Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Baronet
Marshal of the Royal Air Force
Marshal of the Royal Air Force
Marshal of the Royal Air Force is the highest rank in the Royal Air Force. In peacetime it was granted to RAF officers in the appointment of Chief of the Defence Staff, and to retired Chiefs of the Air Staff, who were promoted to it on their last day of service. Promotions to the rank have ceased...

 Sir Arthur Travers Harris, 1st Baronet
A baronet or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess , is the holder of a hereditary baronetcy awarded by the British Crown...

Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

Air Force Cross (United Kingdom)
The Air Force Cross is a military decoration awarded to personnel of the United Kingdom Armed Forces, and formerly also to officers of the other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy"...

 (13 April 1892 – 5 April 1984), commonly known as "Bomber" Harris by the press, and often within the RAF as "Butcher" Harris, was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief
Air Officer Commanding
Air Officer Commanding is a title given in the air forces of Commonwealth nations to an air officer who holds a command appointment. Thus, an air vice marshal might be the AOC 38 Group...

 (AOC-in-C) of RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

 (from early 1943 holding the rank of Air Chief Marshal
Air Chief Marshal
Air chief marshal is a senior 4-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

) during the latter half of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. In 1942 the Cabinet
Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and some 22 Cabinet Ministers, the most senior of the government ministers....

 agreed to the "area bombing" of German cities
Area bombing directive
The Area Bombing Directive was a directive from the wartime British Government's Air Ministry to the Royal Air Force which ordered RAF bombers to attack the German industrial workforce and the morale of the German populace through bombing German cities and their civilian inhabitants.- Background...

. Harris was tasked with implementing Churchill's policy and supported the development of tactics and technology to perform the task more effectively. Harris assisted British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Chief of the Air Staff Marshal of the Royal Air Force Charles Portal in carrying out the United Kingdom's most devastating attacks against the German infrastructure and population.

Harris's preference for area bombing over precision targeting in the last year of the war remains controversial, partly because by this time many senior Allied air commanders thought it less effective and partly for the large number of civilian casualties and destruction this strategy caused in Continental Europe. While the Butt Report
Butt Report
The Butt Report was a report prepared during World War II which revealed the widespread failure of bombers to deliver their payloads to the correct target....

 found that in 1940 and 1941, only one in three attacking aircraft got within five miles (eight km) of their target, many technical and training improvements such as H2S radar
H2S radar
H2S was the first airborne, ground scanning radar system. It was developed in Britain in World War II for the Royal Air Force and was used in various RAF bomber aircraft from 1943 to the 1990s. It was designed to identify targets on the ground for night and all-weather bombing...

 and the Pathfinder force were implemented later on in the war.

Early years

Harris was born on 13 April 1892, at Cheltenham
Cheltenham , also known as Cheltenham Spa, is a large spa town and borough in Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds in the South-West region of England. It is the home of the flagship race of British steeplechase horse racing, the Gold Cup, the main event of the Cheltenham Festival held...

, where his parents were staying while his father was on home leave from the Indian Civil Service. He was educated at Allhallows School
Allhallows College
Allhallows College, previously known as Allhallows School, was an independent boys 'public school' in Devon, England, predominantly boarding.-History:...

 in Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

, while his brothers were educated at Sherborne
Sherborne School
Sherborne School is a British independent school for boys, located in the town of Sherborne in north-west Dorset, England. It is one of the original member schools of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference....

 and Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

. At the age of 16, not considered academically gifted by his parents, he was given the choice of "either army or the colonies." He chose the colonies and went to Rhodesia
Rhodesia , officially the Republic of Rhodesia from 1970, was an unrecognised state located in southern Africa that existed between 1965 and 1979 following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965...

 (now Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

 and Zambia
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

) in 1908, where over the next few years he flourished earning his living "gold mining, driving coaches [and] general farming".

