Peace activists protest monument to 'Bomber' Harris


LONDON -- The man who masterminded Britains relentless policy of Bombing German cities in World War II has been honored by a monument, by not without heated protests by peace demonstrators.

A crowd of more than two thousand was on hand Sunday to witness the Queen Mother's unveiling of the controversial statue of Arthur 'Bomber' Harris, the former head of the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command.


A small, but vocal, group of peace protestors tried to disrupt the ceremony, which has reopened debate over Britain's war-time strategy of targeting German cities for massive bombing raids.

Police said at least ten demonstrators were arrested.

In Germany, several cities held memorial services Sunday for the estimated 500,000 civilians who died in the bombing raids and civic leaders condemned the Harris statue.

But in Britain, a poll in The Sunday Telegraph suggested a majority of people, by a margin of more than two to one, supported the raising of the new monument.


The Queen Mother used the occasion to pay a special tribute to the estimated 50,000 British airmen who died during the war.

'We remember them today with pride and gratitude, and let us remember too all those of every nation and background who suffered as victims in the Second World War,' the Queen Mother said.

During the speech, cries of 'Harris was a mass murderer' broke out from some young peace protesters who sprayed red paint on the sidewalk and on many bystanders before being dragged away by the police.

As police took the protesters away, tempers flared, and some pushing and shoving broke out.

One visibly upset elderly man appeared intent on tearing the shirt off a young man who was struggling in the grip of police.

Londoner Albert Rogers, a retired British Army and Navy veteran, said he wanted to aim a flame-thrower at the protesters.

'Ninety percent of them over there don't know what they're talking about,' he contended. 'The man that they are honoring today has done more for the British morale than any other man, ever.'

'I don't believe anyone should have been allowed to counter- demonstrate on a day like this, really,' said Chris Vallel, 32, of south London, who had been liberally sprayed with red paint.


A German tourist said: 'I think it's wrong to honor someone for something that may have been necessary. I don't say that the bombing itself was any worse than what the Germans did to the English. It is a fact of war that people will get killed. We should be working to prevent war.'

Mayors of a number of German cities bombed during the war have protested against the Harris memorial.

'Glorifying war heroes is not an acceptable means for bringing about understanding... just as we are trying to achieve European unification,' said Kurt Machens, mayor of the city of Hildesheim.

In Cologne, which was attacked by British bombers 50 years ago on May 31, 1942, ceremonies Sunday included wreath layings and prayer for the nearly 500 people killed in the raid.

Ceremonies were also held in Dresden and Hamburg.

An estimated 35,000 people were killed in the firebombing of Dresden in 1945, and another 35,000 are said to have died in a firestorm following an allied bomb attack on Hamburg in 1943.

A demostration by the radical right-wing Republican party Saturday in Bonn against the Harris statue unveiling ended in violence after left- wing extremists threw paving stones at the protest, injuring 12 people.


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