Justin Welby did not "'say sorry' for bombing the Nazis"


Following the publication by the Daily Mail of a story entitled ‘Archbishop “says sorry” for bombing the Nazis‘, the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following statement on the “manifestly false” story. A spokesperson for the Archbishop of Canterbury said:

Any suggestion that the Archbishop was apologising is manifestly false.

The Archbishop’s comments were a reflection in a solemn ceremony on the tragedy of war. They very carefully avoided apologising, and those present, including the President of Germany, recognised the difference. In his speech the President also recognised the fact that there is no equivalence with Nazi war crimes and that the war started with Nazi aggression.

In broadcast interviews immediately following his speech the Archbishop refused to say he was apologising, but repeated that war is always tragedy. He also referred to the terrible losses in Bomber command.

Archbishop Welby said it was not a question of blame and spoke of the bombing of Coventry, Liverpool, London and other places.

The full text of the Archbishop’s speech can be found on the Archbishop’s website (or you can watch it courtesy of MDR Mediathek [from 14.00]). Nowhere does he apologise for bombing the Nazis. Not even in inverted commas does he “say sorry”. Indeed, his meditation on sorrow and pain is framed unequivocally in the context of Christian discipleship, which demands humility, compassion and love. The couple of sentences which so irk the Mail (and a number of Conservative MPs) are:

Much debate surrounds this most controversial raid of the allied bombing campaign. Whatever the arguments, events here seventy years ago left a deep wound and diminished all our humanity. So as a follower of Jesus I stand here among you with a profound feeling of regret and deep sorrow.

What, exactly, is the problem here? Does this not flow from the heart of God? Is it not an expression of the mind of Christ? Is it not possible to be grateful for victory in war and yet feel regret about the devastating course of certain battles? What is so offensive about expressing sorrow to a former enemy for the hardness of heart which could carpet bomb thousands of  women and children, burn down their homes, and raze an entire city? Consider an eyewitness account:

It is not possible to describe! Explosion after explosion. It was beyond belief, worse than the blackest nightmare. So many people were horribly burnt and injured. It became more and more difficult to breathe. It was dark and all of us tried to leave this cellar with inconceivable panic. Dead and dying people were trampled upon, luggage was left or snatched up out of our hands by rescuers. The basket with our twins covered with wet cloths was snatched up out of my mother’s hands and we were pushed upstairs by the people behind us. We saw the burning street, the falling ruins and the terrible firestorm. My mother covered us with wet blankets and coats she found in a water tub.

We saw terrible things: cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burnt to death, burning people ran to and fro, burnt coaches filled with civilian refugees, dead rescuers and soldiers, many were calling and looking for their children and families, and fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from.

I cannot forget these terrible details. I can never forget them.

Nor should we forget. Healing only comes with exorcism, and that can be a deadly agony. How does the wound heal if there is no sense of pain? How can there be reconciliation if we cannot move beyond the Basil Fawlty mentality of “Well, you started it!”? Human history is one long passion: the ‘Man of Sorrows’ did not come to end our suffering or grief, but to help us to understand it. In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live (at 1hr 25mins) the Archbishop expanded his theme:

JW: I think the key lesson we need to learn is that war is a brutalising process, that reconciliation takes a long time and is fragile, and that remembering well is essential to forgiving completely. And as a Christian we saw in this ceremony together today the way in which faith in Jesus Christ brings people together to forgive as they remember.

5 Live: But of course not just in Dresden. We’ve been speaking today throughout the program about the current situation in Ukraine and what’s happening globally at the moment. Are those lessons being learnt and are they being reflected in what’s happening today?

JW: Well I think you’re making a very good point there, that reconciliation, getting away from violent conflict, learning to disagree well, is a very fragile process. The great thing about Dresden today is they’re not remembering to blame but to remembering to move on and to learn. And I think it’s that learning that needs to go on being spread. And there are times when one confronts such evil that it is very difficult to see other ways of facing it.

5 Live: And what position can you have, and can the Church of England have, in doing that, or at least helping that to happen.

JW: Well, the Church of England, through the Anglican Communion, has 80m members in 165 countries, the vast majority in places of poverty, and over half in countries which are in conflict or post-conflict situations. And we are engaged all round the world in working for reconciliation and peacemaking and many Anglicans are suffering and dying in that cause.

5 Live: And do you feel that your message is being listened to? Do you feel as relevant now?

JW: It’s being listened to well in some places and not at all in others, and some way between the two in many. Yes, it’s not our message, it’s not the message of the Anglican Church: it’s the good news of peace in Jesus Christ. And that is still relevant and it is still being listened to, and in many parts of the world that is what people turn to in moments of the greatest despair and darkness.

5 Live: And in the sense of Dresden, is one of the ways forward to apologise for what happened? Do you think Britain and America should apologise for what happened in Dresden?

JW: That’s a very complicated question, because when you listen to people who were in bomber command and you hear of their suffering; I lived in Coventry and you see the suffering there, in London we know of the Blitz, and in many other cities right across the United Kingdom and round the world, I think it’s more complicated than should we apologise. I think there is a deep need for profound sorrow at the events and the causes of such dreadful times as Europe lived through. And there’s also reason for hope and encouragement that Europe has become a centre of reconciliation in the world – a great miracle.”

There you have the mind of Archbishop Justin, clearly and unequivocally uttered: “I think it’s more complicated than should we apologise.” But the Mail doesn’t mention this: the tabloids don’t do nuance very well, you see – if they do it at all. Instead, they excise half a sentence from its context, eradicate Jesus and embellish with false inferences, and, lo and behold, a headline by which to whip up a frenzy for the dumb, condemn the messenger of peace, and suppress the truth of the suffering Christ.

Writing on his blog from Dresden, the Archbishop has expressed sadness at the Daily Mail‘s headline:

No honest reading of what I said in the church and on the BBC afterwards could come anywhere near such an idea.. Contrary to the the Mail’s report, on the BBC I spoke clearly of the bombing of British cities, mentioning especially Coventry and London. I also spoke of the terrible losses of the heroic crews of Bomber Command. My grandmother’s brother was killed on his first mission, in a Wellington.

The bombing of Dresden was indeed controversial. It was an apocalypse of horror, suffering and reproach. Some 25,000 are estimated to have died, many of them with little understanding of their sins and no awareness at all of their crimes. But judgment came in a whirlwind of fire. Whatever the reasoned ethics or righteousness of the action, the Allied bombings inflicted a tribulation which we can scarcely begin to imagine. Perhaps in that world there was more Manichaeism, but today we can meditate upon the vulnerable and defenceless; upon fortuitous suffering and fruitless suffering; and upon the call to a discipleship which breaks our ties with the wisdom of the world, and forces us, for the sake of the new creation, to feel profound regret and intense sorrow at the fall of every sparrow – even those who once greeted the dawn with a chorus of Es geht um Deutschlands Gloria.

  • balaam

    Daily Mail misrepresents the news. That is not news.

    • magnolia

      Isn’t your picture missing the point that it was “Balaam’s ass” and not the donkey that was called Balaam but the thick and obdurate owner!?

      • balaam

        I know. It is deliberate.

  • Dreadnaught

    “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” –
    Soren Kierkegaard

  • Andym

    I stopped buying the Daily Mail about 35 years ago when they criticised British Leyland for paying “commission” in Middle Eastern countries. That was they way they did business out there (probably still do) and the Mail was prepared to make it harder for Brits to make a living. Every now and again I see a story like this that vindicates my decision. They should be shamed of themselves

  • Uncle Brian

    “I stand here among you with a profound feeling of regret …”
    Welby ought to have been more careful in his choice of words. “Regret” is often used as a form of apology and he ought to have made allowance for the possibility that it would be read, or misread, in that sense here.

  • C. Quinn-Jones

    Thank you so much for this.I live in the Diocese of Coventry and I am aware that Bishop Christopher has tabled a question about Dresden which will be heard in the near future in the House of Lords. I will be looking out for press reports of that.As you know, there are close links between Coventry and Dresden.
    I first heard about the firestorms in Dresden and Hamburg from German families I stayed with in the Ruhr district in 1964. These families made me very welcome and were at pains to tell me that although they were deeply grieved about Dresden, they had nothing against me. I shared their sorrow about Dresden and Hamburg.

    • C. Quinn-Jones

      I just noticed that the Diocese of Coventry has posted a statement by Bishop Christopher following his visit to Dresden yesterday. I have re-tweeted it.

      • C. Quinn-Jones

        Just one more comment here: When I went to Germany as a student in the early 60’s, most of my prejudices about the German people were blown away. For instance, my great-uncle was shot down in Swansea docks in broad daylight by a unmarked German plane. I discovered that the same happened to a German farmer who was working in the fields in Schleswig -Holstein: shot down one ‘one of ours’. In the home of one German family, I saw a picture of a young man wearing a Luftwaffe uniform.When I asked,’Who is that?’, the reply was, ‘Who is that? Who was that….He was my brother and he was shot down over Hastings.’ My first thought was ‘Well, he shouldn’t have been bombing us.’ My second thought was that he was doing what members of the armed services normally do – obeying orders and defending his country.
        25,000 people, many of them civilians, died harrowing deaths in Dresden. How can anyone not feel sorrowful about that? How can anyone not regret it?

        • Anton

          “My first thought was ‘Well, he shouldn’t have been bombing us.’ My second thought was that he was doing what members of the armed services normally do – obeying orders and defending his country.”

          Defending Germany in the air over Hastings??

          • C. Quinn-Jones

            Yes, in the same sense as Allied forces were defending their counties when they bombed Dresden, Hamburg…

          • Anton

            We were counter-attacking. I make no bones about it.

        • gunnerbear

          Harris hit the nail on the head, “I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.” In case there was any doubt as to his aims, Harris wrote in ’43, “The aim of Bomber Command should be unambiguously and publicly stated….that aim is the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany.” The Germans started the war and initiated killing on an industrial scale…..the Allies had to end it and smash Germany.

          • C. Quinn-Jones

            I described my loss of prejudice against ordinary German people and especially my attitude to one German airman who died while obeying orders out of obedience and loyalty to his country*. I wrote about my sorrow about those ordinary people who died.
            *’loyalty to his country’ is encompassed by the phrase ‘defending his country’. I get the impression that your objection to the latter is rooted in your own preconceptions.

  • Inspector General

    Gentlemen, the Inspector has not read Cranmer’s piece yet. One must be
    about his business, and all of Cranmer’s work needs to be ingested in full.
    However, there is enough time to say this about Dresden.

    “Dresden was a NAZI administration centre. One repeats, a NAZI
    administration centre. Goebbels had promised ‘total war’. On people, on
    property, on anything that stood in the NAZI’s way. That is exactly what the blighters gave. To achieve that end, they needed administration centres. After the bombing, Dresden was no longer a NAZI administration centre. Good work was carried out to ensure that. Let us be thankful we had the brave men to do the job.”

