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Bomber Command veterans face cash shortfall
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Posted October 4, 2012 at 6:25PM
I wonder if anyone else was - like me - horrified to learn that a small group of war veterans is faced with having to fork out up to £500,000 towards the cost of the new WW2 Bomber Command memorial.
It's taken over sixty years for a proper memorial to be erected to the memory of the people of Bomber Command who lost their lives, and now it's finally there some of the survivors might have to sell their homes to finish paying for it.
I confess to a personal interest in this story - my father flew in Bomber Command - and I'm sadly disappointed that our government seems to be able to find tens of millions of pounds to pay for the consequences of a monumental blunder over train franchises, and millions of pounds to keep a radical Muslim Cleric for years at our expense, but it can't scrape up a relatively small amount to bail these old men out of trouble.
Surely we haven't entirely forgotten that we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to people like this?
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Posted October 5, 2012 at 2:36PM
like so many projects these days, the cost escalated after work had begun.
When I worked with MOD we awarded fixed price cost contracts and any deviation had to be the subject of a variation order. I am suprised that they have stopped doing these, it seemed a proper way to do business, the contractor new what he was to get paid. he had to monitor costs, and we knew that we could retain quaility control withour fear of a surcharge.
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Posted October 5, 2012 at 3:11PM
I was only a boy during the war, but I do know what the German bombers put us and our cities through. So to me retaliation by our bomber boys was the correct thing to do. I have many friends in Germany now because the war is over long ago as far as we are concerned. Neither they nor us want another one. (If I had been born five years earlier I might have been one of the so called Bomber Boys. I would have been mighty proud of it too).
Why the memorial was not built straight after the war I cannot understand. Without our bombers and those of the American Air Force, the German air Force would have been free to roam the skies and do as they pleased. No memorial is big enough or grandiose enough in my humble opinion. Maybe if some of the people who begrudge the remaining few this memorial had been alive during the pasting the Germans gave us, they would feel a lot different.
Then of course when I see one armed radicals etc., holding this country to ransom because of the weakness of our politicians, I cant help wishing some of those Bomber Boys were in charge of this country instead.
Come on Cameron Stump up!
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Posted October 5, 2012 at 4:08PM
"Why the memorial was not built straight after the war I cannot understand."
See my post of 9.19.
The bombing campaign upset the Establishment.
It was not just the Windsors who admired Germany in the Thirties, but a great many other senior figures as well, including Royals, military and political.
These figures all lost friends, just as you and I would now.
"Erecting a memorial shortly after the war would have glorified action that whilst, probably, necessary was nothing to be proud of"
Raw courage, for that's what it was, night after night, is always something to be proud of.
When I was in Germany I would regularly go and commune with "A Sergeant of the Royal Air Force, Known Unto God", and go over what a good time I had had in the Sergeants' Mess the previous night. At another time, in another place, we may have been friends.
I am as proud of the bomber crews, with whom I have no connection, as the FE is.
So are many Germans, who in many places, not maintained by the War Graves Commission, lovingly maintain memorials to crashed crews.
They put this nation to shame.
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Posted October 5, 2012 at 4:23PM
Bing-alau I am in complete agreement with you. As I remember at one time in the war the only positive action was being made by Bombers: the results were not good but at least we were doing something against the enemy.
The rights and wrongs of the bombing, carried out by all sides, will be argued about for ever but it is well to remember that all the 88mm AA guns firing on our aircraft were not firing against Allied tanks and the German fighters were not being used elsewhere.
There is no doubt that too much of our War Effort was directed to Bomber Command when Coastal were calling out for long range radar equipped aircraft and some areas were incorrectly targeted but it is all too clever to be a know-all after the event.
I joined Bomber Command after the war but served with the "Bomber Boys" very few of the Aircrew on my first Squadron did not wear campaign medals but I never heard anyone glory in the War. Some did, and some still do, have a guilt complex because they survived and so many did not.
Only one of my Bomber Boy friends, as far as I know, attended the opening ceremony and he did not think that the memorial was too grandiose, I do but it is a matter of opinion.
