Navigation was basic and inaccurate. Many aircrew were actually sick when boarding their aircraft. 55,000 did not return.
It has been shown that much of the massive effort put into the bombing war was questionable and would have been better employed elsewhere. The moral aspect of the cost of human life was ignored. Harris was the best person to execute the strategy (which was backed by Churchill), but his obsession with bombing continued long after it was necessary at the end of the war, and some might say that by today’s standards could even be classified as genocide.
So, the debate continues about whether Harris’s strategy of destruction was necessary to win the war, or was it just the consequence of a bullying personality, confident of the correctness of his actions and ultimately a massive waste of lives and effort.
Vaga Probus is a men’s group that meets twice a month in Ross. Visitors are very welcome, if you have an interest in visiting or indeed have a talk you would like to deliver, please contact the Secretary on 01452 831026.