    Message Ends

  • Politically__Incorrect

    There’s something about Welby. He seems to be constantly barking up the wrong tree. While he is in Dresden [not] apologising for the bombing of said city, the UN publishes a report that the UK is cited among seven European countries where there is concern about religious freedom. Nothing from Welby about that. Back at home meanwhile, the CofE announces it is infavour of further European integration; presumably they also subscribe to the idea that regulating the shape of cucumbers will prevent another world war.

    When will the ABC get his eye on the real ball for a change, and look at the erosion of free speech and freedom of conscience in the UK, and indeed other parts of Europe?

    • Terce

      “[T]he CofE announces it is in favour of further European integration.”

      I’m afraid you too have fallen victim to a mendacious newspaper headline, unsubstantiated by the facts. The CofE letter explicitly stated that it was not making “an argument for the structures and institutions of the European Union as they now exist.” What it actually talked of was “continuing to build structures of trust and cooperation between the nations of Europe”. “Trust and cooperation” are not the same as “integration”; indeed, many of us would argue that integration, EU-style, is (demonstrably, in the light of current events) the enemy of trust and cooperation, fostering instead their opposites, distrust and hostility.

  • Athanasius

    CofE can’t do right for doing wrong, eh? Welcome to Rome.

  • Linus

    The Daily Mail has identified Welby as a left-wing liberal milksop and, in the manner of rabid right-wing attack dogs, is merely doing the only thing it knows how to do: target, attack and bring down its quarry.

    This is all part of the dissolution process of the liberal Church. Not only is it dissolving from the inside, but exterior forces are biting away huge chunks of the façade at the same time. The rabid right-wing is about to jump the sinking ship like the rodents they resemble in so many ways, and what’s left will slowly sink into a sea of general indifference. All the happy clappy lady bishops and gay priests and New Age Buddy Jesuses will not keep the hulk afloat. She’s been holed beneath the waterline and, like Titanic, it’s a mathematical certainty that she must go down.

    It’s Welby’s task to preside over the shipwreck of the Anglican experiment. He’s the captain who’s going down with the ship. So this Daily Mail article is just one more nail in his coffin, or stitch in his shroud, or loop in his clingfilm wrapping, or however they prepare the corpses that are disposed of at sea in this day and age.

    • magnolia

      “Full of sound and fury”; your analysis is faulty and your conclusions thus false. Human beings are spiritual beings, “and our hearts are restless until they find [their] rest in Him” as St Augustine so timelessly noted centuries ago. Whatever the ephemeral fads in soap operas, it will always be so.

      I find your prose purple beyond purple, and not a little self indulgent. It is not prophetic, which, since you do not believe in the Holy Spirit is not really an option anyway.

      Because you do not believe in the Holy Spirit, which moves as it will, frequently in surprising and unpredictable ways, you do not begin to factor it into your considerations, which is a major minus.

    • The Explorer

      This expression “rats leaving a sinking ship”. If the ship is mid ocean, where exactly are they going to go? They might as well go down with it, as drown outside it.
      As one of Linus’ rodents, the thought occurred to me.

    • “All the happy clappy lady bishops and gay priests and New Age Buddy Jesuses will not keep the hulk afloat.”

      Jack agrees with this – but not the obvious triumphalism in your words.

      Progressives and modernists supporting gender theory, new sexuality theory and revisions on the nature of sin and man, are infesting Jack’s Church too.

      Your gleeful presentations only serve to illuminate and better understand this diabolical process and reinforce Jack’s determination to resist.

      • Linus

        Resist away. The end result is schism and decline, whichever way you look at it. It won’t be long before we see a disputed papal election and rival claimants splitting the Church in much the same way it was split in medieval times. A Pope and an Anti-Pope. Perhaps even several.

        The difference between now and then is that religion is no longer the cohesive force it was in medieval Europe, so rather than coming together again after a period of separation, each sub-cult is more likely to dwindle and disappear without a trace. One or two of them may have enough critical mass to persist and eventually develop into new religions, which will of course be in competition with each other like Christianity and Islam are today. Only time will tell…

        • The Explorer

          Islam isn’t just in competition with Christianity, of course; it’s also in competition with secular humanism. The Charlie H incident is a case in point.

        • Athanasius

          For an atheist, you seem to have great faith in that crystal ball of yours.

        • Jack isn’t as gloomy about the future of the Catholic Church, Linus. She has survived worse situations in its long history and experienced decline and regeneration before.

          It is a pity a man with your evident ability and gifts has turned his back on his faith. Still, at least you have sufficient understanding of Catholicism and the intellectual integrity to appreciate that your chosen lifestyle cannot be reconciled with Christianity. In Jack’s opinion, those within the Church who want to ‘modernise’ it and are perverting the Gospel message, do far more harm than you.

          Who knows, if it is in God’s plan, you may even revert to your faith. Jack hopes so – no matter how long it might it take.

          • Linus

            It’s not possible to revert to something that was never there in the first place.

            When I was a child I believed in God in much the same way as you might believe in China. People tell tou that China exists and you see no reason to disbelieve them. Going to church was therefore and experience analagous to going to the zoo to see a panda, because pandas come from China, so when you see one, your belief in the country is reinforced.

            Then you grow up and you start to realize that the Church and the zoo are two different things. Pandas are real live breathing animals that logically have to come from somewhere. They haven’t just been made up for your entertainment. You’re told they come from China and good evidence is presented to you to back that claim up. If you still have doubts, you can get on a plane and go to China and visit pandas in their natural habitat. So your faith in pandas coming from China is backed up by real experience.

            That doesn’t happen in church. Jesus is presented to you as a figure carved out of wood, or cast in bronze, or drawn or even just described in a book. You can’t get on a plane and go to Israel and see Jesus in his natural habitat. You have no proof that he ever existed beyond the stories you hear about him. And as those stories bear no relation to the reality of the world around you because you’ve never seen anyone perform a miracle, or be raised from the dead, and everything you know about life indicates that these things are not possible, your initial faith, which was really just the credulity of a child, disappears.

            This is why the Bible tells us to have faith like children. Credulity and gullibility are essential for spreading a gospel based on stories and hearsay rather than verifiable fact.

            If I “return to my faith”, I will have abandoned reasoned thinking for flights of fancy. Unless of course Christ decides to return and show us a few of these miracles Christians keep talking about.

          • The Explorer

            Very coherently expressed. Seeing is believing. Three responses occur to me.
            1. There are things that exist that you can’t see. Oxygen for instance; although you can see an oxygen tank, or oxygen bubbles in water, and you can see the effects of being deprived of oxygen. Emotions; although, again, you can see their effects. But it doesn’t follow that only things that are visible exist.
            2. Historical events. Sometimes you can see the consequences, but this becomes harder the further removed in time. But since the Eighteenth Century, when the problem was first addressed in earnest, there have been well-established criteria for determining the reliability of an historical event.
            3. Miracles. As a Protestant, I believe that miracles, by and large, ended with the end of the Apostolic Era. They do still occur, but not with the frequency depicted in the Gospels, or the Book of Acts.

          • Anton

            Why, Explorer? Miracles are performed by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit was given to the church for the whole of the church era. If we are not seeing miracles then it is because the church does not corporately have enough faith – remember that Jesus himself couldn’t do many miracles where the people didn’t believe in him (Mark 6:5); the translation is accurate, and the explanation is that the Holy Spirit was not willing in such places. It has been thus since the great dilution of the church in the 4th century after it became fashionable rather than persecuted. You hear reports of miracles today where there is persecution…

          • The Explorer

            Prophecy flourished, and then stopped once it had fulfilled its purpose. Miracles seem to me to be concentrated at key points of spiritual history: Moses, Elijah, Christ, the Apostles. Miracles and martyrdom go together. Both, I suppose, could occur again.

          • Linus

            We can’t directly see oxygen molecules but we can measure the physical effects of their presence. A direct view of something isn’t always necessary to prove its existence if it leaves other physical traces behind it that can be quantified and measured.

            The basic test of historicity involves multiple independent sources of information that corroborate each other. The gospels are often cited as constituting those multiple independent sources, however they are compromised by internal contradictions such as differing dates and genealogies, and conflicting accounts of events such as the death of Judas Iscariot. Their authorship is also disputed, and their very canonicity was not agreed upon until several centuries after the events described in them allegedly took place. They don’t read like other histories written around that time and the addition of supernatural elements places them in the same register as religious myths that are commonly agreed to be fictional, such as Greek, Roman and Egyptian legends. As historical evidence they leave much to be desired and the only thing they tell us with any certainty is that several centuries after the first versions of them had been written, a group of believers got together, took the amended and altered versions of them then current, and decided that as a group they had the power to erect them into holy scripture because they were being inspired by a Holy Ghost they could not see or prove the existence of in any way. That’s the whole basis of the Bible’s authenticity: self-declaration, i.e. we’ve decided it’s God’s word and our decision counts as fact. End of story…

            And as for miracles, let’s see one. Or preferably several to ensure that what’s taking place is measurable, consistent and doesn’t fall into the realm of hallucination or conjuring trick. I’ll warrant you’ve never seen a real miracle. You’ve never seen water transformed into wine. You’ve never seen a grown man walk on water. You’ve never seen a medically verified resurrection. I’m perfectly prepared to believe in miracles if they stand up to basic scientific scrutiny, which they never do.

            If God does exist and wants us to believe in him, he’s going about things in a very strange way by depriving us of all evidence of his existence and asking us to believe in him not based on the evidence of our own eyes, but rather upon an act of will that flies in the face of common sense and everything we know about the world around us. It just doesn’t seem likely given that there’s no good reason to hide from us. It’s almost as if he doesn’t want us to believe in him, as though he’s actively encouraging skepticism and disbelief. And how benevolent an act is that?

          • The Explorer

            Hello Linus,
            I feel that to some extent you are attacking points I didn’t make. No, I haven’t seen a miracle, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect to. As I said, I believe that miracles by and large ended with the Apostolic Age.
            Likewise, I didn’t say oxygen doesn’t exist because we can’t see it: I gave three simple evidences for it. My point was, as you so rightly say, that a direct view of something is not always necessary to prove its existence. (Except, of course, God.)
            You raise too many valid queries about the Bible (my point was about historical events generally) for me to deal with them all here. I would refer you to a book like Craig Evans’ ‘Fabricating Jesus’, which covers most of them, I shall briefly respond to four.
            1. Genealogies. One must remember that Matthew is writing for Jews, and Luke for gentiles. When Matthew says seven generations” he’s using biblical numeric symbolism for continuity/completeness.
            2. Judas. A scroll required conciseness to get in as much info as possible. If one takes the different references and puts them into chronological sequence, they fit together well enough.
            3. Other mythological gods: Baldur, Osiris, the Corn god etc. This theory was enormously popular in the wake of Fraser, but it hasn’t really withstood close analysis and is largely discredited. I will concede that the story of Danae is startling: one sees the shower of gold used in relation to the Virgin in Renaissance art.
            4. Disputed authorship. This began in earnest with the Higher Criticism. It has always amused me how Homer moved from being one writer at two stages of his life to multiple authorship, then two different authors, and then back to one author at two different stages of his life. We might eventually get back to Matthew, Mark, Luke ad John. But not yet: the stakes involved in conceding authorship are too high.

