- Contributed by
- People in story:
- All in Bomber Command
- Location of story:
- RAF - No. 15 Squadron
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 28 May 2005
Until recently I knew few details about Great Britain's WWII Royal Air Force, its aircraft, or its famed leadership. But since reading "Reach for the Sky", "In For A Penny, In For A Pound", and "The Dam Busters", as well as, reading news articles from various England newspapers and web sites, I now possess a much better understanding of that era and the challenges faced by those brave souls in the RAF . . . especially those assigned to Bomber Command.
I was stunned to learn of the heavy losses incurredy by Bomber Command, and the scant chance each man faced in surviving his tour of thirty (30) missions. The statistics cite the loss of 55,000 Bomber Command airmen during WWII, and at various stages during the war, that meant theoretically no crew would survive long enough to complete his assigned missions. Yet the RAF bomber crews unhesitatingly climbed back into their aircraft each time to fly again and again into the night to face imminent danger.
The bomber crews flew missions that averaged 5 to 8 hours at a time, flew disciplined routes to avoid fighter or flak concentrations, and released bomb loads on targets outlined by flares dropped by accompanying Pathfinder airplanes. When targets were obscured by cloud cover, bomber aircraft often returned to bases still fully loaded. They landed at considerable risk. Sometimes this was done when the bomber was damaged, or when engines were running rough, or under unfavorable weather conditions at their home field.
But . . . that was standard fare for the bomber crews who accepted such conditions as part of their duty in WWII.
During missions, bomber aircraft were blasted out of the sky by flak. Sometimes bombs dropped from planes flying higher than others struck the lower flying airplanes. At other times, damage from enemy fighters, engine failure, or numerous other malfunctions, forced bomber aircraft down. Some crash or exploded sparing no one, and sometmes, miraculously, some were spared.
And these incidents don't count the anxiety crews faced because of rough weather, of seeing their friends blown out of the sky, or discovering after returning home that some went down unseen and were never to be heard from again.
How can you thank these crews enough?
What astonishes me most is the criticism levied at Bomber Command members because of bombing operations conducted against German cities that caused heavy civilian losses.
The criticism ignores the technology of the Day, and the intelligence of the Day.
I understand if one speaks generally of how unfortunate it was, or how regretful those losses, but that is wholly different from citing those in Bomber Command as being villainous. Those crews gave so much, paid such a heavy price, and stopped the Hun who was literally banging at your front gate. Such criticism is not only naive and unjustified, but terribly cruel and damaging to those who paid the fare.
It is understandable to recoil at the loss of live, or to wish it never happened, but it did. It did happen, and now, it's important to remember the circumstances; it was Germany that started the conflict, and it was Germany that did everything possible to destroy England.
If something could be done over, it would most certainly be that Germany not start the war that cost the lives of 55,000 brave RAF Bomber Command airmen and thousands of innocent English civilians who died under exploding German bombs and rockets.
So, unfortunately and regrettably, many civilians lost their lives during the war . . . on both sides!
What I hope to read from an English newspaper one day soon is how a grateful England finally says "thank-you" to its Bomber Command crews for their gallant service in WWII.
By writing this account, I challenge the "Silent Majority" there to stand up and make themselves heard. Start a campaigne, write your newspapers, call your Talk Shows, solicit support from family, friends, and neighbors . . . but make this happen. Get a memorial to Bomber Command, and a nation's "Thank-you" to these deserving men.
Just be quick because those remaining WWII RAF Bomber Command survivors are men in their 80's.
A Yank who proudly salutes Bomber Command
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