These stunning silhouette sculptures are a new installation at the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln. (https://internationalbcc.co.uk/about-ibcc/) Dambusters Bomber Command
WWII Bomber Command has attracted much debate over the years primarily as a result of the mass bombing of German cities such as Dresden in 1945.
It is therefore pertinent to consider one’s own opinion about this aspect of history and it is not for me to influence in any way.
However, considering the participants in the whole story, the victims, heroes, villains, destruction, human endeavour, bravery of those caught up in the storm Axis, Allies, military, civilians … everybody, the personal cost is primarily worth a mention.
The Allied aircrew who flew in Bomber Command comprised of around 120,000 personnel. Of every 100, 45 were killed, 6 seriously wounded, 8 prisoners of war, leaving just 45 unscathed. 55573 were killed. A huge proportion and the average age was only 23.
The sculptures are of the people involved in ‘Operation Chastise’ more commonly known as ‘The Dam Busters’, Squadron 617. 2023 is the 80th anniversary of the event.
This operation was in May 1943 and resulted in the destruction of 3 dams vital to the Nazi war effort. It was a success. Only half the Lancasters returned. Thousands of lives were also lost on the ground. The value towards the defeat of Germany has often been debated, but the enormous benefit was the contribution the raid made to the morale of the Allies. The war had been dragging on since 1939 and looked like going on for much longer (May 1945). This was a milestone in the War’s history and was and has subsequently been seen as an outstanding tale of undaunted heroism and tenacity. Source:
The figures of 53 men who lost their lives have been produced by a collaboration between Standing with Giants artist Dan Barton and military artist Simon Smith.
At the heart of this tribute stands the crew of ED887 AJ-A, led by Squadron Leader Henry Melvin “Dinghy” Young, who successfully breached the Möhne Dam.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck just 200 yards from safety when the last land-based gun battery at Wijk-aan-Zee scored a devastating hit.
These meticulously crafted figures, along with those of Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, and the ingenious inventor of the Bouncing Bomb, Barnes Wallis, have been sculpted based on their photographs.
Worth a good read – the book by Max Hastings ‘Operation Chastise’ (https://www.maxhastings.com/products/chastise-the-dambusters-story-1943-max-hastings-9780008280529/) and the sources given.
Bradley P. Tolppanen author of Churchill in North America (2014):
Although he had long advocated the strategic air campaign, Winston Churchill recoiled after the bombing of Dresden in 1945. On March 28, 1945 Churchill prepared a minute, for which he has been accused of thinking of his post-war reputation, in which he wrote, “It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror…should be reviewed.” The man in charge of Bomber Command, Arthur (Bomber) Harris was incensed, calling the suggestion of terror an insult. The initial minute was withdrawn, and on April 1, 1945, a revised and more careful minute was issued on which basis the Air Staff limited further area bombing.
Arthur Harris and Bomber Command were poorly treated after the war. This started with Churchill’s own victory speech in which he described all the military contributions to the victory but neglected to mention the strategic air campaign. In 1946 Harris was promoted to Marshal of the Royal Air Force but was notably left out of the Honours List that bestowed peerages on the other leading British commanders. Churchill was disgusted by the omission; telling Harris, “You fought a thousand battles, a record for any commander, and won most of them. Jellicoe fought one, lost it, and they made him an Earl.” The situation was somewhat remedied after Churchill returned as prime minister in the 1950s when Arthur Harris then received a baronetcy.
It was because of the (for many) tarnished opinion of Bomber Command that the official memorial to the personnel in Hyde Park London, was only unveiled in 2013. 60 years after the Dam Busters raid, 58 years after the WWII ended.
Make of all of this what you will.