          • It sounds like you never really believed, Linus. Even as a child Jack understood there was a difference between the visible, tangible world and the invisible, immaterial world. When his parents told him they loved him, there was no way Jack could measure this – it was just a feeling, reinforced by their treatment of him.

            “What is faith? It is that which gives substance to our hopes, which convinces us of things we cannot see …. It is faith that lets us understand how the worlds were fashioned by God’s word; how it was from things unseen that the things we see took their origin.”

            Ultimately, faith is a gift from God …… It’s not something that can be taught or imposed.

  • Dominic Stockford

    He couldn’t apologise anyway, he didn’t do it.

  • B flat

    If any media outlet (and its own size and reputation makes this proportionally more important) deliberately misrepresents what the Archbishop says unambiguously, and refuses to correct its report, why not deprive them of press accreditation until they amend their ways? These are adults deliberately misbehaving, and no time or energy should be wasted in playing their delinquent games.
    Carry on teaching what you are called to preach, and show your own mettle by accepting the Lord’s words: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of things falsely against you for my sake. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in Heaven.”
    Trying to reason with them exposes you to more ridicule before the masses to which they pander.

  • carl jacobs

    The problem is the ambiguity in that word “regret.” It’s the difference between “I am sorry in retrospect that this had to be done” as opposed to “I am sorry in retrospect that we did this.” Can you tell from the context which he meant?

    I do not regret the suffering, and death imposed on Germany. It was necessary to impose such suffering in order to win the war, and winning the war was the paramount objective. I would never stand before a German audience and say “Your suffering diminished humanity” or “Your suffering left a deep wound.” Those constructions contain an undertone of implied victimization and moral equivalence that should never be allowed.

    Germany brought the whirlwind upon itself, and its citizens suffered the consequences. Let’s leave it at that. Leave it unsaid. There is no reason to try to “heal the wound” by trying to find some common ground of suffering. There is no common ground. The conqueror sought to stand with his foot upon the threat of his conquest. He would have expressed no regret had he won. He deserves no sympathy for the consequences he suffered because he did not have the strength to win.

    • B flat

      You are right; that was the case in time of war. But the war ended 60 years ago, and we are called by Christ to love our enemy. What you say applies to enemies in a life or death struggle. It is not applicable when you are relating to other human beings in freedom.
      I see no problem in what the ABC is saying in Dresden. War is brutal and damages us as people. How can a Christian offer anything to God, unless he at least try to be reconciled with his brother, as instructed in the Gospel (Mt 5:23,24)?
      Bishop Bell’s speech in the House of Lords (on 9th February 1944) calling on the House and the Government to review the military, moral, legal, and psychological arguments concerning indiscriminate bombing of German towns, which is available on line in Hansard, puts very well the case which the ABC repeated now in Dresden.

      • carl jacobs

        B flat

        I have no reason to be reconciled. The Germans weren’t victims then. I see no reason to treat them as victims now. It is ridiculous for the AoC to say something like …

        The great thing about Dresden today is they’re not remembering to blame but to remembering to move on and to learn.

        And again…

        I think there is a deep need for profound sorrow at the events and the causes of such dreadful times as Europe lived through.

        The Germans have no one to blame for Dresden but themselves. They aren’t victims with standing to blame. Neither should we think of the events and causes of WWII as some natural disaster that engulfed people unawares. There is guilt to be apportioned, and that guilt falls on Germany.

        Any effort at finding common ground in suffering is an exercise in moral equivalence. What was done was necessary, and was necessitated by Germans. Let the Germans regret and seek reconciliation.

        • B flat

          The common ground is that we are human beings, and does not necessitate judgment, or imply moral equivalence.

          The job of the Church is precisely to reconcile mankind to God by preaching the Gospel, and each man to his brother as a necessary preliminary to that.

          To characterise the inhabitants of Dresden as Germans and condemn them all, is as indiscriminate as the carpet bombings. What of those taken prisoner from Eastern Europe who were used as slave labour in Dresden? Were the children also guilty and blameworthy? What of those who never supported the Nazis but were forced as citizens to work in the State which was at war, through no choice of their own? I am appealing not for sentiment, but for your reason to apply some distinction in your judgment.

          It really is worth reading Bishop Bell’s speech in The Lords*, made over one year before Dresden was bombed.
          He saw these distinctions clearly after five exhausting years of war, while we were still fighting. Sixty years later, we have had the leisure to think a lot more about this. We should at least be ready to listen now to what he said. Our deafness to his arguments rather vindicates him, and the present ACB, to our own detriment.

          * I am wary of trying to insert a link to this speech, but this is its address:

          Two years ago, it was also in Peter Hitchens blog in The Mail on Sunday here:

          • carl jacobs

            B flat

            I have read both of those articles this morning. I remain unmoved. I also did not fail to notice that both writers refused to follow the logic of their convictions to its natural endpoint. They both refused to implicate the aircrews. The Bishop even stated the aircrews were just following orders. That is not a dispensation granted to Germans, and I can only wonder at the difference.

            It is easy to criticize those who are responsible for carrying the burden of the war. The allied bombing campaign over Germany was unprecedented. They were learning on the job, as it were. If the Strategic Bombing Survey indicated the campaign was not as effective as desired, then understand those who planned it did not have the benefit of the post-war survey. They did what they thought best to win the war, and I will not second-guess them. Neither will I give much credit to the opinions of those who did not carry the burden of making decisions that would decide who would live and who would die. They had the luxury of trading lives in an academic exercise. Leadership did not.

            Early in the war, Britain had to take the war to the enemy. It was necessary to strike back. Daylight raids without escort would have meant a slaughter, and there were no escorts. That meant night time area bombing. You do what you must with the technology you have. If that means a room of four year-old girls must die from a stray bomb, then so be it. War is hard. If that means you can destroy the military utility of a city by burning it, then so be it. War is hard. The efficacy of the Dresden raid cannot be denied. The argument is rather over the level of collateral damage one should be willing to impose to achieve a military objective That is a prudential argument. I am quite willing to impose high levels of collateral damage on the enemy to further the cause of winning the war. I would kill tens of thousands to save thousands. I am not interested in minimizing total casualties. I am interested in winning the war at minimum cost to me.

            I am also not particularly interested in the complicity of any individual German. Guilt was imputed to them by their government and they bear the consequence. Better they suffer than my people. Better they die than my people. I have a much greater responsibility to the later than to the former – common humanity notwithstanding.

          • Phil R

            Carl we are never going to agree on this.

            The women and children in Dresden did not go to war.

            The bombing was immoral. Justify it to yourself if you must for some reason. But when we bombed Dresden we lost any moral high ground.

            I can agree that morality plays no part if you like. But you cannot pretend any moral advantage on our side

            basically you are a hard basted when you happily write about the morality of killing 4 year old girls. Quite simply it is never acceptable

          • carl jacobs


            I don’t need to justify anything. The bombing of Dresden stands justified. I am not going to accept the ex post facto judgment of critics to the contrary. They have the luxury of carping from the safe distance of time. The men who made the decision had no such luxury.

            And I also did not “happily” write about the deaths of four year-old girls. What I will not do is shrink from the implications of my argument. I will follow it through to the end. I am willing to admit the hard consequences of my position. Perhaps you should follow my lead and do the same. Condemn the aircrews for their crime

            Here is your opportunity, Phil. Point your finger at the bombardier and say “War criminal!” If you won’t do that, then you are playing silly moral games.

          • Phil R

            There were many war crimes and yes this was one of them. Many of the airmen realised it as such at the time. If Welby has of applogised, it would have been a mark in his favour.

            Add to the list the same time the torpedoing of the refugee ships fleeing Königsberg (9000 dead from one ship alone) The atrocities perpetrated on the Germans by one of the Allies after the war ended (We are talking millions) are also war crimes.

            We are not talking about whether it made sense to do this as an abstract piece of Philosophy or War Gaming. We are writing here from a Christian perspective.

            The victor writes history and also defines morals in its favour it seems.

            The gist of your argument is no different from those arguing to rewrite the scriptures to allow SSM in Church.

            That is that you can judge morality better than God.

          • sarky

            So Phil are you going to apologise to muslims for the bombing of IS with its associated civilian causalities, or is your morality only retrospective?

          • Phil R

            Why not?

          • Anton

            Because most Muslims don’t want IS to come to their countries, for a start.

          • Phil R

            I don’t see the connection.

          • carl jacobs

            yes this was one of them.

            Funny that neither the AoC nor the Bishop would say that. Why do you suppose that would be the case?

            So, what would be the charge?

            The gist of your argument is no different from those arguing to rewrite the scriptures to allow SSM in Church.

            No, Phil, the gist of my argument is that war is a highly distorted moral environment where there is no law but victor’s justice, and the purpose is to do evil that good may come of it. There is no reward for defeat, and the brutal awful reality is that there are no limits in a war of survival. You seem to think there is some way to win a war, but gently. Modern economics have rendered that idea hopelessly obsolete. It’s a terrible, awful, despicable, brutal, and unholy mess. There is nothing good or glorious or noble in the whole exercise. And it behooves us all to end it as quickly and expeditiously as possible.

          • Phil R

            “You seem to think there is some way to win a war, but gently. Modern economics have rendered that idea hopelessly obsolete. It’s a terrible, awful, despicable, brutal, and unholy mess.”

            It seems to me that this was always the case in war. Read the descriptions of any conquered city. E.g. Nicosia 1571

            “there is no law but victor’s justice, and the purpose is to do evil that good may come of it”Until relatively recently the purpose was to do Evil so that you personally were enriched. Interesting, although it is counter intuitive, it seemed to have a far better moral outcome

          • Dominic Stockford

            The point of fighting a war is to win. There is no point hand-wringing about what has to be done to win. And when the opponent is someone like Nazi Germany, with all the murderous intent and genocidal intent of that beastly machine, and the support of the almost all the people of Germany behind it, they end up reaping what they have themselves sown.

          • Uncle Brian

            Exactly so, Dominic. No doubt about it.

