The Whirlwind. Remembering Bomber Command. "They sowed the wind and now they are going to reap the whirlwind." This was Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris’s uncompromising vow to Germany, and he was a man of his word. He hated it when a single bomber was diverted to theatres other than bombing German cities. It was this historically contentious dirty work – highly dangerous – which prevented the men of Bomber Command (1936 – 1968) during WWII from receiving the recognition and honour they deserved: medals were not struck. But 55,573 crew (44.4%) never returned from their deadly missions. On every mission, they left knowing that they had around a 50-50 chance of making it back. Harris was eventually, and controversially, commemorated with a statue at St Clement
Lincolnshire, England. 1944-12-08. Group portrait close up of air and ground crew members of Lancaster No. 460 Squadron RAAF at RAF Station Binbrook. In the centre front row (gloveless, holding a pipe) is Group Captain Parsons, the Station Commander. On either side of him are Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) J. Clarke DFC AFC, of Sydney, NSW (left), the CO of the Squadron, and Sqn Ldr J. R. Henderson DFC, of Mosman, NSW, Flight Commander. (My dad with Pilot hat just under the right hand engine)
Iain Hollingshead reviews Who Betrayed the Bomber Boys?, a Yesterday documentary that explores the achievements of the RAF Bomber Command in the Second World War. History, they say, is written by the victors.
Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, gives an address recounting the history of Bomber Command and Churchill's plan to take the fight to Hitler, and cripple Nazi Germany through unrelenting aerial bombing. He reads a much-forgotten part of Churchill's famous Battle of Britain speech hailing Bomber Command.
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the Fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness…aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss…and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power".
For the facts are as follows. Throughout World War II, no other arm of the Forces suffered a casualty rate as dismal as that of the 125,000 men who flew with Bomber Command. For 55,573 of them were killed, 8,400 were wounded and 10,000 taken prisoner.
And yet, come peacetime, the unparalleled sacrifice of this section of the Armed Forces — who, yes, bombed German cities as the Luftwaffe bombed ours — went largely overlooked. Winston Churchill, his ministers and their successors did not want to relinquish the moral high ground as they helped to reshape Europe.
These men are the last witnesses of events which have shaped our entire national identity. They have never forgotten the boys who didn’t come home. How shameful that it has taken the rest of us 67 years to remember them, too
Of 125,000 aircrew who served in the strategic bomber force between 1939 and 1945, 55,000 were killed and another 18,000 wounded or taken prisoner, a casualty rate of 60 per cent. Statistically, there was no more dangerous occupation during the war, except for that of U-boat crewman. The chance of being killed on a typical operation was one in 20, while the standard “tour” undertaken by a crew consisted of 30 ops. Flak, accident, the prowling, pitiless nightfighters – a completed tour was something to celebrate in the squadron local.
Peter Isaacson is a highly decorated Royal Australian Air Force captain; as captain / pilot he flew Lancaster bombers with 460 Squadron, part of the main force of Bomber Command in the skies over Europe during World War Two.
Peter shared some of those extraordinary memories, and the stories of the men and women who served alongside him. As we also found out today, Peter was a bit of a daredevil in his day - once flying a Lancaster bomber under the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
A BOND seven decades old is shared by World War II Lancaster pilots Bill Utting (89), of Wembley, and Douglas Arrowsmith (90), of Floreat. The Nedlands RSL sub-branch secretary and Mr Utting recently reconnected after serving together with the RAAF’s 460 Squadron at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire, mainly on bombing missions to northern Germany.
After Dunkirk, until D-Day four long and bitter years later, its planes and pilots provided our only offensive capability against Hitler's madness. Its aircrew experienced extreme danger. The cockpit of a Lancaster bomber over Germany was the most dangerous place a British serviceman could be anywhere in the war. Each cohort of 100 airmen could typically expect one of the following fates:
55 killed on ops or as a result of wounds 3 injured on ops (usually anti-aircraft shrapnel penetrating the body or burns) 12 POWs 2 shot down and evaded capture (most spirited home by various resistance organisations) 27 survived a tour of operations.
