Remembering Bomber Command

Today marks the official opening of the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln.

The striking Memorial Spire, evoking the wing of a Lancaster Bomber, and the Memorial Walls that surround it, inscribed with those who gave their lives in service, offer a fitting tribute in their memory.

For over thirty years Bomber Command played an important role in serving the nation, especially during the Second World War.

Throughout its existence it operated a number of iconic RAF aircraft, including the Wellington, Lancaster, Valiant and Vulcan with countless brave service personnel serving in Bomber Command. 

Bristol Blenheim IV aircraft of 82 Squadron; U-31 was sunk by UX-O on 11 March 1940 (c) RAF Museum

Initially founded in 1936, it was formed in response to the growing size of the German Luftwaffe prior to the Second World War.  Whilst Fighter Command was set to coordinate the air defence of the British Isles, it was Bomber Command that was created with the intention of taking the fight to the enemy.

With the outbreak of the Second World War three years later, the aircraft of Bomber Command would be amongst the first British units to take part in hostilities, and would continue to play an important role throughout the war, conducting strikes against strategic enemy targets.

De Havilland Mosquito IV aircraft of 105 Squadron; The Squadron bombed Berlin in the morning of 30 January 1943 (c) Charles Brown Collection, RAF Museum

Whilst of great importance, the operations undertaken by Bomber Command involved great risk to the aircrew.

Of the 125,000 aircrew who served, 44% of them were killed in action, a further 8,403 being wounded in action, and 9,838 became prisoners of war.

An Avro Lancaster flies over as the Pennant of Air Officer Commanding-in-chief Bomber Command is lowered, RAF Scampton, 29 April 1968

Whilst the majority of RAF Bomber Command was made up of British personnel, aircrew from across the Commonwealth and other countries such as Poland, France, Czechoslovakia and Norway also served alongside them.

In total personnel from 62 countries, across five separate continents, served alongside the RAF aircrew in Bomber Command.

After the war, its role began to evolve further. With the adoption of the jet engine, and the development of the first British nuclear weapons, Bomber Command took on new responsibilities.

Primarily, it became responsible for managing Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and with that came the need for new aircraft. The RAF adopted the ‘V Bombers’, the Victor, Valiant and Vulcan to carry these weapons, and Bomber Command deployed them around the world during the 1960s. Although these weapons were thankfully never used, the crews of Bomber Command stood ready to use them at a moments notice.   

The International Bomber Command Centre gives the public a lasting sacrifice of so many individuals, as well as a place that will continue to educate and inform future generations about the service the RAF has and continues to play throughout the world as we move into our second century.