First World War

In 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Harris joined the 1st Rhodesian Regiment as a bugler, and served with them in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 and in the German colony of South-West Africa
German South-West Africa
German South West Africa was a colony of Germany from 1884 until 1915, when it was taken over by South Africa and administered as South West Africa, finally becoming Namibia in 1990...

 (now Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

). In 1915 he returned to England and joined the Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

, serving with distinction on the home front
Home front
Home front is the informal term commonly used to describe the civilian populace of the nation at war as an active support system of their military....

 and in France during 1917 as a flight commander and ultimately CO of No. 45 Squadron
No. 45 Squadron RAF
-First World War:Formed during World War I at Gosport on 1 March 1916 as Number 45 Squadron, the unit was first equipped with Sopwith 1½ Strutters which it was to fly in the Scout role. Deployed to France in October of that year, the Squadron found itself suffering heavy losses due to the quality...

, flying the Sopwith 1½ Strutter
Sopwith 1½ Strutter
The Sopwith 1½ Strutter was a British one or two-seat biplane multi-role aircraft of the First World War. It is significant as the first British-designed two seater tractor fighter, and the first British aircraft to enter service with a synchronised machine gun...

 and Sopwith Camel
Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel was a British First World War single-seat biplane fighter introduced on the Western Front in 1917. Manufactured by Sopwith Aviation Company, it had a short-coupled fuselage, heavy, powerful rotary engine, and concentrated fire from twin synchronized machine guns. Though difficult...

. Before he returned to England to command No. 44 Squadron
No. 44 Squadron RAF
No. 44 Squadron of the Royal Air Force is no longer operational. For most of its history it served as a heavy bomber squadron.-History:...

 on Home Defence duties, Harris claimed five enemy aircraft destroyed and was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC). He finished the war a major.

Inter-war years

After the war, Harris chose to remain in the newly formed Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

. In April 1920 Squadron Leader Harris was jointly appointed station commander of RAF Digby
RAF Digby
RAF Digby is a Royal Air Force station which, since March 2005, has been operated by the Ministry of Defence's Joint Service Signals Organisation, part of the Intelligence Collection Group. Formerly a training and fighter airfield, it is currently a tri-service military signals installation located...

 and commander of No. 3 Flying Training School. He later served in different functions in India, Mesopotamia
RAF Iraq Command
Iraq Command was the RAF commanded inter-service command in charge of British forces in Iraq in the 1920s and early 1930s, during the period of the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. It continued as British Forces in Iraq until 1941 when it was replaced by AHQ Iraq...

 (now Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

), and Persia (now Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

). He said of his service in India that he first got involved in bombing in the usual annual North West Frontier tribesmen trouble. In Mesopotamia he commanded a Vickers Vernon
Vickers Vernon
-See also:...

 squadron. "We cut a hole in the nose and rigged up our own bomb racks and I turned those machines into the heaviest and best bombers in the command". Harris also contributed at this time to the development of bombing using delay-action bombs, which were then applied to keep down uprisings of the Mesopotamian peoples fighting against British occupation. With regard to this period, Harris is recorded as having remarked "the only thing the Arab understands is the heavy hand."
In 1924 Harris was posted to England to command the first post-war heavy bomber squadron (No. 58
No. 58 Squadron RAF
No. 58 Squadron was a squadron of the Royal Air Force.- History :No. 58 Squadron was first formed at Cramlington, Northumberland, on 8 June 1916 as a squadron of the Royal Flying Corps....

). His commander in Iraq had been the future Chief of the Air Staff Sir John Salmond
John Salmond
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Maitland Salmond, GCB, CMG, CVO, DSO and Bar was a British military officer who rose to high rank in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I...

, who was also one of his commanders back in England. Together they developed "night training for night operations".

