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J. M. Spaight 

Bombing Vindicated 


[Aaargh: this online copy of Bombing Vindicated was first displayed on the web at 

By the same author 



J. M. SPAIGHT, c b , c b e 

Late Principal Assistant Secretary, Air Ministry 



First published 1944 



















INDEX 157 

[p. 7] 



The Bomber and Aggression 

'The bomber saves civilisation': my first chapter heading may strike some readers as a 
paradox, possibly as a perversion of the truth, at best as an overstatement made for the 
purpose of calling attention to what I have to say. It is nothing of the kind. I am not trying 
to shock or to bamboozle the reader. I am stating the truth as the truth appears to me. The 
bomber is the saver of civilisation. We have not grasped that fact as yet, mainly because 
we are slaves to pre-conceived conceptions about air warfare. Air warfare is the dog with 
a bad name. The bad name is, on the whole, a calumny. This book is an attempt to 
rehabilitate it, not against the facts of the case but because of the facts of the case. 
Civilisation, I believe firmly, would have been destroyed if there had been no bombing in 
this war. It was the bomber aircraft which, more than any other instrument of war, 
prevented the forces of evil from prevailing. It was supposed to be the chosen instrument 
of aggression. Actually, it was precisely the opposite. Aggression would have had a 
clearer run if there had been no bombers — on either side. And the greatest contribution of 
the bomber both to the winning of the war and the cause of peace is still to come. 

This view of mine, I feel entitled to add, is no newly formed one. For twenty years or 
more I have believed, and written, that air power was very far from being the menace to 
civilisation which it was commonly supposed to be. I have no need in this particular 
matter to cry Peccavi — as I have, alas! in some others. Air power never was and is not 
now the villain of the piece in war. 

[p. 8] 

'Air power', some reader may say. 'Yes, in so far as it is represented by the fighters it is 
the defender of civilisation; but how can you pretend that the bombers save civilisation?' 
I agree about the fighters. They saved the cause of freedom in the battle of Britain. What 
they did then is acknowledged by all. Their fame is immortal. So, too, should be that of 
the bombers, whose role as preservers rather than wreckers is less well understood. It is 
assuredly in no spirit of disparagement of the magnificent record of the fighters that I 
emphasise here the no less superb and no less important role which the other branch of 
our Air Force played in the great drama of war which we have been witnessing, and that I 
insist upon the essentially defensive character of that branch's activities. 

The Pre-War View 

If there was one subject upon which there was almost universal agreement before the war 
it was, first, that another war would be the end of civilisation, and, secondly, that aircraft 
would be the prime agents in the causation of that end. There was hardly a dissentient 
voice; but one there was, and it is worthy of record. In the House of Commons on 15 
March, 1937, Mr. Austin Hopkinson said: I say, presupposing that war is to continue, 
and that is a presumption, I think, upon which it would be safe to base our policy at the 
present time, the more that war is fought in the air the more likely it is to prove the 
salvation rather than the destruction of civilisation.' With that prediction it would not be 
an exaggeration to say that not one person in a thousand would have agreed at that time. 
The other view, that aircraft would make war more terrible and more homicidal than it 
had ever been, was the accepted view. It was expressed not only in the popular literature 
of the day — for example, in such books as Mr. A. A. 

[p. 9] 

Milne's Peace with Honour and Mr. Beverley Nichols's Cry Havoc — but also in the 
solemn warnings of responsible Ministers. One such warning was given a few years 
earlier and it had an immense influence upon public opinion. 

On 10 November, 1932, a famous British statesman made in the House of Commons one 
of the most eloquent and moving speeches ever heard in that assembly. It was acclaimed 
by all parties as a noteworthy pronouncement upon the subject which was then being 
debated in Geneva and in all the capitals of the civilised world: the subject of 
disarmament, especially in the air. Now, it is the simple truth and no paradox to say that 
practically every major proposition in that speech could be turned round and made to 
state the opposite of what was actually said, and the result would then be nearer the truth 
than in fact it was. It was not only that the speech was wrong in such specific statements 
as that 'the bomber will always get through': which we now know it will not against 
powerful defences by day, so that an unqualified statement such as that made in the 
speech was, in fact, incorrect. [1] It was rather in the general approach to the new 
situation that the speech went astray. Its main thesis was that the only hope for humanity 
lay in the agreed abolition of all military aircraft, or, if that could not be effected, at least 
the prohibition of bombing, together with the institution of such control of civil aviation 
as would prevent its misuse for warlike purposes. The speaker appealed to the younger 
men, on whom, he said, a failure to act betimes would re- 

1 Professor F. A. Lindemann in a letter to the Daily Telegraph of 25 May, 1935, spoke of the 'fatal 
obsession' which seemed to be 'implanted so firmly in the minds of nearly everyone in authority' that there 
was no possible defence against the bomber and that all that could be done by the people bombed was to 
repay the enemy by 'reprisals more ghastly and more bloody than anything they can inflict'. 'In the whole of 
recorded history,' he said, 'no weapon has ever yet been invented to which a counter has not been found.' 

[p. 10] 

coil, to decide to take the measures necessary to preserve themselves from the threatened 

The Flaw in the Argument 

Now, it is a more sustainable proposition that the hope of civilisation lay then and in the 
years that followed on the retention rather than on the abolition of air forces, and, 
furthermore, that it was on the older generation and not on the young that the calamities 
which a failure to abolish them would entail were likely to fall. It was indeed to sacrifice 
the young to let the old order of war continue. War had become by 1918 a sheer massacre 
of boys. War in the air is terrible but it is not that. The most disastrous calamity that can 
befall any generation of men is that which strikes down the flower of it. That, and nothing 
else, is the destruction of civilisation which all efforts should be bent to preventing. It 
was, and is, the tragic harvest of the historical husbandry of war. It is a necessary harvest 
when great land-battles are the only means not only of clinching but of preparing for a 
decision. The tremendous difference which air warfare makes is that the long process of 
attrition can be carried on without any comparable waste of human life. 

Mr. Churchill and the Somme 

Let me illustrate my argument by comparing what happened in five months in 1916 and 
what happened in nine months in 1940-41. The battle of the Somme began on 1 July, 
1916, and went on until the end of November. We and the French lost in killed, wounded, 
missing and prisoners — the last were not many — about 630,000 officers and men. The 
German losses were about 680,000 [1] in the 

1 Official History, Military Operations, France and Belgium, 2 July, 1916, to end of battles of Somme, p. 
553; also Preface to same volume, p. xvi. Our losses in the Somme battles were greater than the total losses 
incurred by 

[p. 11] 

nine months, September 1940 — May 1941, during which the intensive air raids upon this 
country continued, the losses sustained by us were approximately 90,000 persons killed 
and seriously injured. That figure is only half as much again as the loss incurred by the 
British army on one day alone (1 July) in 1916. But, it will be said, the comparison is 
unfair, for much more important results were obtained on that one day in July (and in the 
subsequent battles) than air operations could possibly have achieved over many months. 
Not so: I dispute that conclusion. On the contrary, I suggest that our own raids on 
Germany have caused more damage to her war-effort and contributed more effectively to 
her ultimate defeat than did all our land battles in the last war before 8 August, 1918. 
Read what Mr. Churchill has to say about the Somme. 

'Night closed [on 1 July] over the whole thundering battlefield. Nearly 60,000 British 
soldiers had fallen, killed or wounded, or were prisoners in the hands of the enemy. This 
was the greatest loss and slaughter sustained in a single day in the whole history of the 
British Army.' [2] 'The extent of the catastrophe was concealed by the censorship.' [3] In 
the first five days of the battle we lost nearly 100,000 of our best troops, and 'the ground 
conquered was so limited both in width and depth as to exclude [sic] any strategic 
results.' [4] Summing up the results of all the fighting on the Somme, Mr. Churchill says: 

'The campaign of 1916 on the Western Front was from 

British Empire forces during the first three years of the present war. The latter were given by Mr. Attlee in 
the House of Commons on 1 June; 1943, as 92,089 killed, 226,719 missing, 88,294 wounded and 107,891 
prisoners: a total of 514,933. The proportion of prisoners (and probably many of the huge total of missing 
will be found also to be prisoners) was immensely greater in the figures for 1939-42 than in those for the 
Somme battles. 

2 W. S. Churchill, The World Crisis, 1916-8, Part I, p. 179. 

3 Ibid., p. 180. 4 Ibid., p. 180. 

[p. 12] 

beginning to end a welter of slaughter, which after the issue was determined left the 
British and French armies weaker in relation to the German than when it opened, while 
the actual battle fronts were not appreciably altered. . . . The battlefields of the Somme 
were the graveyards of Kitchener's Army. The flower of that generous manhood which 
quitted peaceful civilian life in every kind of workaday occupation, which came at the 
call of Britain, and, as we may still hope, at the call of humanity, and came from the most 
remote parts of the Empire, was shorn away for ever in 1916. [1] 

Mr. Lloyd George on Passchendaele 

The blood-bath of the Somme was succeeded in the following year (1917) by that of 
Passchendaele, the horror and futility of which another Prime Minister has recorded with 
still more trenchant pen. Passchendaele, Mr. Lloyd George concludes, was 'a reckless 
gamble' on the chance of a rainless autumn on the Flemish coast. And the rains, alas! 
came. 'Artillery became bogged, tanks sank in the mire, unwounded men by the hundreds 
and wounded men by the thousands sank beyond recovery in the filth. It is a comment 
upon the intelligence with which the whole plan had been conceived and prepared that 
after the ridge had been reached it was an essential part of the plan that masses of cavalry 
were intended to thunder across this impassable bog to complete the rout of a fleeing 
enemy.' [2] 'While the ghastliness I have inadequately summarised was proceeding, and 
brave men were being sacrificed to the stubborn infatuation of the High Command, the 
public at home, official and unofficial, were all being dosed day by day with tendentious 
statements about vic- 

1 W. S. Churchill, op. cit. pp. 194, 195. 

2 D. Lloyd George, War Memoirs, Vol. IV, p. 221 1. 

[p. 13] 

tories won and progress made towards more assured and even greater triumphs.' [1] It 
was all, Mr. Lloyd George states, a ghastly exercise of 'the bovine and brutal game of 
attrition'. [2] 'Passchendaele was indeed one of the greatest disasters of the war.' [3] 

A Historian 's Verdict 

The verdict of a temperate historian does not differ substantially from that of Mr. Lloyd 
George. 'Strategically,' says Mr. Crutwell, 'nothing whatever had been accomplished [at 
Passchendaele]. On the contrary, the enlarged salient, with its tip at Passchendaele, where 
an advance of about five miles had been made, was even more unwieldy than of old. All 
our gains had to be evacuated at a stroke next April, when the second great German thrust 
took the enemy forward beyond Bailleul.' [4] 

The hecatombs of the Somme and Passchendaele had their rivals in some of the other 
long-drawn-out battles of that war. At Verdun the French losses were 362,000 and the 
German 336,000. [5] In the great German offensive of the spring of 1918 we lost nearly 
240,000 men and the French 92,000; the German losses were 348,000. [6] During the 
whole war the military deaths amounted to: for the British Empire, over 900,000; for 
France, 1,300,000; for Germany, 2,300,000; for Austro-Hungary, 1,530,000; for Russia, 
1,700,000. [7] The total military losses in 1914-18 

1 D. Lloyd George, op. cit. p. 2219. 2 Ibid., p. 2234. 3 Ibid., p. 225 1. 

4 C. R. M. F. Crutwell, A History of the Great War, 1914-8, p. 442. 

5 Official History, Military Operations, France and Belgium, March- April, 1918, p. 490. 6 Ibid. 

7 S. Dumas and K. O. Vedel-Petersen, Losses of Life Caused by War. Copenhagen, English translation, 
Clarendon Press, 1926, pp. 137-142. The authors state that the Russian losses are unknown; the figure of 
1,700,000 is given by Mr. Crutwell, op. cit., p. 631. He gives the total of military deaths for the British 
Empire as 947,023 (p. 630). This is close enough to the figure of 947,364, given by Lord Riddell in his 
Diary, p. 336. 

[p. 14] 

were about eleven millions, of which the military deaths amounted to eight millions. [1] 

Human Losses, 1939-43 

Before the present war ends we may have to endure human losses comparable to those of 
1914-18. The fighting in Russia has already produced its massive harvest of death. We, 
too, may have terrible casualty lists to record in the land encounters which have already 
begun in Europe and in which many tens of thousands of lives will be lost before the end. 
I may be told: You spoke too soon. Not so: nothing yet to come can alter the fact that in 
the first four years of war we in Britain have not seen a generation slaughtered and 
mutilated on the appalling scale to which we became accustomed in 1914-18. There has 
been in the west, at least, no such shedding of blood as there was then. That which is, 
alas! to come — it must come if the German armies are to be broken — will have its 
parallel, one may expect and hope, in the toll of lives which we had to pay in the final 
stages of the war of 1914-18 and which were the price of a victory towards the winning 
of which our earlier sacrifices contributed but little. [2] We have escaped at least the 
holocausts of 1915-17. We have come without having to endure them to a stage in the 
conflict corresponding to that which we reached in the summer of 1918. By our air raids 
and our blockade we have hurt Germany at least as much as we had then. We have done 
so at a cost in British lives almost negligible in comparison with that which we had to pay 
before we entered on the final round in 1918. Nor should we forget how 

1 J. Dumas and K. O. Vedeb Petersen, op. cit. p. 133. 

2 That, it is evident from the extracts quoted from Mr. Churchill's and Mr. Lloyd George's books, is the 
view which eminent statesmen would endorse. A different view is held by others; see, for instance, the 
defence of our tactics at Passchendaele in Sir Douglas Haig's Command, pp. 20-26, by Mr. G. A. B. Dewar 
and Lieut. Colonel J. H. Boraston. 

[p. 15] 

greatly the use of our air arm and that of the United States Army has reduced the volume 
of the casualties which the conquest of Tunisia would otherwise have entailed upon the 
ground forces there. Again and again the airmen blasted the way for the advance of their 
comrades below. There can be no question whatever but that, both strategically and 
tactically, air action has contributed very materially to keeping the level of the human 
losses far below that of the last great war. 

The Menace of the Air 

The prophets of calamity who fixed their thoughts on the menace of the air, almost to the 
exclusion of everything else, were really the slaves to an idee fixe. They could not rid 
themselves of the idea that air warfare must mean necessarily the end of civilisation if 
war were allowed to come at all. It was on the menace of the bomber that their thoughts 
centred. War would apparently not be so bad if that particular instrument were banished. 
In the famous speech of 10 November, 1932, already quoted, the confident assertion was 
made that in the next war 'European civilisation will be wiped out . . . and by no force 
more than by that force' — that is, by the force of the air. It was for that reason that 
strenuous efforts were made at Geneva in 1932 to abolish air forces altogether. 
Incidentally, it was apparently forgotten at Geneva that the practical question was not the 
abolition of all air forces but the implementing of an already decreed abolition of a 
particular air force. The sole danger of a major European war was known even then to 
arise from a re-armed Germany; and Germany had been forbidden by the Treaty of 
Versailles to possess an air force. Civilisation was threatened, in, fact, not because the 
younger men hesitated to take a new decision but because the older men, the men in 
power, were afraid to enforce a decision reached in 1919. 

[p. 16] 

It is amazing in the retrospect to read the forecasts which were made before September, 
1939, of the cataclysmic horrors which air warfare was to bring upon the world. There 
was loss of perspective, of balance in the preview, an almost hysterical self- surrender to 
the emotion which it evoked, an inverted kind of wishful-thinking in which everything 
that was most horrible was assumed to be fated. Cities were to be wiped out; there were 
nice calculations of the precise tonnage of high explosives that would be needed entirely 
to destroy towns of varying sizes. No doubt a few well-informed people knew, and said, 
that the popular view was a sensational one, not likely to be confirmed by the sober fact. 
The vast majority held firmly to the belief that air warfare would mean the pentecost of 
calamity, that the slaughter and mutilation which it would necessarily involve would 
surpass anything ever recorded in the sombre annals of war. The truth is that aircraft were 
credited with a capacity for destruction which they did not possess when the war began. 
Even after it began one finds the same kind of exaggeration of the results which 
bombardment from the air could achieve. 

Two American Views 

On 19 September, 1940, when the attack on London was at its height, Mr. Joseph 
Kennedy, the American Ambassador in London, told Mr. George Bilainkin that the 
Germans were 'not using a twentieth or, thirtieth of their bomber strength against Britain. 
Air war has not really begun.' [1] Twenty to thirty times the number of bombers then 
being used for raiding this country would amount to some 10,000 to 15,000 aircraft. The 
possibility of an even greater armada of the air being launched against us was foretold by 
another well-known American. Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson wrote in 1940: A 
horrified world 

1 George Bilainkin, Diary of a Diplomatic Correspondent, 1942. 

[p. 17] 

may well be treated to the spectacle of at least 20,000 'planes, flying in great waves, one 
after the other, and at different levels, ranging far and wide in strict formation, each with 
a particular objective, each objective to be reduced by a smashing and overwhelming 
attack and obliterated into kinship with the dust. It could be such a concentration of air 
power as the world has never seen. Its unrelenting attack is likely to go on continuously 
day and night, to be followed by simultaneous invasion of two million men from every 
bay and inlet on the coast of the North Sea, the Channel and the Atlantic, using every 
type of ship and barge and motor boat that will carry a handful of men. . . . The British 
would probably be outnumbered in the air not five to one but fifty to one.' [1] 

Now, it is as certain as that these words are being penned that it would have been utterly 
impossible for Germany to send over Britain more than one-tenth of the lowest number of 
bombers quoted by Mr. Kennedy and Major Nicholson (10,000, 15,000 and 20,000). 
Anyone who disputes this statement is, I submit, unacquainted with the meaning of first- 
line or operational air strength. The two eminent Americans were, in fact, talking arrant 
nonsense; and they were very far indeed from being the only eminent persons, here and in 
America, to whose utterances a similar criticism would be perfectly appropriate. Wilder 
statements have probably been made about air warfare than about any other subject under 
the sun. They were particularly wild when they referred to the disasters which bomber 
aircraft were likely to cause 'in the next war'. 

Air Power as a Bogey 

Air power is 'news', 'hot news', only when it is portrayed as a portent of lurid magnitude 
and of almost limit- 

1 M. Wheeler-Nicholson, America Can Win, 1941, pp. 139-141. 

[p. 18] 

less capacity for evil. It is something to write about then, to splash over front pages, to 
give banner headlines to, to dilate upon with gusto. The air power which can really work 
wonders is something much less sensational, less arresting, more coldly scientific in a 
terrible way that is at times not a very interesting way. It is a reality, not a bogey, not the 
sort of 'monstrous crow as black as a tar-barrel' which 'frightened both the brothers so 
they quite forgot their quarrel'. 

Now, that was precisely what many well-meaning people conceived air power to be 
before this war began. They wanted it as a bogey. They saw in it a power of appalling 
potentiality as a deterrent, a kind of withheld thunderbolt the mere menace of which 
would make nations hesitate to go to war. That they should hesitate was, of course, an 
excellent thing and the aim pursued was a laudable one; but it had some unfortunate 
results. It was one of the reasons why the question of what aircraft might and might not 
do in war was never definitely settled.) 

That is another of the matters which will probably strike the future historian as a not 
unimportant item in the long list of the failures of statesmanship during the period 
between the two great wars. Here was a new weapon whose employment required to be 
regulated at least as much as did that of artillery on land or the guns of warships. It was 
not regulated. There were rules, internationally agreed, for war on land and sea. There 
were none for air warfare. An attempt was made, indeed, and rules were drafted by a 
Commission of Jurists at The Hague in 1922-23, but they were never embodied in a 
convention. When the war began in 1939, the air arm, alone among the arms of war, went 
into action without a stitch of regulations to its back. Those who had the duty of directing 
it were left without guidance to find their way through the tangled thicket formed by the 
intricate and abstruse body 

[p. 19] 

of international law which relates to the conduct of war. To suppose that the officers of a 
fighting Service can easily pick out of the general principles of that law rules to govern 
their action in any given case is to display a lamentable ignorance of its complexity. 

The Lack of Rules 

I write with some feeling on this subject. Probably more than anyone else in this country, 
I advocated in season and out of season the putting of our house in order in this matter of 
the regulation of air warfare. What I actually proposed did not and does not matter. What 
was important was that something should be done to clear up the chaotic condition in 
which the whole law of bombardment was left. [1] Nothing was done, and the omission 
was, in part at least, the result of a determination that nothing should be done. 

Lord Thomson 's View 

In 1927 the late Lord Thomson, who had already filled the office of Secretary of State for 
Air and was to do so again in 1929-30, put on record his views on the subject of the 
regulation of warfare. They were views of general applicability, but actually he was 
evidently thinking of air warfare, for he was dealing (quite fairly and courteously) with 
my proposals as outlined in my Air Power and War Rights. He spoke of 'the efforts of 
well-intentioned people who . . . tried to subordinate it [war] to a legal system, to limit its 
scope, to prevent its worst atrocities, in short, to civilise and bring it up to date.' In so 
doing, he held, they have 'helped to perpetuate an international crime'. 

1 This was described in my paper on 'The Chaotic State of the International Law Governing Bombardment' 
in The Royal Air Force Quarterly for January, 1938. I had previously dealt with some aspects of the same 
subject in an article entitled 'The Lawless Arm' in The Army Quarterly for October, 1935. My books also 
contained discussions of the question. 

[p. 20] 

'Homicide, arson, the destruction of property and trespass are criminal offences, and war 
is a combination of these illegalities. . . . Instead of trying to control, restrain, mitigate or 
civilise modern warfare, the more logical course is to outlaw war itself and make 
aggression illegal. This is admittedly a counsel of perfection, but it does not compromise 
with evil and offers a real solution towards which humanity can strive.' [1] 

Now, that attitude to the regulation of warfare is a perfectly tenable one. The point which 
I want to emphasise is that it is not the attitude which the civilised nations have taken to 
war by land and sea. They have entered into international agreements regulating both 
these kinds of war. They have not done so in regard to war in the air. The difference of 
treatment is largely the result, I am convinced, of a (sometimes sub-conscious) feeling 
that air warfare is not altogether on the same ethical plane as war on land or sea, that it is 
not quite canonical, not quite respectable, that it is a sort of outlaw warfare, a kind of 
warfare which, like certain social evils, decent people do well to ignore. That conception 
of air warfare has been contributed to, perhaps, by the tendency of senior members — a 
minority only, but an influential one — of the two other Services to talk in rather 
disparaging terms of the methods by which they believe the air arm seeks to achieve its 
results — methods which are sometimes stigmatised as amounting to 'frightfulness'. [2] 
But over and above such petty misrepresentation there is undoubtedly a popular 
disposition to regard air warfare as the least tolerable of the three categories of warfare. 
The differentiation against it was natural enough if the initial assumption that it was 

1 Lord Thomson, Air Facts and Problems, pp. 34-5. 

2 'Frightfulness', said Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond in a lecture delivered at the Royal United Service 
Institution in 1923 and reproduced in his National Policy and Naval Strength, p. 187, 'appears to be a 
fundamental principle in the air.' 

[p. 21] 

destined to be the destroyer of civilisation in any event was accepted. On that supposition 
the only course was to abolish it altogether, not to try to 'civilise' it. But the result was not 
altogether that which was expected. 

The Bogey Fails to Frighten 

The purpose in view was not achieved in so far as the nations were not in fact scared by 
the bogey. They did go to war after all. It is true that for many months after the war began 
the principal belligerents hesitated to use their air arms against one another's metropolitan 
territories, but the reason for that, as is explained in Chapter III, was not solely that the 
bogey was operating in (so to speak) second gear. And the failure to define the legitimate 
scope of air attack had some other unfortunate results. One was, probably, the judicial 
murder of the American airmen referred to in Chapter VI, hereafter. It might conceivably 
have had some influence upon the action of the Japanese Government if it had set its 
hand to a convention which, inter alia, defined in clear terms the right to resort to 
strategic bombing. One cannot speak with any certainty upon such a point, and the fact 
that the Tokyo Government was a party to the Prisoners of War Convention, 1929, which 
also should have protected the airmen, cuts the other way. Nevertheless, the double 
assurance might have had some effect. There would have been such a double assurance if 
a convention had been in existence containing a provision similar to that in Article 2 of 
the Convention on Naval Bombardment signed at The Hague in 1907. This Article 
provides that a naval commander who uses his ships' guns to destroy military objectives 
in an undefended port or town 'incurs no responsibility for any unavoidable damage 
which may be caused by a bombardment under such circumstances'. It was not possible, 
however, for the American airmen to point to any such charter of their rights. 

[p. 22] 

The Bomber the Saver of Civilisation 

The fundamental mistake of those who made air warfare a bogey was that they looked at 
it always from one side — the potential enemy's side; and for us in Britain that was to look 
at it from the side of the likely aggressor. It would have been better to have regarded it 
also from the side of the victim of aggression. So regarded, air power was and is not the 
destroyer but the saver of civilisation. We are beginning to understand that fact at last. 
Whether air power, unaided, can bring about a decision in our favour in the present 
struggle is, for this purpose, an immaterial question. Those who think that it can may be 
right or they may be wrong. Time will tell. 

What can be claimed without fear of contradiction is that air power is an absolutely 
essential factor in the combination which will give us victory; and at the very heart of air 
power there stands the strategic offensive. The matter was placed in the proper 
perspective by Mr. Churchill in his great speech at Ottawa on 30 December, 1941. 'While 
an ever- increasing bombing offensive against Germany will remain one of the principal 
methods of ending this war,' he said, 'it is not the only one which growing strength 
enables us to take into account.' 

This view of the position is accepted now, it seems, by all who are not blind to realities. It 
has been endorsed in quarters which cannot be suspected of undue addiction to extremist 
or doctrinaire modes of thought. Leading articles in the Press reflect the informed re- 
action to it. We are thoroughly committed to the large-scale bombing of Germany as part 
of our war-winning strategy,' said the Daily Mail on 18 September, 1942, 'and there can 
be no question that so far the policy is paying good dividends by weakening the enemy's 
productive power and dislocating his daily life. It is doubtful whether this use of the air 

[p. 23] 

weapon by itself could win the war, but it is certain that we could not win without it.' 

'There are still those who confuse themselves with the parrot question: Can the war be 
won by bombing Germany?' wrote the Daily Telegraph on 19 September, 1942. 'No one 
of knowledge and judgment ever thought of speculating on such a possibility. The reason 
why the United Command must bomb Germany with all the power that can be provided 
is that without such a sustained and cumulative air offensive the war cannot be won at 
all' That conclusion will not be disputed by anyone who preserves a sense of proportion. 
It is a conclusion which even if it stood alone, and it does not stand alone, would suffice 
to show that the bomber is in fact the saver of civilisation. 

[p. 24] 



The Three Choices 

A nation which is proposing to build up its air strength has a choice of three possible 
lines to follow. It can decide to have an air force of the kind that is best fitted for use in 
co-operation with the army. (One may leave naval cooperation out of account for the 
present purpose.) It can choose, instead, to have one intended pre-eminently for 
independent action, that is, one which is most effectively used outside and beyond the 
zones of land-encounter. It can also decide to have an air force part of which is to be 
employed co-operatively and part independently. Different types of aircraft, different 
organisations of command and different training techniques being needed for these 
different kinds of employment, the third choice is possible only when the air 
establishment which it is proposed to bring into being is one of very considerable 
magnitude and diversity, both in materiel and personnel: It is air strength such as a Great 
Power would alone be able to develop that is here in question. A minor Power's problem 
and solution would be different and of less importance. 

Adopting the usual nomenclature (though it is not an altogether satisfying one), one may 
say that the choice lies between having: 

A. An air force that is predominantly tactical, or 

B. One that is predominantly strategical, or 

C. One that has both tactical and strategical components of worth-while dimensions. 

To anticipate for the purpose of clarifying my argument, I will begin by dealing with a 
situation which can be regarded as the result of the choice denoted 'C above, 

[p. 25] 

although strictly it is a situation which emerged only at a date much later than those at 
which the choices at 'A' and 'B' had been made respectively by Germany and by Britain. 

