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BOMBERS AWAY

04-09-2006

Andy Goff reckons the recent contentious unveiling of a memorial to those service men and woman of Bomber Command who were killed during World War Two was an event seriously overdue. Critics say there shouldn't be a memorial because Bomber Command was responsible for the carpet bombing of Dresden and its residents when the war was already won. Nonsense - that's just the luxury of hindsight.

The controversy surrounding the bombing campaign has always seemed spurious. The decision to bomb Germany was taken at a time when the only way that Britain could take the war to Germany was by aerial bombardment. The crews involved were following direct orders in a war that was profoundly just.

There are memorials to most other sections of the armed and civilian forces engaged in battle abroad and at home so why not Bomber Command? It seems that we have struggled as a nation to come to terms with being responsible for so many civilian deaths that we finished up by blaming the instruments of policy rather than the policy itself.

The country was at war and it was total war on all fronts.

The men who flew the planes over Europe were among the bravest of the brave, performing their duties knowing the odds of survival were set against them.

When I was a young lad my dad took me to see The Dam Busters at the Odeon in Sutton Coldfield. Considering the film came out in 1954 I couldn't have been much over six years old. Still I remember the occasion.

Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the taciturn leader of 617 Squadron during the raids on the dams in the Ruhr valley, didn't survive the war. He was immortalised on film by Richard Todd who came to personify this wartime hero. Richard Todd attended Bomber Command get-togethers playing a role that few other actors could imagine fulfilling.

Now, Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame, is planning a remake of The Dam Busters.

The original film contained both real footage taken at the time the bouncing bombs were tested and laughable Airfix model type action over a large bowl of water. The budget for the new film is apparently £25 million, so this may allow a slightly more realistic portrayal of events.

Squadron Leader Les Munro, the 87-year-old New Zealander who is the last survivor of the raid, has given Peter Jackson his blessing for the project.

Two things bother me. One is the music. Who could match Eric Coates' Dam Busters March for atmospheric musical background? (anyone remember the Billy Cotton Band show version? I still have it) and who could play Guy Gibson but Richard Todd?

Fifty-three crew squadron members were killed and three captured and more than 1,200 died on the ground, including Russian POWs.

Was it morally right? It certainly didn't shorten the war. For the efficient Germans it was a minor hiccup in production.

Did it create heroes? For me it did.

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