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Tuesday 12 June 2012

Lost in the Flames - Question 2

The book is clearly in support of the bomber boys themselves but is ambivalent about the effect on German morale or capability. Have you an opinion on this?

Historians of the calibre of Max Hastings, Richard Overy, and Robin Neillands do not agree on whether the bombing strategy was effective or whether the bombing was excessive or morally justified (particularly in the last few months of the war), so I don’t think I’m qualified to give a firm view either way. I could trawl through some of the arguments on each side of the fence, but would just be repeating what has been said by those more knowledgeable than I am. However, if you’re interested, I’ve included links to a couple of interesting pieces on my website ( – an article by David Bashow in defence of Bomber Command, and a debate between the philosopher A.C. Grayling and Christopher Hitchens (the former playing the prosecution, the other the defence). What is clear is that there were victims on the ground and victims in the air, and what happened can only have been dreadful for all of them. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the bombing strategy, to suggest that the airmen themselves were somehow culpable, rather than victims of the times and circumstances through which they lived, seems very wrong, and to judge them in hindsight and through the lens of modern-day peacetime morality seems a flawed means of evaluating what they did for this country when it was on its knees and engaged in a genuine fight for survival.

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