Army Co-operation in North Africa 

By 1943 we in Britain had built up such a powerful air establishment that we were in a 
position to use air power both tactically and strategically with an effectiveness and on a 
scale which it is not national vanity to claim had never been attained before. We were 
conducting a long-range offensive against the war-industries and communications of 
Germany and Italy, and the powerful flotillas of heavy bombers which we had created for 
this purpose were operating from bases both in Britain and in Africa. In addition, we 
were able to spare bombers for operational duties directly connected with the campaign 
against the submarines — duties which included attacks on U-boats, the convoying of 
merchant vessels in the middle reaches of the north Atlantic, and the mining of terminal 
waters through which the submarines had to pass on their voyages to and from their 
hunting grounds. At the same time we had gradually built up our other categories of 
aircraft, trained the necessary pilots and members of air-crews, and so on, to such a peak 
that we were in the enviable position of being able to provide for our armies an 
overflowing measure of air support such as probably no armies had ever had before. That 
achievement was a very remarkable one, for our Air Force was in some degree a 
newcomer in the field of tactical work. How splendidly it did the work has been freely 
acknowledged both by the military leaders and by other authorities. The communique 
issued at General Eisenhower's headquarters on the evening of 6 May, 1943, referred to 
the 'magnificent support of our air forces' during the offensive operations which the 

[p. 26] 

1st Army and the 2nd United States Corps had opened on that morning. They 'blasted a 
path in advance of the ground forces', it was stated, and had already achieved complete 
domination of the air. War correspondents were unanimous in declaring that no troops 
had ever had the advantage of such air cover as the Allied troops had in these operations. 
'The mutual understanding between the fighters in the air and on the ground was brought 
in this campaign to a pitch of 'perfection that we have never hitherto attained,' said Mr. 
Attlee, the Deputy Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 11 May, 1943. The 
support which the 8th Army had already received from the Desert Air Force in its 
operations in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania had also been of the highest standard and had 
been acknowledged in generous terms by General Montgomery. The co-operation 
between ground and air arms was again extraordinarily effective in the invasions of Sicily 
on 10 July and of Calabria on 3 September, and in the operations on the island and the 

The North West African Air Forces were organised in the spring of 1943 into Tactical, 
Strategical and Coastal Air Forces. The principle of the organisation was sound and 
logical; it carried no implication; however, that the work of each of the three forces 
would be bulk- headed from that of the other two. In practice their spheres of duty 
overlapped. That was inevitable in the circumstances. It was admitted, indeed, in the 
official reports. The North African communique of 9 May, 1943, for instance, stated that 
bombers of the Tactical Air Force and fighter-bombers of the Strategical Air Force had 
carried out a heavy attack upon the airfield on Pantellaria Island. Frequent references 
appear in the communiques to the operations conducted by both forces against shipping in 
the neighbouring waters and against enemy concentrations and gun positions in the 
Tunisian theatre. While the raid- 

[p. 27] 

ing of objectives such as the airfields in Sardinia or the harbours and airfields in Sicily 
and Italy would have fallen naturally to the Strategic Air Force, there was here also some 
overlapping, and only in the specialised tactical work of the 'tank-busters' (Hurricane 11D 
fighters with 40 mm. cannons) were the spheres of the two forces clearly defined. It was 
less easy to demarcate their domains in many instances, and that was indeed one of the 
chief merits of the system. It allowed the units of the one force to be switched over as the 
need arose to duties which were strictly the preserve of the other. The organisation 
permitted a measure of fluidity or elasticity which would not have been attainable under a 
more rigid system of the earmarking of air contingents. 

Now, the undoubted effectiveness of the co-operation of the Royal Air Force with the 
ground forces in the campaigns in North Africa is all the more remarkable when one 
remembers that before the war began the tactical employment of the arm was given in 
Britain hardly the amount of attention and consideration which it deserved'. Indeed, in 
our early operations, the ground forces had some reason to complain of the inadequacy of 
the support which they received in the air. The reason for the comparative failure was 
largely geographical, but there was some substance in the allegation that we had hot 
envisaged sufficiently clearly the absolutely indispensable factor of air support in all 
operations in which troops are engaged against an enemy who is strong in the air. It is 
perhaps noteworthy that our Army Co-operation Command was formed only on 1 
December, 1940, that is, fifteen months after the war had begun. 

The Tactical Air Force at Home 

The success of the experiment in North Africa led to the creation of a Tactical Air Force 
in Great Britain itself. On 

[p. 28] 

14 June, 1943, it was announced that certain measures of re-organisation had been made 
in the metropolitan Air Force and that the Army Co-operation Command had been 
merged into a Tactical Air Force designed to work with the army in the field. 'The 
Organisation of this force,' said the announcement, 'conforms closely with that of the 
Tactical Air Force under Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham in North Africa.' It would be 
located in Fighter Command in order to ensure close integration of the work of the 
Tactical reconnaissance aircraft and light bombers with that of the main fighter force. The 
commander of the new force was Air Vice-Marshal J. H. DAlbiac. 

The announcement marked the completion of the measures which Mr. Churchill had 
foreshadowed some months before when he stated that steps would be taken to prepare 
the metropolitan Air Force for work with the army in large-scale operations and that the 
organisation adopted for this purpose would follow closely that which was proving itself 
in North Africa. There a force comprising all types of squadrons had been found to be 
most suitable for direct support of armies in the field, together with the necessary 
headquarters, maintenance units and signals organisation, and a similar force was 
accordingly built up from Army Co-operation Command as the nucleus. The new system 
was tried out in the combined exercises held in England in March, 1943, and was found 
to work satisfactorily. The placing of the new Force in Fighter Command was calculated 
to permit the greatest possible degree of flexibility in the operational work on the one 
hand and the training work on the other. 

British Air Organisation before 1939 

Germany set herself seriously to build up an air force after Hitler became Reichskanzler 
in January, 1933. We 

[p. 29] 

took up her challenge a year or so later. We had, of course, an air force already, but it was 
more or less a 'token' one. It was utterly inadequate for the needs of a major war. We 
began to expand it in 1934 and followed up our modest initial programme by a more 
ambitious one in 1935. In 1936 we re-modelled our organisation of air defence in the 
light of the new menace. Germany's aggressive intentions had become clear by that date 
and the new model was one which took account of that most disturbing development. In 
July, 1936, the former 'Air Defence of Great Britain' Command was broken up and in its 
place three new operational Commands-Bomber, Fighter and Coastal-were formed. A 
Training Command was also created. The re-organisation was important and significant. 
In effect, it traced the pattern of the coming war in the air so far as it was to be waged by 
Great Britain. From it could be discerned by the eye of faith the unrolling panorama of 
that mighty effort in the air which is overshadowing the forces of aggression today. 

In the successive schemes of expansion, gradually growing in magnitude, the emphasis 
was laid, as it soon became apparent, on the bombing counter-offensive as the principal 
means of meeting the threatened attack, and the provision made for a powerful bomber 
force was the most noteworthy feature of each of the successive programmes. The 
number of bomber squadrons which it was proposed to form was almost double that of 
the fighter squadrons. It was expected that they would operate, as in 1917-18, from 
French aerodromes, but the likelihood was also foreseen of their being able, in time, to 
carry out their raids from bases in Britain. At the close of an address given by Major- 
General R. J. Collins at the Royal United Service Institution on 23 November, 1938, 
Marshal of the R.A.F. Sir Edward Ellington said in summing up: 'The counter-attack will 
be largely launched from the home 

[p. 30] 

aerodromes of the bombers and in the future may be entirely launched from them.' [1] 

Germany's Choice 

A very different policy was adopted by the builders of the re-created German air force. 
Their conception of the role of the air arm in a future war was in striking contrast with 
that which had commended itself to Sir Hugh Trenchard and the air strategists upon 
whom his mantle had descended. The British idea of an air force as the co-equal of the 
other Services and the possibly predominant partner in warlike ventures in which they 
would have minor parts to play would have seemed to the German higher strategists little 
short of heresy. The philosophy of air warfare which inspired our re-organisation of 1936 
was wholly alien to their mode of thought. They formed no such functional Commands as 
we did. Instead, they created a number of Luftflotten — there are five of these now 
(1943) — organised on a territorial rather than a functional basis and composite rather than 
specialised in content. There never has been, and there is not, a Bomber Command in 
Germany. That fact is of great significance. 

It has often been suggested that the fundamental error which the Allies made in 1919 was 
that, by allowing the nucleus of a military force to be maintained in Germany, they 
neglected an opportunity to break the military tradition of the German people. The result 
was that a number of able officers of the old school were able to put together by degrees 
the framework of an army which could be filled in and enlarged as time went on. Among 
these officers was General Von Seekt, to whom, more than to anyone else, there belongs 
the credit of having salvaged the wreck of Germany's old army and fitted and re- 

1 Journal of the R.U.S.I., February, 1939, p. 69. 

[p. 31] 

fashioned its broken pieces into a new military structure, which, modest at first, would 
serve at least as the foundation for a tower of armed strength such as the world had never 
yet seen. It is to Von Seekt that the Germans owe most for having kept alive not only the 
military machine but the spirit animating it: the spirit of being above the State and of 
strict cohesion within itself. . . . His Thoughts of a Soldier are enlightening. "The Army is 
above parties," he said; but he did not stop there. "The Army is the State," he concludes, 
and no German knew better than he. It is that conclusion which spells expansionism, for 
the Army is not a force within the State but the head of a nation in arms in peace time. 
Conquest by arms is the inevitable goal, for the itch to expand is there.' [1] 

That the second world war would not have taken place if the military tradition in 
Germany had been effectively disrupted after the first is true, no doubt, but that is not the 
point which I wish to emphasise here. It is rather that the result was to canalise the urge 
to expansionism in a particular way. The fact that the military caste remained in the 
saddle had a very important bearing upon the nature of Germany's re-armament in the air. 
Its effect was that the voice of the General Staff of the army continued to be the dominant 
note in the counsels of the Reich: 'Colonel Blimp' retained his power, and 'Colonel Blimp' 
is always and inherently traditionalist and non-responsive to new ideas. For him the 
German army was the appointed and appropriate instrument, the symbol and 
manifestation of a German nation in arms. It was by its power that the great Frederick 
had triumphed. It would be for Frederick's latter-day successors the sharp and trusty 
blade that would once again carve a path to glory. It would be a new army, modernised 
and equipped with the latest weapons and devices, but it would still be 

1 Ernest Hambloch, Germany Rampant, 1938, pp. 48-9. 

[p. 32] 

at heart the old army whose story was imperishably inscribed in the nation's annals. One 
of its weapons would be the aircraft, but it would only be a weapon of a Service which 
was predominantly the embodiment of German land power. The idea of air power as the 
rival or equal of land power was beyond the comprehension of soldiers steeped in the 
philosophy of war which commended itself to German mentality. 

Hiller on the Army's Shield 

Not the air arm but the mighty German army would be the shield of the Reich. To it 
would fall the task of keeping the foes of the fatherland far outside the borders of the 
Germanic realm. That, we know from Mein Kampf, was an object by which Hitler set 
great store. He wrote: 

'Let us imagine the bloody battles of the world war not as having taken place on the 
Somme, in Flanders, in Artois, in front of Warsaw, Nishni- Novgorod, Kowno and Riga, 
but in Germany, in the Ruhr, on the Elbe, in front of Hanover, Leipzig, Nuremberg, etc. 
If such happened, then we must admit that the destruction of Germany might have been 
accomplished. ... If this titanic conflict between the nations developed outside the 
frontiers of our fatherland not only is all the merit due to the immortal service rendered 
by our old army but it was also very fortunate for the future of Germany. I am convinced 
that if things had taken a different course there would no longer be a German Reich today 
but only German States.' [1] 

The second world war has brought to the localities enumerated in this passage 
misfortunes which the old 

1 Mein Kampf, Murphy's translation, London, 1939, p. 547. Hitler seems to have attached little importance 
to the air arm, but he does refer to it in connection with the threat which 'French aeroplanes and long-range 
batteries' would constitute for Britain's vital centres. It is evident from what he says that in his view the 
submarine menace was more serious still. (Ibid., p. 503.) 

[p. 33] 

Germanic shield has been powerless to avert. Death and destruction have been rained 
upon them from the skies while German armies stood massively on guard far beyond the 
frontiers of the Reich. Such catastrophies were the price which Germany had to pay for 
pinning her faith to military doctrines which were already becoming obsolete. 

Tedder on Air Power 

The fact is that the Germans have never really understood the meaning of air power. 
'They did not understand how to use air power as a weapon of war,' Air Chief Marshal Sir 
Arthur Tedder stated in a review of the North African campaign on 15 May, 1943. 'They 
misused it.' They did not know how to use an air force properly. Four months before, on 
9 January, Sir Arthur had said at Cairo: 'We have learned this new kind of warfare and 
the Americans are learning it. The Hun and the Jap have yet to learn it.' 'Today,' he said, 
'Britain alone of the embattled nations can look to a striking force in the air unshackled 
and untrammelled by parochialism and preconceived ideas, free from glib phrases like 
"air support" and "fighter assistance" — an Air Force which commands the air.' 

The Tethered Air Arm 

Sir Arthur Tedder's reference to the Americans is interesting in view of the fact that their 
air organisation is still, broadly, that which we discarded in 1918. Although it is, there is 
nevertheless no doubt whatever that the American authorities believe firmly in the 
strategic use of the air arm. It was not always so. That the air arm should be ancillary and 
operationally subordinate to the army was the view strongly advocated by the 
representative of the General Staff of the United States Army when he gave 

[p. 34] 

evidence before the Dwight Morrow Committee in 1925; the question being considered 
was whether an autonomous air force should be established in the United States. 'There is 
no separate responsibility, separate mission or separate theatre of action that can be 
assigned to such a separate force,' this officer stated. Another officer, Major-General C. 
P. Summerall, commanding the 2nd Corps Area, testified: As far as we are concerned, in 
war the only object is the enemy's army. If that falls, everything falls. ... A bombing 
expedition must therefore be made as something connected with the enemy's armed 
forces.' There was implicit in this statement a disavowal of the conception of air power in 
the fullest sense and an affirmation of the doctrine of land-air power, which is a different 
thing. There is room for both air power, proper, and land-air power in a philosophy of 
war. 'What is of practical importance is the emphasis placed on the one or on the other. 

Land-Air Power and Air Power 

In Germany the emphasis was placed on land-air power. In Britain it was placed on air 
power, with sea-air power as runner-up, land-air power being a rather straggling 
competitor. The difference was reflected in the composition of the respective air forces, 
in the organisation of the higher commands, and, above all, in the attitude of the 
Governments to the master- strategics which the scientific study of air warfare presented. 
The German air force was an instrument admirably fitted for the execution of the air 
policy which the German military authorities had adopted. It was an almost ideal arm for 
co-operation with ground forces. It contained a high proportion of dive-bombers (Junkers 
87's) and of transport aircraft (Junkers 52's). Our own air force was weak in these two 
categories but was superior to the German in the quality (though not 

[p. 35] 

the quantity of its long-range bombers and its single-seat fighters. Our Wellington was a 
better heavy bomber than anything which Germany had, and we were definitely ahead of 
her in the fighter class. She had a fairly good interceptor in the Messerschmitt log, but it 
was definitely inferior to our Hurricane or Spitfire. In other words, in the two categories 
which are of prime importance in the waging of air warfare, considered per se, we had 
the advantage, while Germany had it in those categories which are essential in air 
operations ancillary to those of ground forces. 

The Great Divide of 1918 

In Germany, as in Britain, the air force is a separate Service, but it has never been able to 
free itself from the army's influence to the same extent. Our own air force cut adrift from 
the army more than twenty-one years before the present war began. The date when it 
came into being, 1 April, 1918, is an epochal one in the calendar which records the 
conflict between British air power and German militarist ambition. The other red-letter 
dates in that calendar are 11 May, 1940, when we opened our strategic air offensive 
against the Reich, and 27 September, 1940, when Fighter Command won the last of its 
great victories over the Luftwaffe in the battle of Britain. Perhaps some other dates should 
be added to this list, those, for instance, in 1935-36 when we conceived the eight-gun 
monoplane fighter and the big four-engined bomber. None of them had the same 
importance, however, as the first of all, the date on which the Air Force was formed. 

Its creation was an act of faith. Those who worked for a separate Service — and General 
Smuts was first and foremost in that prescient band — looked far ahead. They cast their 
minds forward to a time which seemed distant and to some indeed so visionary and 
shadowy as to be 

[p. 36] 

beyond the range of profitable calculation. They were wise in their prevision. They 
grasped the truth that man's mastery of the air has not only made warfare three- 
dimensional — that is a truism today — but entitles the arm whose path is the third element 
to claim the place of a co-equal with the historic arms of war. 

To split up into three the two Services that existed in 1917 was a daring experiment. The 
result might well have been disastrous. Instead, the gamble succeeded beyond all 
expectation. It approved itself in action. The dream of those who worked for, planned and 
created the third arm was to become a reality sooner than they knew. Within a generation 
the testing time arrived. The weapon which they forged was tried by fire. It did not fail. 

The Battle of Britain 

In the autumn of 1940 there was fought one of the decisive battles of history. It was 
fought not as the older battles on land or sea but in the air. It was waged above the 
harvest fields of southern England. In the fierce encounters that flashed and flickered, 
shifted and swayed in the sunlight high above the quiet countryside the Royal Air Force 
met and broke the massed onset of the most powerful array ever assembled in the air. 
They did something more than Drake and his fellow captains had done three centuries 
and more before. They sent a more ruthless and formidable foe reeling back, his hopes of 
world domination wrecked for ever. 

To have failed in that great conflict would have opened the way to a waiting army of 
invasion. All the preparations had been made for a swift dash across the English Channel. 
The ships and barges were ready to sail. They waited for one thing only. If their venture 
was to succeed it was necessary that the Luftwaffe should first have won the temporary 
command of the air over south-eastern England. 

[p. 37] 

We all know that it failed in the attempt to win that command. It was Fighter Command 
of the Royal Air Force which came out of the clash with the right to hoist a whip at the 

It is not to strain the probabilities of the case to trace a direct connection between what 
happened in 1940 and what had happened in 1918. The battle of Britain was won because 
the Royal Air Force had better pilots and better machines than the Luftwaffe. They were 
better, in all human probability, because there was in existence a system which went as 
far to ensure as any system could that they were better. They might not have been better 
if the system had been still that which was in existence in 1917. British equipment was 
inferior to German during some phases of the first world war; it was so in the early parts 
of both the years 1916 and 1917. The British air service was not then an autonomous one. 
It is not fanciful to suggest that it might have been inferior in 1940 if the change of 
organisation had not taken place in 1918. Those who would challenge such a statement 
should ponder what Mr. Churchill said in the House of Commons on 10 June, 1941. 'The 
equipment of our army at the outbreak of war,' he said, 'was of a most meagre and 
deficient character.' Our anti-aircraft defence on the ground was particularly inadequate. 
Would the defence in the air have been much better if it too had been the responsibility of 
a department and a service which had a multitude of competing cares and duties? 

The Birth of the Giant Bomber 

The result of the re-organisation of 1918 was that the air was assured of its merited place 
in the scheme of national defence. It became the concern of a department and a Service 
which could concentrate all thought and energy on this one subject. The change ensured 
that provision for 

[p. 38] 

security in this element at least should not be overlooked or allowed to go by default. It 
enabled 'thinking ahead' to be systematised in the sphere of air defence. That is really 
why today giant four-engined bombers are tearing the heart out of industrial Germany. 
Those bombers trace their descent to a brain-wave which came to British experts in 1936, 
while Germany was thinking only in terms of short-range bombers and particularly of 
dive-bombers for employment with her powerful mechanised army. 

The idea behind 'specification B. 12/36' was that when the next war came Britain would 
need a long-range weight-carrying bomber which could go farther and load a bigger 
cargo of high explosive in its own bomb-racks than a whole squadron could at that time. 
This advance was becoming possible as a result of the development of new techniques of 
construction. Various improvements were being made in the designs and structures of 
airframes and engines. Much higher wing-loadings were being tried; all-metal stressed 
skin (or, alternatively, geodetic) construction of fuselages was becoming practicable; 
more powerful engines, including those of sleeve-valve design, were coming into use. 
The Stirling, built by Short Brothers to Mr. Arthur Gouge's design, was the answer to the 
specification; it marked an epoch in the history of heavy bombers. It was followed by the 
Handley Page Halifax and the Avro Lancaster. The last is the finest heavy bomber in 
existence, today. But the whole trio is unsurpassed. Germany has nothing approaching 
them. And they are not the last word in the vocabulary of Britain's effort in the air. 
Mightier bombers are on the stocks already. 

The Germans Become Apprehensive 

Perhaps Hitler's famous intuition gave him an inkling of the ultimate significance of what 
Britain was beginning 

[p. 39] 

to do in 1935-36. In May of the former year he expressed, his personal apprehension on 
the subject of long-range bombing to Mr. Edward Price Bell, the well-known press 
correspondent. 'War has been speeded up too much,' he said, 'and made too 
overwhelmingly destructive for our geographical limitations. Within an hour — in some 
instances within forty minutes of the outbreak of hostilities — swift bombing machines 
would wreak ruin upon European capitals.' [1] There was nothing profound in that 
remark, but it was significant when made by a man in whose brain there was already 
being formed a scheme for the domination of Europe. He was afraid of the air. He 
showed that he was, again, when in 1935 and in 1936 he put forward proposals for the 
prohibition of bombing outside battle-zones. Again, there was nothing new in the idea of 
such prohibition. It was simply another instance of the survival of the military code of 
thought. It reflected the view, put forward in Germany in the last war, that the proper role 
of the air arm is that of long-range artillery. 

Aircraft as Long-range Artillery 

In that war, General von Hoeppner, then the head of the German air service, has put it on 
record, the view which commended itself to the military hierarchy was that 'the weapons 
admitted by international law as being in accordance with the usages of land warfare 
should be employed against fortresses and important military places in the actual theatre 
of war (Kriegsschauplatz), that is, the zone in which the armies were fighting. We limited 
ourselves accordingly. England went further. In the autumn of 1914, she destroyed the 
airship Z.ll in the shed at Dusseldorf, attacked Friedrichshafen, and raided military 
objectives far from the field of operations. But at that time 

1 The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, 1922-39. Edited by N. H. Baynes, 1942, Vol. II, p. 1215. 

[p. 40] 

she showed consideration for the peaceful population. France adopted a different line. On 
4 December, 1914, she attacked the entirely undefended town of Freibourg-im-Breisgau, 
eighty kilometres behind the lines, and thus for the first time carried the terrors of air 
warfare into an entirely peaceful territory.' [1] 

The motive behind the recurrent German attempts to have the sphere of action of aircraft 
confined to the battle-zones is clear enough. The kind of aggressive war which the 
German General Staff has forever in mind is essentially a war of mass-attack which, to be 
successful, demands an unceasing flow of armaments to support it. Interrupt or dislocate 
the supply of munitions, and you go far to bring the great juggernaut of invasion to a halt. 
The world can be made safe for war-lords, in fact, only if the devil's cauldrons in which 
they brew their lethal mixtures are safe-guarded from an enemy's attack. That has been 
why the idea of fighting on foreign, not Germanic, soil has always been a cardinal idea in 
German strategy. And it was here that the thought of the war in the third dimension came 
to disturb and alarm the plotters of the new war of aggression. 

The German Attempt to Restrict Bombing 

The Ruhr and the Rhineland are the homes of Germany's heavy war- industries, and they 
are both areas which are particularly exposed to attack from the air. The restriction on 
bombing which the Germans tried to read into international law in 1914-18 (though their 
practice then hardly conformed to their precept) and which in 1935 and 1936 they 
proposed, as stated above, should be made the subject of an international agreement, 
would have suited Germany admirably. It would have protected the Ruhr, the Rhineland 
and other centres of German 

1 Von Hoeppner, Deutschlands Krieg in der Luft, 1920, p. 21. 

[p. 41] 

industries, while it would not have prevented the German air force from bombing 
objectives in areas in which the German army was operating. It would thus not have 
saved Warsaw, Rotterdam and Belgrade from the savage attacks which they sustained in 
1939-41 and which are by themselves sufficient to show that the motive of humanity had 
no part in the German proposal. On the other hand, acceptance of that proposal would 
have safeguarded Essen, Duisburg and scores of other armament centres in Germany. The 
making of the proposal was; in fact, an exceedingly crafty manoeuvre, undertaken for the 
purpose of securing a military advantage. 

For that and the other reasons, hereafter given, I am personally convinced that the 
proposal, was seriously meant, that is, that it was intended to be accepted. I can not 
subscribe to the view that Hitler brought it forward in 1935 and 1936 with his tongue in 
his cheek; not in the least because he was incapable of doing so, but simply because it 
was unquestionably in his interest to have such a restriction accepted. He was scared of 
the possible effect of a bombing offensive upon Germany's war effort and the morale of 
the German population. He would infinitely have preferred to fight out the war in another 
way, a way that was not our way but was his way. He did not want our kind of war. That 
is why it is right and proper that he should get our kind of war from now to the end. 

So little did he relish the idea of long-distance raiding that he initiated no attack of this 
kind in the first ten months or more of the war (see the following chapter for the facts). 
The German air force was then the most powerful in the world. Its bombers may riot have 
been, individually, as good as ours, but there were more than twice as many of them; and 
our anti-aircraft defences were notoriously weak in the early part of the war. Then, if 
ever, would have been the time to launch massed air attacks on 

[p. 42] 

Britain. No such attacks came. After Poland had been crushed we fully expected the 
weight of the German blow in the air to fall on us: It did not fall. Why? The explanation 
was really simple. (I am not being 'superior'; I was as much at sea as anyone about the 
reasons for 'the lull in the air'.) It was that to have bombed this country otherwise than in 
connection with an attempted landing here would have been, in the German view, a 
misuse of the air arm, a mis-appropriation of it to a purpose which it was not intended to 
fulfil. It would have been militarily inexpedient; no question of ethical or humanitarian 
inhibition came into the matter. It was simply that the role of the strategic air offensive 
would have been out of character in the drama of Germanic air warfare. 

Warsaw — Rotterdam — London 

One thing is certain, and it is a thing which should be made clear, for it is commonly 
misunderstood: the bombing of Warsaw or of Rotterdam was not in parallel with the 
bombing of London. An American journalist and editor has written: In the month of 
September [1940] Hitler failed to follow up his initial advantage and lost his opportunity 
to win the kind of Blitzkrieg that took Poland and Norway and Holland and Belgium for 
him. . . . From now on he must find some other way to win this infamous war.' [1] This 
statement betrays a lack of appreciation of the real position. The attack upon London was 
not Blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg is the combination of swift mechanised onslaughts in the air and 
on the ground. It is a technique of attack which leaves the assailant in possession of the 
objective. Now, air attack alone could never have left London in the hands of the enemy. 
If Hitler had gone on bombing London from that time to this he would never have 
conquered London. 

1 Ralph Ingersoll, Report on England, 1941, p. 19. 

[p. 43] 

When Warsaw and Rotterdam were bombed, German armies were at their gates. The air 
bombardment was an operation of the tactical offensive. It was therefore, for the 
Germans, 'according to Cocker', 'Cocker' here being a standard of military expediency 
alone. Purblind, the Germans thought that they could get away with these very brutal 
bombardments, just because the bombers were operating with an investing army, and still 
maintain the de facto ban upon the bombing of objectives outside the battle-zone. They 
were soon undeceived. They are, aufond, stupid people on the whole. 

They showed their stupidity when they kept on harping, once the raids on London had 
begun, on the retaliatory nature of the attacks on the city. Again and again the German 
official reports emphasised the reprisal element in the action of the Luftwaffe. They kept 
screaming, in effect: We are hitting you because you hit us first. If you stop bombing us, 
we'll stop bombing you. That, too, was the recurrent note in Hitler's periodical 
denunciations of our air offensive. He added to his diatribes a good deal of sob-stuff 
about war on women and children — as if the German airmen had never machine-gunned 
the pitiable refugees crowding the roads in France. Here are a number of extracts from 
Hitler's speeches: 

Hitler on the British Air Offensive 

In a speech at the opening of the Winter Relief Campaign on 4 September, 1940, he 
stated that the British could not fly over the Reich by day and therefore came by night, 
when they dropped their bombs indiscriminately and without plan on civilian residential 
quarters, farms and buildings. For three months he had not replied to these raids, thinking 
they would stop, but now the British would know 'we are giving our answer night after 
night'. 'We will erase their cities — for every thousand pound of 

[p. 44] 

bombs, 150, 180, yes 200 thousand. . . .' The rest of the sentence was drowned in a storm 
of applause. [1] 

On 9 November, 1940, Hitler stated at Munich that the German air force had made no 
night raids on Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium or France. 'Then, suddenly, Mr. 
Churchill had bombs dropped on the German civil population. I waited in patience, 
thinking "The man is mad; for such action could only lead to Britain's destruction," and I 
made my plan for peace. Now I am resolved to fight it out to the last.' It was the greatest 
military folly of all time that Mr. Churchill committed in attempting to fight with the 
weakest of all his weapons.' 

On 31 December, 1940, Hitler addressed to the National Socialist Party a New Year 
Proclamation in which he again stated that the British had bombed German cities for 
three and a half months before reprisal action was taken. In May England began her 
attacks on Freiburg. Now, since the middle of September, she must have realised that it 
was nothing but humane feelings which had prevented an earlier reply to 'the Churchill 
crimes'. For every bomb ten, or if necessary a hundred, would be dropped by the German 
air force. 

In a speech to the Reichstag in the Kroll Opera House, Berlin, on 4 May, 1941, Hitler 
said: 'Churchill, this amateur strategist, began his night air war. What did he care whether 
this war meant the destruction of towns, of monuments of culture, of treasures collected 
by peoples over centuries? Churchill is determined to continue this kind of warfare. We 
also are resolved to continue and to retaliate a hundredfold, until Britain has got rid of 
this criminal and his methods.' 

1 The text of the passage was published in Germany as follows: Wenn die britische Luftwaffe 2 oder 3 oder 
4000 Kilogramm Bomben wirft, dann werfen wir jetzt in einer Nacht 150,000, 180,000, 230,000, 300,000, 
400,000 and mehr Kilo! Und wenn sie erklaren, sie werden unsere Stadte in grossem Masstabe angreifen — 
wir werden ihre Stadte ausradieren! 