Bomber Command deserves its belated memorial. It is 67 years overdue.
They were and are brave men brilliantly led by Harris and his senior officers. We should salute them all.
They suffered the highest casualty rate of the British Armed Forces in the Second World War, but for 67 years the sacrifice made by the men of Bomber Command has been officially overlooked. The memorial unveiled by the Queen this week will finally give Bomber Command the recognition it deserves. Here, five veterans tell of their experiences in the deadliest wartime role
55,000 British Bomber Command airmen were lost during the air war over Nazi-occupied Europe; souls that did not know nothing about "political correctness" but knew well the future of their nations depended critically on their then present job. Beautiful machines flown by brave men.
Peter Stuart Isaacson AM, DFC, AFC, DFM (born 31 July 1920) is an Australian publisher and decorated military pilot. He was owner of Peter Isaacson Publications, the publisher of various trade publications and suburban newspapers including the Southern Cross and the Sunday Observer in Melbourne. He served in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as a pilot with RAF Bomber Command during World War II, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Force Cross and the Distinguished Flying Medal.
Isaacson became well-known in Australia for his tours in the Avro Lancaster bomber Q-for-Queenie to promote the sale of war loans, and in particular for flying his plane under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in October 1943. He transferred to the RAAF Reserve after the war, retiring as a wing commander in 1969. Since 1956 he has served as a Trustee, Chairman, and finally Life Governor of the Victorian Shrine of Remembrance. In 1991 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his publishing and community work.
We flew from 460 Squadron and Group Captain Hugh Edwards, he was a VC, he was a West Australian and he let us fly together as long as we didn't tell our parents and they never knew until the war was over.
AUSTRALIA'S OLDEST POW - Gordon Lake was flying a Wellington bomber when he was shot down over Germany and became a POW in Germany, Poland and East Prussia from 1942 to 1945. He is believed to be the only POW to reach 100 years. In 1942, the then 29-year-old tail gunner was the only surviving crew member of his Royal Australian Air Force 460 Squadron Wellington bomber, shot down over Germany after a raid on Stuttgart.
The new portraits of the airmen, which sit alongside official service photos from their time at Bomber Command during the Second World War. Featured: Warrent Officer David Fellows - air gunner - 460 Squadron.
Raised on Biggles and romantic notions of adventure and dare-devil flying exploits, young Australian men eagerly signed up to fight in Bomber Command. It would not take long for the reality of war to strip away their innocence, Kathryn Spurling writes
A Gunnedah veteran from Bomber Squadron has arrived in London to commemorate the loss of more than 55,000 airmen in the World War II. Retired RAAF Wing Commander, Ron Usher, says John Joseph Egan, from Gunnedah, is among them. "He did most of his training in Australia and completed his training in the United Kingdom as an Air Gunner in 460 Squadron, a very famous Australian squadron," he said.
Morrie O’Keefe was 18-years-old and living in Melbourne when he joined the RAAF in 1942. After two years of training in regional Victoria he was sent to England to defeat Germany through the air. On Thursday Morrie O’Keefe, now 87-years-old, will represent the 460 squadron when he returns to London to see the Queen unveil a Bomber Command Memorial in London.
At Last. The RAF Bomber Command Memorial, located in Green Park, London, will be dedicated on Thursday by Queen Elizabeth (UK Telegraph photo). This Thursday, Britain will correct a slight that was years in the making.
There is no doubt that the aircrews felt slighted by official amnesia. They said little in public but their feelings – of resentment at the way history had denigrated their contribution to victory, of hurt at the lack of an official memorial to their staggering losses – emerged behind closed doors at emotional reunions.
There was much that was wrong with the way the bombing campaign was conducted. None of the mistakes, though, were the fault of the crews, most of whom believed that they were risking their lives in a great cause. Of all our Second World War warriors, the Bomber Boys endured the most for the least reward.
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