From 1927 to 1929, Harris attended the Army Staff College
Staff College, Camberley
Staff College, Camberley, Surrey, was a staff college for the British Army from 1802 to 1997, with periods of closure during major wars. In 1997 it was merged into the new Joint Services Command and Staff College.-Origins:...

 at Camberley where he discovered that at the college the army kept 200 horses for the officers' fox hunting
Fox hunting
Fox hunting is an activity involving the tracking, chase, and sometimes killing of a fox, traditionally a red fox, by trained foxhounds or other scent hounds, and a group of followers led by a master of foxhounds, who follow the hounds on foot or on horseback.Fox hunting originated in its current...

. At a time when all services were very short of equipment, the army high command—which was still dominated by cavalry officers—clearly had a different set of priorities from technocrats like Harris, who quipped that the army commanders would only be happy with the tank if it could learn to eat hay and defecate like a horse. He also had a low opinion of the Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

; he commented that there were three things which should never be allowed on a well-run yacht "a wheel-barrow, an umbrella and a naval officer". Bernard Montgomery was one of the few army officers he met while at the college whom he liked; possibly because they shared certain underlying personality characteristics.

His next command was of a flying-boat squadron, where he continued to develop night flying techniques. From 1934 to 1937 he was the Deputy Director of Plans in the Air Ministry. He was posted to the Middle East Command
Middle East Command
The Middle East Command was a British Army Command established prior to the Second World War in Egypt. Its primary role was to command British land forces and co-ordinate with the relevant naval and air commands to defend British interests in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean region.The...

 in Egypt, as a senior Air Staff Officer. In 1936 Harris commented on the Palestinian Arab revolt "one 250 lb. or 500 lb. bomb in each village that speaks out of turn" would satisfactorily solve the problem. In 1937 he was promoted to Air Commodore
Air Commodore
Air commodore is an air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

 and in 1938 he was put in command of No. 4 (Bomber) Group. After a purchasing mission to the USA he was posted to Palestine and Trans-Jordan, and as an Air Vice Marshal in 1939 he was Officer Commanding the RAF contingent in that area.

Second World War

Harris returned to England in September 1939 to take command of No. 5 Group
No. 5 Group RAF
No. 5 Group was a Royal Air Force bomber group of the Second World War, led during the latter part by AVM Sir Ralph Cochrane.-History:The Group was formed on 1 September 1937 with headquarters at RAF Mildenhall....

. In November 1940 he was made Deputy Chief of the Air Staff
Deputy Chief of the Air Staff
The Deputy Chief of the Air Staff was a senior appointment in the Royal Air Force. The incumbent was the deputy to the Chief of the Air Staff. The post existed from 1918 to 1968 or 1969...

 and then in 1941 he was promoted to Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Air marshal is a three-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

 before being appointed Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 (C-in-C) of Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

 in February 1942. At the time, Bomber Command was making a negligible contribution to the war effort because the British had simply not explored the concept of offensive bombing, and had in no way prepared for it. Consequently its aircraft—principally the Fairey Battle
Fairey Battle
The Fairey Battle was a British single-engine light bomber built by the Fairey Aviation Company in the late 1930s for the Royal Air Force. The Battle was powered by the same Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engine that gave contemporary British fighters high performance; however, the Battle was weighed...

 light bomber, Handley Page Hampden
Handley Page Hampden
The Handley Page HP.52 Hampden was a British twin-engine medium bomber of the Royal Air Force serving in the Second World War. With the Whitley and Wellington, the Hampden bore the brunt of the early bombing war over Europe, taking part in the first night raid on Berlin and the first 1,000-plane...

, Vickers Wellington
Vickers Wellington
The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, R. K. Pierson. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being displaced as a...

, and Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
The Armstrong Whitworth A.W.38 Whitley was one of three British twin-engine, front line medium bomber types in service with the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of the Second World War...

 medium bombers—were deficient, and crews lacked sufficient experience and the skill to navigate long distances, drop bombs accurately, and return to home airfields.

