Reflections on the 80th anniversary of my father’s death.
My father died 80 years ago today, 18th November. He was one of a crew of seven in a Lancaster bomber shot down whilst flying a pathfinder mission over Mannheim. I often wonder what he would make of today’s world, especially the many conflicts that continue to rage in so many regions.
In retrospect it is easy to justify the waging of war against Nazi Germany by citing the holocaust. I do wonder, however, whether anyone in 1930s Britain would have been prepared to lay down their lives in order to save Jews, Gypsies and Queers, as gay people were characterised at the time. Then, as now, hostile and inaccurate reporting in popular newspapers was calculated to reduce sympathy for refugees. [Source]
The stated cause of the war was the invasion of another country by Hitler’s Germany. The British government’s response to the invasion of Czechoslovakia was to issue an ultimatum (I paraphrase) “stop at that. Any further and we are at war.”
On 3rd September 1939 the then Prime Minister informed the British people that the ultimatum had been ignored, German troops had entered Poland and we were, therefore, at war with Germany.
No mention of the brutality of the Nazi regime and its persecution of minorities. It was the threat of a German occupation of the rest of Western Europe that led to the commencement of the war.
Men like my father were, I imagine, motivated by the desire to protect the sovereignty and national identities of Britain’s neighbours across the English Channel and the North Sea. More than that, what was to stop Germany, once ensconced in those countries, from crossing the Channel and invading Britain? Hitler and his army had to be stopped at all costs.
Only once Germany had been defeated and Allied troops discovered the horrors of the death camps did the full extent of the Nazi’s genocide become apparent. What better justification could there be for the loss of civilian life inflicted by allied bombers on the German people?
I’ll skip over the attitudes prevalent among many of my parents’ generation in the post war years and their resistance to such policies as the…