            In war, resolution
            In defeat, defiance
            In victory, magnanimity
            In peace, goodwill

            Those were Churchill’s words, and in this case it’s the first of the four that applies.

          • CliveM

            It’s a pity that Churchill abandoned Bomber Command after the war and treated them disgracefully. Not only did he not award them a campaign medal, he failed to mention them in his broadcasted victory speech. The only main branch of the forces to be ommitted.

            The politicians sent young men to die in these planes. They then pretended that the ‘excesses’ were Bomber Harris’s fault. Forgetting where his orders came from.

          • Phil R

            Churchill did the right thing. It seems he understood the difference between right and wrong and the wrong moral signals that a celebration of Bomber Command would have brought.

            70 years on we are now so hardened to murder that we erect a monument to celebrate it.

          • CliveM

            Churchill did the right thing!! He ordered the raid and then washed his hands of it. He behaved disgracefully to these men.

            Some of the raids had questionable justification, Dresden wasn’t one of them.

          • Phil R

            This is from the German Wiki Site and has some interesting telegrams from Churchill in the footnotes.


            (Google translate does a good job if you needed it)

          • The end (defeating Germany) justifies the means (carpet bombing of a civilian population).

          • Anton

            That’s true. War is a bottom line, and as such I think that the Geneva convention on how it should be fought is ridiculous. There are only two reasons not to use a particularly nasty (and perhaps newly developed) form of weapon: (1) you have to live with your conscience afterwards (not the enemy’s); (2) you fear that the enemy has it too and might use it against you. But the idea that war should be fought according to Queensberry rules is ridiculous.

          • B flat

            You deserve an answer for your full response, but I think we are talking from different viewpoints, and probably about different things, so we cannot resolve this disagreement. I am sorry that you argue in the way you do, although I understand your arguments and accept them as a practical approach, which I hope I will never be convinced to take.
            I was taught the principle that the End, no matter how good, never justifies evil means, and I have to incorporate that in my moral viewpoint.
            Physically we defeated Germany, but the moral shift in the allies’ conduct of the war has carried over into our post war society, and we did not build a better world, rather a cynical and hypocritical one which applies its moral principles selectively, never against itself, and changes them at whim.

          • carl jacobs

            B flat

            We sent 1000 planes to drop 8000 bombs knowing it would devastate an area within a radius of two miles of the designated impact point. And people knod their heads and say “Tragic, but necessary.” But if we send 1000 planes to burn out the same twelve square miles with fire to achieve the exact same purpose, people say “Too far!” Why? Because fire is a more effective killer? Because fire is a more chilling way to die? Because fire is a more destructive agent to infrastructure? Because fire is less survivable?

            As I said, this is a prudential argument about the allowable level of collateral damage. You are imposing what amounts to an aesthetic boundary. But aesthetics have no part in war.

          • Phil R

            It was the intent that was different in the two cases Carl. In the first case you are trying to destroy legitimate military objectives. In the second you are trying to kill the workers and their families by whatever means necessary.

          • sarky

            Because the nazis were selective in who they killed weren’t they? You really are a prat.

          • Phil R


            You remind me of the bully’s side kick. Only brave when it is safe. So come to our village any night next week, enter into a discussion with us in our pub and then call any one of us a prat.

            Now that would be brave and I then might start to have some respect for you.

          • sarky

            Grow up!

          • Phil R

            Still brave I see

          • carl jacobs


            There was no difference in intent. There was only difference in the means employed. When the Americans burned the Japanese cities, they didn’t do it to kill people. They did it to:

            1. Destroy industry.
            2. Destroy the cottage industry dispersed throughout residential neighborhoods.
            3. Destroy the housing stock and transportation infrastructure so that workers could not live near or get to their factories.

            This is the crux of the issue. I could ask “How many collateral casualties would be acceptable in a raid?” and you would not know how to answer. I could ask “How survivable must a raid be?” and you would not know how to answer. “How much destruction is allowable?” and you would not know how to answer. And yet you condemn Dresden. Why? What is your standard? If as many were killed in five raids to destroy the same targets, would that have passed muster with you? In ten? What is the number you will accept? If there is a number, then why does it matter if as many are in one, and the targets destroyed in one? If there is no number, then you are counted with the pacifists, and there is no moral seriousness about you.

            You haven’t actually addressed a single argument I have made. You have simply set yourself in a preening pose of self-congratulation, and hurled judgmental anathemas. I am not impressed by your judgment. You sit in the comfy chair and imagine yourself afflicted. But you carry no burden at all. You think you see with clarity, but you are blind to the calamitous bloodshed that you would tolerate at your own feet.

          • Carl, would it matter to you if the American’s had simply dropped the bombs on Japan to terrorise the regime into surrender, thereby swiftly ending the war and saving allied lives? Is there a need to justify the bombings as having some strategic purpose other than this?

          • Phil R

            I am not a soldier so I cannot tell you how to win wars. However, many have proposed that other ways should have been tried.

            You say that you are entitled to suspend morality simply because of the nature of modern warfare? In short I don’t believe you. We can both probably think of scenarios that would win wars but it a line in the sand that you would not cross.

            I’ll give you two. nuking Buenos Aires and possibly other cities in Argentina would have made the 1982 invasion unnecessary.

            Yesterday morning on the way to Düsseldorf Airport I needed a break so I dropped into Arnhem to find the famous bridge. You surmise, as you do as to what could have bought them more time. Poisoned gas perhaps? If so then there would have been huge civilian causalities and there certainly would not be today a bridge in Holland names after a British General!

          • carl jacobs

            Phil R

            I am not a soldier so I cannot tell you how to win wars.

            No, that is obvious. You don’t have the first clue regarding the implications of your position. You are caught in the simplistic logic of “Non-combatants dead equals bad.” You feel that war must somehow be prosecuted within the confines of that position. Except it is impossible to prosecute war within the confines of that position. It would be morally detrimental to prosecute wars within the confines of that position. Do you have any idea how hard it would be to end a modern conflict without destroying the ability of a modern state to wage war?

            There are always prudential factors that limit the ability to employ weapons. Your examples do not account for this fact. For example, a country will choose not to use nuclear weapons because it does not want to lower the threshold of use. It might not consider their use proportional to the cost inflicted. It might weigh heavily the long-term detrimental effect on the post war settlement. There are many reasons not to use the weapon. That does not invalidate their necessary use when circumstances dictate. It is a prudential judgment dictated by circumstance.

            Tell me. Do you object only to the campaign by Bomber Command or do you object to the American daylight campaign as well?

          • Phil R

            I don’t object to all of Bomber Command’s raids. Some like the raids on the V2 rocket production, the raids on the armoured columns at D Day and of course anti submarine and shipping raids were all legitimate. The Americans did at least try to be dicriminate (Often at terrible cost — e.g.Schweinfurt)

            Many have argued that the bombing of cities actually provided very little benefit and the resources would have been more effective elsewhere.

          • carl jacobs

            Do you object to the daylight bombing of a factory when the planners knew full well that half the bombs would fall at least one mile from the target?

          • Phil R

            If I were in charge. I would ask for alternatives and weigh the risks. I chose Schweinfurt BTW, because it was a well meaning, but complete failure and (I admit) in our armchairs we can see that these resources might have been better used elsewhere.

            BTW. Bearing in mind your stated commitment to total war and minimising all risks to our side. Let me ask you to specifically answer the scenarios I posed. Would you personally have used a nuke in 1982 and / or would you have authorised gas to hold the bridge at Arnhem.

            If we coldly apply your logic the answer is yes to both. However, above (well somewhere here!) you dodged the question and I cannot say that I blame you.

          • carl jacobs


            dodged the question

            OK, lest I be accused of this again, I will be more specific:

            nuking Buenos Aires

            No, because:

            1. The cost inflicted would be massively disproportionate to the benefit obtained.
            2. The cause was not sufficiently serious to warrant lowering the threshold of usage. In other words, Argentina did not threaten the survival of Great Britain.
            3. It would have significantly damaged the reputation of Great Britain in the world.
            4. It would have made any long-term resolution with Argentina impossible.
            5. It would have guaranteed a war of revenge by a bitterly motivated and implacable enemy at a location that Britain would be ill-equipped to defend without further resort to nuclear weapons.
            6. It would have massively expanded the desire for nuclear weapons among minor powers.

            I could go on if you like. Is it necessary?

            The answer for poison gas at Arnhem would also be “No.” I could give the reasons but I will leave that as an exercise for the reader.

          • Phil R

            Glad to see that morality is not totally dead

          • carl jacobs


            If you didn’t expect that answer, then you don’t even begin to understand my position. How then are you in any position to judge it?

          • Phil R

            I understand your position completely.

            I just don’t consider your position a Christian one.

          • carl jacobs


            Yes, the Americans tried to discriminate. But they knew the vast majority of their bombs would fall outside the designated target area, and destroy whatever they happened to hit. Is this an acceptable consequence for destroying the military potential of the factory or not?

          • Phil R

            Straight answer. If you knew it would kill civilians then the answer is no. Not acceptable.

          • CliveM

            Just as well you weren’t in charge then, because with that sort of threshold you would be incapable of any military action. The Normandy landings would be off for a start.

            We would all be members or former members of Hitler Youth.

          • Phil R

            Come on Clive. Are you really stating that the freedom to kill unlimited civilians was essential?

            There were loads of factors in the Normandy Landings. Misinformation to the Germans worked. Using aircraft to actually help the army for a change worked. The Americans made a number of mistakes at their beaches. (I will not detail them becuse it will set Carl off again)

            The freedom to act immorally was not decisive

          • bluedog

            Phil, the war is over and won but at the time the outcome was never obvious until after say, the crossings of the Rhine.

            Judging ‘mistakes’ made by commanders in the fog of war is patently unjust, and all commanders of the western allies were interested in minimising casualties. Despite this, many British formations that landed in Normandy suffered 100% casualties and more by the time of the Nazi surrender.

            Soviet casualties were far higher as a result of different tactical doctrine. For example, the Red Army took a highly cynical view with regard to minefields, which they never cleared. The Red Army assumption was that a sector defended by a minefield was less likely to be defended by say, a panzer division, and thus Soviet units could cross the minefield unopposed. The net effect on casualties was therefore assumed to be roughly equivalent.

            As for civilian casualties, at what point is a civilian an innocent? Is a woman making munitions in an armaments factory while her husband is at the front not part of the war effort? In practice it is impossible to draw the line in a war between modern industrial states.

          • Phil R

            All of this no doubt is true.

            However, I think we are considering whether morally the ends always justifies the means.

            E.g. Germans have told me (with some considerable shame) that although Eugenics was practised for less that 10 years in Germany the population was statistically changed.

            If one were to argue as a Christian that this was a positive thing, then we are setting aside morals for expediency.

