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 Danes church in the Strand in 1992. And as we all know, the men themselves were finally remembered properly with their own monument in Green Park, unveiled by the queen on 28 June. I witnessed that event on my special perch in Piccadilly which I identified for the Golden Jubilee flypast some days previous. Hats off to the cabbies of London for getting the bomber command veterans to the service free of charge. I decided not to write this up until I’d managed to view the monument up close, which was yesterday.
And now, below, are some pictures of the Bomber Command Memorial from somewhat closer, taken yesterday. The very classical monument was designed by architect Liam O’Connor and built of Portland stone. The statue group of the seven aircrew is by sculptor Philip Jackson. The supporting struts in the open roof were made using metal from a WWII Halifax bomber. The final cost of the memorial was £9.5 million. No disrespect to Mr O’Connor’s fine temple, but Jackson’s statue is that fabulous I think it could have served quite happily on a simple plinth. But it is what it is, all involved are to be congratulated, and London has another memorial to past heroes and not a moment too soon.