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Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris

1892 - 1984

Sir Arthur Harris
Sir Arthur Harris

Arthur Harris was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England on April 13th 1892. He joined the Royal Flying Corps (later RAF) in November 1915 serving with territorial defence against Zeppelin attacks. He later fought against German bombers in Britain. By the end of WWI he had been squadron leader for some time and was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Between the wars, Harris served in several colonial positions in the British Empire including India and Egypt.

In September 1939, the RAF appointed Harris to lead Bomber Commands 5 group. Later in November 1940 he left operational command to join the Air Ministry as deputy Chief of Air Staff. On 23rd February 1942 Arthur Harris was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Bomber Command; a post he held until 1945.

During the war Bomber Command was criticised for lack of efficiency especially after a report which said British bombers were dropping their bombs within a 5KM radius of their target and not accurately on it. Undeterred by the criticism, Harris took a 'saturation' or 'area' bombing approach to destroying German cities. On May 30/31 1942 he sent a mass bombing fleet of over 1,000 aircraft to bomb Cologne. It was a success and although not easily repeated, Harris turned Bomber Command into a weapon capable of not only destroying German industry but cities too. He did this by increasing personnel and also with the new 'heavy' bombers such as the Lancaster which was capable of carrying larger payloads further into the heart of Germany. Under Harris, Bomber Command attacked German cities right into the last months of the war. This earned him the nickname 'Bomber' Harris.

At the end of the war Harris was promoted to RAF Marshal. He retired from the RAF in 1946 to pursue a successful business career in South Africa. He later returned to Britain and was made a baronet. In 1992, eight years after his death, a monument to him was erected in central London.

Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris Memorial, Central London
Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris Memorial, Central London

Arthur 'Bomber' Harris was certainly the most controversial allied officer of World War II.


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