Bomber Command

Free Bomber Command by Max Hastings

Book: Bomber Command by Max Hastings Read Free Book Online
Authors: Max Hastings
Tags: General, History, Europe
raged around the legitimacy of air bombardment, when there were attempts to outlaw the very existence of the bomber at the international conference table, it would have been unthinkable publicly to debate a strategic air offensive in terms of terrorizing a nation into suing for peace. And this, for all the talk of ‘centres of productionand communication’, was really the point at issue. The RAF’s belief in attacking industrial areas stemmed not from realistic analysis of the prospects of smashing enough industrial plant to break the German economy (although much lip-service was paid to that end), but from belief that the will of industrial workers would collapse when bombs rained around their factories and homes. The pre-war RAF was geared to the execution of a strategic terror bombing campaign and this was at the core of the Trenchard doctrine.
    Perhaps the central flaw of this concept was that it was already obsolete. It rested upon the old assumption of armies as professional bodies, behind which lay the unprotected and undisciplined civilian heart of the nation, divorced from the battle and thus totally unconditioned to take part in it. Yet the essence of warfare since the mid-nineteenth century was that the world had left behind the era of the condottieri and entered upon the new age of the nation in arms. The historic gulf between fighting man and civilian had ceased to exist. The age when Jane Austen’s characters could act out their private dramas with scarcely a glancing reference to the great European wars taking place beyond the park gates had vanished. Among the great western powers, it had become impossible to conduct a major war without the support and participation of an overwhelming consensus within the nation. In a fascinating paper which he wrote as Minister of Munitions as far back as 1917, Winston Churchill dismissed the arguments for morale bombing before Trenchard and the airmen had even developed them:
It is improbable that any terrorization of the civil population which could be achieved by air attack would compel the Government of a great nation to surrender. Familiarity with bombardment, a good system of dug-outs or shelters, a strong control by police and military authorities, should be sufficient to preserve the national fighting spirit unimpaired. In our own case, we have seen the combative spirit of the people roused, and not quelled, by the German air raids. Nothing that we have learned of the capacity of the German population to endure suffering justifies us in assuming that they could be cowed into submission by such methods, or indeed, that they would not be rendered more desperately resolved by them. Therefore our air offensive should consistently be directed at striking at the base and communications upon whose structure the fighting power of his armies and his fleets of the sea and of the air depends. Any injury which comes to the civil population from this process of attack must be regarded as incidental and inevitable.
. . . But the indispensable preliminary to all results in the air, as in every other sphere of war, is to defeat the armed forces of the enemy. 9
    If Churchill’s paper had been made a basic text at the RAF Staff College between the wars, much heartbreak and failure in the first four years of the bomber offensive might have been avoided. The airmen might have addressed themselves intensively to the problems of ground and naval air support, instead of allowing their obsession with an independent role for the RAF to distort the thinking of a generation. They might have focused on the decisive problem of air warfare, the defeat of the enemy’s air force, and thus conceived the need for a long-range fighter in 1933 rather than 1943. Instead, their thinking was directed towards means of by-passing the enemy’s defences, either by the power of the bomber’s guns in daylight, or by using the cover of darkness, in order to attack his allegedly vulnerable heart. The

Similar Books

The Bastard

Brenda Novak

From Dead to Worse

Charlaine Harris

Macho Sluts

Patrick Califia

Anabel Unraveled

Amanda Romine Lynch

As He Bids

Olivia Rigal


Edna Ferber


India Lee

The Blue Diamond

Annie Haynes

Dry Storeroom No. 1

Richard Fortey


Lorrie Thomson