Dr Andrew Murrison is the Member of Parliament for South West Wiltshire and served as a medical officer in Iraq in 2003. His book Tommy this, an’ Tommy that; the military covenant is published by Biteback and dedicated to the men of Bomber Command.
The Queen will today unveil a very beautiful, classically inspired monument of Portland Stone in London’s Green Park.
Of the 125,000 men that served as aircrew in Bomber Command from 1939-1945, 55,573 made the ultimate sacrifice. The odds for men commanded by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris were worse than those of their fathers’ generation on the Western Front.
No-one on Thursday will call to mind the horrors of Dresden and Cologne with any satisfaction, least of all triumphalism. A fair number will harbour doubts that the carpet bombing of German towns and cities with its terrible loss of civilian life was essential to the outcome of the war. But the young men that took to the skies in their perilously vulnerable Lancaster, Halifax, Stirling and Wellington bombers opened up a new front against the very essence of evil as Britain and her family stood alone.
It has taken seven decades for their sacrifice to be marked in their capital city and even now there are those that say the actions of Bomber Command were shameful. Churchill’s Victory in Europe speech threw laurels at Fighter Command but ‘The Few’ he eulogised excluded Harris’s Bomber Boys. No campaign medal or bar for Bomber Command was ever struck and when in 1992 Harris’s statue was unveiled outside St Clement Dane’s on the Strand it was covered in blood red paint within hours.
There can be no doubt that the men of Bomber Command honoured the military covenant with every sinew. If their work remains controversial, like that ordered by Britain’s very different political leadership in 2003, it in no way detracts from their sacrifice.
The lateness of their memorial is a standing rebuke to government and public that did not keep the covenant.