            I just don’t think as Christians we can go there.

          • bluedog

            Now you have changed the argument to a completely different topic. The fact is that in a war of survival the British government is responsible for the well-being of its own citizens and not those of the enemy. Until you focus on this basic democratic and moral imperative you will continue to be confused.

          • Phil R

            I understand but clearly this is nothing new.

            Britain was so successful 150 years ago simply because acted in he best interests of its citizens (Something the Gov has forgotten how to do/ is incapable) within a moral framework.

            This was especially true in times of war. (Something else that the Gov needs to rediscover — wars should only be in Britain’s (Esp financial) interests)

          • Phil R

            Ultimately this thread is about setting aside morals for expediency

          • bluedog

            ‘Ultimately this thread is about setting aside morals for expediency.’ But only your definition of morality and expediency seems to apply. I would argue that any democratically elected government which permits its nation to suffer catastrophic military defeat has also suffered a moral defeat. But where does the Nazi policy of Eugenics fit in? Was the British government to blame for that too?

          • Phil R

            We weren’t talking about defeat in any of the scenarios. The bombed German cities in the spring of 1945 were of a defeated nation. A better analogy is that your neighbour starts a fight with you. You knock him down kick him repeatedly on the floor, then beat up his wife and children, because you now have the power to do so and it makes you feel good.

            What I found frightening was that therewas not a single situation that I could come up with that Carl would not contemplate nuking a defenseless city to get his country’s wishes. Every country that does not have the bomb needs to read Carl’s responses.

            The Eugenics thing was me trying to find something that we could agree on that was morally bad even though it could be argued it is in a country’s best interest to follow that policy

          • CliveM


            My point is simple. If civilian deaths are unacceptable, the the logic is straight forward, your only option is surrender and pacifism.
            Not because civilians are targeted, but because in modern war, it is impossible to avoid them.

            The days of set piece battles, with straight lines of men facing each other are over.

          • Phil R

            That is not what i said

          • CliveM

            But what you said was;

            “Straight answer. If you knew it would kill civilians then the answer is no. Not acceptable.”

            The planners knew that civilians would die at the Normandy landings. When they bombed Caen they knew civilians would die.

            You may not have meant what you said, but on the understanding you did, pacifism is the only option in modern warfare.

          • Phil R

            Carl was arguing to kill civilians as policy was somehow morally acceptable

            That makes us no better than the enemy we were trying to defeat

          • carl jacobs


            Then you are counted with the pacifists, and all your posts on this thread now make sense. You really don’t have any idea about the implications of what you are saying. It’s ironic. I was going to use the same example as Clive. There could have been no D-Day landing because the shelling and invasion threatened French civilians.

            I figured you were dodging the question because you knew the implications for your argument if you said “Yes.” But here you said “No.” That genuinely surprised me. You might as well have agreed with the pacifists who on principle said ” I won’t kill to fight Hitler.” They weren’t morally serious either – no matter how seriously they took themselves.

          • Phil R

            I will try one last time and I will try to be as clear as I can

            I do not accept as a Christian that we can simply suspend moral behavour simply because it suits our purpose and it is expedient to do so. This is simply pandering to our selfish desires. Atheists have pointed out this double standard many times.

            If we are free to suspend morality on this issue then we cannot complain when other Christians suspend morality on other issues.

            I do not see that my desire to act within an ethical framework means that I am a pacifist. If you look back over the last 400 years, Christian armies tried to reduce to a minimum the deaths to civilians. The idea of killing women and children to achieve your aims was considered repugnant and rightly so.

            Finally and perhaps most important to suspend morality to achieve your aims is stating that you know better than God. That is not a pacifist response it is a Christian response. You will no doubt tell me that I am setting “my side” up to lose. Well lets look carefully, suspending morality has not worked particularly well for us in recent wars has it?

            Christians always feel pressure to suspend morality for convenience.

            Every day of our lives.

            The fact that it “works” does not make it right with God.

          • Dreadnaught

            I agree with much of what you say, but in this instance there must have been something disturbing the country at the time of the end of the war, in as much that Bomber Command were not honoured with a special recognition campaign medal.
            Maybe they had had enough of easily identified mass slaughter.
            My father was a PoW of the Japanese but in as much as he owed his life to the atomic bombs there were tears running down is cheeks as we sat together, sometime in the sixties as we watched in black and white TV, images of humanity reduced to charred and scarred shells of what they once were.
            ‘That should never have happened’ he said quietly and shook his head. That was the first time he was visually aware of what was done to give him back his life.
            He had no doubt suffered in the extreme but 15 years later could still feel empathy for the people of his tormentors.

          • carl jacobs


            Your father was a POW, and he therefore had unimpeachable standing to offer any opinion he might have chosen on the subject. I will say only this in response. There were allied prisoners in Nagasaki. They saw personally the effects of that bomb. And their immediate reaction was “Good. Go do that to the rest of Japan.”

            Your father was correct to assert that he owed his life to the atomic bombings. The Japanese planned to kill all of their POWs by the end of 1945. All 400,000 of them. The atomic bombings cannot be judged as isolated events. Likewise the burning of Dresden.

          • Dreadnaught

            Carl, I find the most the difficult thing for me or anyone to make meaningful comment, not being alive or involved at this time, who are we to judge or condemn? Celebrate? Regret? Neither are appropriate 70 years down the line. We can celebrate the efforts fought on our behalf but still regret what had to be done.
            None but those who lived through it, are exclusively entitled to apply a moral value. When in a true fight for survival, no one holds the high moral ground because there isn’t one.

            There but for the Grace of …. I’ll stop there.

          • Anton

            It deserved to be remembered that a few days before Japan was nuked Stalin opportunistically declared war on Japan to see what he could get in the east. The answer, thanks to those nukes, was very little. Also we tend to look on them as nuclear weapons, shock horror, the end of the world, but only the physicists at Los Alamos understood that; to the military there was a war on, a better bomb available, and a race against time which ruled out blockade; what else do you do than drop it?

          • Phil R

            ‘That should never have happened’

            Absolutely. Your father was right.

            Yes it ended the war, but we were the ones who were damaged.

          • sarky

            Phil, we were not damaged, we were freed.

          • carl jacobs

            And what would you have done in its place. Impose a massive famine? Trigger a war of annihilation? Endure the massive bloodletting of invasion, and the consequent continuation of the war in China – to include the reduction of the 3 million Japanese soldiers still in theater? The regrettable acceptance of continuing non-combatant deaths in China and Korea and in Japan itself? Or do you believe the fantasy that the Japanese Govt’t was just about to surrender – if only it could avoid being assassinated by the Army for its efforts, and if only it had some authority of the Army to compel its obedience?

            It’s easy to make moral judgments when you don’t have to carry the consequences of the decision. You didn’t have to look at literally millions of people and say “I’m sorry, but you must die because I can’t do what is necessary to save your lives. It would amount to doing evil, and your lives just aren’t worth it. I’m sure you will understand.”

            The soldiers still alive on Okinawa in June 1945 – they understood with blinding accuracy.

          • Phil R

            It is probably not possible to tell whether other options would have been better or worse from this distance.

            You want specifics? Then here is one. “I would kill tens of thousands to save thousands. I am not interested
            in minimizing total casualties. I am interested in winning the war at
            minimum cost to me.”

            Again I am no soldier, but it seems that it was precisely this sort of muddled thinking was the reason for the failure in Vietnam. If you think I am getting at Americans here then lets also add the stupidly of lending the RAF to a bunch of thugs we knew next to nothing about in Libya.

          • carl jacobs


            Yes, actually it is very possible. Certain things would have happened, The war would have continued through 1945 and well in to 1946. The POWs in Japanese hands would have been killed – twice the number of non-combatants killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The war in China would have continued for many months. Each month the death toll of Chinese would have increased. The USAAF would have executed the planned strategy change driven by the Strategic Bombing Survey to focus on Japanese transportation infrastructure. This would have massively expanded the famine already extant in Japan. And there was still the problem of ending the war. The looming invasion presented the prospect of Okinawa times seventy times seven.

            Do you know why the atomic bombings ended the war? Because they invalidated the Japanese end-game strategy. The Japanese were preparing to sacrifice millions in order to bleed the Americans into stopping the war. They reasoned the Americans weren’t prepared to pay the price the Japanese would inflict. By this method, the Japanese hoped to save the honor of that militaristic government. Twenty million sacrificed for the samurai code. The atomic bombings presented Japan with the prospect that the Americans could end the war without needing to get close for combat. They could annihilate from a distance. Unless the Americans closed, they could not be bled. Unless they could be bled, they could not be driven to stop. That is why the Emperor surrendered.

            I stand by the statement made. It was not my profession to sacrifice my own people for the sake of the enemy. If that troubles you, then so be it.

        • sarky

          Spot on!

          • CliveM


            A slightly callous view. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the raid a lot of people died badly, slowly and painfully. A lot were Children and babies. It may have been necessary, but we shouldn’t simply dismiss the suffering.

        • Carl, your use of the phrase ‘the Germans have no-one to blame for Dresden but themselves’ is crude if not callous. The Islamists who bombed the USA, Madrid, London and shot up Paris use the same logic. I have spoken about the Hitler war with a German doctor friend who lost many family members as a result of the Hitler tyranny.

          I, with millions of others, tried to stop our so-called democratic government invading Iraq in 2003. We failed. Now the Middle East is on fire, maybe a million dead and more displaced, Christians severely persecuted and worse to come. And if I get stabbed by an Islamist, some people will say ‘he deserved it for invading Muslim Lands’.

          What was Welby supposed to say to the people of Dresdern ‘Served you bloody well right!’ ?

          The best one can say of the firebombing of Dresden is that it was a necessary evil, but Peter Hitchens’ detailed appraisal (see his blog) indicators it was probably an UNnecessary evil.

          Justin Welby speaks for me on this matter. Meanwhile the EU and NATO pour petrol on the flames in Ukraine.

          • carl jacobs

            Stephen Hayes

            I read Hitchens’ blog post. I have also read the Strategic Bombing Survey. If you want to criticize the effectiveness of the allied bombing campaign, then begin with the truth. No one had ever conducted such a campaign before. They didn’t know how to do it. They had no idea what would be effective. They learned by doing. They made such decisions as seemed right, and adjusted as best they could. To judge the competence of the planners by information not available until after the war is hopelessly unfair.

            It is even so undeniable that the air campaign against Germany hastened German defeat. The Germans said as much. They claimed that the inabilitiy to move forces is the only reason the Normandy invasion succeeded. It is also true that the industrial bombardment did not have as much impact as expected. But the transportation and oil attacks were decisive.