[p. 45] 

There was no specific reference to the air raids in the speech which Hitler made at a 
meeting of the Nazi Party members and soldiers at Berlin on 30 January, 1942, but the 
speech was notable for the pitch of vituperation of Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt 
to which he rose on this occasion. 'This arch- liar,' he said of the former, 'today shows that 
Britain never was in a position to wage war alone.' 'This gabbler, this drunkard Churchill,' 
were other polite references to our Prime Minister. 'And then his accomplice in the White 
House — this mad fool.' Altogether it was a most refreshing performance — no doubt for 
the speaker and his hearers but certainly for us, because of its implications. 

In a speech in the Reichstag on 26 April, 1942, Hitler said: 'Should the idea of bombing 
civilians increase in Great Britain, I wish to say this before the whole world: "Churchill 
started the air war in 1940, and then started moaning. From now on I shall return blow for 
blow, till I have broken this criminal and his works." ' 

Here I interrupt the Hitlerian flow of words to quote some which Mr. Churchill used in 
his speech at the County Hall, London, on 14 July, 1941, that is, nine months previously. 
'We ask no favour of the enemy. We seek from them no compunction. On the contrary, if 
tonight the people of London were asked to cast their votes whether a convention should 
be entered into to stop the bombing of all cities, the overwhelming majority would cry 
"No, we will mete out to the Germans the measure, and more than the measure, that they 
have meted out to us".' This statement was greeted with cheers. There is not much 
moaning about it. 

At the opening of the Winter Help Campaign on 30 September, 1942, Hitler said at the 
Sportpalast, Berlin: Apart from the second front, our enemies have another means to 
carry on the war — bombing of the civilian popu- 

[p. 46] 

lation. The man who invented the bombing war now declares that the bombing war will 
increase in violence in the future. In May, 1940, Churchill sent the first bombers against 
the German civilian population. I warned him then, and I continued to warn him for four 
months, but in vain. Then we struck hard. When we did so they began weeping and 
whining. There was talk of barbarity and disgusting inhumanity. A man who, apart from 
the principal warmonger, Roosevelt, is the main culprit, pretended to be innocent, and 
today they are again carrying on this bombing war. I should like to say this. This time, 
too, the time will come when we shall reply.' Very loud cheers acclaimed this threat. 

At Munich on a November, 1942, Hitler said: 'Do you think I don't eat my heart out when 
I think of the British attacks on Germany? We did not drop a single bomb on Paris. [1] 
Before I attacked Warsaw I five times asked them to capitulate, and only then did I do 
what is allowed by the rules of war. It is just the same today. I don't forget, I take good 
note of it all. They will find out in Britain that the German inventive spirit has not been 
idle, and they will get an answer that will take their breath away.' 

Hitler stated in a broadcast from his headquarters on 10 September, 1943: 'Only from the 
air is the enemy able to terrorise the German homeland. But here, too, technical and 
organisational conditions are being created which will not only break his terror attacks 
but which will also enable us to retaliate effectively.' 

Hitler's Aim 

Various people will draw various conclusions from the selection of utterances given 
above. Many will say they 

1 They did, however, bomb the Citroen works and other objectives in the suburbs. In the raid of 3 June, 
1940, on the Paris area 254 people (including 195 civilians) were killed and 652 (including 545 civilians) 
injured. (Alexander Werth, The Last Days of Paris, 1940, p. 127.) 

[p. 47] 

were merely the hysterical screams of a neuropath who did not mean what he said. I take 
leave to disagree. I can read them in one way only, and that is that, whatever Hitler 
wanted or did not want, he most assuredly did not a want the mutual bombing to go on. 
He had not wanted it ever to begin. He wanted it, having begun, to be called off. That, I 
am firmly convinced, was the aim behind all his frantic bellowings and all his blather 
about attacks on the civil population. He knew that, in the end, our air offensive, if it did 
not win the war for us, would certainly prevent Germany from winning it. That that and 
nothing else was his motive is shown by other happenings also. 

One was the unanimity with which the chorus of Press and radio in Germany plugged the 
theme-song that long-distance bombing is useless and that the proper place for the air arm 
is the vicinity of the battle-zone. A pseudo-British station was rigged to swell the chorus. 
It spoke as if from Britain and debated gravely, and always with adverse verdict, the 
question whether it was really worth 'our' while to go on with the air offensive. 
Unfortunately, the German propagandists were able to count upon a certain amount of 
support in their campaign from within this country of free speech. That it was the support 
of only a tiny fraction of the population was shown when, on 29 April, 1942, Mr. Rhys 
Davies, a Pacifist Member of Parliament, questioned the Secretary of State for Air about 
the recent raid on Liibeck and implied in a supplementary question that the air offensive 
should be stopped. There was a resounding cheer throughout the House of Commons 
when Sir Archibald Sinclair replied: 'The best way to prevent this destruction is to win 
the war as quickly as possible.' A few weeks later, on 16 June, another Socialist Member, 
Mr. R. R. Stokes, was asking about the recent 'thousand-bomber' raids and their utility. 
Mr. Attlee, the Deputy Prime Minister, declined to discuss 

[p. 48] 

the question with him. The following extract from the official report is interesting as 
showing where the sympathies of the House (and, it may be added, of the country) lay. 

'Mr. Ellis Smith: Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that these well-organised raids 
have won the admiration of the whole people? 

'Mr. Stokes: Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a substantial minority which 
considers indiscriminate raiding of this kind highly immoral? 

'Mr. Evelyn Walkden: Is my right hon. Friend aware that the rest of the people of the 
country admire the Royal Air Force? 

'Mr. Attlee: My hon. Friend probably more accurately represents the views of these 
people than the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes).' 

Nothing daunted, Mr. Stokes returned to the charge on 27 May, 1943. After the Deputy 
Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, had informed him in reply to the original question that we 
were not going to be diverted from our policy of bombing the Axis war potential by 
neutral or other representations, Mr. Stokes asked whether there was not an ever-growing 
volume of opinion in this country which considered the 'indiscriminate bombing of 
civilian centres both morally wrong and strategic lunacy'. Mr. Attlee replied: 'No, there is 
no indiscriminate bombing. (Cheers.) As has been repeatedly stated in the House, the 
bombing is of those targets which are most effective from the military point of view.' 
(Cheers.) Another Member asked if Mr. Attlee realised that his answer would be 
appreciated by all sensible people in this country. 

Dr. C. E. M. Joad's View 

Unwittingly, and in all sincerity, writers in the Press were also inclined in a few 
exceptional instances to play 

[p. 49] 

Hitler's game for him. A fair example of the kind of arguments relied upon is to be found 
in an article contributed to a Sunday newspaper by Dr. C. E. M. Joad, well known to 
thousands of listeners as a member of the B.B.C. Brains Trust. His attack was on night- 
bombing, but that in the circumstances meant all bombing of objectives in Germany by 
our Air Force: as, indeed, Dr. Joad implied in what he said. His case was that night 
bombing was not only inhumane but was not even a war-winning method. Its effect was 
not to weaken but to strengthen the morale of the people attacked. Moreover, it was bad 
policy for us. 'The Germans have nearer bases. They still have, we are assured, more 
planes. They have a smaller area to bomb. Germany is a perimeter of a fan of which we 
are the handle. Is it quite certain that we can do more damage to their perimeter than they 
do to the concentrated handle?' The able correspondent of the newspaper which published 
Dr. load's article [1] appended a note to it contesting the statement that the Luftwaffe 
could hurt Britain more than the Royal Air Force could hurt Germany. The effective 
answer to Dr. Joad is, indeed, that the War Cabinet has evidently arrived at a different 
conclusion. It has done so in the light of the wealth of information at the call of the 
Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Joint Intelligence Committee, the Directorate of 
Intelligence at the Air Ministry, the Ministry of Economic Warfare, and other sources and 
channels not available to Dr. Joad. A difficult question of operational policy cannot be 
settled by the light of pure reason. 

The Meaning of Air Power 

More nonsense has been talked and written about air power than, probably, any other 
subject connected with warfare. It has been particularly nonsensical when the 

1 Sunday Dispatch, 9 November, 1941. 

[p. 50] 

speaker or writer has thought it incumbent upon herself or himself to dilate upon the 
inhumanity of the air offensive. In Chapter V I deal at some length with the assertion or 
innuendo that what that offensive really amounts to is the slaughter and mutilation of 
enemy civilians. The quotations made in the present chapter from Hitler's speeches and 
from other sources have a bearing on the arguments in Chapter V. The purpose of the 
present chapter is, however, to show, and illustrate, the nature of the difference between 
tactical and strategical bombing and the practical results of that difference as they 
emerged in the present struggle. There was really a clash between conflicting conceptions 
of air power, the British and the German. We, it is legitimate, and only human, to claim, 
made the right choice and Germany the wrong. To cover up that mistake the Germans 
have chosen to misrepresent our use of the air arm as not only a diversion of it from its 
proper purpose but as a barbarous war against the civil population. Actually, our kind of 
air warfare was far more logical than the German and at least as justifiable from the 
ethical angle. From some of the German outbursts one would think that it amounted 
merely to dumping high explosives and incendiaries from the upper reaches of the air 
upon sleeping towns. That was a grossly distorted picture of the reality. Lord Trenchard 
put the position in its true perspective in a speech which he delivered at Winchester on 15 
May, 1943. He said: 

'The word "raid" is inadequate to describe the attacks by our bombers on Germany. I call 
them battles. They are the Battle of the Ruhr. This great force of night bombers forces its 
way through terrific anti-aircraft defences and thousands of guns and night fighters: They 
are causing havoc among the submarine production centres and assembling yards. They 
are making the Germans realise the horror of war on their own great cities and towns, and 

[p. 51] 

interrupting and dislocating the whole civil life of their nation. German war production 
has suffered enormously, and by it untold casualties have been saved for the United 
Nations' armies and navies.' 

There Lord Trenchard puts his finger on the root of the trouble — the trouble from the 
Germans' point of view. It was just because our air offensive was, and is, smashing their 
capacity to make war that they have been, and are, screaming raucous denunciations of it, 
on the ground, forsooth, of its inhumanity. 

[p. 52] 



Complacency in 1939-40 

Never since hostilities began have we in Britain been so foolishly complacent as we were 
during the first winter of the war. We were terribly pleased with ourselves then. 
Everything was going well. We were having a nice, comfortable war. The change-over 
from the pace of peace had been a far easier one on the whole than we had feared it 
would be; the gears had hardly jarred at all. Now we could just jog along — still on first 
speed, though we did not know it then — and not worry. We had time on our side. All we 
had to do was to keep on keeping our morale up, and Germany was doomed. She could 
not hope to stand up indefinitely to our blockade. The economic pressure which we were 
subjecting her to and remorselessly intensifying was bound to crush her in time, as it did 
in 1918. It would not necessarily be a short war, but of its outcome there was no doubt 
whatever. No one then expected the French to crack. They and we would be in the fight 
up to the end. The Nazis would see before long that it was hopeless to go on, their leaders 
would scuttle themselves, a satisfactory peace would follow a satisfactory war, and all 
would be well again with the world. 

At the close of 1939 a booklet entitled Assurance of Victory was issued under official 
auspices. It was a heartening publication. It set forth the overwhelming advantages which 
we possessed in comparison with Germany. The first was man-power. Citizens of the 
British Empire alone outnumbered the population of enemy territory by more than four to 
one. We had complete mastery of the sea, and it was being used to the full and from the 
very start. Our 

[p. 53] 

blockade was more effective than in the last war. 'This time we have begun where we left 
off in 1918.' We had the measure of the U-boats. We were sinking between two and four 
every week. Our shipping losses were less than one per cent of our tonnage afloat. We 
had greater reserves of labour than Germany. Her railways were strained almost to 
breaking point. We do not need to defeat the Nazis on land, but only to prevent them 
from defeating us. If we can succeed in doing that, we can rely on our strength in other 
directions to bring them to their knees.' 'The Nazis cannot hope to win the war on sea or 
on land.' What of the air? 'More than any other nation they depend on the striking power 
of their bombers. They may be able to inflict grave losses. For a time the Allied peoples 
must be ready to endure considerable damage and perhaps many casualties. But — this is 
the vital question — can the Nazis keep it up?' To that question the official booklet 
answered No. They could not build aircraft on a scale sufficient to keep a huge air force 
in the field. They would be short, too, of oil. Two-thirds of Germany's oil had to be 
imported in peace. She would need more in war, and she could not obtain it. She 
imported two-thirds, also, of the iron ore which she needed, and here again she would be 
in difficulties. She would be short of fats also. Her gold reserves were low. The morale of 
the workers was a doubtful factor. 'This war will expose the fatal weaknesses of the Nazi 
structure. . . . The immense staying-power of democracy is the final guarantee of Allied 

A Douche of Cold Water 

Like thousands of other people in this country, I read that booklet and it made me feel 
good. I felt that the war was going well for us. It was the greater shock, therefore, when 
in the first days of January, 1940, 1 happened to have a talk with a famous air commander 
of the last war. 

[p. 54] 

He was not complacent; very far from it. He did not like the way the war was shaping. 
We were not winning the war by our present methods. On the contrary, we were losing it, 
losing it hand-over-fist. We were not hitting Germany, and war is hitting. We were 
allowing her to mount undisturbed a great battle for the west. By the end of March at the 
earliest, perhaps a little later, she would be ready. Then the blow would fall. The massed 
attack would smash its way through the Low Countries and the whole Allied line in the 
west would be rocked. How often when the storm broke in the following May did I think 
of those prophetic, unpalatable words to which I had listened, only half believing them, 
on a cold, foggy afternoon of early January. 

London's Vulnerability 

Certainly the war had been until then a far less terrible affair than we had expected it to 
be. We had been convinced that it would begin with a tremendous onslaught from the air 
upon our ports and cities and, above all, London. London, it had been driven home to us 
by innumerable warnings, was the most vulnerable capital in the world. Its unfortunate 
position had been pointed out repeatedly. A distinguished airman, writing in 1938, had 
compared it to a huge, ungainly 'wen' — Cobbett's word — which almost invited an enemy 
to hit it. In comparison with Berlin it was extraordinarily ill-sited. 'For every 700 miles 
there and back which the German bombers would have to fly to reach London our own 
would have to fly 1000 to reach Berlin, and, in consequence, in rougher computation, 
they could make ten round trips to our seven, presuming both air forces to be equal, and 
drop their bombs by tons in a like proportion.' 'The ratios which have been quoted mean, 
in plainer language, a 30 per cent advantage to our potential enemy, and this not 

[p. 55] 

in human brawn but in horse-power, in explosive effect, and in scientific calculation.' [1] 

The Germans knew these facts as well as we did. 'No land in the world is so vulnerable 
from the air as the British Isles,' said Goering in a special New Year's article in the 
Volkischer Beobachter of 30 December, 1939. 'Once again, as the German Zeppelins did 
twenty-five years ago, German squadrons will unleash air-raid alarms over London. . . . 
All that is needed is the Fuhrer's command for them to carry over their loads of 
destruction-bearing bombs instead of a load of cameras. . . . The German Air Force will 
strike at Britain with an onslaught such as has never been known in the history of the 
world as soon as Hitler orders counter-measures to the British blockade.' Here there was 
perhaps to be discerned some hint of impatience with the policy which restrained the 
Luftwaffe — Goering's pride and passion — from aiming at London and Britain the blows 
which we at least had expected would fall the moment hostilities opened. 

Fears for Berlin and Paris 

Yet Goering had the sense to perceive that the abstention from raiding and counter- 
raiding was not altogether to Germany's disadvantage. The Germans on their side had 
expected to be attacked at once. That is clear from what Dr. Goebbels said at Poznan on 
19 January, 1940. He was referring to the British Government's declaration of war, and 
he said: 'One would have expected that, on the afternoon of that day their much- vaunted 
bombers would have appeared over Berlin.' Our bombers did fly over Germany, but only 
to drop leaflets. This practice the Germans professed to regard with equanimity. Goering 
himself said at the Rheinmetal-Borsig armament works on 

1 Air Commodore L. E. O. Charlton, The New Factor in Warfare in The Air Defence of Britain, Penguin 
Special, 1938, pp. 83-4. 

[p. 56] 

9 September, 1939: If the British aeroplanes fly at tremendous heights at night and drop 
their ridiculous propaganda in German territory, I have nothing against it. But take care if 
the leaflets are replaced by one bomb. Then reprisals will follow as in Poland.' 

Paris awaited raids on the outbreak of war no less apprehensively than Berlin. There was 
a mingled feeling of surprise and relief when no raids came. An American correspondent 
who was in Paris before and during September, 1939, says: 'It was taken for, granted by 
laymen that a mass bombardment of Paris and London by the German aviation would be 
the first act of war, if war came.' [1] 'Only two things struck us as slightly unnatural,' he 
says later. 'There was no bombing from the air, and this war, unlike all wars legitimately 
born, had not produced a song, no "Madelon", "Tipperary", or "Over There".' [2] 

Capital Cities as Hostages to Fortune 

It would have been strange if the danger to the capital cities had not been prominently in 
the minds of all who were responsible for the direction of affairs. Here were these great 
agglomerations of humanity, sprawling centres of highly organised activities, densely 
populated areas of pulsating civic life, and all at the mercy, as Mr. Bernard Shaw has 
said, of a single airman. He speaks of 'cities where millions of inhabitants are depending 
for light and heat, water and food, on centralised mechanical organs like great steel hearts 
and arteries that can be smashed in half an hour by a boy in a bomber.' [3] That was, no 
doubt an overstatement, but the menace was there. It was all the more disturbing because 
no one knew what a bomber 

1 Edmond Taylor, The Strategy of Terror, Boston, 1940, p. 20. 

2 Ibid., p. 167. 

3 Adventures of the Black Girl in Search of God, pp. 64-5. 

[p. 57] 

formation could in fact accomplish. There was a tendency to attribute to air power an 
almost miraculous capacity for destruction and many of the forecasts made of the wrath 
to come were rather wild shots in the dark. 

There is little doubt now that we in this country took an exaggerated view of the danger 
that threatened us. Looking back now on what we did — and said — in 1939, one can see 
that we were in some respects over-apprehensive in regard to the air menace, and, which 
was hardly surprising at that time, very dubious about the public reaction to it if it should 
emerge as an actuality. We undoubtedly over-estimated the casualty-roll which bombing 
would cause. We made an immense provision for hospital beds, for instance — a provision 
which was found in the event to be happily far in excess of the needs of the victims. 
There was a general tendency in this country to fear the worst. In June, 1939, the Air Raid 
Defence League issued a pamphlet in which the casualties likely to be caused by a single 
day's raiding were estimated at 35,000 — a figure which would increase, it was stated, to 
100,000 in a few days. Fortunately, in four years of war we have hardly reached that total 
yet. In London alone, Professor J. B. S. Haldane [1] warned us, from his experience in 
Spain, that a knock-out blow from the air might result in the killing of 50,000 to 100,000 
people. It is hardly surprising that the catastrophic losses which were contemplated 
should have inspired precautions which were in some respects over-elaborate, or perhaps 
one should say over-solicitous for the safeguarding of life and limb. We were encouraged 
in the early days to seek shelter at once when the sirens sounded. It was our duty, indeed, 
not to expose ourselves to the risk of becoming casualties and therefore a burden on the 
community. Now when the alert is heard we take up our posts nonchalantly as fire- 
watchers or extra wardens as 

1 A.R.P., 1938, p. 63. 

[p. 58] 

other active-and exposed-participants in the great civilian levee-en-masse enrolled behind 
the organised fire brigades, rescue parties and demolition squads. And most of us have 
found that the possession of a tin helmet has raised our morale tremendously! 

In the early days, however, we thought only of going to ground. So obsessed did we all 
seem to be with the idea of taking cover that some shrewd observers feared that our 
morale would be undermined in advance. In the House of Lords on 15 March, 1939, Lord 
Trenchard warned the country that we were thinking far too much about defence and 
devoting too much energy, money and material to the provision of dug-outs and shelters. 
He deprecated the 'continuous clamouring for defence measures'. In a letter to The Times 
of 18 March, 1939, Sir Henry Page-Croft (now Lord Croft) wrote: 'Nothing could more 
surely play the game of the enemy than to create a panic psychology which encourages 
flight to shelter.' 

The Gas Menace 

We were particularly concerned with the danger from gas. We had warnings from many 
sources that our cities would be flooded with toxic vapours the moment hostilities began. 
It is evident, in the retrospect, that the Government of the time took this particular 
menace far more seriously than any other. The precautions taken to meet it were much 
more thorough and elaborate than those which were considered necessary for active 
defence. The provision of anti-aircraft guns and searchlights left, in comparison, much to 
be desired. There was a general obsession with the gas menace in the years 1937-39. 

In the House of Lords, for instance, on 13 December, 1937, Lord Swinton, the Secretary 
of State for Air, in moving the second reading of the Air Raid Precautions Bill, devoted 
all the earlier part of his speech to the mea- 

[p. 59] 

sures that were being taken to protect people against gas attack. They were most 
comprehensive. Already, he stated, some 200,000 volunteers had been trained in anti-gas 
measures, all the policemen in the country had been given instruction in this subject, 
about 10,000 doctors and 10,000 nurses had passed through a special course on the 
treatment of gas cases, and twenty million gas masks had been produced in the 
Government factory taken over in July, 1936. (The number of gas masks increased to 
50,000,000 by March, 1939.) 'I believe,' said Lord Swinton, with evident satisfaction, 
'that we are the only country that has devised a system of mass-production of gas masks.' 

In the subsequent debate there was one discordant note only in the general acceptance of 
the necessity for the measures proposed. It was struck by Lord Trenchard. He suggested 
that rather too much attention was being paid to the gas menace. The greatest danger, in 
his opinion, came from high explosive and incendiary bombs. Here, as in some other 
instances, Lord Trenchard showed himself to be a true prophet. 

Why Germany did not use Gas 

Whether Germany will use gas or not before this war ends can obviously not be known as 
yet. One thing, however, is certain, the confident expectation that she would begin the 
war with a series of gas attacks was falsified by the event. Then, if at all, was her 
opportunity. She was far stronger in the air than were we. Why did she not use gas 
against London? The probability is that she never had the least intention of using it: 
which is not to say that she may not eventually use it — but only as a desperate last resort. 
It is significant, that, as Mr. George Sava has pointed out: 'In the voluminous analyses of 
military problems published in Nazi Germany there was almost unanimous 

[p. 60] 

agreement on the uselessness of poison gas.' [1] Indeed, gas does not form a congruous 
element of the prescription for war which has its application in the Blitzkrieg. 

Hitler's Psychological Victory 

The German abstention both from strategic bombing and from the use of gas should not 
really have surprised us if we had appreciated truly the pattern of the air warfare which 
the mere predominance of the military school of thought in Germany had already 
outlined. It should have been apparent that tactical and not strategic bombing was Hitler's 
arcanum vincendi, or at least one of his arcana. There was ample evidence that he did not 
want the latter kind of bombing to become the practice. He had done his best to have it 
banned by international agreement. It seemed during the first eight and a half months of 
the war that the object which he had failed to achieve by way of express agreement he 
was attaining by a kind of tacit consent. We in Britain had organised a Bomber 
Command. The whole raison d'etre of that Command was to bomb Germany if she 
should be our enemy. We were not bombing her. We were most carefully abstaining from 
bombing her. What, then, was the use of Bomber Command? Its position was almost a 
ridiculous one. It seemed to be keeping clear of the war, keeping neutral, acting as if it 
had made a separate peace. Had it — horrible thought — been bitten by a bug from Eire? 
What was the explanation? It certainly looked as if the policy of Munich, of appeasement, 
were still being continued in this particular sphere of warlike activity, or inactivity. Hitler 
must have been a happy man, happier far than he is now, during that first winter. In effect 
he had won a great psychological victory, or he seemed to have won it; perhaps here, 
again, fate smiled on him only to betray. The Lancasters, Stirrings and Halifaxes were 

1 G. Sava, School for War, 1942, p. 154. 

[p. 61] 

being built all the time. At least the lull in the air meant that the construction of our big 
bombers could go on without interruption. 

Some Popular Reactions 

It is certain at any rate that our failure to carry the war into Germany was the subject of a 
good deal of criticism in this country. Why were we dropping leaflets and not bombs? it 
was asked. The Germans would have been more impressed by high explosives than even 
the best propagandist literature. It was a policy of 'kid gloves and confetti', said an 
important monthly journal.' Sometimes the reaction was bewilderment tinged with 
sardonic amusement. 'Lord, man, you might have hurt someone!' a squadron leader was 
supposed to have admonished a flying officer who had not untied the packet of 'nickels' 
(leaflets) before jettisoning them. Another jest was that the Navy had taken to sending 
down leaflets instead of depth-charges in its hunt for submarines. Punch, as of right, 
joined in the chorus and printed a Christmas carol on the subject, ending: 

'Bombs, my foot!' said good King Wence, 
'Them be leaflets, Stephen.' 

These comments were the froth on the surface of waters of doubt and perplexity which 
were deep and wide. There was serious criticism of our inaction. The Air Force, it was 
complained, was not being used for the purpose for which, so far as it was an offensive 
force, it had been created. Only when the German advance into the Low Countries and 
France began in May, 1940, was our striking force of the air allowed to fulfil its function; 
and then, in the opinion of some authorities, an opportunity had already been missed of 
the kind that does not recur — the opportunity to 

1 National Review, January, 1940. 

[p. 62] 

strike at the German concentration which preceded the great attack in the west. 

Two Notable Editorials 

These missed opportunities were referred to in a notable editorial article in The 
Aeroplane of 29 March, 1940. It referred to 'the unwritten law' which forbade the 
bombing of civilians and thus, it was assumed, stood in the way of our opening an air 
offensive against Germany. 'Some amazing stories of the opportunities foregone by Great 
Britain in observance of this law will be told some day', it stated. 'Pilots, confronted with 
perfect targets, have had to keep the law, grind their teeth in chagrin, and hope for a 
change in the temper of the war. The breach of the law by the Nazis in the dusk at Scapa 
Flow seemed for the moment to mark the end of the period of humane restraints. The 
reprisal by the Royal Air Force at Sylt looked like acceptance of the challenge by the 
Allies. More mature reflections show that the exploit of the Royal Air Force was still part 
of the scoring game — a heartening and splendid piece of scoring, but still just an incident 
in the match which was to be continued according to the unwritten law. It was rather an 
insistence on the laws than a punishment for the breach of them. It was certainly not a 
declaration that, since the enemy had broken the laws, the fight was now free to all.' 
Public opinion both in Britain and France, Mr. Shepherd went on, was in favour of a 
more vigorous policy but had been restrained by the need to build up our reserves. That 
reason for caution would soon lose its force, and then 'in the final encounters we must 
assuredly take the initiative'. 

We had not yet done so when Mr. Shepherd returned to the subject in his issue of 3 May, 
1940. 'More than ever,' he wrote, 'is there need to carry the war to Germany, to strangle 
the offensive at the root. ... If we are sincere in 

[p. 63] 

the desire to win this war quickly and effectively we must carry the war to Germany. The 
Germans have never felt the evils of such wars as they impose on others. . . . The solution 
must lie in a bold decision to deal with the menace at its source.' It needed some courage 
at that time to challenge our official policy. Fortunately, there were in this country a 
number of independent- minded people who were prepared to question the wisdom of 
letting Bomber Command rust in action. 

A Pro and a Con 

One of them was an anonymous correspondent who wrote to the Sunday Times of 14 
January, 1940, to ask why we were not using air power to increase the effect of the 
blockade. Attack on military objectives in the interior of Germany, the writer pointed out, 
would open up an earlier prospect of an end to the war than the slow operation of sea 
power promised. We could not strike at the enemy by land but we could in the air. Why 
did we not strike in the air? It could only be because we could not sustain such attack, or 
feared that the enemy would attack more strongly, or believed that our moral position 
would be jeopardised if we attacked military objectives and injured — as we must — some 
civilians in the process. The writer examined each of these reasons in turn and came to 
the conclusion that they were not really strong arguments against the starting of an air 
offensive. His letter was the subject of some comment by 'Scrutator' [1] in the same issue 
of the newspaper. 'Scrutator' said: 'Such an extension of the offensive, whoever began it, 
would inevitably develop into competitive frightfulness. It might be forced on us in 
reprisal for the enemy's action, and we must be in a position to make reprisals if 
necessary. But the bombing of industrial towns with its unavoidable loss of life among 
the civil 

1 Not the present (1943) 'Scrutator' but the late Mr. Herbert Sidebotham. 

[p. 64] 

population — that is what it would come to — would be inconsistent with the spirit, if not 
with the actual words, of the pledges given from both sides at the beginning of the war. 
[1] It is not only to neutrals that we should have to justify our being the first to break an 
undertaking which, so far as England and France are concerned, had been observed by 
the enemy, but to our own people, whose war risks we would be increasing, while at the 
same time we are determined to save the Army from the risks of unwise offensives.' 