Harris immediately set about rectifying deficiencies with great energy; he had studied new theories of offensive bombing developed by Germany in Spain and in the early years of World War II, and was convinced of the effectiveness of a concentrated aggressive approach. He then re-evaluated Bomber Command's tactics and set about improving standards of instruction and training. His enterprise incorporated the efficient deployment of the Short Stirling
Short Stirling
The Short Stirling was the first four-engined British heavy bomber of the Second World War. The Stirling was designed and built by Short Brothers to an Air Ministry specification from 1936, and entered service in 1941...

, the introduction of the next powerful four-engined heavy bombers including the Handley Page Halifax
Handley Page Halifax
The Handley Page Halifax was one of the British front-line, four-engined heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. A contemporary of the famous Avro Lancaster, the Halifax remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing...

 and Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

, and later the twin-engined de Havilland Mosquito
De Havilland Mosquito
The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was a British multi-role combat aircraft that served during the Second World War and the postwar era. It was known affectionately as the "Mossie" to its crews and was also nicknamed "The Wooden Wonder"...

 light bomber. Also during this period, the roles of less-modern bombers such as the Wellington, Bristol Blenheim
Bristol Blenheim
The Bristol Blenheim was a British light bomber aircraft designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company that was used extensively in the early days of the Second World War. It was adapted as an interim long-range and night fighter, pending the availability of the Beaufighter...

, and Beaufort
Bristol Beaufort
The Bristol Beaufort was a British twin-engined torpedo bomber designed by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, and developed from experience gained designing and building the earlier Blenheim light bomber....

 were reappraised.

Professor Frederick Lindemann (later ennobled as Lord Cherwell)
Frederick Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell
Frederick Alexander Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell FRS PC CH was an English physicist who was an influential scientific adviser to the British government, particularly Winston Churchill...

, appointed the British government's leading scientific adviser with a seat in the Cabinet by his friend Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, in 1942 presented a seminal paper to Cabinet advocating the area bombing of German cities in a strategic bombing
Strategic bombing during World War II
Strategic bombing during World War II is a term which refers to all aerial bombardment of a strategic nature between 1939 and 1945 involving any nations engaged in World War II...

 campaign. It was accepted by Cabinet and Harris was directed to carry out the task (Area bombing directive
Area bombing directive
The Area Bombing Directive was a directive from the wartime British Government's Air Ministry to the Royal Air Force which ordered RAF bombers to attack the German industrial workforce and the morale of the German populace through bombing German cities and their civilian inhabitants.- Background...

). It became an important part of the total war
Total war
Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

 waged against Germany.

Lord Cherwell's paper advocated attacking major industrial centres in order to destroy as many homes and houses as possible (dehousing
On 30 March 1942 Professor Frederick Lindemann, Baron Cherwell, the British government's chief scientific adviser, sent to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill a memorandum which after it had become accepted by the Cabinet became known as the dehousing paper.Also known as the "dehousing...

). Working-class housing areas were to be targeted because they had a higher density and firestorms were more likely. This would displace the German workforce and disrupt and reduce their ability to work. Lindemann's calculations showed that Bomber Command would be able to destroy the majority of German houses located in cities quite quickly; these calculations were based on the Luftwaffe's bombing campaign over Britain, but Lindemann had skewed the calculations to hugely overstate the effects. The plan was highly controversial even before it started, but the Cabinet thought bombing was the only option available to directly attack Germany (a major invasion of the continent was years away) and the Soviets were demanding that the Western Allies do something to relieve the pressure on the Eastern Front.

Harris said at the start of the bombing campaign that he was unleashing a whirlwind on Germany. In February 1945, Harris wrote "I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier". In his memoirs he writes, "In spite of all that happened at Hamburg, bombing proved a relatively humane method".

