70 years ago, Europe was in flames. Total war.
It’s hard to imagine a concept like Total War now. We are used to a different type of warfare, different combattants, different tactics. Assymetric Warfare. Counter Insurgency. Remote, limited conflicts far from our homes.
Then, however, the war was every where. It was all encompassing. And everyone was focussed on the goal of winning the struggle – a struggle described as a battle for survival; of good against evil.
It is easy to buy into this, because the regime of the enemy was clearly evil. Based upon a dogma of hate. Terrible acts were perpetrated by some in the name of their ‘Reich’. But it was more than just that. Some of the enemy were not evil. Some were just young men conscripted to fight, who may not have believed in the ideals of the command.
And sometimes the ‘good’ did bad things. Maybe not evil, but certainly questionable things. But are those things only questionable in the light of 20:20 vision of history?
Take the air dimension for instance. In this, thousands…hundreds of thousands…of casualties occurred. And with today’s view, this is un-imaginable. It’s simply almost impossible to comprehend that many casulaties. 65,000 British civilains, 67,000 French, 400,000 Germans – 25,000 in Dresden alone.
We can look at event like Dresden and say that it was wrong, that it was a crime. But that is unfair. It was a different time, and it’s difficult to put yourself in the place of someone who was there at the time. The British had seen London, and other cities like Liverpool and Plymouth, pounded, and of course had seen the center of Coventry destroyed by German bombing raids. If you had been there, would you not have stood up and agreed with Arthur Harris who told the nation that the enemy had ‘sown the wind’ and will now ‘reap the whirlwind’?
Different times, different values.
One thing is certain though. ALL deserve to be remembered. Because by remembering, we see the pointlessness and the waste of war. The deeds done by those who fought were great, even if ideals behind them were not always perfectly noble. But in a time of Total War, everyone fought. And everyone deserves to be remembered and commemorated.
Those on the ground in Dresden are commemorated, likewise in Coventry. But there exists no memorial to the 55,573 members of Bomber Command crews who died, and they deserve to be remembered.
And finally a memorial to those crews is being built in Green Park, in London, and this opens very soon.
It is overdue. Whatever the politics and the ethics of what went on, the fact is that the participants need to be remembered. It is right and fitting that the memorial has been built.
And it is right and fitting that, at last, the crews of Bomber Command who conributed so much to the war effort – and argueably bringing the war to a swifter close – are to be honoured.
This is the first of a series of Posts scheduled to coincide with the opening of the new Bomber Command memorial. Keep checking back for updates, or better still, sign up as an email subscriber by clicking in the box over on the sidebar on the left of the homepage.