A little later, on 27 January, 1940, another newspaper, the Daily Mail, endorsed 
editorially the view put forward by its contemporary. It devoted a leading article to 
combating the suggestion of Mr. Amery and others that we should start the bombing of 
Germany. We were fighting, the article said, for a moral issue and we should do nothing 
unworthy of our cause. It confused the issue by speaking of a choice between the 
deliberate bombing of women and children and not bombing at all. Actually, the choice 
was between bombing military objectives in Germany and not bombing them: a totally 
different matter. 

The Supposed 'Gentlemen's Agreement' 

There was a suggestion in some of the statements made at the time that we had a sort of 
'gentlemen's agreement' with Germany to refrain from bombing one another's territory. In 
the Daily Mail of 26 April, 1940, Mr. Duff Cooper wrote: 'There would appear to exist a 
kind of unwritten truce between the great belligerents according to the tacit terms of 
which they do not bomb one another but are all agreed upon the bombing of smaller 
countries.' He 

1 The reference is to the declaration made by the British and French Governments on 2 September, 1939, 
that only 'strictly military objectives in the narrowest sense of the word ' would be bombarded. The German 
Government also stated that only military objectives would be attacked. 

[p. 65] 

pointed out that the Germans had made merciless attacks in Poland and Norway, and 
stated that in his recent lecturing tour in America he had frequently been asked why we 
had not helped Poland by bombing the bases of the German army and its lines of 
communications, instead of confining ourselves to distributing pamphlets. 'There exists at 
the present time,' he stated naturally enough, 'some bewilderment in the public mind with 
regard to the subject of air warfare.' 

A suggestion that we had an understanding with Germany in this matter was made in a 
question which Colonel Josiah Wedgwood addressed to the Secretary of State for Air in 
the House of Commons on 5 June, 1940. He asked 'whether the understanding that we 
should not bomb military objectives in Germany until they bomb us still holds, in spite of 
the bombing of Allied civilians in Poland, Norway, Holland and Belgium, and how much 
longer this is to continue without retaliation in kind?' Sir Archibald Sinclair replied: 'I 
know of no understanding of the character referred to. Indeed, the right honourable and 
gallant gentleman will be aware that the Royal Air Force has carried out a number of 
successful attacks against military objectives in Germany.' 

Lord Trenchard's Views 

The advantages which Germany derived from our abstention (before 11 May, 1940) from 
the raiding of the Reich were emphasised by Lord Trenchard in two speeches in the 
House of Lords. On 19 March, 1940, he said, referring to the Germans: 'They have our 
ships to aim at, and all the neutrals and non-combatants at sea, and we have nothing at 
which we can hit back. ... I have no wish to say anything that would be of use to the 
enemy, but I do beg of your Lordships to remember that the Air Force is an offensive and 
not a defensive weapon.' A little 

[p. 66] 

later, on 8 May, he said: 'We practically proclaim that Germany need not keep in her 
homeland home defences, guns, fighters, searchlights, civil guards, or take air raid 
precautions. Those forces are immense, and she is now free to move them to overpower 
her weaker neighbours and to expel us when we rush — if "rush" is the right word — to 
their assistance. If it is wrong for me to say that I should like to see military objectives in 
Germany hit by air, it is a thousand times more wrong for the Government to help the 
Germans by saying that we shall never do it. . . . No Englishman wants to kill civilians, 
but the Government are deluding themselves if they think that the civilian population of 
this country are going to shrink from facing, as their relations and comrades in the field 
have to face, whatever risk may be necessary to bring this war to a successful conclusion. 
. . . Make no mistake about it: when the time comes, Germany will hit us by air, open 
towns and military objectives alike, mercilessly and thoroughly. Why should we await 
her convenience before striking at military targets in Germany?' 

Mr. Churchill's Explanation 

The reason why we waited was explained by Mr. Churchill in a speech at Manchester on 
27 January, 1940. He referred to the unexpected absence of German air raiders, an 
absence which he declared himself unable to ascribe to any definite cause. It might be 
due, he said, to their 'saving up for some orgy of frightfulness which will soon come upon 
us', or to fear of our fighting aircraft or of our powerful bombing force's reply. 'No one 
can say for certain. But one thing is sure, it is not from any false sense of delicacy that 
they have so far refrained from subjecting us to this new and odious form of attack. Nor 
is it out of love and kindliness. But for the present, here is a chapter of war which they 
have not chosen to open upon us be- 

[p. 67] 

cause they cannot tell what may be written in its final pages. The question then arises 
ought we instead of demonstrating the power of our Air Force by dropping leaflets all 
over Germany to have dropped bombs? There I am quite clear that our policy has been 
right. In this peaceful country, governed by public opinion, democracy and Parliament, 
we were not as thoroughly prepared at the outbreak of war as was a dictator State whose 
whole thought was bent on the preparation for war. We know from what they did in 
Poland that there is no brutality or bestial massacre of civilians by air bombing which 
they would not readily commit if they thought it was for their advantage. We have striven 
hard to make the most of the time of preparation that has been gained, and there is no 
doubt that an enormous advance has been made both in the protection of the civil 
population and in the punishment which would be inflicted upon the raiders. Not only 
have our air defences and shelters been markedly improved, but our armies at home and 
abroad, which are now very large, are steadily maturing in training and in quality, and the 
whole preparation of our munition industries under the spur of war has rolled forward 
with gathering momentum.' 

The Passing of the Lull in the Air 

Three and a half months passed from the time when Mr. Churchill spoke until he and his 
colleagues in the War Cabinet thought it wise to vary the policy of waiting as explained 
by him. The change made in May was heralded by a statement issued by the Foreign 
Office on the 10th of that month. It began by referring to the assurance given to the 
President of the United States that the Air Force had received orders limiting bombing to 
strictly military objectives and went on to state that His Majesty's Government 'now 
publicly proclaim that they reserve to them- 

[p. 68] 

selves the right to take any action which they consider appropriate in the event of 
bombing by the enemy of civil populations, whether in the United Kingdom, France or in 
countries assisted by the United Kingdom.' As the Germans had in fact already attacked 
'civil populations ... in countries assisted by the United Kingdom', the statement of the 
Foreign Office was equivalent to an announcement that our Government regarded itself 
as freed from the restriction which it had imposed on itself when the war began. That 
restriction really amounted in practice to a ban upon the bombing of military objectives in 
Germany. Thus came to an end the period of the 'phoney war' in the air. 

Some Official Pronouncements 

Action followed swiftly on the warning, and it was action from our side. We began to 
bomb objectives on the German mainland before the Germans began to bomb objectives 
on the British mainland. That is a historical fact which has been publicly admitted. The 
way in which the bombing began was explained by Captain Harold Balfour, the Under- 
Secretary of State for Air, in reply to a question in the House of Commons on 28 January, 
1942. He said: 

'The first British raid on German territory was the attack on the seaplane base on the 
island of Sylt on the night of 18-19 March, 1940. The first German attack on British soil 
was carried out on the night of 16 March, 1940, when bombs were dropped on the 
Orkneys, causing civilian casualties. One of the first acts of the German offensive in the 
west was an attack on the town and harbour of Calais in the early morning of 10 May, 
causing numerous civilian casualties. This was followed by German attacks on 
aerodromes and communications in France on succeeding nights. The Royal Air Force 
began attacks on 

[p. 69] 

military lines of communication in western Germany on 11 May, 1940, and on the 
following nights and days.' 

It is fairly certain that the bombs which fell on the Orkneys, near Bridge of Waith, on 16 
March were not dropped there deliberately; they were intended for the warships at Scapa 
Flow. Lord Halifax referred to this incident in the House of Lords on 19 March, 1940. It 
was, he said, the first occasion on which a civilian on land had been killed. 'Was that 
deliberate?' asked Lord Strabolgi. 'No,' replied Lord Halifax, I should think not.' When 
further questioned, he added that while the killing and wounding of civilians at Bridge of 
Waith was not, on the information available, deliberate, the responsibility for the 
consequences did rest on the authors of that raid on Scapa Flow. Our own attack on Sylt 
two nights later was admittedly a reprisal for the raid on the Orkneys. 

The Air War Carried into Germany 

In an article contributed by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, Air Officer 
Commanding-in-Chief Bomber Command, to the American periodical Flying ('Special 
Royal Air Force Issue') for September, 1942, he wrote: 'The first British bombs fell on 
the soil of the German mainland on the night of 11 May 1940, when a force of 18 
Whitley bombers attacked railway communications behind the lines of the German 
advance across Flanders and the Low Countries. Light bombers of the Command, at that 
time Blenheims, also endeavoured to stem the onrush of the attack by desperate and 
costly sorties against immediately threatening enemy concentrations.' That even then our 
action was taken in the teeth of strong French objection is evident from what is stated in 
the official booklet, Bomber Command. The following extract from it is illuminating as 
indicating the defeatist spirit which even at that date was wrecking France's war-effort. 

[p. 70] 

'Matters continued thus [i.e. only reconnaissance flights into Germany were undertaken] 
until the German offensive against France began. In the meantime, however, the attack on 
Norway had caused the French High Command to raise once again the question of the 
use to be made of our bombing force. On 14 April that Command was informed that, 
subject to a minimum diversion to Norway, Denmark and Northern Germany, it was 
intended, should the Germans attack, to use our full offensive strength in the area of the 
enemy's advance and in the districts east of the Rhine through which his lines of 
communication and supply would have to run. On the next day the Comite de Guerre 
ruled that, because casualties might be caused to the civilian population, bombing attacks 
on enemy concentrations in Germany were not to be made unless the Germans launched 
them upon the Allies. This decision at once limited the possible objectives to enemy 
columns on the march. It was pointed out to General Gamelin that such targets were quite 
unsuitable for our heavy bombers, since they had been designed for an entirely different 
purpose. General Gamelin remained unconvinced. The German attack opened in force on 
10 May, 1940. The Allied Commander-in-Chief still refused to allow objectives in 
Germany or German troops on the move in their own country to be bombed. It was not 
until the afternoon of the 10th that the Advanced Air Striking Force bombed German 
columns advancing through Luxembourg and not until the next day that attacks were 
made on enemy troops and lines of communication by our medium and heavy bombing 
forces.' [1] 

The Maginot Air-Mind 

It was unfortunate that, as is made clear in the same booklet, the French General Staff had 
all along a concep- 

1 Bomber Command, 1941, p. 45. The italics are not in the original. 

[p. 71] 

tion of air warfare broadly similar to that of the German General Staff and divergent from 
that of the British Air Staff. 'They viewed with the greatest misgiving any plan by which 
bombers were to be used for attacks on German industry and they did not hesitate to say 
so. In their considered opinion the main, indeed the only, use to which a bombing force 
should be put was to extend the range of artillery supporting armies in the field.' [1] Such 
a doctrine of air power, or rather of land-air power, was bound to have consequences as 
calamitous as those which followed from the acceptance of the doctrine of defence 
exemplified in the French Staffs reliance upon the Maginot Line. In the air as on land 
France was strategically decadent, at least in her high counsels. We did not know that 
before June, 1940. We learned it then, to our dismay and almost to our undoing. 

Still, Gamelin notwithstanding, Bomber Command went to war on 11 May, 1940. It had 
only been fooling with war until then. That is the great date in its war diary: not because 
of anything spectacular achieved immediately, but because of what was to follow in the 
fullness of time. In that decision of May, 1940, there was implicit the doom of Germany, 
though we little guessed it then. For a time, however, our offensive, it must be 
acknowledged, was a rather small affair. 

The Raid on Hanover 

Our attacks in May July, 1940, do not seem to have disturbed the Germans very 
seriously; their radio and press were eloquent about the futility of such methods of 
warfare and the sufferings inflicted upon the civil population, but in general there was no 
very violent reaction to those earlier raids. On the night of 1 August, 1940, some- 

1 Bomber Command, 1941, p. 44. 

[p. 72] 

thing happened which did really alarm the authorities. Our bombers visited a number of 
towns, including Hanover, on that night. They must have achieved some really important 
results. Next day, 2 August, the German newspapers found front-page space for air raid 
news for the first time since the British offensive began. They denounced the attack on 
Hanover as an outrage against humanity. 'Britain loses her honour,' the Bremen Zeitung 
proclaimed to the world. The raid was 'an appalling crime', according to the Deutsche 
Allgemeine Zeitung. The other papers echoed the chorus of dispraise. Goebbels had 
evidently waved his baton for it. 

That was the first of a lengthening series of hysterical protests against our raids. W. L. 
Shirer in his Berlin Diary (1941) quotes a number of extracts from the German press on 
the theme of our disregard for the honourable laws of war. Only an unsoldierly nation 
like the British could expect lasting advantages from attacks on the civil population, said 
the Volkischer Beobachter on 12 May, 1941. Our methods were contrasted unfavourably 
with those of the German airmen, who invariably confined their attacks to military 
objectives. We were pursuing terroristic tactics, while they were striking solely at our war 
factories, etc. Self-complacency and very real apprehension mark the outbursts of the 
German press and radio. 

A Might-Have-Been 

In Chapter II I have given my reasons for thinking that the Germans did not want to start 
strategic bombing and that they would gladly have called it off when it did start; and what 
I have recorded in the present chapter is further evidence to support my argument. 
Suppose that it had not been started; suppose that the view of the French General Staff 
had prevailed in the counsels of the Anglo-French alliance, which, let us again suppose, 
had continued to 

[p. 73] 

exist until now; and suppose that, in consequence, the air arms of all the main belligerents 
had been reserved for tactical employment: what would have been our position now in 
that event? Certainly our cities would have escaped the grievous scars which they now 
bear, honourably and proudly. Thousands of innocent persons who are dead or maimed 
would be alive and vigorous today. We should have been saved much suffering and loss; 
but should we not have lost something, too? 

I am not thinking here of loss of military advantage, of the difference it would have made 
to our and our Allies' prospects of victory if we had not weakened Germany by our 
hammer-blows in the air, of the worsening of our outlook if we had still held our bombers 
on the leash. I am thinking of something more intangible and imponderable but not less 
real and important: our national honour. Today we can hold our heads high. Could we 
have done so if we had continued the policy which we adopted in September, 1939, and 
maintained until May, 1940? It was a selfish policy after all, an ungenerous one, an 
unworthy one. We were prepared to see our weaker neighbours' cities devastated by air 
attack — of the tactical order — to bear their misfortunes with equanimity, to do nothing to 
help them in the only way in which we could help at all. (We had no great army then to 
oppose to the German hosts, and the mills of sea power grind very slowly.) We were 
prepared, in fact, to leave them to their fate provided we could save our own skin. 

Our Great Decision 

As it was, we chose the better, because the harder, way. We refused to purchase 
immunity — immunity for a time at least — for our cities while those of our friends went 
up in flames. We offered London as a sacrifice in the cause of freedom and civilisation. 
Retaliation was certain if we car- 

[p. 74] 

ried the war into Germany. There was no certainty, but there was a reasonable 
probability, that our capital and our industrial centres would not have been attacked if we 
had continued to refrain from attacking those of Germany. No doubt some readers will 
say that I am making too big an assumption here and that Germany would have raided 
London and our provincial towns in any event. Perhaps so; I can only put on record my 
own belief that she probably would not have done so, partly because it would not have 
suited her military book, partly because she was afraid of the long-term consequences. 
She would have called a truce if she could from the cross-raiding by British and German 
bombers when it did begin; she did call one, in effect, whenever she saw a ghost of a 
chance. It simply did not pay her, this kind of air warfare. Humanitarian considerations 
had nothing whatever to do with the matter. 

Yet, because we were doubtful about the psychological effect of propagandist distortion 
of the truth that it was we who started the strategic offensive, we have shrunk from giving 
our great decision of May, 1940, the publicity which it deserved. That, surely, was a 
mistake. It was a splendid decision. It was as heroic, as self-sacrificing, as Russia's 
decision, to adopt her policy of 'scorched earth'. It gave Coventry and Birmingham, 
Sheffield and Southampton, the right to look Kief and Kharkov, Stalingrad and 
Sebastopol, in the face. Our Soviet allies would have been less critical of our inactivity in 
1942 if they had understood what we had done. We should have shouted it from the 
house-tops instead of keeping silence about it. 

It could have harmed us morally only if it were equivalent to an admission that we were 
the first to bomb towns. It was nothing of the sort. The German airmen were the first to 
do that in the present war. (They had done it long before, too — at Durango and Guernica 
in 1937, nay, at 

[p. 75] 

London in 1915-18.) It was they, not the British airmen, who created a precedent for 'war 
against the civilian population'. How little substance there is in the charge made on this 
head against our Air Force by the German propaganda I try to show in the chapters which 

[p. 76] 



The Battle-towns 

Battle-towns, or battle-making towns — either term would be appropriate; they are also for 
the most part the metal-working towns. War has become more and more metallic. Steel is 
more precious in war than gold. Gold, we are told, no longer matters very much, though 
some economists hold that without the yellow metal dug from the bowels of the earth 
modern civilisation would have been impossible. However that may be, it is certain that 
without the minerals extracted from the same source modern war would be impossible. 
(Even if an age of plastics succeeds that of steel the ultimate origin will still be the same.) 
It was inevitable, therefore, that when the air was mastered, the centres where the metals 
are fashioned into weapons of war should tend to become the theatre of conflict. Even in 
the stone age an enemy would have seen the advantage of preventing flints from being 
knapped or made into battle-axes for his undoing. 

The instrument that has made assault upon the sources of an enemy's armament possible 
is itself metallic. There is steel in it, but still more is there the light metallic alloy whose 
use enables it to overcome those natural forces which limit man's ability to utilise the 
pathways of the air for the purpose of offence. That alloy, too, is transformed and made 
lethal in the centres of armament. To those centres the venue of battle has tended 
inevitably to shift with the coming of the era of human flight. Battles by land and sea 
there still are and still will be. The clash of encounter must always take place in part in 
the setting which our forefathers knew. But over and above these contacts of 

[p. 77] 

armies and fleets there are others which man's new power to use the air for his warlike 
ventures has made inevitable. It has been a consequence — the logical consequence — of 
that new power that areas which had hitherto been immune from the ravages of war 
should no longer be left in the enjoyment of their ancient peace. 

The tide of war has begun to lap round the bounds of all the places where are made the 
arms to be used in the encounters on sea or land or in the air. Indeed, it began to flow in 
the last war. The battle-towns had their origin then. What has happened is only that the 
problem, which that war first posed for statesmen and strategists and which was then a 
minor one, has become a major and far more complicated problem today. 

The Power of the Machine 

Today machinery dominates war. Man is a pigmy beside the robots of scientific 
destruction which he has created; or, did he really create them? Is man in truth the maker 
of the machine or only the machine's way of making a new machine, its instrument for 
propagating its kind? One would think when one looks on the baleful, malign, 
ingeniously destructive machines which are used in war today that there is a soul, a very 
evil soul, lurking somewhere in them. And it is these monstrosities, these half human 
half-devilish monstrosities, which get themselves born, somehow, in the battle-towns. 
That is the grim fact which makes those towns fit brand for the burning. 

The killer-machines are made necessarily in crowded centres. They could not otherwise 
be made in the quantities which modern warfare demands. The Moloch consumes 
armaments with an appetite which only mass-production can satisfy. An enormous and 
sustained output of munitions is needed if the armed forces, of sizes un- 

[p. 78] 

known in the past, are to be kept supplied with the materiel which they use. Mass- 
production implies, in turn, the presence of great numbers of workers, male and female, 
in the neighbourhood of the plants. Naturally, especially in a prolonged war, the workers' 
families tend to congregate in the same areas. The great urban agglomerations are in fact 
the areas in which the armament factories that really mater are located. 

Pre- fabricated Battle 

Now, those areas have become in the march of events battle-areas. It is idle to pretend 
that they are still the quiet, innocuous towns which they were once. They are not. They 
are dangerous, lethal, menacing towns — to an enemy. Terrible things — in his eyes — are 
done in them. Battle begins in them. One must think today of battle as being pre- 
fabricated. Most of the work of making it has been done before the encounter takes place. 
The clash of arms is only the final stage, of a process which has had its beginning 
elsewhere and long before. It could not reach that stage if the arms to be used in it had not 
been made in the earlier stage whose setting is a battle-town. The tentacles of the battle- 
monster spread out from the factories to all the theatres of war. To smash or cut them at 
the centre is to destroy at the same time the power of the extremity. There is as logical a 
case for a blow at the heart as at the limb, and it may be by far the more damaging blow. 
Stop the preparing of battle and you stop the making of battle too. 

The making of arms is war-making. It cannot be called anything else. It is not non- 
combatant work. It is a definitely warlike activity which an enemy is entitled by all the 
means in his power to prevent. He would be failing in his duty to his own country if he 
did not try to interrupt it. He is entitled to do so by striking at the battle-towns. 

[p. 79] 

That right, never clearly recognised in the discussions about strategic bombing, cannot be 
denied to him. That it was foreseen long before the present war began that the right 
would be exercised is evident from the precautions which all the belligerent nations had 
already taken to protect their armament centres from air attack. Many of these centres 
have now more guns in their perimeters than whole armies used to have in their 
campaigns a few years ago. The defences of the larger towns in which armaments are 
made are more powerful than those of many purely military or naval stations. The centres 
in question have become in a double sense places d'armes. 

The Fortress of the Ruhr 

Speaking on the Berlin radio on 2 April, 1943, General Quade, the spokesman of the 
German air force, claimed that the attacks which that air force made on Warsaw and 
Rotterdam were lawful operations, while the British raids on German towns were not. 
Warsaw, he stated, was 'a fortress' and Rotterdam 'a pillar of Holland's defence'. What 
else is Essen — or, indeed, the whole Ruhr, but a fortress? Even before the war began the 
Ruhr was strongly defended. Goering boasted in August, 1939, that no enemy airman 
could drop a bomb on it. [1] Since then its defences have been enormously increased. 
There are about 3,000 guns of all calibres within its bounds; thousands of searchlights, 
great numbers of observation and radiolocation stations, and a huge host of passive 
defence personnel. The defences of Berlin and of the north-western ports — Bremen, 
Emden, Hamburg, Wilhelmshaven and Kiel — are organised on an equally lavish scale. 
Mr. Elmer Davis, Director of the Office of War Information in the United States, stated 
on 26 June, 1943, that 30,000 anti-aircraft 

1 He said at Essen on 10 August, 1939: Das Ruhrgebiet werden wir auch nicht einer einzigen Bombe 
feindlicher Flieger ausliefern. 

[p. 80] 

guns and more than 1,000 fighter planes had been concentrated to protect the cities of 
north-western Germany. (Presumably what we call western Germany, the Ruhr and the 
Rhineland, was intended to be included.) Germany was stripped for the battle of the air 
from the first. She has discarded some more of her fighting kit in the stress of combat as 
it progressed; but she had her important towns in battle-dress from the first. 

And what a fight they put up, the battle-towns! 'Open towns', forsooth! — our airmen who 
have been over them would have a swift answer to make to anyone who called them so. 
They are literally fortresses. Of that there is no shadow of doubt. To attack them is to 
engage in battle. The bomber crews who venture near them go into the jaws of death. 
Many come back with their wings and fuselages torn to shreds. Many never come back at 
all. Our airman's name for the Ruhr — 'Happy Valley' — is a grim euphemism for a section 
of the sky which is about as nearly a mundane reproduction of Dante's Inferno as 
anything on or above this globe can be. If these towns are not fortresses, if what happens 
in the air above them is not battle, what on earth are they? 

That there was indeed a 'Battle of the Ruhr' was admitted a little belatedly in Germany in 
the summer of 1943. On 22 June, 1943, for instance, the German radio in an impassioned 
denunciation of the 'terror raid' of the previous night on Krefeld, ended thus: 'That is the 
Battle of the Ruhr — moral strength against bombs, and the German people will win this 
battle too. Germany is on the defensive at present in the Battle of the Ruhr. But it is clear 
to everybody that there will be a retaliation, and that battle will be remembered one day 
under the name of one or several British counties.' From such a statement one would infer 
that the battle was a one-sided affair, with bombs on our side and only moral resolution 
on the Ger- 

[p. 81] 

man. The fact that there was a very powerful defence and that 44 of our bombers were 
missing after that raid was completely ignored. 

The Duel of Air and Ground 

The attack on such a centre is a colossal battering match between air and ground. The 
ground tries to blast the air- invaders out of the sky. The air tries to smother the defence 
under the weight of its attack. Sometimes it succeeds. It did so on the night of 31 July, 
1942, when Dusseldorf was visited by a great force of bombers and more than 150 two- 
ton bombs, as well as a huge weight of other high explosive and incendiary bombs, were 
dropped in the space of fifty minutes. The effect of the concentrated, massive attack was 
the 'saturation' of the defences. 'Though Dusseldorf is an arsenal of great importance to 
the enemy's armed forces,' said an Air Ministry Bulletin on 1 August, 1942, 'and 
therefore has all the defences that one would expect, the guns and searchlights were 
confused by the momentum of the bombing. . . . Hundreds of searchlights came on at 
once and the sky was filled with bursting shells. To overcome such opposition it was 
necessary that the bombs should fall in a ceaseless rain. They did.' 

That was only one of many occasions on which the fury of the onslaught overwhelmed 
the defence. Another was the attack on Duisburg on the night of 26 April, 1943. The 
Germans, said the Air Ministry Bulletin of 27 April, 'had packed the Duisburg area with 
heavy anti-aircraft guns, and searchlights. Outside the town there was a searchlight belt 
with others inside it, while hundreds of guns put up one of the heaviest barrages which 
our bombers have encountered, but the defences in spite of their great strength were 
unable to cope with the attack. Pilots who went in towards the end of the raid reported 
that the bar- 

[p. 82] 

rage had fallen off considerably. . . . Towards the end of the raid the port [Duisburg is the 
largest inland port in Germany] was ablaze with large red fires. One pilot described it as 
'a cauldron bubbling with angry molten metal which spurted up every now and then as 
more and more bombs exploded.' It was then that the defences began to slacken, so much 
so that one pilot said his chief difficulty was not the anti-aircraft fire but the high winds 
through which they had to fly to the target. 

At Dortmund on the night of 23 May, 1943, the battle again ended in favour of the 
airmen. This was the first raid in which more than 2,000 tons of high explosive and 
incendiary bombs were dropped, and the effect of the terrific onslaught was to crush the 
life out of the defence. 'Flak was fairly intense at the beginning of the raid,' said the Air 
Ministry Bulletin of 24 May, 'but as the attack developed the flak died down considerably 
and cones of searchlights split up into twos and threes. "Single searchlights were 
aimlessly waving about in the sky," said a pilot, "as if the defences couldn't stand up to 
the weight of bombs. I was one of the last to bomb and the flak had become so moderate 
that it didn't worry us." ' 

At Wuppertal itself the defences gave out,' said the Air Ministry Bulletin describing the 
raid of the night of 29 May, 1943. 'One pilot said there were only about a dozen heavy 
guns and one or two searchlights, and later arrivals said there was no opposition at all.' At 
the beginning of the raid on Dusseldorf on the night of 1 1 June, 'the barrage was fairly 
intense but it was soon overwhelmed by the weight of the attack, very few guns firing at 
the end.' At Krefeld on the night of 21 June the defence was overborne again. 'The 
defences there were slow to open up,' said the Bulletin of 22 June, 'and when they did so 
they were soon overwhelmed by the weight of the attack. The cones of searchlights 
wavered and broke up.' 

[p. 83] 

In the attack on the Kalk and Deutz districts of Cologne on the night of 3 July the 
defences were very strong at first; the searchlights were massed into three big cones and a 
curtain of flak was poured into the spaces between. 'Later arrivals found that the defences 
had slackened off considerably and by the end of the attack were comparatively 
ineffective,' said the Bulletin of 4 July, which quoted a pilot's remark: 'We simply 
pounded them and flattened them out.' 

The Battle of Essen 

Nowhere has the battle been fiercer than at Essen. There the Krupps armament works, 
covering 800 acres and employing 75,000 workers, became naturally a magnet to draw 
our bombers to the city. It has been raided again and again. The greatest attack up to that 
time took place on the night of 5 March, 1943, when nearly a thousand tons of bombs 
were dropped on it. Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Secretary of State for Air, described it as 
the heaviest blow of the war (to date) at the German war industry. The devastation, which 
covered one area of 160 acres, another of 32 acres, and other smaller areas, was 
comparable to that caused at Cologne by the 'thousand-bomber-raid' of 30 May, 1942. 
Vehicle-assembly shops, furnace and tempering shops, foundries, billet-rolling mills, 
sheet-metal shops, machine shops and many other buildings were destroyed or damaged 
in the raid. 

A week passed and the night of 12 March, 1943, saw the battle of Essen flare up again. It 
was a battle indeed. 'The searchlights, in several huge cones; made a wall of light through 
the north of Essen,' said the Air Ministry Bulletin of 13 March. 'Intense flak was being 
fired up into the centre of the cone. "We got the impression that the defences were being 
very intelligently directed," said a Lancaster captain. "They were certainly ready for us, 

[p. 84] 

wherever I looked I could see other bombers lit up by the searchlights." Almost every 
crew described how they saw other bombers twisting and turning in the searchlight cone, 
and how they were themselves caught by the beam. But the bombing was so rapid and 
heavy that as the attack progressed the flak began to die away and the searchlights nearest 
to the target were gradually doused.' Our attack had overborne Essen's defence. 

