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Perhaps I, like most of my comrades on operations, thought far too little of the implications and the morality of what we were doing. We knew quite well, all of us, that we were bombing women and children as well as oil refineries. But we couldn’t see them, and it was only when I was on the ground, behind the German lines as a PoW, that some of what we had been doing got home to me. In a way it is rather a terrible thing to confess that the months I spent on operational flying were perhaps the most satisfying I have known. I think we all had the feeling that there was simply nothing more we could do for the war effort than we were then doing. No infantryman is asked to ‘go over the top’ 36 times. No sailor is ever likely to be engaged with the enemy 36 times. But that is what was asked of Bomber Command aircrew in the winter of 1944/5 and if, when we had completed a morning raid on the Ruhr, we came back to go into York to the cinema that same evening, we did not feel we were having a particularly easy life. It was uncannily satisfying. No-one could ask us to do more. And, in any case, an awful lot of us were due to die. That is what had happened to many of my friends – Gordon Pickering, Donald Glennie, Tony Tisdall and others who have not been part of this story. The shameful treatment of the efforts of Bomber Command at the end of the War only compounded the feelings of sadness which those losses had given us, for ‘Bomber’ Harris and his great work were spurned and neglected in the most humiliating fashion. There had been arguments between Harris and others in authority, both civil and military, about the strategic objectives of Bomber Command’s operations in that final phase, with Harris intent on pursuing the blanket bombing of German cities to destroy the last remnants of German morale whilst others thought that the major targets should be oil refineries like the one over which I had been shot down.


Whoever was right, the outcome was that Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris (he did become a Marshal of the Royal Air Force) was the one great war leader who was denied a peerage. His Bomber Command force was denied a campaign medal, surely the greatest insult to the one military arm which had been alone among the British forces in being able to engage in offensive warfare against Germany for almost the whole of the War and which, although it represented only about 2% of those armed forces, accounted for 14.5% of the war dead. So I ended my war, shot down within hours of gaining the promotion I thought I had done something to deserve, robbed of the little additional distinction of a campaign medal because we in Bomber Command would appear not to have deserved it, but surviving and grateful to be alive. The Air Ministry subsequently sent to me, as to everyone else thus involved, my Record of Service which is reproduced elsewhere. They also, to my complete amazement, sent me a bill for two pairs of airmen’s socks issued to me over the counter of the stores at Weltzlar Dulag Luft! That was an example of bureaucratic administration triumphant in the most difficult of circumstances


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