            Now if you shift the context to Japan, then you get a much different picture. The initial high-altitude precision bombing attacks were ineffective. The B-29s essentially hit nothing. That’s why the switch was made to low-level incendiary attacks. If the initial attacks in Nov 44 had no appreciable impact, the fire raids had devastating impact. You only have to look at the collapse of Japanese war production through the first six months of 1945 to see the impact. The results were not dubious at all, contrary to Hitchens’ claim. They were extraordinarily effective.

            Dresden was attacked because it was a crucial communications center on the Eastern Front, and the nexus for moving troops north to south in Germany. There was a great desire to keep Germans forces out of the mountains to the south to prevent a long interminable “last stand” in that terrain. There was every military reason to attack that city. And its transportation hub was completely destroyed as a result. That’s one thing critics of the bombing offensive agree with, btw, The attacks on transportation were essential to the war effort.

            What was Welby supposed to say to the people of Dresdern ‘Served you bloody well right!’ ?

            No, he should have said nothing at all. What happened to the Germans was a necessity of the war Germany started. They weren’t victims of anything but their own government. They sure as hell weren’t victims of Bomber Command. And no one should imply that they were.

          • CliveM

            Don’t disagree with what you say. Except that Harris had got stuck in his tactics. After the Normandy landings there should have been less carpet bombing (which Dresden wasn’t) and more strategic bombing. By this stage the technology was there, the Lancaster was a highly adaptable aircraft and sight technology was capable of much greater accuracy.

            Harris was obdurate and stubborn and not willing to change.

          • carl jacobs

            One other thing. Do not underestimate the positive impact on morale that occurs because of offensive action. Britain stood alone for a long time, being bombed and starved and driven back on every front. It was essential that Britain be seen to strike back. Bomber Command was the only means, and the tactics they employed were the only tactics available.

          • Phil R

            Strike back. Ah yes

            Watch this (Warning graphic content)

            Not happened in the UK yet on such a scale. But given time it is possible.

            So how do we strike back Carl . Lets suspend morality for a moment and see what we are looking at here. Killing 2000 innocent Muslims in a reprisal would (perhaps) be good for morale……

            BTW. These thugs were given the chance to kill Christians in Libya only because we lent them the RAF for a few weeks.

            This is where suspending morality gets you.

          • Phil R

            The video

            (Warning very graphic content)

          • carl jacobs


            I’m talking about maintaining the morale of the only population standing between civilization and barbarism when that population was faced with the prospect of fighting a hopeless war, and you think this has something to do with Libya? The world hung by a thread in June 1940. The entire f__ing world. That thread was the continued resistance of Britain. Do you not get this? There was nothing more important than protecting that thread, because if British morale had collapsed, the world would have been lost.

            You just don’t have any idea what this thread is about.

          • CliveM

            Well said.

          • Phil R

            The logic is the same

          • Doctor Crackles

            Stephen, perhaps Welby would have done better not to have attended at all.

            Cramner only gives half the truth about Welby here. He may not have said something, but his appearance certainly did.

          • Anton

            Having just pointed out the dubious logic of comments like “the Germans have only themselves to blame” you then fail to blame Putin, the man most responsible for the violence in Ukraine.

    • Matthew Rowe

      Agreed totally Carl the real cost of that raid was that on the west after the legions of western press and academics who happily lined up to swallow the pro Nazi propaganda put out after the bombing! something that has sadly lasted to this day and which still corrupts their view of history !

    • bluedog

      Activists from the agitprop cadre of the little known group And Did Those Feet have plagiarised Carl’s post in the form of a statement to be released in due course:

      ‘I do not regret the suffering, and death imposed on the Muslims. It was necessary to impose such suffering in order to restore the Queen’s Peace, and restoring the Queen’s Peace was the paramount objective. I would never stand before a Muslim audience and say “Your suffering diminished humanity” or “Your suffering left a deep wound.” Those constructions contain an undertone of implied victimization and moral equivalence that should never be allowed.

      The Muslims brought the whirlwind upon themselves, and the ummah suffered the consequences. Let’s leave it at that. Leave it unsaid. There is no reason to try to “heal the wound” by trying to find some common ground of suffering. There is no common ground. The would-be conquerors sought to stand with their feet upon the throats of their would-be vassals. They would have expressed no regret had they won. The Muslims deserve no sympathy for the consequences they suffered because they did not
      have the strength to win.’

      The future, as they say, is a different country.

  • Andy Grey

    Thank you, Your Grace! I saw the Daily Mail’s latest simplistic attack on Justin, and immediately read the actual speech to find he did no such thing as apologise. The ability to distinguish between physical and moral evils would be helpful. But that would require a journalist to use more than one brain cell.

  • To my surprise, I find myself in agreement with Welby. I think his words touched just the right note.
    War is an absolutely beastly thing, and we should all regret it. The longer I live the more of a pacifist I become. The only thing that keeps me from becoming a paid-up member of the pacifist club is the horrors of Nazis and Islamists. Sometimes things that are regrettable become necessary.
    The one thing that we can all do for peace is to preach the Gospel of the Prince of Peace, ‘ For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;” who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sin, might live for righteousness- by whose stripes you were healed’ (1 Peter 2:21-24).

  • sarky

    Doesn’t matter what he actually said the damage is done. You would have thought his advisors would have seen this coming a mile off.
    As for the germans, well if you live by the sword…..

    • If you dare not say anything for fear of begin misrepresented by wretches and thick heads, then you have allowed them to silence you.

      ‘How to avoid criticism:
      -say nothing
      -do nothing
      -be nothing.’

      • sarky

        I totally understand. Just suggesting the old saying ‘engage brain before opening mouth’.

  • Doctor Crackles

    Your Grace falls for the error of substituting Nazi for German when dealing with war. Wehrmact war crimes are well documented and any specific Nazi crimes were carried out using the apparatus of the German state and with the full support of most Germans.

    The great tragedy of recent years is that the unified Germany never repented of its collective crimes. Welby would have done better at calling for this than appealing to Germany’s victimhood. He missed an opportunity.

    • dannybhoy

      Better he hadn’t got involved.
      It’s over. The Germans have moved on and so have we. But the only reason people are free to pontificate is because at the bidding of their government brave men reluctantly went to war and fought and died for freedom not tyranny….

  • The Explorer

    There’s a detailed analysis of the Dresden bombing over on the Peter Hitchens blog.

  • Inspector General

    Found oneself in a cafe this afternoon next to a copy of the Daily Mirror…

    Close to Dresden were held 4000 political prisoners. At the time of the
    bombing, they were engaged in excavating a large hole on the ground. After the
    war, it was found that this hole was to be their grave. They survived that evil
    outcome. One presumes that after the bombing, the murderous intentions of the
    NAZI officials were otherwise overshadowed by having to deal with the disposal of thousands of corpses not of their making. The last thing they needed was to add to the total…

    After war, and if you are fortunate to win it, you don’t have to say sorry about anything. After war, and if you’ve lost, you cannot say sorry enough times. Perhaps Angela would like to apologise to the world again. And after that, again again….

    • Inspector General

      Forgot to mention, among the many who came to assist in the clear up, were SS guards from Treblinka.

      Right then, about this apology we apparently owe…

      • I Hear what you’re saying Inspector, but the gist of HG’s post above is that Justin Welby chose his words thoughtfully and they were NOT an apology. The Mail has oversimplified things to fit Welby into a troublesome trendy vicar mould. The real man is, thankfully, much more complex.

        One of my favourite modern proberbs is ‘It is a hard thing to answer a simple lie with a complex truth.’

        Kind regards and PC off, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding beckon….

        • Inspector General

          Of course you’re right Dr Hayes. But one cannot help but thinking that the intelligent man that he is could have been rather more circumspect in what he had to say on the matter.

        • Anton

          “It is a hard thing to answer a simple lie with a complex truth.”

          Not so, Stephen, not so! Various pithy one-word responses to the effect that you don’t agree come to mind; then they have to ask you what you mean, and away you go with an audience who have an obligation not to heckle.

  • DanJ0

    Victor Gregg was a guest on BBC News in the morning on the anniversary itself. His testimony was so powerful, even after 70 years, that I had tears running down my face at the end. Bit of bugger really as I was about to go to work, but hey.

  • Dreadnaught

    From JW’s site:

    “From now on there can be no more wars of faith,” writes Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving them.”

    I have difficulty, immense difficulty in subscribing to this nonsense and veritably consumed in outright rage at the ABoC spouting this in the face of the most extreme barbaric savagery, being inflicted not just on Christians and people of other faiths all over the Middle East.
    It just does not make any sense, nor will it save one life, one drop of blood or preserve any semblance of civlised humanity, unless the Islamists and their ideology are killed outright – take no prisoners.
    I will not be told to love this enemy. Let him go there and tell it to them and take all the Shieks and Mullahs with him

    • dannybhoy

      I admire the life and teachings of Bonhoeffer, but I think he was wrong. Christians live in a fallen world in which they are told to be both salt and light.
      So as individuals we love our enemies and do good to those who would despitefully use us.
      But as citizens we have a responsibility to our nation, and in time of war where our whole way of life is under threat (as we see signs of now in Europe) we have a duty to fight on its behalf. Christians cannot insist that non Christians love their enemies when their enemies are seeking to kill them.,

      • CliveM

        Bonhoeffer did come to recognise this.

        • dannybhoy

          Got a link for that Clive?

          • CliveM

            Hi DB I read it in a book. I’ll try and find it.

          • dannybhoy

            As long as it wasn’t written by a member of ‘Die Nazi-Schule des romantischen schriftlich’, I’ll take your word for it..

    • Doctor Crackles


      How did Bonhoeffer arrive at Flossenburg in 1945 after writing these words in 1937? It does not seem as though the general platitude survived contact with the murderous tyranny or least were modified given Bonhoeffer’s involvement with an anti Hitler plot.

      • Dreadnaught

        Its not Bonhoffer I am concerned about; its AB Welby’s use of the statement in his capacity as a British Establishment figure, un-representative of British public opinion.

  • It was going ok up to “Much debate surrounds this most controversial
    raid of the allied bombing campaign. Whatever the arguments, events
    here seventy years ago left a deep wound and diminished all our

    And then the nail in the coffin that last sentence following on
    containing that little word regret – “So as a follower of Jesus I
    stand here among you with a profound feeling of regret and deep
    sorrow.” – was unnecessary.

    Regret is not Justin Welby’s to be expressing in this situation. He had
    nothing to do with the WW2, if he had he wouldn’t be coming out with
    this lefty clap trap. Regret is what would have been felt if Hitler
    had won and JW would probably not be around to be regretting anything!

    Far better he be praising how diplomatic advancemens have been made through following Christ’s teachings. 70 years of peace, we don’t want to throw that away.

