by Sean Gabb
According to The Daily Mail, “The bravery of Bomber Command can be summed up by a single, miserable statistic: almost half did not survive the war. No other unit could claim such a deplorable life expectancy. They’d have been safer sitting at home playing Russian roulette with a loaded pistol.”
I’m sick of this endless war porn. Bravery is not in itself praiseworthy. It takes bravery of a sort to go about strangling little girls, and none at all to hang the swine afterwards. We have it on judicial authority that it takes bravery to burgle a house. I think Himmler said something about the bravery of his execution squads in Russia – and it does take more than average firmness of mind to murder people in cold blood. Bravery is not the same as heroism. The men of Bomber Command might have brought less discredit to this country had they stayed at home and played Russian roulette.
I don’t regard showering enemy civilians with high explosive as a particularly heroic act – and one of my great uncles by marriage was in the Dambusters Raid. I think far better of one of my grandfathers. He volunteered for the Navy in 1939, and was at the Dunkirk Evacuation. He went missing for several days, after he’d given up his place in a boat to a wounded soldier. That was heroism. He helped scuttle the French fleet, and killed a French sailor who tried to put a knife in his back. I suppose that was heroism, and it was in the glorious tradition of Trafalgar and the Nile. He sowed the Atlantic with depth charges, and tough luck German submariners. He spent time in the Eastern Mediterranean, though doing what I never did learn. He did convoy duty to Murmansk – which involved heroism, whatever you may think of our Soviet allies. His ship went down at the Casablanca Landings, with him still on it, which was simply unfortunate. But he deserves to be called a hero. If he did his bit in a questionable war, those he killed were all in uniform, and they could and would have killed him had the fortune of battle gone differently. And thanks to some loophole in his terms of service, my grandmother had to take the British State to the very courthouse steps to get her war widow’s pension.
It would do much for our national self-respect if we simply forgot about Bomber Command. Or, if a memorial is needed, we do have those pictures of Hamburg and Cologne and Dresden, etc etc.