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"The Arab and Kurd now know what real bombing means in casualties and damage. Within forty-five minutes a full-size village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured," said Arthur Harris.
It was an easy matter to bomb and machine-gun the tribespeople, because they had no means of defence or retaliation.


Arthur Harris does it his way

Arthur 'Bomber' Harris was one of the most controversial figures of World War Two. His technique of 'saturation' or 'area' bombing of German cities, causing countless civilian losses and enormous destruction, has been a matter of contention ever since.

His experiences as a pilot on the Western Front shaped his opinion of air bombing as preferable to the mass slaughter of the trenches. In 1918, Harris became a squadron leader in the newly formed RAF, and during the following two decades, he bombed recalcitrant natives around the British Empire. In 1942, he took charge of Bomber Command and was promoted to Air Marshal. At the time, the Allied bombing campaign was in disarray, and Harris set out to implement a new and bloodier strategy.

Using incendiary bombs, the allied planes targeted cities such as Cologne in 'thousand bomber' raids. In February 1945, the obliteration of the historic city of Dresden from the air became one of the most controversial episodes of the allied war effort. Churchill supported the raid, but had second thoughts afterwards, and a few weeks later, the Allies halted area bombing.

Harris commanded enormous loyalty from his crews. But the debate about the morality - and indeed efficacy - of the bombing raids had been underway from the beginning of the war. Protest increased following 'Operation Gomorrah' - the mass bombing of Hamburg in 1943 which killed over 42,000 people and by the wars end even supporters of bombing German cities began to distant themselves form Bomber Command activities. To Harris' disappointment, his request for a special campaign medal for the Bomber Command was refused.

In 1992, eight years after his death, a monument was erected in central London, stirring up the debate about 'Bomber' Harris and his role in the war effort. The Bomber Harris Trust (a RAF veterans organisation formed to defend the good name of their commander) erected a statue of him outside the RAF Church of St Clement Danes in London. It was unveiled by the Queen Mother who looked surprised when she was met by protesters.

Protest at unveiling of Arthur Harris Statue