  • Happy Jack read these two sentences by Justin Welby:

    “Whatever the arguments, events here seventy years ago left a deep wound and diminished all our humanity. So as a follower of Jesus I stand here among you with a profound feeling of regret and deep sorrow.”

    “I think there is a deep need for profound sorrow at the events and the causes of such dreadful times as Europe lived through.”

    These are not comments about the right and wrong of bombing Dresden or about the rights and wrong of the war on Germany. They struck Jack as being a lament about the human condition. In fact, they brought to mind this passionate expression of sorrow by Jesus Christ about His own people:

    “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, still murdering the prophets, and stoning the messengers that are sent to thee, how often have I been ready to gather thy children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and thou didst refuse it! Behold, your house is left to you, a house uninhabited. I tell you, you shall see nothing of me until the time comes, when you will be saying, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.”

  • Shadrach Fire

    Your Grace – Joint Blame!

    The eye witness account quoted above could so easily have come from those who experienced the mass bombing in the UK.

    My Missionary friends in Nigeria have just posted this comment on Facebook and I share it with you as a reminder that we all at times carry the blame for events that we so easily condemn.

    Stoning was a very good way to kill a scapegoat in days of old. It meant all the society participated in the stoning, but no one person carried the blame. No one could say their stone killed the person. It’s a bit like our societies today. There are many scapegoats but we can say, what can we as one person do? And if someone at a stoning does not participate they are in danger of becoming the next person. Hmmm
    Fine theology, until we start naming today’s scapegoats. Just heard a story about a missionary who brought the gospel to a new centre only to encounter a child sacrifice ceremony. It was a clash of powers in which the child was saved. An innocent victim is said to be guilty. It’s how our societies are defended, but often the victims are numerous.

  • chiefofsinners

    “And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. ” 1 Kings 19.11
    Was the Lord in the bombs, the wind and the fire in Dresden? Unlikely. Was He in the still small voice of the AoC? Likely. Does He write in the Daily Mail? No.

    • carl jacobs

      Was He in the death of the Assyrian Army before Jerusalem? Absolutely.

      I, and not my Servant. I, and not my Messenger. I, and not my Angel

      • “When they found this, two of his disciples, James and John, asked him, Lord, wouldst thou have us bid fire come down from heaven, and consume them? But he turned and rebuked them, You do not understand, he said, what spirit it is you share. The Son of Man has come to save men’s lives, not to destroy them. And so they passed on to another village.”

        • carl jacobs

          And what has this to do with anything, Jack. The Allies did not stand in the place of the Son of Man to seek and save a lost Germany. They came with a Rod of Iron …

          • “And what has this to do with anything, Jack.”

            Probably nothing, Carl.

            Just thought it was as relevant as your reference to the Assyrian Army.

            Once again Jack believes you are exhibiting either/or thinking about this business rather than a both/and approach. One can accept the necessary evils of a just war, conducted in as moral a way as possible, whilst at the same time, as a Christian, express sorrow that the nature of man causes such conflict and the innocent and guilty die together.

          • carl jacobs


            whilst at the same time, as a Christian, express sorrow that the nature of man causes such conflict and the innocent and guilty die together.

            That isn’t what he said. If that had been all he said, I wouldn’t have objected.

          • Perhaps Jack is being over generous towards him but that’s how he understood Justin Welby’s words.

          • Shadrach Fire

            Many views indeed but if we apologise for everything our ancestors have done in the past there will be no end to it.
            Did Blair or someone apologise for the slave trade? If anyone was to blame there it was the Arabs. They captured the Africans and brought them to the coastal towns to sell them. That was normal for them just as north Africans captured Irish and English coastal people and took them into slavery.
            Who is going to apologise for what? We are only accountable for what we do.

          • dannybhoy

            I agree with you there Jack.
            To clear this all up and if “Bomber Harris” or even Churchill had expressed deep regret at what happened to Dresden, and all others who actioned death and destruction had done so just after the war, none of this would be necessary now.

            But they didn’t, because the world was blaming Hitler and Nazi Germany for all that had happened. They believed it was Nazi Germany that made it necessary to do what was done, in order to end the war.
            Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

          • Doctor Crackles

            Dresden has been made the focus for Germany’s sense of victimhood. This is a deliberate policy and we should ask why this is so rather than blindly accepting it? Welby would have done better to stay away from this event unless of course he supports the subtle revisionism going on here.

          • dannybhoy

            As you say later we might be seeing a shift from a German sense of national guilt to a sense of national victimhood at the hands of the Allies.
            We might.
            I hope not.

      • chiefofsinners

        That was an army. We’re talking about a city. A better point of reference would be Sodom. God agreed not to destroy it by fire if even ten righteous people could be found within. Genesis 18.

        • carl jacobs

          OK then. Was He in the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar? Was He in the death of the first born in Egypt? Was He in the judgment of the Canaanites?

          • chiefofsinners

            Yes, the Lord was in all these things. But always slow to anger and abounding in mercy. Always there was a way of escape for the righteous. The remnant of Israel, the Passover lamb, the house of Rahab in Jericho.
            By the way, little known fact: several ancestors of Amy Winehouse died in Jericho… didn’t want to go to Rahab.

          • CliveM

            Upvoted the joke!

  • I find these modern apologies rather strange.
    I was taught that you can only apologise for your own actions, not someone else’s actions.
    As my mother explained, she could apologise for letting me play with a ball in the garden which resulted in our neighbour’s broken window, but only I could go and apologise to our neighbour for having kicked it over and breaking the window.
    As the Archbishop was in no way involved in the decision to bomb Dresden, as he had not been born at the time, how can he possibly apologise for what happened?

    I thought that the present ABoC would be a refreshing change when he was appointed; too refreshing it seems, as according to Breitbart London, he is urging us all to vote for closer European integration at the coming election along with other left wing policies such as nuclear disarmament.

    • Doctor Crackles

      Good link. I wonder what dear Gillan would make of it all?

    • Shadrach Fire

      God help us!

  • len

    The value of fire bombing Dresden is a debatable one and the morality of it questionable at least, there are’ legitimate targets’ in war and I cannot see how Dresden was one of them?.

    But not all enemies are’ reasonable people’ as we are finding with the likes of IS and they need to be stopped if any sort of civilization is to survive…

    • Inspector General

      Before you make a further arse of yourself on Dresden, Len, see the Inspector’s posts passim, and from others.

      • Steady there, Inspector. There is a legitimate and ongoing division of opinion on the morality of the carpet bombing Dresden and the use of the A bomb on Japan.

        • CliveM


          Dresden wasn’t carpet bombed. There was a specific target and that was the railway network. Dresden is controversial because the Nazis were very clever in their propaganda.

          Bomber Command got their tactics wrong and used too many incendiary bombs, but ironically this was probably one of their more legitimate raids of the latter part of the war.

        • Inspector General

          Yes – here’s a good one. “Why was Dresden bombed when the war was to scheduled to end in May 1945”. Here’s another. “The Japanese are such a peaceful race these days. Why were they considered worthy of nuking in 1945”

        • Shadrach Fire

          What I didn’t like is why they put the blame on the aircrew and failed to give them a monument. The Air Chief Marshall’s decided what the targets were, not the crews.

          • CliveM

            Dresden was decided higher up still. It was felt necessary to help the Russians.

  • Peter Hitchens has just posted a very thoughtful and well referenced discussion of Bomber Command’s tactics on his blog which I commend to all.

    I also commend Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ which amongst other things discussed his direct experience of the Dresden firestorm, including being made with other American PoWs to dig out the dead from the cellars in which they suffocated and charred.

    Welby got this 100% right. He’s a wise and thoughtful guy.

    • gunnerbear

      The only reason Welby got to make the speech was that in the long dark reaches of the night, men like Butch Harris and the force he led, set out to do the job of killing the enemy and smashing everything the Hitler regime stood for. It’s a good f**kin’ job we had men such as Harris – not afraid to confront the task in hand. Perhaps the whining bishop ought to consider that the next time he opens his trap and condemns those that have stood and guaranteed his freedom.

  • carl jacobs

    Dresden Study

    Read the link. Learn.

  • CliveM

    Dresden wasn’t the biggest raid of the war. It didn’t suffer the most casualties. It wasn’t carpet bombed. It was a Nazi administrative centre. Contrary to popular belief it had significant war industry (would people stop taking Nazi propaganda at face value), it was shipping significant men and materials through its railways to the Russian Front 100 miles away.
    This was a legitimate target. The order was to bomb the railways and disrupt the flow to the front. ‘Bomber’ Harris followed these orders, but didn’t significantly change tactics. So a high proportion of incendiary bombs were used. Harris wasn’t particularly versatile in his methods. But this was a targeted raid. Carpet bombing simply targeted areas of a city, this had a specific target.

    As an aside he was referred to as Bomber Harris by the press, his crews called him Butch Harris, short for Butcher.

    • dannybhoy

      In ww2 only one country was really geared up for war.
      That country was Nazi Germany.
      Led by a murderous, cynical and evil regime who from the very start set about beating up, intimidating and attacking its political opponents in order to gain power. That Nazi Germany promoted the idea of the “Herrenvolk” the Aryan master race which was to be “JudenRein.” deviant free, defective free and to use subhumans as slave workers.
      That Nazi Germany was arrogant, ruthless and totally committed to dominating Europe.

      Was Great Britain ready for war?
      Did we want war?
      Definitely not. In fact there were plenty of British appeasers who admired Hitler and wanted to make an accommodation with him (delayed capitulation.)

      This is what we were up against and this is what has to be remembered.
      War is a nasty business.
      With the help of the countries of our Empire, the USA, the USSR, Free French forces and partisan groups across Europe, that Nazi Germany was defeated. A new prosperous Germany has arisen (which ironically still dominates Europe), and for now we have peace.

      All that to say what happened to Dresden was awful, but so was what happened in London, Coventry, Moscow, Stalingrad, and many other places.
      However it was meant, the Archbishop of Canterbury managed to upset a lot of people who fought or whose relatives fought to keep this country free, and whose sacrifices ultimately made it possible for him to make that trip.

      • CliveM

        Hi DB

        I’m not sure your point. Was I saying otherwise?

        • dannybhoy

          I was making the same point as your good self.

          • CliveM


  • magnolia

    Well my father fought in the last war, had an honourable war record, and was very anti-Nazi and he thought the bombing of Dresden was a shameful episode of very regrettable cultural vandalism and complete overkill. He was far from alone in his generation which fought this war. Such views have never, despite the myopic vision embraced by one of, mark only one of, the array of Daily Mail writers, been unusual. In fact there was always plenty of criticism of the decisions made higher up, and which part of normal are we not getting?

    Since exactly when was carnage unleashed on small children acceptable to Christ?