What of the battlefield after it? There the scene was almost incredible. So tremendous 
was the damage that it could not be concealed in Germany. Five or six days after the raid 
of 12 March an Essen newspaper wrote: 'The extent of the damage caused by the raid — 
the heaviest yet suffered by a German town — cannot yet be ascertained. Across the ruins 
and the debris one has a wide view of the space formerly occupied by buildings, and the 
streets and squares present an amazing sight. They are changed to such an extent that one 
has to rely on memory to recall what they used to look like.' This, in view of the German 
policy of minimising the amount of the damage caused by our bombers, was a most 
significant admission. It showed unmistakably how that particular battle had ended. 

Essen, however, is a vast fortress, and the assault on it had to be renewed. On the night of 
3 April it was attacked again. The aerial photographs taken after the heavy attack of that 
night were particularly clear. Usually the thick industrial haze over the works obscures 
the details, but on this occasion there was no haze when the reconnaissance aircraft flew 
over the town two days after the raid. There was no haze because most of the factories 
were out of action and no smoke was belching from their chimneys. Krupps had 
practically been brought to a standstill. The photographs showed that machine-shops, 
steel works, billet-rolling mills, forges, stores and sheds had been destroyed or damaged 
over tens of thousands of square 

[p. 85] 

yards. The railways had also suffered severely, and a colliery was badly damaged. The 
bombing had been highly concentrated and most of the damage inflicted was to be seen 
within the Krupps works, though districts to the south and south-west of the factory had 
also suffered severely. 

Never was the pattern of battle more clearly traced than in the great attack of the night of 
27 May, 1943. Ten waves of our bombers swept in succession over the town and for fifty 
minutes showered upon it their loads of 4,000 lb. and 8,000 lb. bombs as well as a huge 
weight of other high-explosive and incendiary bombs. It was the old cavalry charge 
revived in a new and more terrible form in which artillery of the air seemed also to have a 
place. The defence was powerful but could not stand up to such an onslaught. All over 
the Ruhr, which had been subjected to six devastating raids in May, the defences had 
been strengthened. Some commentators stated that the personnel and materiel assembled 
in the region were the equivalent of fifty divisions of troops. That was the order, of the 
defensive array which our bomber crews had to face when they 'went over the top'. The 
anti-aircraft fire was particularly violent on that night, our crews reported. The bombers 
had to drive forward through a barrage of fire and steel; the whole sky seemed to be full 
of bursting shells and many machines had their fuselages and wings riddled and tattered, 
but only a tiny minority failed to penetrate the curtain of fire. Nearly all put, down their 
loads just where they intended. The result was impressive. 'The fires appeared to weld 
themselves into a solid mass over a large area,' said one pilot. We lost twenty- three 
bombers in that battle, but that was a small price to pay for the military damage caused to 

The moral of it all was drawn in a broadcast on the Algiers radio, in French, on 28 May. 
'But for the mighty 

[p. 86] 

British air raids on the town of Essen, with its vast Krupps armament works, Hitler would 
have been able to equip fully many additional German army corps. That is the meaning of 
the British air blows on the Ruhr.' 

A Fierce Engagement 

One of the fiercest engagements in the battle of the Ruhr was fought on the night of 24 
June, 1943, when a strong force of our bombers attacked the industrial town of Elberfeld. 
This town and Barmen form together the city of Wuppertal, one of the most important of 
Germany's armament centres. Barmen had been heavily raided on the night of 29 May, 
when more than a thousand acres were devastated and the town was, indeed, almost 
wiped off the map. The Germans were evidently determined that the twin town of 
Elberfeld should not suffer a like fate. They massed defences around it and strengthened 
also those which shielded the Ruhr to the north. Our bombers had to face scores of 
searchlights and a very heavy barrage immediately they crossed the Belgian coast on the 
night of 24 June. The crews reported that there had been a great increase in the defences 
on the coast, to which the outer ring of protection had been pushed out. They ran into 
worse trouble still when they reached the Ruhr. Great belts of searchlights, twenty or 
thirty in each cone, tried to pick them up and antiaircraft guns of various calibres fired at 
them up the beams. One pilot was held for twenty minutes by the searchlights and was hit 
several times before he reached the target area. The defences of Dusseldorf and Cologne 
co-operated with those of Elberfeld in a desperate attempt to beat off the raiders. 

There were scores of night-fighters in action, too. Some crews saw four or five on their 
way to the objective. Many duels were fought by bombers and fighters. Still, through 

[p. 87] 

searchlights, flak and opposition in the air the bombers won through and put down their 
loads where they intended. 'Great damage appears to have been done,' said the Air 
Ministry communique on the following day. How great it was could be judged from an 
admission by Dr. Karl Holzhammer, the German radio commentator, on 25 June. 'The 
town,' he said, 'is still hidden under clouds of flames and smoke. The desolation and 
devastation are a sight so terrific, so infernal, that no human imagination can visualise it.' 

There were hosts of night-fighters in the air again four nights later, when a very heavy 
attack was made upon Cologne. Indeed, that battle was mainly fought many thousands of 
feet up in the sky and the bombers and the fighters were the contestants. There was much 
cloud over the Rhineland and the searchlights were therefore at a disadvantage; the guns 
maintained a powerful barrage, however, and heavy flak came up through the clouds. It 
was above the cloud-bank that the most bitter fighting occurred. The Northern Lights lit 
up the sky and the bombers were silhouetted against the cloud surface below. For the 
fighters the conditions were ideal. They attacked in swarms. 'A Polish pilot said that at 
one moment he saw nine combats going on simultaneously,' an Air Ministry Bulletin 
stated on 29 June. 'Stirling crews alone reported fourteen engagements.' We lost twenty- 
five bombers on that night, but, despite the adverse conditions, the attack was well 
concentrated and immense damage was caused in the industrial parts of Cologne. 

The battle of the night of 9 August, 1943, when the twin towns of Mannheim and 
Ludwigshafen were raided, was again fought above the clouds. The Germans had to rely 
mainly on their night-fighters, which accosted our bombers as soon as they crossed the 
coast and followed them all the way to the target. 'Despite the fighters,' said the 

[p. 88] 

Air Ministry Bulletin of 10 August, 'our aircraft arrived promptly over the target. While 
the ground gunners put up a blind barrage, the searchlight crews concentrated on lighting 
up the base of the clouds so that the bombers would be silhouetted for the fighters. 
Combats took place over the target, both, bombers and fighters firing at one another 
while the flak was bursting round them.' Our crews bombed through gaps in the clouds 
and did so with such effect that very soon there sprang up great fires the glow of which 
was visible nearly a hundred miles away. 

The fierce air combats which were waged above Munich on the night of 6 September, 
1943, were fought in conditions resembling those of day. The Germans made frantic 
efforts to protect Hitler's precious city. They used hundreds of searchlights and light and 
heavy guns; to help their night-fighters they laid an aerial flare path for the purpose of 
illuminating the raiders. The flares, dropped from great heights, took as much as twenty 
minutes to fall to the ground. One pilot saw forty of them falling at one time. The device 
cut-both ways. If it helped the fighters to find the bombers, it helped the latter to see and 
shoot down the fighters. There were scores of air combats. One pilot saw three fighters 
being shot down over the town — one hitting the ground and two falling in flames — at the 
same time. Every kind of fighter was put up that night — Me 109, Me 1 10, Me 210, Ju 88, 
Fw 190, Do 217 — but Munich was battered and burnt for all that they could do. Our 
bomber crews saw the fires there burning when they were 150 miles away on their 
homeward flight. 

The Battle of Hamburg 

Not even Essen itself experienced so terrible a period of tribulation as that through which 
Hamburg passed in the last week of July, 1943. The great port had been bombed 
repeatedly during the three years that were gone, but the 

[p. 89] 

storms and trials which it had had to endure were all surpassed by its sufferings in the 
cyclone which swept it in those seven days and nights of fire and flame. It was raided six 
times by night and twice by daylight in that week, and of the raids by night three were 
mammoth affairs in each of which 2,300 tons of bombs were dropped. The total weight 
dropped on the city in the seven days was 7,500 tons — a weight as great as that dropped 
on London during the whole period of the German air offensive in 1940-41. The 
maximum tonnage ever deposited on London in a night was 450. No city in the world has 
ever endured such a colossal, concentrated battering as did Hamburg in that week. What 
the effect was may be inferred from the ejaculations of one German radio commentator 
(Dr. Carl Hofman): Terror . . . terror . . . terror . . . pure, naked, bloody terror.' 

That was an admission that the attack had overborne the defence. As in the Ruhr, so at 
Hamburg the Germans had left nothing undone to convert the whole area into a place 
d'armes. The defences were very considerably strengthened as raid succeeded raid. New 
guns and more searchlights were brought into use and the number of night fighters was 
increased. But nothing could stand up to the fire and fury of the onslaught. The bombers 
went through and the high explosive and incendiaries went down. Huge conflagrations 
sprang up everywhere. To help to overcome them the fire brigades from Bremen and 
Hanover were called in aid, but the fires were never entirely quenched during all the 
week. Our bomber crews arriving for the later attacks found the fires started in earlier 
raids still burning. 

The Incidental Damage to Property 

The centres of war-production, it has already been stated, are large towns. They are 
sometimes, too, old 

[p. 90] 

towns in which there are buildings of historic association and cultural interest. Inevitably 
damage is sustained by such buildings in the course of attacks which are directed against 
military objectives and which, in view of the powerful nature of the defence, can be 
delivered only in conditions which make absolute precision of aim impracticable. 
Naturally it is upon the damage to the non-military property that the German official 
reports have most to say. They were eloquent about the burning of St. Hedwigs church in 
Berlin in the raid of the night of 1 March, 1943, when considerable damage was caused to 
buildings which our airmen most certainly would have spared if they could. They said 
nothing about the incidents which really made that raid important. One would never have 
guessed from the enemy's account of it that it was one of the most damaging blows ever 
struck at his war potential. The factories destroyed or severely damaged included the 
Telefunken and the Blaupunkt wireless works, the Askania instrument works, the motor 
repair works of the Auto-Union A.G. and of the Klocken-Humboldt-Deutz A.G., the 
roller-bearings factory of Deutsche-Timken, the works of the Reichs Telegrafen 
Zeugamt, the lorry repair factory of G. Lindner A.G., the chemical works of H. 
Schwartzkopf, and many other plants. The most serious damage of all was probably that 
caused to the Templehof railway yards, where workshops covering twenty acres were 
destroyed. The destruction of churches and historic buildings, lamentable though it was, 
was relatively insignificant when set against the enormously important military results 
achieved by the raid. 

Nuremberg and Munich 

It is stupid and unprofitable to wreck an enemy's beautiful buildings. It only harms the 
destroyer. It makes the people whose treasures are lost see red, makes them more 

[p. 91] 

determined to go on. We know that as well as any people. We have seen our beautiful 
Wren churches and many an other historic building destroyed, and it has only made us 
angry. We may assume that the re-action in Germany is the same. To say 'Oh, these Huns 
began the war and they have to be taught a lesson' is merely to be childish. Yes, teach 
them that war does not pay, but do not descend to vandalism. It is to shame the cause for 
which we are in arms to wreck the common heritage of humanity. Nevertheless, war 
cannot be waged without risk of the destruction of many things which all would desire to 
preserve. The destruction of them is the incidental and unavoidable consequence of a 
lawful operation of war — the attacking of the sources of an enemy's munitionment. 
Whatever the Germans may have felt about their raids on Canterbury or Bath, it was 
certainly no satisfaction to the Royal Air Force, or the British people as a whole, that the 
cathedrals at Lizbeck or Mainz should be wrecked. So, too, nothing but regret would be 
felt in this country for such damage to historic buildings as occurred in the raid of 8 
March, 1943, upon Nuremberg. The famous 15th century Mauthalle was destroyed on 
that occasion, as well as the museum and other old buildings. 'Little does our enemy think 
of the cruelty and sorrow he inflicts on our women and children,' said a German paper 
after this raid. 'He has no pity. . . . We hate this kind of warfare.' Yes, no doubt; but they 
hated it most of all for other than aesthetic or humanitarian reasons. They hated it because 
it caused irreparable damage to Germany's war- industries. In that raid on Nuremberg the 
M.A.N, factory, which makes Diesel engines, was wrecked; in the Siemens electrical 
works two thirds of one workshop covering five acres was destroyed; and a number of 
other buildings in the factory were gutted. The fires were still smouldering there when the 
town was photographed from the air two days after the 

[p. 92] 

raid. At the railway workshops one large repair shop covering nearly five acres was 
gutted, and another area of devastation of sixteen acres was to be seen in the 
neighbouring railway sidings and goods yards, which were swept by fire. The plants of a 
number of establishments manufacturing or processing tools and engineering supplies, 
selenium discs for wireless rectifiers, electrical equipment, etc., were severely damaged. 
Many of the buildings were completely burnt out. It was all this devastation which gave 
the battle of Nuremberg its importance. The incidental damage to the historic or cultural 
buildings was deeply to be regretted, both for the intrinsic loss and because it gave the 
German propagandists a good talking point, but militarily it was of very small 

On the next night (9 March, 1943) Munich was raided. Here again a number of fine old 
buildings sustained damage. Three of the world-famous picture galleries of the city — the 
Pinakothek, the Shack and the Glyptothek — were stated to have been destroyed. Again 
there were denunciations of our airmen in the German Press and on the radio, 
denunciations which, one may surmise, were inspired as much by Nazi rage at the 
damaging of the Brown House as by regret for the art galleries. Not a word was said 
about the industrial targets which were hit, or about the fact that the galleries were fairly 
close to the railway terminus which, in view of Munich's importance as a centre of 
transportation, was a legitimate objective. Munich is also an armament centre; there are 
in it plants which construct submarine engines, aero-engines, tanks, armoured cars, hand 
grenades and motor tyres. It is, in fact, one of the Jekyll and Hyde cities of Germany. It 
has a dual personality and it was the bad and dangerous Munich that had to be put out of 
action, which could not be done without danger to the Munich which all civilised peoples 
would wish to be spared. 

[p. 93] 

Cologne is another town of dual character, and it is one in which the good and evil 
elements (in the opposing belligerent's eyes) are very closely intermingled. The Cathedral 
is near the main railway station, and the latter is, in view of the city's importance as a 
centre of transportation, a legitimate objective. In the heavy raid of the night of 28 June, 
1943, both the station and the Cathedral were damaged; the German communique was 
very explicit about the latter damage but silent about the former. There are, of course, a 
great number of other military targets also in Cologne. 

The Destruction of Dwellings 

Towns in which armaments are produced on a large scale are necessarily large towns. A 
town without a considerable supply of labour could not undertake mass-production, and 
in any case, such a town would not really be worth an enemy's powder and shot. It is on 
the centres of population that the blows struck in the strategic air offensive are therefore 
likely to fall. Inevitably those blows must fall often on private dwellings. Apart from the 
houses of the workers in the vicinity of the war-factories, the residential districts as a 
whole may suffer when the attack on the military objectives in or around the town is 
delivered at night and aim is made more difficult by blinding searchlights and a fierce 
artillery barrage. Here again, we in Britain know only too well how private property can 
suffer under air attack. In the raids upon this country in 1940-42 some 2,750,000 houses 
in England and Wales were damaged, [1] and it is a safe assumption that the great 
majority were private dwellings. In Germany the number may be greater still, but no 
figures have been disclosed in that country. Some 3,000 houses were entirely destroyed 
when Liibeck was raided on the night of 28 Marches 1942. 

1 Statement by Mr. Ernest Brown on 13 November, 1942. 

[p. 94] 

The damage done at Rostock in the four nights, 23 to 26 April, 1942, was greater still; 
between 80,000 and 100,000 were evacuated after these raids as compared with 30,000 
people from Lubeck. A year later, on the night of 20 April, 1943, Stettin, Rostock's 
neighbour, had its time of tribulation. An area of a hundred acres was devastated and 
many factories and depots were wrecked; the Neptune ship-building yard was particularly 
hard hit. 40,000 people were reported to have been made homeless by the raid, which 
dislocated the life of the town for a week, no water, gas or electricity being available. In 
the Pommerensdorf area alone 1,400 houses were destroyed. The number displaced from 
Cologne after the 'thousand-bomber-raid' of 30 May, 1942, was far greater still; 
according to a Vichy report of 14 June, 1942, some 250,000 people were removed. The 
destruction of dwellings at Dusseldorf on the night of 10 September, 1942, when 380 
acres were devastated, was on a comparable scale. Nearly 200,000 people were made 
homeless, mainly as a result of the conflagrations caused by the 100,000 incendiaries 
dropped on that night. The fires took such a 'hold upon the town that the fire-brigades had 
to fight them for two days. 'Dusseldorf has become a regular city of ruins,' said a letter 
from a German in Dusseldorf to another in Berlin. The evacuations from other raided 
towns in the Ruhr and the Rhineland have reached a total which must run into many 
hundreds of thousands. Certainly Bomber Command, if it has done nothing else, has 
proved itself an efficient organiser of mass-migrations. The cities of northern Italy know 
that as well as those of Germany. There were large evacuations from Milan, Turin and 
Genoa after the raids of November-December, 1942. It was mainly as a result of them 
that the population of Rome rose from 1,115,000 in 1940 to nearly 2,000,000 in January, 
1943. Later Rome itself had begun to send its dwellers forth into the great 

[p. 95] 

open spaces before Italy dropped out of the war on 8 September. 

Mr. Churchill's Advice 

Mr. Churchill, in his broadcast speech of 10 May, 1942, gave the German population 
some good advice. He reaffirmed our intention to bomb all the cities 'in which the vital 
industries of the German war machine are established.' 'The civil population of Germany,' 
he went on, 'have an easy way to escape from these severities. All they have to do is to 
leave the cities where munition work is being carried on, abandon this work and go out 
into the fields and watch the home fires burning from a distance. In this way they may 
find time for meditation and repentance. There they may remember the millions of 
Russian women and children they have driven out to perish in the snows, and the mass 
executions of peasants and prisoners of war which in varying scales they are inflicting 
upon so many of the ancient and famous peoples of Europe. There they may remember 
that it is the villainous Hitlerite regime which is responsible for dragging Germany 
through misery and slaughter to ultimate ruin, and that the tyrant's overthrow is the first 
step to world liberation.' 

Over a year later, on 19 May, 1943, Mr. Churchill, in his speech before the United States 
Congress, underlined the warning which he had then addressed to the German people. It 
is the settled policy of our two staffs and war-making authorities,' he said, 'to make it 
impossible for Germany to carry on any form of war industry on a large or concentrated 
scale, either in Germany, Italy or in the enemy-occupied countries. Wherever these 
centres exist or are developed they will be destroyed, and the munitions population will 
be dispersed.' The message conveyed to the German munition workers in the two 
speeches, read together and colloquially paraphrased, amounted to this: 

[p. 96] 

'Get out while the going is good. If you don't, we'll bomb you out.' 

It was also the message addressed to the Italians in a broadcast from Allied Headquarters 
at Algiers on 18 June, 1943. The Allied Air Forces, it stated, had been ordered to bomb 
Italian war industries and lines of communications working for the Axis, but had no wish 
to annihilate the innocent civilian population. 'Therefore the Allied High Command 
advises you to leave the neighbourhood of these objectives and to take your families to 
safe places.' 

Suburban and Residential Districts 

Much is heard in the German official reports of the damage caused in suburban and other 
residential districts by our raids. Nothing is ever said about the fact that the war-factories 
are often in the same districts. In Berlin the industrial belt is largely in the suburbs. That 
was why in the raid of the night of 1 March, 1943, there was considerable destruction of 
property in the western and southwestern parts of the city, and as a result a number of 
residential districts had to be evacuated. The heavy casualties and widespread destruction 
of dwelling houses in Cologne on the night of 30 May, 1942, was due in some measure to 
the fact that the town's industries are largely located in the suburbs of Koln Mulheim and 
Koln Kalk, though there are also in the city itself important plants producing machinery, 
chemicals, rubber and small arms. 'Things are worst in the old town and the business 
quarters, but the suburbs have also suffered severely,' wrote a correspondent who had 
visited Cologne some months after the raid. 'Everywhere there are burnt-out ruins; whole 
streets are devastated.' Areas covering 5,000 acres in all were devastated in that great 
raid. Naturally they included a large number of private houses — but they also included 
very many factories, and it was the destruction 

[p. 97] 

or damaging of 250 of these which justified the attack and made it worth while as an 
operation of war. 

The Bomb Splash 

It would be idle to deny that the use of 4,000 lb. and 8,000 lb. bombs has enlarged 
enormously the radius within which private property is likely to be destroyed or damaged 
when a military target is aimed at in a built-up area. The bomb-splash is a mighty one 
when bombs of that size are dropped, and inevitably its effect is felt over an area far 
exceeding that in which it was expected before this war that incidental damage would be 
caused. It was foreseen that very large bombs might be used in a future war and that the 
destruction which they would spread would embrace a circle several times larger than 
that within which houses were damaged when a 1000 kilogram bomb was dropped in 
Warrington Crescent, Paddington, on 7 March, 1918. One writer drew from that incident 
the lesson that the effect of the dropping of one 5,000 lb. bomb in Parliament Square and 
another on Horse Guards Parade would be to leave little of administrative London 
standing. [1] Fortunately, Whitehall, though it has suffered, has not had the unpleasant 
experience of meeting the impact of a bomb even nearly so large as that, still less one of 
the colossal size which our airmen have frequently dropped on German towns. How 
terrible the effect of such monster projectiles can be we shall not know for certain until 
the Germans see fit to disclose exactly what happened to Dortmund on the night of 23 
May, 1943, when an exceptionally large number of them was dropped. There is reason to 
believe that the effect was appalling. The photograph published in The Times and other 
papers on 3 June gives some idea of the devastation. 

The big bombs are the answer of the attack to the in- 

1 Frank Morrison, War on Great Cities, 1937, pp. 191-4. 

[p. 98] 

tensification of the defence. The anti-aircraft barrage had been made so powerful that 
bombing was becoming ineffective and indeed almost a waste of effort. The military 
results of the so-called high-level, precision bombing were not commensurate with the 
wastage of personnel and materiel involved for the attacking formations. To redress the 
balance it, was necessary to bring into use projectiles of such destructive capacity that 
when launched from great heights on the estimated target area they could be counted 
upon to wreck the target as well as (unfortunately) much else besides. The justification of 
the method must rest on military necessity. If in no other way can a belligerent destroy 
his enemy's armament centres or interrupt his enemy's process of munitionment, then this 
way can be defended. So justified, it is not inconsistent with accepted principles of the 
laws of war. 

The Weather Factor 

Our methods have been criticised on the ground that they amount in effect to 
indiscriminate bombing when the target cannot be identified because of the darkness or 
cloud. Weather, often the bombing airman's enemy, is sometimes his friend. Cloud, 
especially if it is accompanied by icing, hampers him, but it protects him, too. It makes 
the task not only of the searchlight crews and the ground gunners but also that of the 
night-fighter pilots more difficult. Clear, moonlight conditions help the defence. Nor does 
thick weather preclude effective bombing. That was demonstrated by the results of the 
raid of the night of 30 April, 1943, on Essen. It is apparent from the report that our 
bomber crews could not see what the results of the attack were, but subsequent 
reconnaissance showed that they were highly successful, sixty acres in the Krupps works 
being devastated. A still more notable instance was the raid of the night of 1 1 February, 
1943, on 

[p. 99] 

Wilhelmshaven. The weather was very bad and the bombing was necessarily more or less 
'blind'. The crews could see little of what was happening below but they did agree in 
reporting one huge explosion which could not be attributed even to the bursting of an 
8,000 lb. bomb. The explanation of it came later. It was the result of a direct hit on the 
Mariensiel ammunition depot, in which torpedoes, mining materials, depth charges and 
other explosives were stored. The explosive material was stored in fifty long sheds and 
forty of these were destroyed, the devastation covering an area of 150 acres. Here was a 
case in which a military result of the first importance was achieved in conditions in which 
precise aiming at a defined target was entirely out of the question. 

Daylight Bombing 

It has been suggested that the incidental destruction of non-military property could be 
avoided if bombing were carried out by daylight only. Actual experience does not support 
this contention. In the daylight raid on Milan on 24 October, 1942, our bombers, 
according to the Italian report, damaged churches, schools and hospitals as well as many 
residential buildings (nothing was said, of course, about the military damage). Quite 
possibly they did, but it was assuredly not intentional. The daylight, raids conducted by 
the United States 8th Air Force and the American heavy bombers serving in General 
Doolittle's Strategic Air Force appear also to have caused damage to nonmilitary 
objectives — and again we may be sure that the result was an undesired one. The sights 
used by the American bomber crews are remarkably efficient and the bombing is careful 
and accurate, but it is evident that it does not preclude the damaging of innocuous 
buildings in the vicinity of the target. At any rate, civilian life and property appear to 
have suffered in the daylight raids of 5 

[p. 100] 

September, 1942, on Rouen, of 4 December, 1942, on Naples, of 1 March, 1943, on 
Palermo, of 8 March, 1943, on Rouen and Rennes, and of 26 April, 1943, on the airfield 
at Grosseto. The destruction of churches in Palermo was particularly publicised in Italy. 
Cardinal Lavitrano, the Archbishop of Palermo, stated that 'innumerable beautiful 
churches' were damaged, including the 12th century Basilica San Francesco, and he 
spoke of 'indescribable' destruction in the town. 

When the Flying Fortresses of the United States 8th Air Force attacked the Renault works 
at Billancourt on 4 April, 1943, 300 people were killed and 1,000 wounded, accorded to 
the radio announcement at Paris on 5 April, in this American raid on a Paris suburb'. The 
Berlin radio stated that a station on the Paris underground railway received a direct hit 
and that many people sheltering in it were killed. Neither Paris nor Berlin alluded to the 
not irrelevant detail that hardly a single important building in the Renault works escaped 
damage in this highly successful raid. The Italian communique was equally reticent about 
the military results of the raid by American Flying Fortresses on the naval base at 
Leghorn on 28 May, 1943. It said that 'very considerable damage was caused to public 
and private buildings' but forebore to add that railways, shipyards, and an oil refinery 
were wrecked as well. 

The Double Dividend in Daylight Raids 

Daylight raiding has one advantage over night attack in that it yields a double dividend, 
as it were, as compared with the single return accruing from the other kind of bombing. 
Not only does it destroy the enemy's armaments on the ground, or hinder the manufacture 
of them, but, very frequently, it puts out of action in air combat a number of his fighter 
aircraft. Bombers sometimes shoot down enemy fighters at night, but the numbers so de- 

[p. 101] 

stroyed are insignificant in comparison with those accounted for not infrequently in the 
daylight raids. The twofold character of the return seemed almost to be underlined in the 
daylight raid of 17 April, 1943, on Bremen. The Flying Fortresses put more than half the 
Focke-Wulf factory out of commission and shot down 63 German fighters (including, it 
may be assumed, Focke-Wulf as well as Messerschmitt machines) into the bargain. The 
raid was thus a double blow at Germany's establishment of fighter aircraft. A still larger 
number was destroyed in the raids on Kiel, Antwerp and Courtrai on 14 May, when the 
American bombers shot down 67 enemy fighters. They improved on that figure on 21 
May, when they destroyed 74 German fighters in the course of the attacks on 
Wilhelmshaven and Emden. A still finer dividend was returned in the raid on 
Wilhelmshaven and Cuxhaven on 11 June; 85 and possibly 105 German fighters were 
claimed by the Flying Fortress crews. In the raid on Kiel and Bremen two days later 65 
were shot down, and a total of nearly 100 was accounted for in the American daylight 
raids on the Ruhr and Antwerp on 22 June, and on northwest Germany on 25 June. (The 
Germans claimed that their fighters prevented the bombers from reaching their objectives 
in the last raid.) The return given by the attacks of 17 August, 1943, on factories in 
Schweinfurt and Regensburg was the highest. No less than 307 enemy fighters were shot 
down in these two great raids, 287 by the bombers and 20 by supporting Thunderbolts. It 
must be particularly galling to the German production-executives to find their materiel 
thus subjected to a double wastage. 

It should be added that, quite apart from the destruction of enemy fighters in combat, the 
American heavy bombers have been and are performing work of the very highest 
importance by their daylight raiding of individual targets in Germany. Their deeply 
penetrating incursions 

[p. 102] 

are an essential part of the Anglo-American strategic bombing programme. They 
supplement by precision-bombing the offensive conducted at night by our Bomber 
Command against target areas. Perhaps the most notable instances of the successful work 
which they have accomplished are the wrecking of the synthetic rubber factory at Huls, 
near Recklinghausen, on 22 June, 1943, and the attacks on the ball and roller bearing 
works at Schweinfurt and the Messerschmitt factory at Regensburg in the raids of 17 
August referred to in the preceding paragraph. 

The losses suffered by the defending fighters are augmented in the supporting and 
diversionary sweeps which usually take place at the same time as the daylight bombing 
raids. The battle of the towns then ranges far afield. It may be fought out a hundred miles 
or more from the industrial centre which the bombers are attacking. It is the raid on the 
town which is its centre-piece, however, and the duels in the air, though fought far distant 
from the bombers' objective, are actions related and subsidiary to that main operation. 