At first the effects were limited because of the small numbers of aircraft used and the lack of navigational aids, resulting in scattered, inaccurate bombing. As production of better aircraft and electronic aids increased, Harris pressed for raids on a much larger scale, each to use 1,000 aeroplanes. In Operation Millennium Harris launched the first RAF "thousand bomber raid" against Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 (Köln) on the night of 30 May/31 May 1942. This operation included the first use of a bomber stream
Bomber stream
The bomber stream was a tactic developed by the Royal Air Force Bomber Command to overwhelm the German aerial defences of the Kammhuber Line during World War II....

, which was a tactical innovation designed to overwhelm the German night-fighters of the Kammhuber Line
Kammhuber Line
The Kammhuber Line was the name given to the German night air defense system established in July 1940 by Colonel Josef Kammhuber.- Description :...


Harris was just one of an influential group of high-ranking Allied air commanders who continued to believe that massive and sustained area bombing alone would force Germany to surrender. On a number of occasions he wrote to his superiors claiming the war would be over in a matter of months, first in August 1943 following the tremendous success of the Battle of Hamburg (codenamed Operation Gomorrah), and then again in January 1944. Winston Churchill continued to regard the area bombing strategy with distaste, and official public statements still maintained that Bomber Command was only attacking specific industrial and economic targets, with any civilian casualties or property damage being unintentional but unavoidable. In October 1943, emboldened by his success in Hamburg and increasingly irritated with Churchill's hesitance to wholeheartedly endorse his tactics, Harris urged the government to be honest with the public regarding the purpose of the bombing campaign. To Harris, his complete success at Hamburg confirmed the validity and necessity of his methods, and he urged that:

In November 1943 Bomber Command began what became known as the Battle of Berlin
Battle of Berlin (air)
The Battle of Berlin was a British bombing campaign on Berlin from November 1943 – March 1944. The campaign was not limited solely to Berlin. Other German cities were attacked to prevent concentration of defences in Berlin, and Bomber Command had other responsibilities and operations to conduct...

: a series of massive raids on Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 that lasted until March 1944. Harris sought to duplicate the victory at Hamburg, but Berlin proved to be a far more difficult nut to crack. Although severe general damage was inflicted, the city was much better prepared than Hamburg, and no firestorm was ever ignited. Anti-aircraft defenses were also extremely effective and bomber losses were high; during this time the British lost 1,047 bombers, with a further 1,682 damaged, culminating in the disastrous raid on Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

 on 30 March 1944, when 94 bombers were shot down and 71 damaged, out of 795 aircraft.

With the leadup to the D-Day
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

 invasions in 1944, Harris was ordered to switch targets for the French rail network, a switch he protested because he felt it compromised the continuing pressure on German industry and it was using Bomber Command for a purpose it was not designed or suited for. By September the Allied forces were well inland; at the Quebec Conference
Quebec Conference, 1943
The First Quebec Conference was a highly secret military conference held during World War II between the British, Canadian and United States governments. The conference was held in Quebec City, August 17, 1943 – August 24, 1943. It took place at the Citadelle and at the Château Frontenac. The...

 it was agreed that the Chief of the Air Staff, Royal Air Force (Portal), and the Commanding General, U.S. Army Air Forces (Arnold
Henry H. Arnold
Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold was an American general officer holding the grades of General of the Army and later General of the Air Force. Arnold was an aviation pioneer, Chief of the Air Corps , Commanding General of the U.S...

), should exercise control of all strategic bomber forces in Europe. Harris received a new directive to ensure continuation of a broad strategic bombing program as well as adequate bomber support for General Eisenhower's ground operations. The over-all mission of the strategic air forces remained "the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic systems and the direct support of Land and Naval forces". The several months of rest and refit had been useful to Bomber Command, and they were now able to put up well over 1,000 aircraft per raid.

After D-Day (6 June 1944), with the resumption of the strategic bomber campaign over Germany, Harris remained wedded to area bombardment. Historian Frederick Taylor
Frederick Taylor (historian)
Frederick Taylor is a British historian and author of such works as Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945 about the bombing of Dresden in World War II....

 argues that, because Harris lacked the necessary security clearance to know about ULTRA
Ultra was the designation adopted by British military intelligence in June 1941 for wartime signals intelligence obtained by "breaking" high-level encrypted enemy radio and teleprinter communications at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. "Ultra" eventually became the standard...

