Bomber Boys

After almost seventy years the men of Bomber Command are finally to have their own official memorial. It's in the heart of London, near Buckingham Palace. Of the 125,000 'Bomber Boys' as they were called a total of 55,573 were killed -- almost one in two. The average age was as young as 22 years old, and for some of the volunteers the life expectancy was a mere six weeks from the start of the first mission.

The reason the memorial has taken so long? Unlike the Spitfire and Hurricane which were essentailly defensive fighters, the bombers were used to take the war to Germany. Inevitably there were many civilian casualties, as there were British civilian casualties of the Blitz. But with Britain excluded militarily from continental Europe until the invasion of Italy in 1943, the bombers were one way of taking the war to Hitler, as Churchill recognised. He said: "The fighters are our salvation but the bombers alone provide the means of victory." That inscription is inside the new memorial, but so is this: "This memorial also commemorates those of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing of 1939-1945."

It's an honour to be asked to deliver the commentary at the event for BBC Television. If the "Bomber Boys" had not done their job almost seventy years ago, I would not be doing my job now.