The Changed German Tune 

The Germans gloried in the battles of the towns when the battles were one-sided and the 
towns were the enemy's. It is a very different matter today, when the towns are German. 
The change which has taken place in German feeling about the matter was referred to by 
Mr. Churchill in his broadcast of 10 May, 1942, already quoted in this chapter. Hitler's 
conversion to humanitarian sentiment had come too late, he said. It should have taken 
place 'before he bombed Warsaw or massacred 20,000 Dutch folk in defenceless 
Rotterdam or wreaked his cruel vengeance upon the open city of Belgrade.' In those early 
days 'the German propaganda films, thinking to terrorise neutral countries and glorying in 
devastating violence, 

[p. 103] 

were wont to show rows of great German bombers being loaded up with bombs, then 
flying in the air in battle array, then casting down showers of bombs upon the defenceless 
towns and villages, choking them in smoke and flame. All this was intended to make the 
world believe that resistance to the German will was impossible and that subjugation and 
slavery was the safest and easiest road.' 

'Those days are gone,' said Mr. Churchill. With their passing there has come to the 
Germans a great light. They are beginning to realise for the first time that war is not the 
great and glorious adventure which they have always thought it was. If Bomber 
Command had done nothing else it would have performed an inestimable service for 
civilisation by driving that lesson home. It has taught a race of itching warriors that there 
is something after all in the old and still valid Golden Rule. 

German Propaganda 

Meanwhile, all the arts of German propaganda are employed to misrepresent what is 
really happening in the battles of the towns. The British raids are described as random 
attacks on the civilian population, as 'terror raids', as having no other object than the 
slaughter of women, children and other non-combatants. In Italy, too, the game of 
misrepresentation and vilification was played with gusto before that country surrendered. 
Mario Apellius, the radio commentator of Rome, for instance, denounced on 30 
November, 1942, the '100 per cent barbarity of British bombers'. 'They drop their bombs 
at random on the centres of towns,' he said. 'Not the war factories but the heart of Italy is 
the target.' The aid of the Spanish Press has been enlisted in the campaign. There, too, the 
cruelty and uselessness of the bombing of towns have been the subject of much eloquent 
comment. Mr. 

[p. 104] 

Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, referred to it in a speech of 28 May, 1943, when he 
pointed out that not a voice had been raised in Spain when Germany was bombing towns 
'in Poland, Holland and Britain, and that protests had begun to be made only when 
Germany and Italy were the sufferers. He declared unequivocally that we would not be 
deterred by intervention from any quarter from continuing to conduct our strategic 

Not all neutral countries re-acted to the German and Italian propaganda in the same way 
as Spain. In Turkey there was little disposition to take Dr. Goebbels' and his friends' 
efforts very seriously. At the beginning of June, 1943, M. Ahmed Shukri Esmer, a 
member of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, contributed to the official periodical 
Ullus of Ankara an article from which some extracts were quoted in The Times of 4 June, 
1943. He stated that the question who dropped the first bomb on enemy territory, difficult 
to determine in itself, was immaterial and irrelevant. 'What matters,' he said, 'is to 
ascertain which side began massive and indiscriminate air raids on undefended cities, 
thereby causing heavy casualties among the civilian populations. Warsaw, Rotterdam and 
Belgrade answer that question. But even assuming that the attacks on those cities, by 
stretching the argument, could be explained up to a certain point by the fact that they 
were carried out in conjunction with land operations, the "blitzing" of London, Coventry 
and other British cities is indefensible.' 

'Had the Nazis won the war,' M. Esmer said later in his article, 'they would have glorified 
their cleverness in catching their enemy unawares and unprepared, and in having 
achieved an easy victory by "blitz" tactics of their own invention with little loss to the 
German people. Now that the tide of war has turned against them they have suddenly 
become very sensitive about the question of who is 

[p. 105] 

responsible for having started the bombing of open cities. Evidently the Nazis are 
beginning to be conscious of the terrible responsibility they have incurred not only 
towards world opinion but towards their own people.' 

If Hitler had been a man of far-ranging vision — if, in fact, his 'intuition' had been worth 
its salt — he would never have sent the Luftwaffe to batter Warsaw in September, 1939. 
He would have used the artillery of the German army to reduce the city and kept the 
bombers away from it. Then he might have come into the controversy about the bombing 
of towns with clean hands. As it was he chose to set a precedent for the bombing of 
centres of population in this war at its very outset and thereby prejudiced his position as 
the advocate of the mutual abandonment by the belligerents of the practice of strategic 
bombing. In short, it was he who really began the battles of the towns. He is probably 
very sorry now that he ever did so. 

[p. 106] 



The German Campaign of Misrepresentation 

'Whatever is bombed in another war,' said Lord Trenchard in the House of Lords on 15 
March, 1939, 'nothing we can say or do will prevent enemy propaganda from asserting 
that women and children are bombed intentionally, because, of course, a large number of 
women and children will undoubtedly be hit.' The truth of his prediction was most 
abundantly proved in the course of the war which began less than six months later. From 
the first the German re-action to our air offensive took the form of representing it as an 
intentional attack on women and children. The chorus of denunciation of it on this score 
has gone on increasing in volume to the present day. 

The extracts from Hitler's speeches quoted in Chapter II included a number of references 
to the ruthlessness of our raids as the Germans saw them. With our methods of brutality 
the German propagandists contrasted the burning German desire to save non-combatants 
from the rigours of war. One of them, speaking on the Berlin radio on 8 August, 1941, 
stated that the Fiihrer had always been in favour of a convention to prevent the bombing 
of civilians in the interests of humanity. He was nothing of the sort. He was in favour of it 
in the military interests of Germany. He wanted a particular kind of convention which 
would have banned the type of bombing which did not suit his book but would have left 
the type which did perfectly uncontrolled. His proposals of 1935 and 1936 would not 
have prevented the bombing of Warsaw, Rotterdam or Belgrade. They would have 
prevented our raids on the Ruhr. It was to rise, indeed, to the height of impudence to 

[p. 107] 

mention the Fiihrer and regard for the interests of humanity in the same breath. What 
Hitler really thought upon this subject has been disclosed by one who was formerly 
intimate with him. 

Hitler and Humanitarianism 

Herr Hermann Rauschning has put it on record that shortly after the Reichstag fire (27 
February, 1933) Hitler summoned him, with Gauleiter Forster, to the Reich Chancellery 
to discuss a report on the Danzig situation. The discussion veered round to the subject of 
the place of brute force in government. I have no choice,' said Hitler, I must do things 
that cannot be measured by the yardstick of bourgeois squeamishness. . . . The world can 
only be ruled by fear.' The same subject came under discussion when Rauschning saw 
Hitler again, in the autumn of 1933, at Danzig. 'Brutality is respected,' Hitler said. 
'Brutality and physical strength. . . . The people need wholesome fear. They want to fear 
something. They want someone to frighten them and make them shudderingly 
submissive. . . . Terror is the most effective political instrument. I shall not permit myself 
to be robbed of it because a lot of stupid bourgeois mollycoddles choose to be offended 
by it. It is my duty to make use of every means of training the German people to severity 
and to prepare them for war. . . . My behaviour in war-time will be no different. The most 
horrible warfare is the kindest. I shall spread terror by the surprise employment of all my 
measures. The important thing is the sudden shock of an overwhelming fear of death.' [1] 

The German Army's Ethics 

Hitler's sudden conversion to humanitarianism under the stress of circumstance was 
accompanied, it seems, by a similar change of heart in the German military hier- 

1 H. Rauschning, Hitler Speaks, 1939, pp. 87, 89, 90. 

[p. 108] 

archy. The German army, the world was solemnly assured by a quisling radio 
commentator, has always had a code of ethics which makes it unthinkable that war 
should be waged unchivalrously. Here is what Max Blockzijl said from the German- 
controlled station at Hilversum in the autumn of 1942: 

'The German people have a great military tradition which the British have not; certainly 
not so far as the army is concerned. The German professional officers, who were always 
very numerous in Germany, stick particularly to their code of honour and chivalry. The 
English commanders are mostly dilettantes and are hastily recruited, under the pressure 
of emergency, from the most varied group of the population. They don't know the moral 
scruples which a German commander possesses as an inborn gift.' Hence, said Blockzijl, 
the Royal Air Force's attacks on women and children, hospitals, churches, historical 
buildings and monuments, whereas the Germans attacked only military objectives. If the 
Luftwaffe did bomb even industrial objectives, which he doubted, 'it was exclusively a 
retaliation measure, reprisals after endless warnings.' [1] 

It is true that the German people have 'a great military tradition' and a numerous class of 
professional officers. How far have these assets served to assure humane treatment of 
enemy civilians? The answer will be apparent to anyone who has studied military history. 
In 1870 the German commander refused a request that the bombardment of Paris should 
be restricted to the Festungswerke. A similar practice was adopted at Peronne, and the 
result of a general bombardment of that town was that it was speedily captured. A regular 
investment (Belagerung), says a German professor, [2] a who approves the ruthless 

1 Quoted in Aeronautics, November, 1942, p. 63. 

2 Dr. Heilbron of Breslau, article on Deutsch-Franzosicher Krieg in Strupp, Worterbuch des Volkerrechts, 
1924, pp. 232-3. 

[p. 109] 

adopted, would have cost 1,000 to 1,500 casualties to the besieged and 3,000 to 4,000 to 
the besiegers. These were reduced to a few hundred men, he states; he does not mention 
the fact that this saving of life was really effected by the expedient of intimidating the 
civilian population. 

Psychological Bombardment 

It was an example, in fact, of 'psychological bombardment', or, as the French jurists term 
it, pression psychologique, that is, bombardment of an invested town as a whole for the 
purpose of inducing the inhabitants to put pressure on the defending commander to 
surrender. Such a practice, say MM. Bonfils and Fauchille in their standard treatise, was 
first adopted by the Germans in the war of 1870-71. It subsequently became an accepted 
but regretted usage of war, as both Oppenheim and W. E. Hall admit in the works on 
International Law. It was roundly condemned from the first by the great German jurist, 
Bluntschli, who described it as 'entirely immoral'. It provokes hatred and vengeance,' he 
said, 'but has no decisive result.' [1] It is a strange turn of fate that Bluntschli's objection 
to the practice, — and it is still the practice of the German army and air force, as Warsaw 
and Rotterdam prove — should have been resurrected by the present generation of 
Germans and twisted to apply to the much less questionable operation represented by the 
strategic bombing raid. 

It was the argument used, for instance, by Suendermann, the deputy press chief in Berlin, 
in a talk with neutral journalists on 4 March, 1943. The 'terror raids' which, he said, the 
British had begun and to which Hitler had made no reply for six months, would never 
break the morale of the German civil population. He calmly ignored 

1 Bonfils-Fauchille, Traite de Droit International, 8th Edition, Tome II, § 1 197. 

[p. 110] 

the fact that the main purpose of our air offensive is to interfere with German war- 
production. In assuming that it was aimed only at morale-breaking he elevated a quite 
subsidiary and incidental result — it is not really a purpose — into the highest place and 
made use of an argument which was a valid objection to the German practice of 
psychological bombardment but not — except in a negligible degree — to our raiding of 
German armament centres. 

The Bolshevising of War 

Rather belatedly, German propaganda made the great discovery that the strategic air 
offensive was really the result of the Bolshevisation of war. The National Zeitung of 
Essen (Goering's paper) declared at the end of April, 1943: 

'This war has taken on a new aspect which is represented above all by Bolshevism. The 
Bolshevisation of the war proves that the principle of terror, by which Bolshevism directs 
its internal policy, has become a method of warfare too. The manner in which the British 
and Americans plan and carry out their terror raids on German towns shows that these 
countries are under the influence of Bolshevism in many spheres. Today they are already 
Bolshevised, above all in one sphere, that of fighting ethics.' [1] 

Only Teutonic incapacity to see any other view than the Teutonic could have been blind 
to the truth that Nazi domination is founded on terror, too, and that Germany has never 
scrupled to resort to frightfulness when it was necessary for a military end. 

'Stop Bombing Civilians' 

It is not to be supposed that all those whose consciences are troubled by the 'bombing of 
civilians' are either pro-Nazis or insincere and unpatriotic people. They are, most of them, 
people of high character, and they have the cour- 

1 The Times, 30 April, 1943. 

[p. Ill] 

age of their convictions. It is necessary to add, however, that they are misinformed 
people. They have not studied all the facts. They have formed their conclusions on ex 
pane evidence. A good example of the arguments which they rely upon is to be found in 
the pamphlet Stop Bombing Civilians! published by the 'Bombing Restriction Committee' 
whose address is 49 Parliament Hill, London, N.W.3, and whose purpose is thus set forth 
at the beginning of the pamphlet: 

'To urge the Government to stop violating their declared policy of bombing only military 
objectives and particularly to cease causing the death of many thousands of civilians in 
their homes.' 

The indictment is incorrectly drawn. The Government are not violating their declared 
policy. It was definitely stated by Captain Harold Balfour, the Under-Secretary of State 
for Air, in the House of Commons on 11 March, 1943, that we were still bombing only 
military objectives. I can give the assurance,' he told the House, 'that we are not bombing 
the women and children of Germany wantonly. If in the pursuit of our objective the 
German civilian population have to suffer, it is not our fault.' This, it will be seen, was a 
specific denial of the assertion that we were no longer aiming at military objectives and 
that we were attacking towns indiscriminately. I believe that denial to be correct, and I 
have at my disposal information which could not be available to the Bombing Restriction 

The Committee weaken their case, first and in general, by overstating it, secondly, and in 
particular, by failing to distinguish between the two classes of 'civilians' whose positions 
must be differentiated if a discussion of the problem is to lead anywhere. They do admit 
that the civilians working in munition factories which are attacked are bound inevitably 
to suffer. They do not appear, however, 

[p. 112] 

to appreciate the necessary implications of that admission, and in any event they do not 
see, apparently, that transport workers are also in a special position. 

To speak of the 'bombing of civilians' without qualification is really to confuse the issue. 
One must define one's terms. The old clear distinction between soldiers and civilians has 
been obscured. That is not to say that the whole population of an enemy country is 
subject to attack. Indiscriminate bombing is certainly not justifiable. The point to be 
remembered is that there is a difference between the civilians who are engaged in 
definitely warlike activities and those who are not. It is the latter who have a claim to 
immunity, not the former. The people who make and transport war material are, to the 
opposing belligerent, active, dangerous enemies. He is as fully entitled to try to put them 
out of action as if they were commissioned or enlisted soldiers. They are in fact warriors. 
The fact that they wear no uniform is immaterial. They are in no proper sense of the word 

The change which the coming of flight has brought about is that these people, these 
warriors, can now be attacked even though an army stands between them and the invader. 
Another change has come to pass also. Today the weapons of war are made by millions 
of workers, men and women, in thousands of factories. Total war cannot be waged unless 
there are huge agglomerations of warriors on the home front. All these persons must be 
considered to be engaged in the preliminary process of the pre-fabricated battle to which 
reference has been made in Chapter IV. 

Professor Rolland on Munition Workers 

The view that such persons cannot be regarded as non-combatants is not a new one 
invented specially by Great Britain for the purpose of justifying the strategic air offensive 
against Germany. It was formulated nearly thirty 

[p. 113] 

years ago by a very eminent authority on International Law, a French professor. Professor 
Rolland of Nancy pointed out in 1916 that armament workers 'occupy a position 
intermediate between the combatants proper and the non-combatants who are still 
employed on their peacetime trades and professions. The reasons for sparing them are 
losing force. Fundamentally they are almost in exactly the same position as the men of 
the auxiliary services of the armies, and the latter are certainly legitimate objects of 
attack.' [1] 

Professor Rolland made no mention of transport workers, but there is little doubt that he 
would have included them, at least so far as they were engaged in the conveying of 
armaments, in the category of workers who cannot be regarded as true non-combatants. 
Every argument which supports the inclusion of the makers of armaments in that 
category applies with no less force to the inclusion of those who convey to the armies or 
other forces the products of the factories. By no logical process of reasoning can the 
drivers, firemen, shunters, pointsmen and others who handle the rail traffic within the 
Krupps works at Essen and who, while doing so, are clearly not distinguishable from the 
men who make the armaments there, be considered to acquire a new and different status 
as soon as they have worked the trains out of the factory yards. It is a question, indeed, 
whether transportation is not more important than manufacture of armaments in modern 

Transport Workers 

Dr. Goebbels wrote in Das Reich in May, 1943: 'The outstanding problem of the war is 
mobility. The side which is able to send its troops and material to the battlefield of the 
moment in the most favourable circumstances 

1 L. Rolland, Les Pratiques de la Guerre Aerienne dans le Conflit de 1914, et le Droit des Gens, in Revue 
de Droit International, Paris, 1916, p. 554. 

[p. 114] 

will win.' [1] That statement was, in effect, an admission of the necessity for and 
legitimacy of the Anglo-American raids on railway targets in Germany and German- 
occupied territories. How sustained and effective those raids have become was explained 
in an Air Ministry Bulletin dated 7 June, 1943. 

It detailed the railway centres attacked during the month of May in France and Belgium 
as well as the results of the intruder operations against trains in the Low Countries, 
France and Germany. It showed how traffic had been dislocated by such attacks as those 
of the American bombers on the locomotive repair shops of Lille-Hellemmes on 13 
January, 1943, and of our Lancasters on the Le Creusot works on 7 October, 1942. The 
result was that no repair work had been done in the two works since these raids up to the 
end of May. The final section of the Bulletin was as follows: 

Although little specific information is available about the German locomotive position, it 
seems clear that the improvement anticipated by the Germans this summer has not so far 
materialised. The principal reason for this is that the great building programme has fallen 
behind schedule. Part of the delay in fulfilling the programme may be ascribed to air raids 
on Henschels at Kassel, Krupps at Essen, Schneiders at Le Creusot, Fives-Lille, 
Batignolles at Nantes, Cockerill at Liege, the Lingen, Paderborn and Julich repair shops; 
and damage to the Duisburg and Dusseldorf sheds. In addition to the number of engines 
that have been destroyed by Fighter and Army Co-operation Commands, the damage to 
railway repair shops or locomotive depots in raids on Berlin, Essen, Munich, Nuremberg, 
Trier and Thionville, besides destroying engines, has been sufficiently heavy to reduce 
repair capacity at the shops for some time; the congestion at shops 

1 Quoted in The Times, 22 May, 1943. 

[p. 115] 

which have not been attacked is such as to make impossible the complete transfer of 
work normally carried out in the damaged shops. It can be stated that the German 
locomotive position has clearly deteriorated and must be one of acute anxiety.' 

The Real Non-Combatants 

Armament and transport workers, as well as all the civilians enrolled in the service of 
passive defence — the fire-fighters, the fire-watchers, the rescue parties, the demolition 
squads — cannot be classed otherwise than as warriors in the new kind of war in which 
their work is as essential and, in principle, as warlike as that of the soldiers, sailors and 
airmen. No one would waste tears on them if they alone were the sufferers in the air 
attacks. Unfortunately, there are other victims whose connection with hostilities is too 
remote to justify their being brought into the same category and whom in any event it is 
neither the desire nor the interest of an enemy to kill or mutilate. No chivalrous airman 
wants to slaughter grandmothers or babies. The tragedy is that he may do so in trying to 
put the others out of action. It is an unintended, horrible, pitiable incident of war, but to 
say that is not to condemn air bombardment. 

The justification of air bombardment is that it is essentially defensive in purpose. You kill 
and destroy to save yourself from being killed or destroyed. You can do so not merely on 
the field of battle, as in the older war, but wherever the arms which would have been used 
in the field are being made or conveyed. That is the case for the bombing of centres of 
war-production and transportation. Is it not possible that the secret of flight was given to 
man so that the weapons of war should perish? 

There would in fact be no case against bombing if as great a degree of precision were 
possible as was thought 

[p. 116] 

at one time to be practicable. Conditions have changed even since Mr. Chamberlain 
explained in the House of Commons on 21 June, 1938, the view of the Government of the 
permissible limits of air attack. Deliberate attack on the civilian population was unlawful, 
but military targets might be bombed if they could be identified and if reasonable care 
were taken not to bomb civilians in their neighbourhood. It has become impossible to 
comply with these conditions to the full. Targets are no longer identifiable because 
belligerents have taken good care that they should not be identifiable. They have not only 
adopted the most elaborate schemes of camouflage but, as I have shown in Chapter IV, 
have protected all centres of war-production with very powerful defences. It would be 
suicide, normally, for a bomber formation to approach its target at a height at which 
precision of aim would be certain. The swift darting raids of such machines as the 
Mosquitoes or the fighter-bombers can be made at low heights, but they are not the raids 
which cause the heavy losses. 

Air Attack and Submarine Attack 

Should not bombing of populated centres then be abandoned? To do so would certainly 
save the lives of many whom it is no advantage to a belligerent to kill; on the contrary, it 
is better that, being 'useless mouths' in a blockaded country, they should live. To spare 
them might mean, however, that the lives of one's own fighting men were sacrificed. It is 
to save these men's lives to put a war-plant out of operation or to stop a trainload of 
munitions from reaching the front. And why should the enemy civilians have priority of 
consideration over our own civilians on the sea? The latter are killed in their hundreds by 
the U-boats which it is one of the objects of the air offensive to prevent from being built. 
It is a question of setting one tragedy against another. 

[p. 117] 

A liner with many passengers on board is torpedoed in the North Atlantic. Those who are 
not killed or drowned when she is hit or sinks take to the boats and drift perhaps for days 
in the Arctic cold, to perish after indescribable sufferings. They may include women and 
children. That tragedy would have been prevented if the particular U-boat which caused it 
had been smashed by our bombers while it was being built or after its completion. To 
have smashed it would have endangered the lives of the wives and children of the 
shipyard workers at the place of construction in Germany. A tragedy there might have 
averted the later tragedy of the sea. The lives of the German noncombatants who perish in 
an air attack are not more precious than those of our own non-combatants who would 
have had to pay the price of any forbearance shown by our airmen. It must not be 
forgotten, moreover, that the bombing of an urban factory engaged in war-production is 
not unlawful, [1] which the German technique of submarine warfare definitely is. [2] 

1 The late Lord Birkenhead in his International Law, 6th Edition, edited by R. Moelwyn-Hughes, 1927, p. 
205, referring to the evidence afforded by the events of the last war that 'the progressive doctrine of the 
distinction between armed forces and the civilian population is in danger of disappearing', quotes without 
expressing dissent Oppenheim's attribution of this to four causes, one of which Lord Birkenhead states 

'The employment of airships and aeroplanes for bombing not only troops and military fortifications but also 
lines of communications, factories and bridges outside the theatre of war — a mode of violence which it 
would be vain to consider illegal, and which cannot but result, especially when conducted at night, in injury 
to the civil population.' 

2 Part IV of the London Naval Treaty of 1930 prohibited the sinking, or the rendering incapable of 
navigation, of a merchant vessel unless the passengers, crew and ship's papers were first placed in safety. 
When the Treaty was otherwise due to expire in 1936, the United States, Great Britain (for herself and the 
Dominions and India), France, Italy and Japan signed in London on 6 November, 1936, a Protocol 
incorporating Part IV of the Treaty, which Part thus remained in force. Germany acceded to this Protocol in 
1936. (Oppenheim, International Law, 6th Edition, edited by H. Lauterpacht, 1940, § 194A). 

[p. 118] 

The Archbishop of York on Bombing 

Dr. Garbett, the Archbishop of York, had some wise things to say on this subject in the 
York Diocesan Leaflet in June, 1943. He had been asked, he said, to join in protests 
against the bombing of German and Italian towns. He gave some reasons for his not 
being able to consent. 'The real justification for continuing this bombing is that it will 
shorten the war and may save thousands of lives. Those who demand the suspension of 
all bombing are advocating a policy which would condemn many more of our soldiers to 
death, and would postpone the hour of liberation which will alone save from massacre 
and torture those who are now in the power of the Nazis.' 

'Often in life,' the Archbishop went on, 'there is no clear choice between absolute right 
and wrong; frequently the choice has to be made, of the lesser of two evils, and it is a 
lesser evil to bomb a war- loving Germany than to sacrifice the lives of thousands of our 
own fellow-countrymen who long for peace and to delay delivering millions now held in 
slavery. . . . However much we may deplore the sufferings of the civilian population and 
the destruction of their homes, and of beautiful buildings, we must continue to use our 
superiority in the air as a means of ending the war as speedily as we can, and then build 
up some strong central international order which will by force maintain peace until it is 
willingly accepted by all the nations.' [1] 

A German Admission 

There was in Germany, when it suited Germany's purpose, no hesitation to admit that the 
bombing of military objectives might have as an incidental consequence the injuring of 
civilian life and property, but that it was not the less lawful on that account. A German 
professor who 

1 The Times, 25 June, 1943. 

[p. 119] 

wrote an apologia for the German air force in the last war emphasised the impracticability 
of ensuring complete immunity for women and children in air warfare. 'Germany cannot 
be reproached for killing women and children,' he said, 'because an airman cannot 
compute the exact spot on which he intends his missiles to strike. It is in accord with the 
tragic consequences of war that here, too, the innocent must suffer with the guilty.' [1] 

The Toll of Blockade 

Lamentable as is the killing of non-combatants proper when an industrial centre is 
bombed, the tragedy must be viewed not in isolation but against the sombre background 
of war. Some critics of bombing policy appear to lose perspective in this matter. They 
discuss the question without regard to certain other incidents of war and almost as if it 
were one which could be decided according to the standards applicable to preventible 
disasters in peace. That is to misconceive the whole situation. War is war, and it is 
horrible. The loss of civilian life which bombing causes is almost trivial in comparison 
with that due to blockade. In the war of 1914-18 the excess civilian mortality, as 
compared with the normal, amounted in Germany to about 700,000, while the deficit in 
the birth-rate in the four years was about 2,900,000. These figures compared with an 
excess mortality of 250,000 and a decrease in births of 600,000 in Britain during the four 
years. The difference between the German and the British figures must be attributed in 
large part to the action of the blockade. [2] History seems to be repeating itself in the 
present war. Some very significant statistics were published in Germany and summarised 
in The Times of 24 May, 1943. 

1 Muller-Meiningen, Zusammenbruch des Volkerrechts, quoted by J. W. Gamer, International Law in the 
World War, 1920, Vol. I, p. 488, note. 

2 S. Dumas and K. O. Vedel-Peterson, Loss of Life Caused by War, Copenhagen, English translation, 1923, 
pp. 133-4. 

[p. 120] 

They showed that in the large towns of Germany, containing a population of 24,500,000, 
infant mortality per 1000 live births was 59 in 1941 and 69 in 1942; the rate for England 
and Wales in 1942 was 49. That difference of 20 per 1,000 births between the two 
countries must be attributed mainly to the strangle-hold of our blockade. The mortality 
for the whole population of Germany was 24 per cent higher in 1942 than in 1939. 
Deaths from tuberculosis and some other diseases rose substantially. The birthrate 
showed a dramatic fall; there were 80,000 fewer births in the large towns of Germany in 
1942 than in 1940. For the whole of Germany the drop in the birth-rate indicated a loss of 
approximately 550,000 live births in 1942 as compared with 1939-40. It is hardly too 
much to say that these dry statistics are the tragic sign of a nation dying in the grip of sea 
power. Air power could never reap such a terrible harvest. Do those critics who devote so 
much attention to our bombing policy ever think of this other accompaniment or 
consequence of war? 

The Military Balance Sheet 

It is not uncommon for the critics, when baffled in their attempt to arraign strategic 
bombing on the humanitarian or ethical plane, to fall back on the argument of military 
expediency. Bombing, they sometimes assert, is not a profitable undertaking, in view of 
the heavy losses suffered by the raiders and the comparatively small extent of the damage 
which they can inflict upon a country geared for total war. Civilians are killed and 
mutilated but the enemy's war-potential is not seriously affected. That is a completely 
mistaken view. There is not a shadow of doubt that the strategic offensive conducted by 
Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force and the Bomber Command of the United 
States 8th Army Air Force is a militarily profitable undertaking. That being so, it is 
hardly reason- 

[p. 121] 

able to ask them as belligerents to forego the use of a mode of warfare against which the 
only remaining argument that can be urged is the humanitarian or ethical one. Such an 
argument has never been held to prevail against military interest. If the results of the 
employment of a weapon or a method of warfare are worth-while, belligerents will not be 
prepared to discard them. Only where they are not worth-while, that is, where giving up 
the use of them does not matter very much, has the humanitarian objection won the day. 
That was why explosive bullets were banned in the Declaration of St. Petersburg, 
whereas the larger projectiles remain lawful. To expect States as powerful in the air as we 
and the United States now are to abandon bombing, at all events during the current war, 
is to expect a miracle. It simply will not happen. 

A Disclaimer 

Let me end this chapter with a disclaimer, to prevent any possibility of misunderstanding. 
I seem in it to have been exalting military expediency and discounting the humane 
motive. I should like to make it clear that I am very far indeed from advocating anything 
in the nature of frightfulness in air warfare. 'War is cruelty,' Sherman — a humane man — 
told the citizens of Atlanta, 'and you cannot refine it.' To suppose that it can be anything 
else than cruelty is to dwell in cloud-cuckoo-land. But it, need not be wanton, brutal 
cruelty. There is a tendency in some quarters to regard as an unpractical idealist anyone 
who urges moderation in war. Well, great captains of the past have not been afraid to 
urge moderation. 