, he had been given some information gleaned from Enigma
Enigma machine
An Enigma machine is any of a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used for the encryption and decryption of secret messages. Enigma was invented by German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I...

, but not informed where it had come from. According to Taylor, this directly affected Harris's attitude concerning the effectiveness of the post-D-Day 1944 directives (orders) to target oil installations, as Harris did not know the Allied High Command was using high-level German sources to assess exactly how much Allied operations were impairing the German war effort. As a consequence Harris tended to see the directives to bomb specific oil and munitions targets as a high level command "panacea" (his word), and a distraction from the real task of making the rubble bounce in every large German city.

Historian Alfred C. Mierzejewski argues that both area bombing and attacks against fuel plants were ineffective against Germany's coal- and rail-based economy and that the bombing campaign only took a decisive turn in late 1944 when the allies switched to targeting rail-marshalling yards for the coal gateways of the Ruhr. His summation is rejected by Sebastian Cox
Sebastian Cox
Mr Sebastian Cox, MA , is the Head of the Air Historical Branch of the Royal Air Force, a specialist archive and history unit based at RAF Northolt, Middlesex, which seeks to maintain and preserve the historical memory of the RAF and to develop and encourage "an informed understanding of RAF and...

 head of the Air Historical Branch
Air Historical Branch
The Air Historical Branch is the historical archive and records service of the Royal Air Force.First established in 1919, the AHB was responsible for creating the Official History of British Air Operations in the First World War....

 (AHB). Cox notes that half of the oil production was produced by Benzol plants located in the Ruhr. These areas were the primary target of Bomber Command in 1943 and the autumn of 1944. Cox concludes the targets were highly vulnerable to area attacks and suffered accordingly. The American official history notes that Harris was ordered to cease attacks on oil in November 1944, as the bombing had been so effective none of the synthetic plants were operating effectively. The American history also includes information from Albert Speer
Albert Speer
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

, in which he points out Bomber Command's night attacks were the most effective.

Adolf Galland
Adolf Galland
Adolf "Dolfo" Joseph Ferdinand Galland was a German Luftwaffe General and flying ace who served throughout World War II in Europe. He flew 705 combat missions, and fought on the Western and the Defence of the Reich fronts...

 argued that Germany would have fallen earlier if fuel production had been targeted earlier. Not only were frontline Luftwaffe squadrons directly affected by fuel shortages but the quality of training of new pilots was impacted due to the restriction in flying hours caused by the lack of fuel.

The most controversial raid of the war took place in the late evening of 13 February 1945. The bombing of Dresden
Bombing of Dresden in World War II
The Bombing of Dresden was a military bombing by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force and as part of the Allied forces between 13 February and 15 February 1945 in the Second World War...

 by the RAF and USAAF resulting in a lethal firestorm
A firestorm is a conflagration which attains such intensity that it creates and sustains its own wind system. It is most commonly a natural phenomenon, created during some of the largest bushfires, forest fires, and wildfires...

 which killed several tens of thousands of civilians. Raids such as that on Pforzheim
Bombing of Pforzheim in World War II
During the latter stages of World War II, Pforzheim, a town in southwestern Germany, was bombed a number of times. The largest raid, and one of the most devastating area bombardments of the war was carried out by the Royal Air Force on the evening of February 23, 1945. As many as 17,600 people,...

 late in the war as Germany was falling have been criticised for causing high civilian casualties for little apparent military value. The culmination of Bomber Command's offensive occurred in March 1945 when the RAF dropped the highest monthly weight of ordnance in the entire war. The last raid on Berlin took place on the night of 21/22 April, just before the Soviets entered the city centre. After that, most of the rest of the attacks made by the RAF were tactical
Close air support
In military tactics, close air support is defined as air action by fixed or rotary winged aircraft against hostile targets that are close to friendly forces, and which requires detailed integration of each air mission with fire and movement of these forces.The determining factor for CAS is...

 missions. The last major strategic raid was the destruction of the oil refinery in Tønsberg
is a city and municipality in Vestfold county, southern Norway, located around north-east of Sandefjord. The administrative centre of the municipality is the city of Tønsberg....

 in Southern Norway by 107 Lancasters on the night of 25/26 April.


