Monday, 6 February 2012

The Lancaster bomber and me

I watched the BBC programme Bomber Boys last night, in which the actor Ewan MacGregor and his brother, a RAF pilot, looked at Bomber Command in World War II, and in particular the Avro Lancaster bomber.

I've got several personal connections to the Lancaster bomber. A.V.Roe was born in Patricroft, Eccles where my grandad grew up and set up his aircraft company in Ancoats, Manchester where some of my Mum's family lived. The Lancaster was test flown at Woodford Aerodrome in Cheshire, not far from my home town of Stockport. My grandad also worked as a toolmaker at the Metro-Vicks engineering factory in Trafford Park which during the war switched production to making parts for the Avro Lancaster. As a child in the 70's and 80's, I made models of pretty much all the American, German and British aircraft of World War II, including the Lancaster. I have also seen the last remaining flying Lancaster at airshows at Woodford.

Ewan MacGregor and his brother discussed the impact of the RAF's area bombing tactics in last night's programme, travelling to Germany to meet survivors of the 1943 Hamburg raid which killed over 42,000 in a firestorm and the similar attack on Dresden in 1945 in which an estimated 25,000 people perished. I find it difficult to imagine any circumstances where the indiscriminate bombing of civilians might be morally justifiable. The MacGregor brothers clearly struggled too in balancing their admiration for Avro's engineering achievement in building the Lancaster and the undoubted bravery of the young men who flew them with uneasiness when presented with evidence of the death and destruction they wreaked on the ground. 

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