Saturday, October 13, 2012

RAF Bomber Command Memorial London

Commander K. and the RAF Bomber Command Memorial

The Conservative tour of London continues with a visit to the brand new Bomber Command memorial (  This June a long awaited and overdue memorial to RAF Bomber command was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in London's Green Park, not far from Buckingham Palace.

"The Fighters are our Salvation But the Bombers Alone Provide the Means of Victory",  Winston Churchill
World War II ended in 1945.  Why did it take so long to honor the "bomber boys" with a memorial?

Bomber Command was always somewhat controversial.  The bombing of German cities was imprecise with many civilian casualties (the estimate in about 700,000 killed).  Most British veterans of the Second World War earned campaign medal such as Italian campaign, etc.  Veteran of RAF Bomber Command received no such medal.

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five ( and other writers, including Anthony Beevor in his latest book, The Second World War, ( have criticized the fire bombing of Dresden as being excessive and unnecessary.

"Strike Hard, Strike Sure," London
Arthur "Bomber" Harris, head of RAF Bomber Command, mistakenly believed that strategic bombing alone could win the war.

It must be remembered, however, that the Allied strategic bombing campaign did contribute significantly to Allied victory in the Second World War for several reasons...

RAF Bomber Memorial, London 
1) The Luftwaffe was compelled to divert its fighter strength away from the Eastern front to defend German air space.  This allowed the Red Air force the opportunity to gain critical air superiority on the Eastern front.  Source: The Second World War  (See earlier post Antony Beevor's Second World War, 9/12/12)

RAF Bomber Command Memorial is on Piccadilly!
2)  The Bombing was tremendously popular on the home front.  Allied bombers were the principal means the Western Allies had to strike back against Hitler who had earlier ordered Luftwaffe bombing campaigns against cities such as Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, Coventry, Liverpool, etc.

3)  The Allied Bomber offensive was the Allies best answer to Stalin's demands to opening up a second front in the West.  A premature assault on France in 1942 or 1943, as Stalin called for repeatedly, might have well have led to disaster for the Allied cause.

4)  The Bombing campaign, while lacking pinpoint precision, did lay waste to German industry and force its inefficient redeployment and dispersal.  Specific targets were hit such as Peenemunde (site of V-2 rocket research) and RAF Mosquito bombers hit the Mohne, Edard and Sorpe dams (The Dambusters  The French railways were devastated by Allied bombing prior to D-Day, making it difficult for the Wehrmacht to redeploy its forces against the Normandy beachhead.

5) Goering, head of the Luftwaffe, famously said, "When I saw Mustangs over Berlin. I knew the war was lost."

The Americans and British divided up bombing duties in order to bring "round the clock" devastation to Nazi Germany.  The Americans bombed Germany by day in their B-17s, B-24s and B-29s, while the RAF bombed at night in their four-engine Avro Lancasters.  The USAF 8th Army Air Force was based at Duxford (see earlier post, Duxford and...George Carlin, 4/30/12) near Cambridge.

Avro Lancaster Bomber
If a fighter was shot down, one pilot was likely to have been killed or, if lucky, captured.  If a bomber went down, about 10 crew members often died together.  Over 55,000 RAF Commonwealth crew members were killed in the course of the war.  Allied bomber crews (RAF and American) lost over 100,000 crewmen over Germany and the KIA rate for heavy bomber crews was a staggering 71%.  The heavy wool-lined jackets visible in the monument's figures remind us of the freezing temperatures and lack of pressurised cabins that these men had to endure as well.   
55,573 Commonwealth Airmen lost in World War II
On my recent trip to Belgium, I saw the graves of one RAF Lancaster crew that had crashed near Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge...

Lancaster Bomber Crew grave site in Belgium; Note Australian, New Zealand and British Crew
The Bomber Command memorial is easily found near the Green Park tube stop.  On the way, be sure to check out the Blitz damage that is visible on the wall of the Ritz Hotel facing the park...

Ritz Hotel facing Green Park, Note Blitz Damage, London
After a visit to the RAF Bomber Command Memorial, be sure to make a tissue-restoring stop at The Grenadier pub which is nearby on 18 Wilton Row in Belgravia.  Wellington's officers used it as a mess  during the Napoleonic era.  Try the Beef Wellington which is excellent!  Bloody Marys are a specialty.  They even have ghost!  Here is the link...

Commander K. at The Grenadier Pub
Special Thanks to Chris Moran, Jeff Dody and Bill Funk.

You can now find Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades,  here or on Amazon

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