Within the postwar British government there was some disquiet about the level of destruction that had been created by the area-bombing of German cities towards the end of the war. However, Harris was made Marshal of the Royal Air Force
Marshal of the Royal Air Force
Marshal of the Royal Air Force is the highest rank in the Royal Air Force. In peacetime it was granted to RAF officers in the appointment of Chief of the Defence Staff, and to retired Chiefs of the Air Staff, who were promoted to it on their last day of service. Promotions to the rank have ceased...

 in 1946, and was also made GCB until he retired on 15 September 1946 and wrote his story of Bomber Command's achievements in Bomber Offensive. In this book he wrote, concerning Dresden, "I know that the destruction of so large and splendid a city at this late stage of the war was considered unnecessary even by a good many people who admit that our earlier attacks were as fully justified as any other operation of war. Here I will only say that the attack on Dresden was at the time considered a military necessity by much more important people than myself." Bomber Command's crews were denied a separate campaign medal (despite being eligible for the Air Crew Europe Star
Air Crew Europe Star
The Air Crew Europe Star was a campaign medal of the British Commonwealth, awarded for service in World War II. Specifically, the medal was awarded to Commonwealth aircrew who participated in operational flights over Europe, from UK bases....

 and France and Germany Star
France and Germany Star
The France and Germany Star was a campaign medal of the British Commonwealth, awarded for service in World War II.The medal was awarded for operational service in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Germany from 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945...

) and, in protest at this establishment snub to his men, Harris refused a peerage, the sole commander-in-chief not made a peer
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

 in 1946. Disappointed by the criticisms of his methods, Harris moved to South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 in 1948 and was the manager of the South African Marine Corporation (Safmarine
Safmarine is an international shipping business offering container and break-bulk shipping services worldwide....

), from 1946 to 1953.

In 1953 Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, now Prime Minister again, insisted that Harris accept a baronetcy and he became Baronet. In the same year he returned to the UK and lived his remaining years in Goring-on-Thames
Goring-on-Thames is a large village and civil parish on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, about south of Wallingford.-Geography:...

, in The Ferry House.

In 1974 Harris appeared in the acclaimed documentary series The World At War produced by Thames Television and shown on ITV
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

. In the 12th episode entitled "Whirlwind: Bombing Germany (September 1939–April 1944)", narrated by Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

, Harris discusses at length the area-bombing strategy that he had developed while AOC-in-C of Bomber Command.


Harris died on 5 April 1984, eight days before his 92nd birthday, at his home in Goring
Goring-on-Thames is a large village and civil parish on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, about south of Wallingford.-Geography:...

. His only son died without an heir in 1996, at which date the Baronetcy of Chipping Wycombe became extinct.

In 1989, five years after Harris's death, a one-off feature-length drama about Harris's tenure as AOC-in-C of Bomber Command was broadcast under the title "Bomber Harris"
Bomber Harris (television film)
Bomber Harris is a 1989 television drama based on the life of Arthur Harris. It was directed by Michael Darlow and written by Don Shaw.-Cast:*John Thaw - Arthur Travers Harris*Robert Hardy - Winston Churchill*Frederick Treves - Sir Charles Portal...

 on BBC Television
BBC Television
BBC Television is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The corporation, which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927, has produced television programmes from its own studios since 1932, although the start of its regular service of television...

