A couple of minor clarifications about yesterday’s post. ‘Bomber Harris is seldom equated with a sense of humour’ – we meant, of course, in the general public’s view, including that of people abroad.
The standard identikit image of Harris is of a mono-focused, stern and vengeful killer of civilians; this is not just a modern view, and Harris was well aware that many held this opinion of him during the war. The story about the sentry on the roof, as given yesterday, concluded with Harris saying that that was the one and only time, on one of the worst nights of the Blitz, that he felt vengeful against the Germans. We should have made it clearer that this comment was a direct riposte to wartime criticisms: ‘I have often been accused of being vengeful during our subsequent destruction of German cities’.
Not to go off on too much of a tangent about this, but the Blitz, not only in London but all over the country, was the catalyst for many young men and women in their decision to join the RAF. This may have been partly an impulse of revenge, but it was also the keen desire to take the war back to the Germans, a direct land assault on western Europe being out of the question until a late stage of the war.
Max Hastings’ 2010 account of the Daily Mail photographer who took the iconic picture of St Paul’s in an ocean of fire can be read (if you can stand all the adverts and general distracting junk) on the Daily Mail online: Max Hastings on Herbert Mason