Total war is not total destruction. Apparently some people in this country think it is, or 
that it should be. I have mentioned the 'Stop Bombing Civilians' cry. It is right and proper 
to mention also the 'Don't Stop Bombing Civilians' cry. It was uttered raucously by a 
Sunday jour- 

[p. 122] 

nal [1] a few days after Captain Harold Balfour had assured the House of Commons that 
we were not bombing the women and children of Germany wantonly. The paper had no 
patience with that sort of namby-pamby attitude to the question. In a leading article 
headed 'Apologies with our Bombs' it wanted to know why we were so solicitous for the 
civil population in the Reich. It was right that the German civilians should 'smell death at 
close quarters.' 'Now they are getting the stench of it.' That was excellent — if only our 
Government were not too much inclined to be merciful. By implication, if not in so many 
words, the paper called for the indiscriminate bombing of towns in Germany. 

Most earnestly do I deprecate that sort of approach to this terribly grave and difficult 
problem. It is unworthy of the cause for which we and the other United Nations are in 
arms. That cause is, after all, the cause of humanity and of the individual's rights. It 
would not be consistent with our high purpose to hold that even in total war the 
individual life matters nothing, so long as an ulterior end can be attained. To slaughter 
and mutilate simply to impress upon the civil population the inadvisability of 
countenancing aggressive war would be, I suggest, to stain the sword of democracy. 

The paper from which I have quoted above stated that the view which it propounded was 
that of the British public. I do not believe it is. I am certain it is not the view of the Royal 
Air Force. The officers and men of that great Service are realists. They know that war 
cannot be waged with kid gloves, that terrible things must happen in it, that the killing 
and wounding of innocent people cannot always be avoided. But they take no pleasure in 
the deliberate slaying or mutilating of the helpless, and most certainly they do not gloat 
over the sufferings of their victims. They are in fact far less bloodthirsty than some whose 
activities are less intimately connected with the tragic realities of modern war. 

1 Sunday Dispatch, 14 March, 1943. 

[p. 123] 



Brigadier General Doolittle 's Foray 

On 18 April, 1942, a force of medium bombers of the B-25 type, North American 
Mitchells, under the command of Brigadier General James Doolittle, took off from the 
United States aircraft carrier 'Hornet' in the north Pacific and flew to Japan. It was the 
first occasion on which aircraft of such a size had ever operated from a carrier. They 
dropped their bombs on Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe and Nagoya, and (with two exceptions) 
then flew on to the mainland. One landed in Russia, the rest in China. The latter had to 
come down in Japanese-occupied territory, where the crews abandoned their machines 
and made their way with difficulty to the west. Any disclosure of their presence in eastern 
China might have prejudiced their safe arrival in the Chinese lines, and no particulars 
were published, therefore, by the United States authorities at the time of the raid. 

The Japanese radio stated on 18 April, that sixty aircraft took part in the raid and that nine 
were shot down. Both figures were characteristic exaggerations. Only sixteen bombers 
were engaged and only two were brought down. The Japanese official account stated that 
schools and hospitals were seriously damaged in Tokyo, that fires were started in Kobe 
and Nagoya, and that no military installations were hit. A broadcast from Tokyo in the 
early hours of 19 April implied, however, that some damage had been caused to railways; 
it stated that communication facilities were functioning 'without any important 
alterations'. Other Japanese reports quoted by the German wireless on 19 April also 
pointed to the occurrence of industrial 

[p. 124] 

damage in the capital. It was stated that the Japanese Government had provided funds for 
rebuilding 'factories and dwelling houses which, with a cinema, were burnt down in the 
Tokyo area'. Earlier broadcasts had asserted that the aircraft had failed to reach the centre 
of Tokyo and had dropped their bombs blindly on residential and suburban districts. 
What precise damage was caused by the raid has never been clearly established. That the 
moral effect of it was considerable is undoubted. 

'Enough evidence has come from Japanese spokesmen, affirming, denying, and 
exhorting,' said The Times in a leading article on 20 April, 1942, 'to justify the inference 
that their people have at least been badly startled at the rude breach of their hitherto 
unbroken immunity from the kind of destruction that their war-lords have wantonly 
inflicted on other nations. When the full story is told it may be found that heavy damage 
has been done to the military objectives of the raids.' The fact that Tokyo had two air-raid 
alarms on 19 April, when no Allied aircraft was anywhere near Japan, was evidence of 
the jitters which the attack of 18 April had induced. 

The White House Announcement 

How savagely the consternation translated itself into action was not known until more 
than a year had elapsed. On 21 April, 1943, it was revealed in a statement issued from the 
White House at Washington that some of the American airmen who had been captured 
had been executed by the Japanese. The statement said: 

'The crews of two American bombers have been captured by the Japanese. On 19 October 
the Government learned from Japanese broadcasts of the capture, trial and severe 
punishment of these Americans. Not until 12 March was it that the American 
Government received the communication given by the Japanese Government that the 

[p. 125] 

Americans had, in fact, been tried, and that the death penalty had been pronounced. It 
was further stated that the death penalty was commuted for some, but that sentence of 
death had been applied to others. 

'The Government has vigorously condemned this act of barbarity in a formal 
communication sent to the Japanese Government. It has informed the Japanese 
Government that the American Government will hold personally responsible for these 
diabolical crimes all those officers of the Japanese Government who participated therein, 
and will in due course bring those officers to justice. This recourse to frightfulness is 
barbarous. The effort by the Japanese war lords to intimidate us will utterly fail. It will 
make Americans more determined that ever to blot out the shameless militarism of 

The American Note to Japan 

The Note to Japan said: 

'The Japanese Government alleges that it has subjected the American aviators to this 
treatment because they intentionally bombed non-military installations and deliberately 
fired on civilians, and that the aviators admitted these acts. The United States informs 
Japan that instructions to the American forces always ordered these forces to direct 
attacks upon military objectives. The American forces participating in the attack upon 
Japan had such instructions, and it is known that they did not deviate from them. The 
United States brands as false the charges that the aviators intentionally attacked non- 
combatants anywhere. With regard to the allegation that the aviators admitted the acts of 
which the Japanese Government accuses them, there are numerous known instances in 
which Japanese official agencies employed brutal and bestial methods of extorting 
alleged confessions from persons in their power. 

It is customary for these agencies to use statements ob- 

[p. 126] 

tained by torture, or alleged statements, in proceedings against the victims. If the 
admissions alleged to have been made by the American aviators have in fact been made, 
then they could only have been extorted fabrications.' 

The Note went on to remind Japan that she had agreed to abide by the Geneva 
Convention regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and that she had violated that 
Convention. It also called on the Japanese Government to inform the Swiss Minister of 
the charges and sentences, as required by the Convention, and to permit him to visit the 
surviving aviators and to restore them their full rights under the Convention. The Note 

If, as it appears, the Japanese Government has descended to acts of barbarity and 
manifestations of depravity such as the murder in cold blood of uniformed members of 
the United States armed forces, the American Government will hold personally and 
officially responsible for those deliberate crimes officers of the Japanese Government 
who participated in their commitment and will in due course bring those officers to 

American and British Reactions to the Outrage 

The immediate effect of the disclosure of the murder of the United States airmen was that 
thousands of pilots volunteered to man aircraft for further raids on Tokyo. A wave of 
anger swept the United States and there was an insistent demand throughout America for 
further attacks on Japan. In these, Mr. Churchill stated, the British airmen hoped to share. 
In a message sent to General Arnold, Chief of the United States Army Air Force, he said: 
I have read with indignation of the cold-blooded execution of your airmen by the 
Japanese. This barbarous and unusual action reveals in a particularly significant manner 
the fear the Japanese have of having the munition factories and other military objectives 
in their homeland 

[p. 127] 

bombed. I cannot resist sending you this message to assure you that the Royal Air Force 
earnestly look forward to the day when they will be able to fly side by side with their 
American comrades to attack Tokyo and other cities of Japan and strip this cruel and 
greedy nation of their power to molest the civilised world.' 

Mr. Churchill reiterated in his address to Congress on 19 May, 1943, his desire that the 
Royal Air Force should be associated with the American air forces in the punishing of 
Japan. It is all agreed between us,' he said, 'that we should at the earliest possible 
moment similarly bring our joint air power to bear upon the military targets in the home 
lands of Japan. The cold-blooded execution of the United States airmen by the Japanese 
Government is a proof not only of their barbarism but of the dread with which they 
regard this possibility.' [1] 

The significance of the murder of the airmen as evidence of Japan's fear of the Allied 
bombing offensive was also emphasised in a leading article in The Times of 24 April, 
1943, which also pointed out that there was still another reason for the outrage. 'In adding 
this latest act of cruel and cold-blooded murder to their long list of war-crimes, the enemy 
may have been actuated by two motives. The bombing of military targets in their chief 
cities was a surprise which must have sorely wounded the prestige and pride of the 
authorities responsible for home defence; and in the Far East damaged "face" is less 
easily forgiven than other injuries. No doubt they also hoped to deter the Americans and 
their allies from further attacks, although 

1 It is significant that Japanese propagandists are insistent upon the absence of any such dread. One of them 
has declared that only 20 of 100 United States aircraft which set out to attack Tokyo would ever reach the 
city, and that 'in view of the number of aeroplanes in possession of the two countries and their 
performances, a United States air raid upon Tokyo is nothing to be feared.' (Kinoaki Matsuo, How Japan 
Plans to Win, English translation, 1942, p. 205.) 

[p. 128] 

the slightest knowledge of American psychology might have saved them from this 
monstrous and criminal error.' The leading article went on to refer to the intense anger 
aroused in the United States by the act, to the universal approval expressed in the British 
Commonwealth and in China of the President's denunciation of it, and to the proof which 
the act had finally afforded that the 'thin and brittle lacquer of civilisation has long been 
stripped from these barbarians and fanatics of the East'. 

Enemy and Neutral Reactions 

The German reaction to the Japanese atrocity was such as was to be expected. The Berlin 
radio, after referring to President Roosevelt's scathing denunciation of the crime, said 
blandly: 'The German people will approve the precedent established by the Japanese in 
executing some American airmen who deliberately bombed non-military objectives in 
Tokyo, as the proper answer to a form of aerial warfare which the Anglo-Americans have 
made their standard pattern.' There was no declaration that Germany would adopt a 
similar attitude towards captured airmen, and, in fact, Allied airmen who are shot down 
or, make forced landings in Germany are not specially maltreated. There was, however, a 
very characteristic implication in the broadcast, a kind of gloating, sadistic satisfaction 
with the display of cruelty against helpless captives. There was also an unintended 
admission that the Anglo-American air offensives were equally unpopular — and with 
good reason — in Tokyo and in Berlin. 

Neutral opinion reacted in a very different way. 'The Japanese executions of prisoners,' 
said the Swedish paper Allehanda on 26 April, 'are the most brutal and premeditated 
breach of international law yet committed. The hypocritical German and Italian approval 
leaves a ghastly impression.' 'When the Germans bombed England,' the paper went on, 

[p. 129] 

'no German voice mentioning international law was ever heard. Now, when the same fate 
has befallen Germany, international law has become the favourite reading at the 
Wilhelmstrasse. Apparently English churches and English hospitals are in German 
opinion legitimate targets, but German ones are not. German fliers, for their attacks on 
buildings which were against international law — though surely not premeditated — 
received the Iron Cross or Sword. When an Allied flyer is guilty of a similar mistake he 
should, according to the German conception, be executed like a criminal.' 

Japan 's Record in the Air 

It might conceivably leave been possible to find some shadow of excuse for Japan's act if 
she had adopted from the first a firm and consistent attitude of opposition to the bombing 
of towns from the air. If she had refused to let her own air force drop bombs on urban 
objectives and had made clear by her action her determination never to resort to this 
mode of warfare, she would have had some sort of case for doing what she did, though 
even then it would not have been a really defensible case. Her own record, however, 
denies her the right to plead such a justification. It is a black record. The facts are grim 
and they are beyond dispute. It is no waste of time or paper to set them down here. The 
whole story could not and need not be told. What the Japanese air force did at two 
Chinese cities — Canton and Chungking — is sufficient to condemn that air force to 
extinction; and extinguished it will be. There will be no more Japanese air force after this 
war ends. 

The Air Raids on Canton 

Canton's worst ordeal came in the end of May and the beginning of June, 1938. There 
were heavy raids on the 

[p. 130] 

crowded city on 28, 29 and 30 May. On the last of these three days a special 
correspondent in Canton reported to his paper as follows: 

'First-hand investigation of the areas bombed in the last three tragic days leaves no doubt 
whatever that the Japanese have changed their raiding tactics, which during the last two 
months have been relatively humane, if the epithet is permissible. Giving them the 
benefit of the doubt, perhaps 70 per cent of their bombing has had some conceivable 
relevance to military, administrative or industrial objectives; the rest has been either 
completely malignant or wildly maladroit. Even if not altogether indiscriminate in 
intention, the raids have been indiscriminate in effect.' [1] 

The attacks were resumed on 31 May and again there was a heavy toll of life. The same 
correspondent reporter on that day: 

In the majority of cases the Japanese appear to have interpreted the term "military 
objective" as including all buildings housing departments of the civil administration, the 
private residences of officials wherever situated, and non-military factories and public 
works. If they were better shots, they might have cleaner hands; as it is, for every hit on 
something which could possibly be called a legitimate target at least 10 bombs have 
fallen far wide and accomplished nothing but butchery. There have, in addition, been 
many areas — about one-fifth of the total areas bombed — where there was no discoverable 
objective of any kind. This, and the fact that there has been a certain amount of obviously 
indiscriminate machine-gunning from a fair height, makes it seem that a certain 
percentage of the bombs dropped had no mission to fulfil save terrorism through 
slaughter. This analysis puts the most liberal interpretation possible upon the raiders' 
intentions. What the Japanese have done, as opposed to what they 

1 The Times, 31 May, 1938. 

[p. 131] 

may have meant to do, can hardly be analysed dispassionately.' [1] 

Protests Against the Raids 

On 1 June the Chinese Ambassador in London delivered to Lord Halifax, the Foreign 
Secretary, a Note addressed to neutral Powers, appealing to them to 'take such urgent and 
effective measures as would restrain Japan from continuing the wholesale slaughter of 
innocent non-combatants, largely women and children.' The Note said: 'The present 
bombing of Canton has proved even more barbarous and disastrous than any of the 
previous visitations by Japanese aircraft.' Our Government did what was possible in the 
circumstances. 'Instructions have been sent to His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo,' said 
Mr. Chamberlain in the House of Commons on 3 June, 'to protest urgently against this 
indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and thickly populated centres.' [2] 

The Raids of June and July, 1938, on Canton 

The protest had little effect. Canton was again raided heavily on 4 and 5 June. The Sun- 
Yat-sen University was damaged and many private houses and other buildings were 
wrecked. The hospitals were filled to overflowing. Worse still was to come on 6 June, 
when the city had its most destructive raid up to that time. The main street, Winghon 
Road, became a shambles. Next day, 7 June, there were three raids, and two more on 8 
June. By the latter date it was estimated that one-third of all the houses in the city were 
empty and that half a million people had been evacuated. [3] After that there was a short 
respite but 

1 The Times, 1 June, 1938. 

2 Mr. Chamberlain stated in the same reply: 'The reports indicate that, whatever may have been the objects 
aimed at, most of the bombs fell on places which cannot be considered as of military importance.' 

3 The Times, 9 June, 1938. 

[p. 132] 

the raiding was not over. During July there were repeated attacks. 

An English lady who visited Canton in July, 1938, and witnessed three air raids in one 
day, thus described what she saw: 

'We walked on to another bombed area, and then another. Here had been a school where 
seventy-five children had perished; here sixty people had been blown to pieces or buried 
beneath the fall of masonry; here ten houses had been demolished, there twenty. In the 
area a mile away from the station, which was completely deserted and nothing but a mass 
of rubble and stone, five hundred houses had been demolished. And so on from place to 
place. A map with red points marking where bombs had fallen showed hardly a single 
area, except the British concession, untouched. Occasionally one saw a poor family still 
living in a room with three, or even only two, walls left. One place was as safe as 
another.' [1] 

(The same writer also describes pitiable scenes at Hankow and Hangyang; children 
searching for their mothers buried under fallen walls, horribly mutilated bodies, dead 
babies, mangled messes of human limbs and sand, screams of agony from the wounded, 
ruins everywhere. [2]) 

A Japanese official spokesman attempted to explain away the losses suffered by the 
inhabitants by attributing them to the Chinese anti-aircraft fire. A counterblast was issued 
by eight foreign doctors in Canton, who stated that only a very few casualties had been 
caused by shrapnel, and affirmed their belief that it was the settled intention of the 
Japanese to destroy Canton. [3] 

1 Freda Utley, China at War, 1939, p. 27. 

2 Ibid., pp. 44, 195. 3 The Times, 9 June, 1938. 

[p. 133] 

The Raids on Chungking 

Chungking, the new capital of China, had its first raid on 15 January, 1939, when 
Japanese bombers attacked the Government offices, the arsenal and the wharves; and also 
dropped bombs in the poorest quarter of the city, near the East Gate. A good deal of 
damage was done, but it was insignificant in comparison with that inflicted by the raids 
of 3, 4 and 5 May, 1939. That of 4 May was the heaviest of all. The Japanese aircraft 
dropped two lines of bombs across the heart of the city, including the district in which the 
British, French and German Consulates were situated. Madame Chiang Kai-Shek was in 
Chungking, and she described in a letter of 19 May, published in The Times of 14 June, 
1939, how the city suffered on that occasion. She wrote: 

'The bombing was the worst exhibition of cold-blooded mass murder that the Japanese 
have so far been able to perpetrate. . . . The areas affected were raging infernos. I never 
saw anything like it. Most of the houses which climb the hillsides are made of timber, 
perched on long piles. They burned like tinder. The phosphorus kept the fires raging and 
a breeze extended them. Chungking is a city of houses packed tightly together on a long, 
high tongue of land, girt with cliffs. . . . Three-quarters of a square mile of houses were in 
flames. Wall after wall tumbled down. Tongues of fire on every side leaped and crackled 
and devoured furniture, woodwork, everything. . . . From where I stood I could see the 
whole west side of the city burning. The flames raged for hours. At dawn the sky was still 
angry with crimson light-crimson with fire and, indeed, with the blood of thousands of 
victims who perished. Fathers, mothers watched their children burn alive. . . . The cries 
and shrieks of the dying and the wounded resounded in the night, muffled only by the 
incessant roar of the ever- 

[p. 134] 

hungry fire. Hundreds tried to escape by climbing the old city wall but were caught by 
the pursuing flames, and, as if by magic, were shrivelled into cinders. . . . Everyone was 
helpless, even the fire-fighters. They used up all the water out of reservoirs and had to 
depend upon wells. A bomb broke a main, and the reservoirs could not be re-filled. ... It 
was a terrible holocaust, and perhaps quite satisfactory to the Japanese, whose lust to kill 
is not yet satisfied.' 

The Casualty Lists 

In the raid of 5 May, the casualty list was still further increased. About a hundred women 
and children were trapped against the city wall and burned to death. Official figures 
estimated the casualties caused by the three days' raiding at more than fifteen hundred 
killed and a similar number wounded. General Chiang Kai-shek ordered the evacuation 
of all civilians, including foreigners, whose presence was not strictly required in 
Chungking. Many of the displaced people went to Chengtu, which had its own disastrous 
experience a month or so later, on 12 June. The losses there were severe, mainly because 
dug-outs could not be constructed as a result of the presence of surface-water within a 
few feet of the ground-level. 

A rather higher estimate of the casualties than that quoted above was given by Mr. R. A. 
Butler, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in reply to a question in the House of 
Commons on 15 May, 1939. The raids of 3 and 4 May had caused the death of 1,600 
non-combatants, he stated, and approximately the same number of wounded: It is feared, 
however,' he added, 'that the full casualty list will be found to be even higher when 
excavations are completed.' Mr. Butler also stated that His Majesty's Ambassador at 
Tokyo had made 'strong representations to the Japanese Government, urging that, from a 
humanitarian point of view, as well as in Japan's best interests, stringent 

[p. 135] 

instructions should be sent to restrict attacks to recognised military objectives. Sir Robert 
Craigie observed that in the case of the Chungking air raid, casualties appeared to have 
been suffered almost exclusively by the civilian element of the population.' Mr. Butler 
added that representations on very similar lines had been made to the Japanese by the 
Ambassadors of other countries. 

The Raids of August, 1940 

The representations had little effect. Chungking had another severe battering on 12 June; 
and still worse experiences on later occasions. It had to stand up to two heavy raids on 20 
and 21 August, 1940. That of the 20 August was the most destructive attack since the 
terrible raid of 4 May, 1939. High explosive and incendiary bombs caused widespread 
damage; an area nearly a mile long and three blocks wide within the walled city was 
swept by fire; which a high wind helped to spread, and about 20,000 people were made 
homeless. In the crowded business centre of the city a further area covering half a square 
mile, was devastated on 21 August by conflagrations started by incendiary bombs. 'The 
fire was the largest and most destructive in the history of the raids on Chungking,' said 
the local correspondent of The Times. 'Many more tens of thousands have now been made 
homeless and hundreds of buildings have been destroyed, though the casualties are not 
numerous. Yesterday's fire had not been put out when today's attack set the adjoining part 
of the city alight.' [1] 

The raids of August, 1940, Mr. O. M. Green has pointed out, could by no pretence be 
represented as having been directed against military objectives. They were aimed at the 
suburbs which spread along the level ground below the steep promontory which runs 
between the Yangtze and a tributary stream. 'These,' he says; 'con- 

1 The Times, 22 August, 1940. 

[p. 136] 

tained nothing but business and residential houses, some hospitals, and the headquarters 
of foreign Embassies. All Government offices, as the Japanese knew very well, for 
everyone else did, were well underground in the rocky sides of the old town, which has 
also been honeycombed with refuges for the public. Yet it was against this purely non- 
official, non-military part of Chungking that they directed their bombs, reducing almost 
the whole quarter, including the American hospital, to ruins. Even after three years of war 
the Japanese had not realized that such barbarism has no effect but to lower them still 
further in the world's black books and to score up another mark against themselves in 
China's memory.' [1] 

A Chinese Indictment 

The story of Chungking's sufferings under the bludgeon- strokes of the Japanese air force 
was summarised in a Chinese official publication issued in 1943. Here is an extract: 

In this compact city [Chungking], the nerve centre of China, the Japanese have dumped 
thousands of tons of incendiary and high explosive bombs. Block after block of houses 
have been wiped out, not once, but twice or even three times in the past three years, but 
the indomitable spirit of the Chinese people, which the Japanese have been seeking 
vainly to destroy in their numerous merciless raids, remains constant. 

'The first severe raid on Chungking took place on 3 and 4 May, 1939, when the Japanese 
air force transformed the mid-town section of the inner city of Chungking into a mad 
inferno of flames. Seven huge conflagrations were counted at night-fall, roaring through 
the heart of the city in a swath a mile and a half long and a half mile wide. By the time 
night fell the red glow of the flames illuminated 

1 O. M. Green, China's Struggle with the Dictators, p. 179. 

[p. 137] 

the countryside for miles around. Yet more disastrous bombings battered the city on 19 
and 20 August, 1940, when 250 Japanese planes showered missiles on the closely built-in 
quarters on two successive days. More than 30 fires broke out on the first day. The few 
blocks left intact were finished on the following day, when some 20 blazes raged 
simultaneously in the business section. 

'On both occasions the fires burnt from afternoon to late night. Billowed by a brisk north- 
easterly wind, the rolling flames eventually merged into a huge mass puffing skyward to 
darken the eastern horizon. When night fell, the entire down-town area was engulfed in 
flames. The full moon rising over the Yangtze was blood-red in the fire-lit sky. The 
conflagrations razed four-fifths of Chungking's once busy down-town district. Streets, 
lanes and shops and civilian quarters were turned into heaps of charred ruins, and in 
between them stood a forest of gaunt walls bearing testimony to the wanton raids.' [1] 

The Caves that Saved 

There is not a shadow of doubt that the Japanese airmen set themselves deliberately to 
destroy Chungking, to blast and burn it to the ground, to wipe it out utterly. What saved 
its inhabitants from the full measure of death and mutilation which would otherwise have 
been their fate was the wonderful system of cave-shelters with which the city was 
fortunate enough to be provided. 'The answer to the intense and destructive bombings of 
the first days of May,' 1939 — more than five thousand persons were killed in three days' 
raids and a huge section of the city was burned flat — was not panic, but the construction 
in record time of the safest dug-outs in the world,' says Mr. Herry- 

1 China After Five Years of War. Prepared under the auspices of the Ministry of Information of the 
Republic of China. Preface by Dr. V. K. Wellington Koo. London, 1943, pp. 158-9. 

[p. 138] 

mon Maurer. It was the dug-outs which, he states, gave Chungking its amazing 
imperturbability. The Japanese aircraft would come over in formations of fifty machines 
and drop their bombs at a signal from the leader. Streets were demolished, houses hurled 
in the air, whole areas of the city were devastated, but still business went on. The 
inhabitants sought shelter in their wonderful caves while the fury lasted and then emerged 
to resume their interrupted activities. The casualties were practically confined to the 
soldiers, policemen and firemen whose duties necessitated their remaining on the surface. 

Japanese Raids in Burma 

The raids in Chungking did not cease in August, 1940, but enough has been told above to 
illustrate Japan's conception of air warfare; and it is not necessary to add to what has been 
written the no less tragic story of many another Chinese town. Nor were the barbarities of 
the Japanese air force reserved for employment against China. Burma, too, had bitter 
experience of them. Reuter's correspondent at Maymyo reported on 22 April, 1942, that 
the Japanese had then bombed almost every major town in the country. Bombing, he 
stated, was deliberately aimed at civilians and seemed to be intended to spread panic and 
alarm. 'By this ruthless bombing of civilians throughout Burma the Japanese are laying 
up for themselves a terrible reckoning when the tide turns.' [2] A few days later the 
special correspondent of The Times at Mandalay reported: 'Today many of the cities, 
towns and villages of Burma are blasted by Japanese bombs. Misery and devastation have 
spread through lower and central Burma.' [3] It must in fairness be added that in Malaya 
the Japanese appear to have been more considerate. 'Broadly 

1 Herrymon Maurer, The End is Not Yet, 1942, pp. 71-3. 

2 The Times, 25 April, 1942. 3 Ibid., 27 April, 1942. 

[p. 139] 

speaking,' says an eye-witness, 'the Japanese confined their bombing to legitimate 
military objectives, and the number of civilian casualties was comparatively small when 
one considers the constant aerial activity.' Airfields and docks were the chief targets. [1] 

Retribution for Japan 

The terrible record of the Japanese air force in China, briefly summarised above, must 
form part of the indictment which will eventually be framed when Japan's military power 
has been crushed. It establishes beyond all possibility of questioning the responsibility of 
Japan for inaugurating the practice of bombing cities indiscriminately and mercilessly. 
Her airmen set in China a precedent to which there is no parallel in anything that 
happened in 1914-18. The raids carried out in that war were petty affairs and the 
destruction which they caused was almost trivial in comparison with that which can be 
accomplished by modern heavy bomber formations. Nor were the attacks on Durango (31 
March, 1937) and Guernica (26 April, 1937) [2] really comparable to the Japanese raids 
in China. They were disastrous, of course, for the unfortunate people who were their 
victims, but they were, after all, only attacks on villages. It was the scale of the bombing 
and the importance of the cities attacked which made the Japanese air offensive on China 
a landmark in the history of war. 

Japan will have to pay the price for her misdeeds. Her own towns must be made to taste 
the bitter medicine which she forced the Chinese towns to swallow. The vast flotillas of 
the American and British air forces will have spoons sufficiently long to administer it. 
Japan will have 

1 Ian Morrison, Malayan Postscript, 1942, p. 93. 

2 See G. L. Steer, The Tree ofGernika, 1938, pp. 161-7 and 236-41 for these raids. 

[p. 140] 

to learn in fire and flame a lesson more sharp and salutary than that which Admiral De 
Kuyper's fleet taught her at Kagosima in 1863. But that will not be enough. Two other 
things will remain to be done. They are both things for which there is already a warrant 
signed and sealed. One is the complete disarming of her in the air, as well as on land and 
sea. That has been foreshadowed in the Atlantic Charter. The other is the bringing to 
justice of all the officers of the Japanese Government who had any part in the judicial 
murder of General Doolittle's airmen. That was foreshadowed in the American 
Government's note of April, 1943. If those who were responsible for the Tokyo outrage 
are not war criminals, deserving punishment, who are? 

[p. 141] 



An Idea is Born 

It is a maintainable proposition that it was Mrs. Carrie Nation who sowed the seed which 
flowered abundantly in the Anglo-American bombing offensive in the present war. She, 
good lady, had no notion of it, of course, and we certainly gave her never a thought when 
we sent our bombers over Germany, nor, when they followed, did the Americans. Still, in 
the latter's expressive phrase, she unquestionably started something. She had the right 
idea of how to get things done. She went and did them herself. She set out to stop the 
liquor traffic in Kansas, forty odd years ago. What did she do? She heaved bricks at it, 
literally. She climbed into her buggy, took with her a good supply of bricks (all carefully 
wrapped in newspapers), drove round all the saloons, and smashed their contents, glasses, 
bottles, mirrors, everything, to smithereens. She was very aggressive and totalitarian in 
her methods but she was soundly democratic at heart. She was thinking of the greatest 
good of the greater number all the time. 

