Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Bomber Command Memorial

On Thursday (28th June) an important new memorial is to be dedicated in London.

Almost 70 years after the end of the Second World War, the 55,573 aircrew of RAF Bomber Command who lost their lives during that conflict are to finally have a permanent, national memorial. Located on the Piccadilly side of Green Park, at the junction with Hyde Park Corner, it has been dogged by a certain amount of controversy ranging from its design, its size, its location and even whether it should have been built at all. I suppose that the fact of the matter is that what you think of the design, size and location are all a matter of personal taste but whether, or not, it should have been built shouldn't really be up for discussion.

These young men, all volunteers and with an average age of just 22, died doing the job that was set for them by the military and political leaders of the day. Winston Churchill, the master of the soundbite, made several speeches throughout the war praising the job that they were doing and the sacrifices they were making in the effort to bring the war to an end. Sadly, as the war drew toward that end, some of those military leaders and most of the politicians, including Churchill, began to see that their support of area bombing and the resulting "collateral damage" could possibly have a detrimental effect on their peacetime careers. To reduce that effect they began to distance themselves from the bomber crews and their achievments.

Shamefully, Churchill failed to mention the contribution of the bomber crews in his Victory speech, no campaign medals were issued and no national monument was built.

Now, after a considerable fund raising effort by the Bomber Command Association, and the Heritage Foundation, the Memorial has been built. and it will be unveiled by the Queen at noon on Thursday. Importantly, the Memorial also commemorates the people of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing campaigns of 1939-1945.

I should declare an interest here. My Dad is one of the survivors.I will be with him,  along with a large number of other veterans, for what I expect to be a moving and very emotional ceremony which will end with a flypast of five Tornado GR4 aircraft and (weather permitting) the Avro Lancaster of the BBMF . Tears will be shed and some of those will be mine

The ceremony will be shown in "Bomber Command: a Tribute" on BBC2 at 5.00pm on Thursday (repeated at 11.20pm) and if you want to find out more about the events at the end of the war, a program called "Who Betrayed the Bomber Boys?" will be shown at 9.00pm the same night on the Yesterday channel.

A special mention should be made here for the late Robin Gibb, who was very much the driving force behind the Heritage Foundation's fund raising campaign. It is such a shame that he won't be there to see the final result of his efforts.

Finally, please remember that this is not a Memorial to war but it is a Memorial to those who were lost in war. Consider it accordingly.

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