Again I ask the question. If the Memorial was paid for who did the Opening Ceremony cost £827000? My friend who was there in a wheelchair, had to buy his own lunch , at least his son did.
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Posted October 5, 2012 at 4:57PM
I had a feeling that this might drift into a discussion about the rights and wrongs of Bomber Command's bombing campaign.
My father died a long time ago, but whilst he was alive I had many conversations about the big raids in which he took part. He was always reticent to get into the subject because he became emotional, and I could see that it stirred up memories.
His central point was always the same one:
'It's easier, with the benefit of hindsight to say that this or that raid should not have been carried out, but when you are face down in an aircraft, concentrating on guiding your pilot onto the target so you can press the button and say those magic words 'bombs gone' and get out of there you don't think about anything else.'
The men who did this were being fired on by anti-aircraft batteries, and had the added worry of hitting or being hit by the other aircraft all around. They were often freezing cold, absolutely terrified, and had the additional worry that, having avoided enemy fighter aircraft on the way into Germany they would have to do the same thing all over again on the way out. There was no time for reflecting on the moral aspects of what you were doing, our country was at war, and our way of life under threat. My father used to say 'there's really no point in trying to explain to you how it was, because words can't do that - you had to be there to appreciate how awful it was'.
I think that all these years later it's impossible to arrive at a properly balanced view on the subject. The bomber crews did what they did because they were told to - they didn't have access to the kind of information that today's armed forces personnel can get at the click of a mouse. There was a great deal of secrecy, and of course there was propaganda - everyone believed that our nation had its back to the wall, and the only way out was to fight, and keep on fighting. My father did that, and was twice decorated by the King for his exploits. For him it was enough, I never heard him speak of a memorial, in fact he seemed to want to forget about the war and concentrate on the present and the future, but then he was alive - lots of his friends didn't make it, and I can understand that for their families the memorial is hugely important.
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Posted October 5, 2012 at 6:27PM
Unfortunately war is a nasty business, but let us not forget exactly what we were fighting! The Nazi's had the overwhelming support of the German people whilst things were going well for the Wehrmact. One did not hear any complaints whilst Hitler's legions laid waste to western Europe or the Soviet Union.
There was no outcry about the destruction by the Luftwaffe of Guernica, Warsaw, Rotterdam, Coventry, Liverpool, London and a whole host of other European and Russian cities!
As Bomber Harris said:
"The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind."
And they did reap that whirlwind! Perhaps today we should reflect on this from the benefit of our comfortable lives and remember the men like FE's father who helped ensure that today we live in peace and democracy, not under the crushing heel of the Nazi jackboot!
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Posted October 5, 2012 at 7:43PM
Like FE my father was in Bomber Command in WW2 as a Lancaster Navigator and was one of the over 55,000 KIA. I would have thought that this shortfall could be covered by a further appeal and lobbying of rich potential donors, rather than the taxpayer. By all means let politicians help to lobby such people. This is not the place to debate the rights and wrongs of Bomber Command's bombing activities. Those who were in this formation were bravely carrying out the task they were given, in the same way as the guys in Afghanistan do these days.
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Posted October 5, 2012 at 7:54PM
Flak999. Unfortunately there are some people who have never experienced the dread of being on the receiving end. The only way then is to hit back and hit back a damn sight harder. Which is why we should all be proud of Bomber Harris and his boys. (including FE's father) because they did it magnificently. They were fighting fire with fire which was the only way.
I have personally been in the situation where you have got to give back more than you get and the more you can give the better.
Also of course I lost family to the German Luftwaffe during the war. So no one is going to alter my view that the Germans got all they deserved. They elected Adolf after all.
Over the last twenty years or so I have been a member of the German equivalent of our Royal Naval Association and probably picked up more German friends than British, the main one being a member of the Hitler Youth. He died as an Australian citizen last year. We were the same age and became the best of pals. So, as far as I am concerned the war is well and truly over. (Forgive but never forget).
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Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:33PM
I was informed by a friend of my father's, who died in the early 60's and flew Pathfinders, that there was unlikely to be any Remembrance of Bomber Command as everyone was intensely embarrassed by what they had done to Dresden.
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