2012 Bomber Command Memorial Dedication

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2012 Bomber Command Memorial Dedication
Bomber Command Memorial Dedication London
- Chief of Air Force: Air Marshal Geoff Brown
AO Thursday 28 June 2012
(Check with delivery) Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining me here today as we commemorate the men and women who served in Bomber Command during World War II. We are here to pay homage to their courage, to praise their achievements and, sadly, to remember the supreme sacrifice of the more than 55 000 members of Bomber Command who lost their lives over the six years of conflict. For those who survived the fighting that occurred more than 67 years ago, their service with Bomber Command continues to remain an important part of their lives. For many, their memories remain undiminished. Although inevitably there are a relatively small number of veterans attending this dedication ceremony, their friends and families help to keep their memories alive. I believe that it is because of your combined efforts that public interest in the achievements of Bomber Command is increasing. The dedication and unveiling of the London Bomber Command Memorial today is further evidence that Bomber Command will not fade from our collective memory. I do welcome, specifically, the Australian veterans of Bomber Command who are attending the service today. Australia dedicated its own memorial to those who served in RAF Bomber Command in 2005. It is at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, and each year a few Australians attend a commemoration ceremony there. Unfortunately many people today have little or no knowledge of those members of the Royal Australian Air Force who served in Europe during World War II. I would like to assure you, however, that Bomber Command continues to be remembered by members of the Australian Defence Force and particularly the Royal Australian Air Force. 1 of 4
Within today's RAAF, the offensive bombing campaign conducted by RAF Bomber Command and the 8th United States Army Air Force over occupied Europe, is used as a case-­‐study in the application of air power. As the veterans who are present would know, there are times when military force, even brute force, is necessary to overcome great evil. Those who ordered the carnage and the holocausts of the 1940s could not be stopped otherwise. The historical evidence confirms this finding. In the words of the respected US historian, Phillip S. Meilinger: "Most certainly the strategic bombing offensive against Germany was worth the cost. The campaign was expensive in both human and economic terms, but it measurably shortened the war and saved tens of thousands of American and Allied lives." The bomber offensive was the longest and most costly of all WWII campaigns. It required sustained courage for aircrews to take off time and time again, in the face of deadly odds, to maintain the air offensive. Bomber Command set a high standard which is an enduring legacy that modern airmen have a particular duty to remember and aspire to. There are many examples of poignant wartime experiences involving Bomber Command aircrews. Each individual had to find their way of maintaining a steadfast resolve in the face of often-­‐risked death. Some fortified themselves with black humour, the bottle, and women. Others sought comfort in the friendship and idyllic lifestyle of English villages. Many sought solace in religion, believing their personal experiences brought them closer to their God. Flight Sergeant Hugh Brodie, a 30-­‐year old member of No 460 Squadron RAAF believed his efforts contributed to the greater good. He wrote one of the war's most memorable poems, An Airman's Prayer. 2 of 4
Almighty and all-­‐present Power, Short is the prayer I make to Thee. I do not ask in battle hour For any shield to cover me. The vast unalterable way From which the stars do not depart, May not be turned aside to stay The bullet flying to my heart. I ask no help to strike my foe, I seek no petty victory here. The enemy I hate, I know To Thee is also dear But this I pray: Be at my side when death is drawing through the sky, Almighty God, Who also died, Teach me the way that I should die. Hugh Brodie was posted missing on 3 June 1942 after the Wellington bomber in which he was observer failed to return from a raid on Essen, Germany. Although German documents revealed that the remains of the crew were removed for burial, a post-­‐war search for graves was unsuccessful. An Airman's Prayer was found among Brodie’s personal belongings along with a letter to the boys of Melbourne High School where he had taught. Australians fought over European skies from start to finish, 1939 to 1945. Fighting alongside British, Canadians, New Zealanders, South Africans as well as airmen from every corner of the British Empire, they were instrumental in the overthrow of the Nazi regime. Almost 40 000 RAAF members were dispatched to the United Kingdom to serve alongside, and within, the Royal Air Force. While many went to other commands, approximately 10 000 Australian personnel joined Bomber Command. Of these men, 3486 died as a result of their service. Just over 1 per cent of all the Australians in uniform during World War II served in Bomber Command, however as a group they formed over 10 per cent of Australia’s war dead. 3 of 4
Australians must never forget the bravery of those who gave their blood in Bomber Command paving the way for the resounding victory over the Nazis and their Fascist allies. I for one appreciate the fact that I was raised in a democratic society with individual freedoms and fundamental human rights. Yours was a victory over dictators and tyrants. Your collective achievement was as much about ideas, values and culture, as it was about military accomplishments. For many years now the historical sources have clearly been on the side of Bomber Command. Today, and in future, Australians need to remember the steadfast resolve, camaraderie and courage of those who served in Bomber Command. If I may quote the Australian historian, Dr Alan Stephens: "No single group of Australians from any service did more to help win World War II than the men who fought in Bomber Command." Lest We Forget. 4 of 4