A long overdue memorial
We should have bitten the bullet and put up a memorial to the men of Bomber Command many years ago when more of those who survived the war would have been around to see it.
Regardless of your view on the right and wrongs of the area bombing policy - of which more below - the aircrew of Bomber Command were not responsible for setting that policy. They were doing a filthy and dangerous job in an attempt to stop possibly the most evil and murderous regime there has ever been from conquering the world. Tens of thousands of them, nearly half of those who took part in the campaign, did not come back. It is right and proper that they should be remembered.
It is also right and proper that the long overdue memorial which the Queen opened yesterday afternoon to the heroes of Bomber Command also included a reference to "those of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing campaigns of 1939-45" which has been welcomed by the mayor of Dresden. The memorial should be an opportunity to seek reconciliation for the wounds of the war, not inflame them.
The second world war was a ghastly tragedy, and the deaths of all the innocent people who died in it are greatly to be regretted.
The moral responsibility for those deaths lies entirely with Hitler, the nazis, and their supporters. The nazis started the war, they began the policy of mass attacks on civilian populations from the air when they bombed Warsaw at the start of the war, continued it by attacking Rotterdam in neutral Holland, and they had attempted to bomb Britain into surrender by attacking London, Coventry and many other British cities long before the main RAF and USAF attacks on German cities.
One of my relatives by marriage was ironically the only member of his immediate family to survive the war despite serving for most of it in a highly dangerous role. Having lost his brother at Dunkirk he returned from leave as a member of the crew of an RN submarine to find that a Luftwaffe bomb had destroyed his family home, killing his parents and sister. He never forgave the nazis and I don't blame him.
During the blitz, an RAF officer asked Lord Portal to come to the roof of the Air ministry building, where they watched London burning as a result of Luftwaffe air attack. That officer then said to Portal "They are sowing the wind," which was an obvious reference to the passage in the bible which says that those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.
The officer who said this was "Bomber" Harris, and he made sure that it came true.
For the future of every decent human being in the world, including German ones, the Nazis had to be stopped, and the people who ordered, led, and took part in the allied bombing campaign sincerely believed that hitting back at Germany from the air was essential to stopping them.
Let us hope we never have to do anything like that again.
As for the brave men who took part in that campaign:
We will remember them.