, with John Thaw
John Thaw
John Edward Thaw, CBE was an English actor, who appeared in a range of television, stage and cinema roles, his most popular being police and legal dramas such as Redcap, The Sweeney, Inspector Morse and Kavanagh QC.-Early life:Thaw came from a working class background, having been born in Gorton,...

 in the title role.

Despite protests from Germany as well as some in Britain, the Bomber Harris Trust (an RAF veterans' organisation formed to defend the good name of their commander) erected a statue of him outside the RAF Church of St. Clement Danes, London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1992. It was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was the queen consort of King George VI from 1936 until her husband's death in 1952, after which she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II...

 who looked surprised when she was jeered by protesters, one of whom shouted "Harris was a war criminal". The line on the statue reads "The Nation owes them all an immense debt." The statue had to be kept under 24-hour guard for a period of months as it was often vandalised by protesters and iconoclasts
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...


In everyday speech, a phrase may refer to any group of words. In linguistics, a phrase is a group of words which form a constituent and so function as a single unit in the syntax of a sentence. A phrase is lower on the grammatical hierarchy than a clause....

s like "Bomber-Harris, do it again!" and "Bomber-Harris Superstar - Thanks from the red
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

are popular slogan
A slogan is a memorable motto or phrase used in a political, commercial, religious and other context as a repetitive expression of an idea or purpose. The word slogan is derived from slogorn which was an Anglicisation of the Scottish Gaelic sluagh-ghairm . Slogans vary from the written and the...

s among the so called "Anti-Germans" which is a political movement in Germany and Austria.

Awards and decorations

  • Baronet
    A baronet or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess , is the holder of a hereditary baronetcy awarded by the British Crown...

     - 1 Jan 1953 (Conferred 13 Feb 1953)
  • Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Bath - 14 Jun 1945 (KCB - 11 Jun 1942, CB - 11 Jul 1940)
  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire - 3 Jun 1927
  • Air Force Cross
    Air Force Cross (United Kingdom)
    The Air Force Cross is a military decoration awarded to personnel of the United Kingdom Armed Forces, and formerly also to officers of the other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy"...

     - 2 Nov 1918
  • Mentioned in Despatches - 15 Sep 1939, 1 Jan 1941
  • LL.D
  • Order of Suvorov 1st Class
    Order of Suvorov
    The Order of Suvorov is a Soviet award, named after Aleksandr Suvorov , that was established on July 29, 1942 by a decision of the Presidium of Supreme Soviet of the USSR. This decoration was created to award senior army personnel for exceptional leadership in combat operations...

     (USSR) - 29 Feb 1944
  • Legion of Merit, Chief Commander
    Legion of Merit
    The Legion of Merit is a military decoration of the United States armed forces that is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements...

     (United States) - 30 Jan 1945
  • Polonia Restituta 1st Class
    Polonia Restituta
    The Order of Polonia Restituta is one of Poland's highest Orders. The Order can be conferred for outstanding achievements in the fields of education, science, sport, culture, art, economics, defense of the country, social work, civil service, or for furthering good relations between countries...

     (Poland) - 12 Jun 1945
  • Grand Cross of the National Order of the Southern Cross
    Order of the Southern Cross
    The National Order of the Southern Cross is a Brazilian order of chivalry founded by Emperor Pedro I on 1 December 1822. This order was intended to commemorate the independence of Brazil and the coronation of Pedro I...

     (Brazil) - 13 Nov 1945
  • Grand Officier of the Legion of Honour (France) - 1945
  • Croix de Guerre with Palms
    Croix de guerre
    The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

     (France) - 1945
  • Distinguished Service Medal (United States)
    Distinguished Service Medal (United States)
    The Distinguished Service Medal is the highest non-valorous military and civilian decoration of the United States military which is issued for exceptionally meritorious service to the government of the United States in either a senior government service position or as a senior officer of the United...

External links



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