She really did a very remarkable thing, this lone, obstreperous female. The great god 
Bung laid her by the heels in the end, but for a time she made a huge success of her job. 
She practically put the saloon-keeping business of Kansas out of action, made it shut up 
shop, made it look ridiculous. And that, more or less, is what the great democracies' air 
power has done to the aggressors' brand of war. As she pelted the liquor industry with 
bricks, so their air power has pelted the war industry with bombs. The effect was to make 
each industry look silly. Certainly the fine old business of war-making can never be the 
same again. 

[p. 142] 

The Spoiling of War 

Bombing is a serious affair, a grim affair, and yet because it has had the effect referred to 
above, it is not without a touch of comedy. In a broadcast of 6 February, 1934, Mr. 
Bernard Shaw startled and amused his hearers by referring to bombing aircraft as 'angels 
of peace'. The employment of them, he prophesied, would lead to the mutual surrender of 
the capitals of the belligerent Powers and a war would peter out in general ridicule. That 
has hardly happened as yet, though this war has seen capital and other cities scuttling to 
cover by declaring themselves 'open cities' in order to avoid an enemy's attack. But other 
cities have disdained such a way of escape. They have stood up to the enemy's onslaught 
and taken the worst which he could give. In another way, however, Mr. Shaw's forecast is 
in a fair way to become true. War seems to be likely to peter out in general derision 
simply because air power has discovered that the best way to deal with it is to heave 
bricks or spanners or bombs or what-not into its works. Now, war simply cannot go on 
once that sort of thing has been begun. 

War was all right when it was waged well away from the war-maker's homeland. It was a 
fine adventure then, and often a profitable one. It is such no longer. It is a bad business, a 
losing game. It used to be a way by which the dispossessed could help themselves to the 
possessions of the more fortunate nations. Now, because the latter have greater resources 
at their call they must prevail in the end in a war of mass-produced armaments. The 
dispossessed remain the dispossessed when the final account is taken. There is no future, 
in fact, for aggressive war. Only if the possessing nations, the contented nations, are 
criminally careless, or so stupid as to let domestic party strife blind 

[p. 143] 

them to the needs of national defence, can the dice cease to be loaded against the 

As the religious and dynastic wars passed away, so it seems that the wars waged for 
political or economic ends must pass, away also. They will do so because what the plain 
man in every country wants today is social security, and war means social insecurity. It 
has become a universal nuisance. It will not be tolerated by a Beveridged world. 

Conceptions of Air Power 

It is to Britain that the main credit is due for the bringing about of the change to which I 
refer. It has been the British way of using air power which has revolutionised war. In a 
book which I had not the advantage of reading until I had completed the first five 
chapters of my own, the anonymous, obviously well-informed author summarised in a 
most interesting passage the differences between the British, French and German 
conceptions of air power. 'While the British thought of the bomber as an offensive 
weapon, designed to attack the economic, resources of the enemy deep within his 
country,' be says, 'and the Germans thought of the bomber as an offensive weapon 
designed to blast a path for an advancing army, the French wanted the bomber to serve as 
a defensive weapon, a support or adjunct to the fixed guns of the Maginot Line. . . . For 
Germany, the bomber was artillery for fast-moving troops; for France, the bomber was 
artillery for stationary troops dug fast into their fortress. . . . But Britain is a naval Power 
and an Empire; our bombers were therefore intended to work as a navy works, carrying 
power into remote parts of the world or, against a Continental nation, slowly draining the 
enemy's wealth from him.' [1] 

For the final six words I would substitute 'destroying 

1 Bombers Battle, by 'A Wing Commander', 1943, pp. 47-8. 

[p. 144] 

the enemy's capacity to make war'; but I agree wholeheartedly with the comparison of the 
British, German and French attitudes to the bombing arm. In Germany and France the air 
arm never cut adrift from the land arm; it was tethered to the army in these countries. In 
Britain it was free to roam. It made the fullest use of its freedom. Germany and France 
used the new weapon unimaginatively. We saw its possibilities. They were fast-bound 
and enslaved by the thongs and gyves of military tradition. We were not. We had the sea 
in our blood, and that was perhaps why we were able, somehow, to free ourselves from 
the inhibitions which handicapped them. Nearly a century and a half ago we beat 
Napoleon by using the sea against him. We beat Hitler by using the sea and the air 
against him. The combination was irresistible. Hitler never even began to understand the 
air. His Stukas and Junkers 52's, even his Junkers 88's and Dornier 217's, were the 
weapons of an ersatz air power. We had the true armoury. 

The Germans and the Air 

There would probably have been no strategic bombing in this war if it had been 'run' by 
the General Staffs. It was an innovation of the new-comers, the amateurs (from the 
professional soldiers' point of view), the air staffs — and above all of the most brilliant and 
efficient of them all, the air staff which Trenchard created and inspired. It was they who 
messed up what used to be a nice tidy affair. They spoiled war, the good old war. 
Nowhere was that feeling more prevalent than in Germany. 

To that country, indeed, the new kind of war has always seemed to be not war at all but a 
perversion of it, an innovation devilishly conceived by people who do not understand 
what war is. In an article by the German official news agency published towards the end 
of June, 1943, one 

[p. 145] 

finds this statement: 'On the European air front the conflict has assumed forms which no 
longer have anything in common with war.' Here, said the diplomatic correspondent of 
The Times, who quoted the statement, the agency develops the theme which draws a 
distinction between 'war' and 'bombing'. 'Many newspapers; anxious to preserve the 
German military tradition, try to show that allied bombing is not the consequence of 
German aggression, but something unfair and even extraneous.' [1] 

The Germans could not see, they could not be expected to see, being a nation of goose- 
stepping Blimps, that the bomber has really killed the old kind of war. It has applied a 
sort of chemotherapy to the malady of international conflicts of the type of which the war 
of 1914-18 was the most conspicuous example. What it has achieved might be compared 
without an undue straining of analogy to what the sulphonamides have accomplished in 
the realm of bacterial infection. They, too, are a modern discovery, a later discovery, 
indeed, than human flight. They have routed some diseases already. They have done so 
simply by interfering with the processes by which infectious germs obtain and extend 
their hold upon the human organism. So, too, the bomber interferes with the processes by 
which war is able to invade the international organism and the interruption of which 
makes the waging of it impossible. It, too, may rout the acute political fever which is 
called war. 

The Revolution 

We have been living through a revolution, and we have been too close to it to see it. The 
segregated battlefield is no more. It has gone the way of the jousting enclosures, of 
Camelot and Carcassonne. Armies used to fix the venue. Air flotillas do it now. They 
carry their battlefields with 

1 The Times, 28 June, 1943. 

[p. 146] 

them. Where should they go but to the nerve-centre, the heart of mechanised war? We 
find it hard to realise that this amazing change has come to pass. We refuse resolutely to 
realise it. We talk in terms of an era that is going. We talk of the Kilkenny-cattery of the 
mutual bombing of cities, of the stupidity and waste of it all. Think for a moment; is it so 
stupid and so wasteful after all? Is it not rather the only logical kind of war? What has 
really happened is that air power has killed absenteeism in war. That is a staggering fact 
for those of us who used to be the absentees. We are all in the thick of the trouble now. 

Naturally, to those who have not grown accustomed to being no longer absentees it is 
nothing but an intrusion, a trespass, a violation, an outrage, when war thus invades their 
hearths and homes. It is more than that — it is an abomination, a needless cruelty, a grim 
and mocking travesty of war, when bombs come crashing down on their houses, when 
people are killed in their sleep, when death and ruin overwhelm their world. This, they 
cry, is not war — it is murder. But it is war — the new kind of war. It is wrong, horrible, 
unendurable, but it was inevitable. It was inevitable that the air offensive against an 
enemy's sources of armed strength should come and with it the incidental killing of non- 
combatants. It was hardly less inevitable that an enemy to whom such an offensive was 
anathema should reply by indiscriminate attack on his opponent's towns. It is an evil 
thing that has grown out of another evil thing. The initial evil was the intermingling of 
two incompatibles. The intrusion began when the ways of war were superimposed upon 
the ways of peace. The bomber crews only followed where the armament producers had 
led the way. 

Calamities unspeakable have befallen the cities and towns because ambitious and 
unscrupulous men rediscovered the old moss-trooper's rule in an age of mecha- 

[p. 147] 

nised warfare and saw that only in the centres of population could they find the labour- 
force needed to produce the massive armaments essential if their ends were to be 
accomplished. They were evil men and crafty men: evil, because they must have known 
that what they were doing would bring the horrors of war upon those cities and towns; 
crafty, because they were planning already to capitalise the sufferings of the citizens and 
townsfolk in pseudo-humanitarian appeals against perfectly lawful operations of war. It 
was certain, once the air had been mastered, that the blow would fall where it has fallen. 
Everyone knew it, everyone who was not blind. To suppose that the 'sweet security of 
streets' could survive in any town in which lethal instruments are made or stored or 
conveyed was and is to nurse an illusion. And that baseless illusion, that wholly 
unwarranted illusion is a presupposition of the German propagandist case against our 
attacks on the Ruhr. Are we really expected to take it seriously? 

War Against Hinterlands 

It was perfectly well known in Germany before this war that the risk to towns and to 
civilian populations existed. A German diplomat wrote in 1938: 

'There can be no doubt whatever about the fact that aerial warfare makes the whole of a 
country into a theatre of war and that the complete immunity hitherto enjoyed by the civil 
population in the hinterland is a thing of the past.' [1] 

There was no suggestion here, it will be observed, that the extension of war to the 
hinterland was unlawful. It was treated, in fact, as a natural development of an existing 
tendency. It was fairly certain that any town in which armaments were manufactured 
would be attacked. The 

1 R. von Kiihlmann, Heritage of Yesterday, 1938, p. 55. 

[p. 148] 

attack might and probably would result in the killing and wounding of persons whom the 
attackers would gladly have spared. It was not and is not on that account an unlawful 
operation. To dispute that conclusion is to apply to air warfare a standard of belligerent 
conduct which, as numerous bombardments prove, has never been applied to warfare by 
land or sea. Goering, at least, knew that innocent lives must be lost in such 
circumstances. He joked about it with Sir Nevile Henderson in August, 1939. The latter 
had suggested that a German bomb intended for a military objective in Britain might kill 
him and was at once assured that Goering 'would certainly send a special aeroplane to 
drop a wreath at my funeral.' [1] 

The killing or maiming of non-combatants in such circumstances is a lamentable incident 
of war. So is the destruction caused in the purely terroristic raids — including 'Baedeker' 
raids — to which the enemy may resort in retaliation. The loss of precious lives in such 
raids is to be regarded, as is the loss of the no less precious lives of our airmen over 
Germany, as the human price that has to be paid for the winning of a military advantage 
of the first order. The advantage is the weakening of the enemy's war potential and the 
ultimate saving of thousands of lives in our own and our Allies' forces. 

The War of Areas 

The truth is that we cannot free ourselves of the habit of thinking in terms of the war of 
entrenched lines, of fixed fronts; and that kind of war, though not entirely superseded, is 
no longer the sole kind of war that has to be envisaged. There is the war of areas, too. The 
new-comer's existence was recognised already before the present conflict began, but there 
was a tendency to represent it as a war directed solely against an enemy population's 

1 Sir Nevile Henderson, Failure of a Mission, 1940, p. 88. 

[p. 149] 

Brigadier-General P. R. C. Groves, for instance, writing nearly ten years ago, seems to 
have shared this tendency, though otherwise he appraised correctly the changed situation 
brought about by the use of the air arm in war. 'In Europe,' he wrote, 'warfare hitherto 
primarily an affair of fronts will be henceforth primarily an affair of areas. ... In this 
"War of Areas" the aim of each belligerent will be to bring such pressure to bear upon the 
enemy people as to force them to oblige their government to sue for peace. The method 
of applying this pressure will be by aerial bombardment of national nerve-centres, chief 
among which are the great cities.' [1] 

The moral or psychological effect is, however, only a by-product of an attack whose 
purpose is definitely strategical, that is, the crippling of the enemy's war machinery. It is 
because the new mode of warfare is directed against the sources of the enemy's armed 
strength that it is ethically justified and, provided that it is directed in overwhelming 
force, ultimately deadly in its effect. 

Norway and the Ruhr 

Such an attack, massive, sustained, compelling, is-now being made by the British and 
American Air Forces upon all the accessible centres of production in Germany. To 
Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force it has fallen to be the pathfinder in this great 
adventure of war. It led the way and blazed the trail. The road which it opened is a busy 
road now. Along it we are advancing irresistibly to the goal of victory. To ask us to 
believe that the whole majestic process would never have been set in train if a few 
German bombs had not been dropped in the Orkneys or on a Kentish wood is to make an 
undue demand upon our credulity. To hesitate to subscribe to such a belief is not to admit 
for one moment that we were the first to 

1 P. R. C. Groves, Behind the Smoke Screen, 1934, p. 32. 

[p. 150] 

bomb towns in this war. Even if Warsaw is left out of account on the ground — vide 
German propaganda — that the city was invested and had refused to surrender, it is still 
undeniable that the Germans bombed undefended towns in Norway before we ever 
dropped a bomb in Germany. 

'Kristiansund, an open and absolutely defenceless town where there have never been any 
military establishments whatever, was bombed for three days; only one house remained. . 
. . 15,000 inhabitants were left without shelter. In the same way Molde was bombed, and 
Reknes, the great sanatorium for tuberculosis, was bombed and set on fire.' [1] 'Where 
Elverum had been but a few hours before, only the church and the Red Cross hospital 
were left standing. . . . Hardly a house but had been razed to within four feet of the 
ground.' [2] 

That the Germans, having so set the pace in Norway, should protest in the name of 
humanity when we, having caught them up, stiffened the going for them in the Ruhr, is 
an indication of the amazing obtuseness of the Teutonic mentality. Have they then 
forgotten what happened in April, 1940? Those raids in Norway could not be explained 
away as reprisals. And why, given those raids, was it such a shock to the righteous 
Germans when we bombed the Ruhr? Why was it a 'Churchill crime'? Why should Essen 
or Duisburg or Dortmund be inviolate when Elverum and Kristiansund and Reknes were 
not? It is cheap and easy to ask rhetorical questions in a book published here about the 
enemy's apparently inconsequent process of thought, but this really is a puzzle. 

1 Carl J. Hambro, / Saw it Happen in Norway, 1940, p. 96. Halvden Koht, Norway Neutral and Invaded, 
1941, p. Ill, says that not a single house was left in Kristiansund. 

2 Mrs. Florence Harriman, Mission to the North, 1941, pp. 190-1. 

[p. 151] 

Mystery and Propaganda 

The mystery cannot be disposed of by saying airily that it is an instance of the biter being 
bit, the tables being turned, the schoolboy bully whining when the methods which he had 
employed against the small boy are used more violently by a bigger boy still against 
himself. The problem goes deeper than that. Nor can it all be explained away as mere 
propaganda. There is, of course, a great deal of propaganda, and very unscrupulous 
propaganda, in the German presentation-of the case. That was never more apparent than 
in the oration which Dr. Goebbels delivered at Wuppertal on 18 June, 1943. He accused 
the Anglo-American plutocracies of the murder of the women, old men and children who 
fell victims to 'the Wuppertal terror raid', and denounced 'the cold, calculating cynicism 
of the enemy'. They had adopted methods of war opposed to humanity, he stated, 
methods which involved the destruction of innumerable schools, hospitals, churches and 
cultural objects, the object being 'to clean up the German civilian population' and 'to 
break their morale'. Hitler, he asserted (quite untruthfully), 'had left nothing undone to 
avoid the war and when it was imposed on us, to give it at least a humane turn.' Goebbels 
ended: 'One day the hour will come when we shall break terror by counter-terror. The 
enemy is piling one violent deed on another, opening a bloody account which must be 
settled eventually. I know that the German people await it with burning impatience.' 

It would be unwise to dismiss this tirade as nothing but froth and fury: We should take 
seriously both the threat of retaliation with which it ends and the implication of the earlier 
denunciation of the Anglo-American plutocracies. We have heard a similar threat many 
times before, of course. We have no right to assume that an attempt will 

[p. 152] 

never be made to execute it. We should be prepared for a very violent riposte to our 
devastating attacks on the Reich. There is no reason to suppose that it will be more 
effective than the attack which we withstood in 1940-41. 

What I am here concerned to establish, however, is the fact that Goebbels' lament at 
Wuppertal and the similar utterances so frequently heard on the German radio and in the 
German Press are indicative of a rude awakening in Germany to the tremendous 
possibilities of the strategic air offensive. Those possibilities had been discounted and 
belittled before 1943. A very different note is to be heard in Germany today. It is a note 
of lamentation, and lamentation, above all, for a grievous mistake made and a wonderful 
opportunity missed. Germany misconceived the whole meaning of air power. She 
regarded it as a secondary instrument of aggression. In truth, it was a primary instrument 
for the repression of aggression. The shock of that discovery has knocked the propaganda 
machine of the Reich off its balance. 

The Rehabilitation of the Bomber 

The bomber has rehabilitated itself. It was to have been the destroyer of civilisation. 
Actually, it has been the saver of civilisation. But for it we in Britain would hardly have 
survived in this war, and most certainly our and America's task in defeating Germany and 
Japan would have been immensely more difficult. Bombing has served us well. To say 
that is not to make a fetish of it. Bombing is a horrible thing, at best. The bomb is much 
more the diabolus than the deus ex machind. It is a murderous weapon. Its only merit is 
that it can murder war. The bomber is the only weapon that can do that efficiently. 
Massed artillery could do it but only in great and bloody battles — which are the war we 
want to prevent. War cannot live with the bomber. It can smother and stifle war at source. 

[p. 153] 

What an extraordinary turn there has been of the wheel of destiny! A much-debated 
question of the years 1933-39 was whether it was or was not our reservation about 'police 
bombing' which blocked the abolition of the bomber at Geneva in 1932-33. 'This entirely 
insignificant little reservation,' was Mr. Eden's description of it in the House of Commons 
on 11 July, 1935. 'It never had the smallest international significance,' he said. 'The only 
significance it has ever had has been for the purpose of party politics at home.' It certainly 
had its run for the latter purpose. Witness the following passage from the debates in 
Parliament on 18 February, 1937: Mr. A. V. Alexander: 'But for the folly of 
representatives of the party opposite at the Disarmament Conference, we could have 
abolished the use of the bombing plane.' 

Hon. Members: 'No.' 

Mr. Churchill: 'There is not a word of truth in that statement.' 

Perhaps — I do not know — Mr. Churchill would now be prepared to go further and even 
to assert that to have given up the bomber then would have been as unfortunate a move 
for us as was the giving up the Irish ports five or six years later. Perhaps our action in 
1932-33 will be defended on bolder lines in future and be modelled on the famous 
Ciceronian argument in the Pro Milone. That argument has been summarised thus: 'Milo 
hath not slain Clodius. Had he slain Clodius, he had done well.' So the champions of Mr. 
Eden and Lord Londonderry may say in future: 'They did not kill the proposal to abolish 
bombing. If they had done so, they would have done something of inestimable value to 
our national interests and the cause of civilisation.' Such a line of defence would not be a 
departure from the truth. 

[p. 154] 

A Senile Retrospect 

What of the future? First let me dip for a moment into the past. 

A small boy in his home in the heart of Co. Clare is listening to a distant rumble. 

'Is that thunder?' he asks his father. He is afraid of thunder — lightning is all right. 

'No, gunfire,' his father answers. 

'Is it the enemy, father?' (Actually, there was no enemy just then). 

'No, our own guns at Tarbert — they're practising.' 

The forts on the Shannon, thirty miles away to the south-west, are having one of their 
periodical shoots. 

An old man in his home in the Surrey hills, is listening to a distant rumble. 

'Is that thunder?' he asks his wife, whose hearing is better than his. He is not so much 

afraid of thunder, now — it is better than — well, other things. 

'No, gunfire,' she answers. 


'No, I think it's the barrage opening away there to the east. There seems to be a raid on.' 

Then our own sirens sound in confirmation of her words. There are E. A. over the Greater 
London area. 

Myself when young; myself when old: at both ends of my life I have had the sounds of 
guns in my ears. Will the small boys who now hear the anti-aircraft barrage be listening 
fifty years hence to the sounds of war again? I doubt it — if one condition is fulfilled. If it 
is fulfilled, I do not see why there should ever be another war like this one again. 

The condition is that we and the United States — 

[p. 155] 

Russia, too, by all means, if she is willing — should decide that there shall not be another 
war and do the one thing needful to save that decision from being a futility: We must not 
make the disastrous mistake which we made after the last great war. In the interval 
between the two great wars the United States sought to promote peace by denouncing 
war, even by "outlawing" it, and by disarming itself, Great Britain and France. . . . The 
disarmament movement was, as the event has shown, tragically successful in disarming 
the nations that believed in disarmament. The net effect was to dissolve the alliance 
among the victors of the first World War, and to reduce them to almost disastrous 
impotence on the eve of the second World War.' [1] 

The Banning of War 

'There shall be no more war.' The victors in the present war can send that command 
crashing round the globe, if they so decide. Will they have the will to do so? Will they 
rise to the height of the great occasion? It will be one of the grand climacterics of history. 
Not another shot need be fired again in a major war, if two or three States decide that it 
shall not be fired. It is for them to choose. They need not keep in being, to enforce that 
decision, the huge establishments of all arms which they will have created by the time the 
war ends: the most stupendous array of armed might the world has ever seen. But to 
suppose that no armaments need be retained once the present aggressors have been 
disarmed would be again to gamble with fate. 

The problem of the prevention of war seems at last to be soluble, and at the heart of the 
solution, in all probability, there will be found the bomber aircraft. The stone which the 
builders of peace at Geneva wished to reject 

1 Walter Lippmann, U.S. Foreign Policy, New York, 1943, pp. 54-5. 

[p. 156] 

may be the corner-stone of the new structure of world-peace. No such proved instrument 
was ready to the hands of the Statesmen who attempted to organise world-peace in 1919. 
The bomber had not justified itself then. It will have done so abundantly by the end of 
1944. Even now, in 1943, we do not know its full possibilities. The world will have been 
given convincing proof of its almost limitless capacity as a war-breaker before this war 
ends. It is the ideal weapon for smothering aggression. 

How, precisely, the system for safeguarding peace should be organised is a question 
which it would be unwise to try to answer dogmatically at present. The mistake made in 
1919 was that the framers of the new international order were in too great a hurry. They 
would have been wiser if they had avoided trying to make too complete and tidy a job of 
their work at the first attempt. They were determined to leave no loose ends hanging 
about. Now, loose ends can be extraordinarily useful things at times. 

The future is broad and long. Let us leave something for those who come after us to do. 
Our task should be to bridge the gap between the old international order and the new by 
ensuring that the grand alliance which saved freedom in this war is maintained until its 
place can be taken by some permanent organisation for the preservation of peace. On that 
alliance there can be built in time and by degrees the foundations of a new international 
society. It may be years before the structure can be completed. That need not matter. To 
attempt to erect it in haste might be to build it of materials which the passing years will 
show to have been unsound. Passions must have cooled and there must have been leisure 
to reflect upon the lessons of these last few hectic years before we are ready to approach 
our great task with the requisite balance and understanding. 

[p. 157] 


Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V., 


Amery, Rt. Hon. L. 


Appelius, M., 103 


Armament workers not non- 

combatants, 112-3 

Arnold, Gen. H. H.. 

, 126 


Attlee, Rt. Hon. C, 



Balfour, Rt. Hon. H. H., 68, 

111, 122 

Chungking, bombing of, 133- 

Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S., 

10-11, 14,22,28,37, 

45, 66, 67, 95, 102, 103, 

126, 127, 153 
Civilians, bombing of, 106- 

Collins, Gen. R. J., 29 
Craigie, Sir R., 135 

Croft, Lord, 58 
Crutwell, C. R. A. E, 13 

Bell, E. P., 39 
Bilainkin, G., 16 
Birkenhead, Lord, 117 
Blockade, loss of life due to, 

Blockzijl, Max, 108 
Bluntschli, J. G., 109 
Bombs, two and four ton, 

"Bombing Restriction Com- 
mittee", 111 

Bonfils-Fauchille, MM., 109 
Boraston, J. H., 14 
Brown, Rt. Hon. E., 93 
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A., 134 

Canton, bombing of, 129-32 
Casualties in the old and new 
kinds of war, 10-4, 57 
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N., 
116, 131 

Charlton, L. E. O., 54 
Chiang Kai-shek, Madame, 

DAlbiae, Air Vice-Marshal 
J. H., 28 
Davies, R., 47 
Davis, Elmer, 79 
Daylight and night bomb- 
ing 99- 101 

Dewar, G. A. B., 14 

Doolittle, Gen. J., 99, 123, 

Duff Cooper, Rt. Hon. A., 
Dumas, S., 13, 119 

Dwellings, wrecking of, 93- 
4, 96 

Eden, Rt. Hon. A., 104, 153 
Eisenhower, Gen., 25 

Ellington, Sir E. L., 29 

Esmer, M. Shukri, 104 

Essen, battle of, 83-6 

Fortress area, the Ruhr as, 
French doctrine of air power, 
70-1, 143 

[p. 158] 

Gamelin, Gen., 70-1 
Garbett, Dr., Archbishop of 
York, 118 
Garner, J. W., 119 
Gas, use of, 58-9 
German doctrine of air 
power, 30-3, 34, 143-4 
Goebbels, Dr., 55, 113, 143, 
151, 152 

Goering, Field-Marshal, 55, 
79, 148 
Gouge, A., 38 
Green, O. M., 135 
Groves, P. R. C., 149 

Kennedy, Hon. Joseph, 16, 
Koht, H., 150 

Lauterpacht, H., 117 

Lavitrano, Cardinal, 100 

Leaflets, dropping of, 55, 61 
Lindemann, F. A., 9 

Lippman, W., 155 
Lloyd George, Rt. Hon. D., 

12-3, 14 
Londonderry, Lord, 153 

Loss of life due to blockade, 


Luftflotten, 30 

Haldane, J. B. S., 57 
Halifax, Lord, 69, 131 
Hambloch, E., 31 
Hambro, C. J., 150 
Harriman, Mrs. F., 150 
Harris, Sir A. T., 69 
Heilbron, Dr., 108 
Henderson, Sir N., 148 
Historic buildings wrecked, 

Hitler, A., 32, 39, 40, 41, 42, 
43, 44, 45, 46, 60, 102, 105, 
106-7, 109, 144, 151 
Hopkinson, A., 8 
Holzhammer, K., 87 

Malaya, Japanese bombing 
in, 138 

Matsuo, K., 127 

Maurer, H., 137-8 

Morrison, T., 97 

Morrison, I., 139 

Morrow Committee's re- 
port, 34 

Muller-Meiningen, Prof., 

Non-combatants and bomb 

ing,78, 110-7,148,151 
Norway, German bombing 
in, 150 

Ingersoll, R., 42 

Oppenheim, L., 117 

Japan, judicial murder of 

American airmen, 21, 123- 

9; bombing of Canton, 

129-32; of Chungking, 

133-8; of Burmese towns, 


Joad, C. E. M., 49 

Passe hendaele; losses at, 12- 

"Police bombing", 153 

Pre-fabricated battle, 78, 112 
Psychological bombardment, 


Quade, Gen., 79 

[p. 159] 

Railway targets, 1 13-4 

Rauschning, H., 107 

Richmond, Admiral Sir H., 


Rolland, L., 113 

Roosevelt, President F. D., 

45, 46, 128 

Rotterdam, bombing of, 41, 

42, 102, 104, 105-6 

Ruhr as a fortress area, 79- 

80, 83-7 

Sava, G., 59 

"Scrutator" in Sunday Times, 


Shaw, G. B., 56, 142 

Shepherd, E. Colston, 62 

Shirer, W. L., 72 

Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A., 

47, 65, 83 

Smuts, Gen. J., 35 

Somme, losses in battle of, 


Steer, G. L., 139 

Stokes, R. R., 47, 48 

Strabolgi, Lord, 69 

Strategical air power, 24, 26, 

29, 30, 144 

Submarines, German use of, 


Suendermann, H., 109 
Summerall, Gen. C. P., 34 
Swinton, Lord, 58-9 

Tactical air power, 24-8, 143 
Taylor, E., 56 

Tedder, Sir A., 33 
Thomson, Lord, 19 
Transport workers and air 

attack, 113-4 

Trenchard, Lord, 30, 50, 51, 
58, 59, 65, 106, 144 

Utley, Freda, 132 

Vedel-Petersen, K. O., 13, 
Von Hoeppner, Gen., 39 
Von Kuhlmann, R., 147 
VonSeekt, Gen., 30-1 

"Warriors", civilians as, 
Warsaw, bombardment of, 
41, 42, 46, 79, 102, 105-6, 
Wedgwood, Lord, 65 
Werth, A., 46 
Wheeler-Nicholson, M., 16,