    • Inspector General

      Bit of philosophy here. The 39 45 war was a bitter and unbelievably vicious struggle for supremacy. If you really want to hurt your enemy, and one means REALLY hurt him, you kill his children. A sentiment this man has no reason to doubt was alive and well when the trains arrived at the extermination camps who were staffed by men from, among other places, Dresden..

      Jesus would understand. He would wish it other, but he would understand.

      • magnolia

        Depends on what you mean by “understand”.

  • Doctor Crackles

    Maybe the Daily Mail understands things better than higher minds. Welby may not have said particular words, but he didn’t need to. His presence said everything, which is exactly what was intended.

  • IanCad

    Every follower of Christ must “Regret” the bombing of Dresden. To apologise is a different matter altogether.

    Time and the desire to replace unpleasant facts has tended to blame the horrors of Nazism – and more particularly the genocide of the Jewish peoples – on a barbaric elite.

    The German public, and the Austrian, and the Polish, and the Ukranian, knew axactly what was going on. The revulsion of the civilized world should be directed not only toward the leaders but the entire population of those persecuting lands.

    The late Sir Martin Gilbert, in the early chapters of his book “The Holocaust” makes it entirely clear that the German public were absolutely complicit in the Nazi criminality.

    In 1938 Sir George Ogilvie Forbes wrote to the Foreign Office: ” The treatment of the Jews by the Germans renders them unfit for decent international society.”

    You know? The Greeks have the high ground. Yes! the Germans should forgive them their debts. It would be but a token in compensation for the wickedness visited on the land of Homer during WW2.

    • CliveM

      If our Church leaders can’t express regret and work for peace and reconciliation who can?
      But as you say this isn’t an apology. Good post.

  • Doctor Crackles

    Good piece from the Telegraph here:

    The process of Germany seeing itself as victims is ongoing and is replacing the view of Germans as perpetrators.

    “Hans Kundnani, author of Utopia or Auschwitz, a book about Germany’s 1968 generation and the Holocaust, says: “Some time around the millennium, a shift took place – the collective memory of Germans as perpetrators started to become weaker, a collective memory in which Germans are victims starts to become stronger.” The Allied bombings of German cities became the focal point of this sense of victimhood.”

    The point is also made regarding East Germany:

    “East Germany was different. Here, there was a denial of the Nazi past, with the Communist authorities declaring that theirs was an anti-fascist state that had no link to the actions of previous generations.”

    Yet, we have a united Germany with a population wishing to create a new narrative for dealing with the past, aided by weak-kneed bishops, holocaust revisionism and excuse making, and a resurgence of German economic power.

  • MarginalisedMajority

    It is probably a lot safer for Welby to comment on things that happened 70 years ago than to comment on many things going on today. What happened in Dresden cannot be undoen, but much pf the violence and injustice that is happening today could be stopped or limited. Better to tackle some of those current issues than stand around wringing his hands about WW2, saying how dreadful it all was. History will judge him by how evangelises to his own world, not how he interpreted history.

  • Anton

    I am not commenting on the rights and wrongs of the bombing of Dresden here, but Jewish friends of mine have suggested that it was the late-war bombing of Germany that brought it home to the civilian population as nothing in World War 1 had done that war was a bad idea. WW1 led only to WW2, whereas WW2 led to German peaceniks.

    • CliveM


      Yes people forget that after WWI, Germany believed they hadn’t been defeated, but betrayed. Hitler fed on this. It was necessary for Germany to be defeated and then not just defeated but have their nose rubbed in it.

      • Doctor Crackles

        And yet the lie of the harshness of Versailles stuck and is still trotted out.

        • CliveM

          Well yes quite. Bet it’s still taught in school as well. There are a lot of myths surrounding the period 1918 to 1939.

        • magnolia

          Errrr… it was harsh, very very harsh… What reputable historian can find data to question that?

          Who was behind the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand which set the whole wretched thing off? That remains the key question. And who most profited from the War? Another interesting question.

          • Doctor Crackles

            Germany needed to be brought utterly to its knees and forced to acknowledge its wrongdoing. This never happened in WWI because the allies did not have the will to do it.

            In this context the talk of Versailles being harsh is misplaced.

          • Anton

            Versailles was either too harsh or not harsh enough.

          • magnolia

            Why did Germany need bringing to its knees exactly? Can you prove the desirability of doing this? It doesn’t sound Christian or multipolar in its emphasis. There are many versions of how much to blame each party was, but what we do know is that the treaties making allies of different countries brought many into the fray.

            Incidentally what do you see as the nature of the black hand gang? Any suspicions of occult shenanigans, with that skull and crossbones, the death cult stuff, and the peculiar black hand (talking here of Serbian (therefore white) nationalists.) The history books in the 70s regarded the Serbs as deeply suspect. Are you saying they were now good or irrelevant?

            Also which estimable historian agrees that The Treaty of Versailles was not harsh?

          • CliveM

            Hitler shows that Germany needed to be brought to it needs. He fed into the lie that Germany hadn’t been betrayed but had been betrayed by politicians and Jews.

            If Germany had been properly defeated, it is probable that WWII wouldn’t have happened. Which would have been a Christian outcome.

          • There would have been a war with Russia if not with Germany. Part of the reason for the rise of Fascism was the rise of Communism.

          • CliveM

            Well we can’t be certain of that. Although it must be accepted as a possibility.
            We would certainly still have been at war against Japan.

          • magnolia

            I am astonished at the levels of unreconstructed zenophobia against the Germans, as if they were barely humans and worthy scapegoats, when in fact they are human beings much as we are. I can remember the first time we took our children to a German city and their amazement at how like British people the Germans were. They had been led by stereotypes to think they were fat, lazy, indolent, humourless and unkind, but found large amounts of kindness, humour, energy and fitness. I am sorry that you still wish to scapegoat these ordinary mortals much like yourself.

          • CliveM


            We are talking specific time and place. This is not stereotyping its history.

          • gunnerbear

            The Germans needed to be smashed and then made to face the enormitity of the their crimes… excuses……they set out for war – just as the Japanese did. Pity the nuclear devices weren’t available sooner.

          • CliveM

            The American General Pershing thought stopping was a mistake. He foresaw what would happen ie the Germans would blame others.

            It was a mistake in retrospect. We were still suffering an average 25k causalities each week. Who could have foreseen Hitler? Fighting all the way to Berlin seemed like insanity at the time.

          • Anton

            The sequence of events after FF’s assassination was not predictable except in retrospect. Is there any doubt about the main narrative of what motivated his assassins?

          • CliveM

            None at all.

          • magnolia

            It was predictable, given the alliances in place. Furthermore it is extremely arguable that war was both predictable, and predicted- and actively wanted by some. Such was the admission within the Reece Commission Report of Tax exempt Foundations in the U.S. which is a primary source. It depends on how much integrity you accord them. It is a very long document and was so controversial that it was never allowed to become official.

            If you watch the Norman Dodd interview, available on Youtube you get a measure of one of those involved, who conducted some key interviews. Quiet, intelligent, impeccably well mannered, and fastidious with detail is my strong impression.

            Gavrilo Princip, a 19 year old, astonishingly set off the First World War. More than strange, isn’t it…

          • Anton

            If you claim to understand the material you mention then you should be able to summarise it in a few sentences for those of us who are interested and don’t have ages to spend on YouTube. Don’t be coy; I for one welcome genuine debate.

            I agree that a series of dominoes was set up in an unstable configuration in the years prior to WW1. Exactly how they would fall, I don’t believe was knowable at the time or even predictable the day after Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. Every major player was uncertain about what every other major player would do. 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing.

          • magnolia

            There are some strange pieces of jigsaw. No, I don’t know exactly how they fit. But like many these odd bits niggle. If you go on youtube and put in “Norman Dodd” it will come up with a 54 minute recording. The most key information is between minutes 15 and 34. I would baulk at narrowing it down more as it was recorded shortly before he died, and the man is a man of honour who gives context, qualification and everything he can give as a key witness.

            Otherwise the constitution of the black hand is easily findable and quite extraordinary detailed, has many articles, great secrecy, and a strongly heirarchical and threatening structure. Whether this had structures above it, and what they are is an interesting matter. Another primary source is W. A. Dolph Owings’ transcript of the Sarajevo trial.

            WW1 was really the fault of elements within the South Slavic people, or an organisation capitalising upon their disaffection with the Austrian Empire. The Germans, though not immediately, did try to act as intermediaries, though it was a failed enterprise, and the extent to which they have been scapegoated for WW1 is, I would think, unjust.

          • Anton

            The Prussian-led German high command was itching to deal with the Russian army before it implemented its plans to update. And why should Orthodox Serbia not want independence from distant, Vienna?

          • CliveM

            Germany knew it had a narrow window of opportunity to fight this war. The French and Russian rearmament meant that by 1917 ( from memory) these countries would be to large a threat for them to handle militarily.

            The German military were desperate to fight this war, as you say.

          • magnolia

            The Austrians were wanting to squash those pesky troublemakers in the Balkans. You could argue they are still pesky troublemakers. At any rate those who think Germany needed crushing might not be in a good position to criticise the Austrian Empire for thinking the same about Serbia.

            The fact is that it was an Austrian Empire v. Serbia conflict into which others- Germany, Russia, Britain, and others got drawn in. But do we blame the Austrians or the Serbs? Does anyone feel odd about holidaying in the Balkans or Austria? No, as they pile it all onto Germany instead.

          • Anton

            Who, please, are you speaking about? Britain did not think that Germany needed crushing, just watching in view of the Kaiser’s frequent bellicose statements – to which end the Royal Navy was bolstered in a shipbuilding race with Germany as was just as well. British sentiment is also determined by the fact that most British troops did their fighting and dying against Germany.

            The question that is most meaningful here is: Who actually wanted war? Serbia wanted liberation from Austria, an end to which war was a means. Britain was prepared to fight if necessary to prevent any one power from dominating the continent – a longstanding diplomatic aim. But the German high command was actually itching to fight Russia, and it also invaded France through uninvolved Belgium, which courageously refused the Germans a march-through and paid a heavy price.

          • CliveM


            If you want harsh look to what was demanded of the French after the Franco-Prussian war.

            Considering the devastation it is arguable that the Germans got off lightly.

          • CliveM

            Dr Margaret MacMillan a History Professor. There are many others.

      • dannybhoy

        But if as Dr Crackles says there are moves afoot to cast Germany as a victim of Allied aggression then what?

        • CliveM

          We must stick to the truth. But Church leaders must also be allowed to work for peace and reconciliation. If they don’t who will?

          • dannybhoy

            I go back to my point. Only those who were involved can really express regrets or apologies.
            A lot of the Nazi leaders did NOT express regrets, and were NOT ashamed of what they did.

            If we’re going to say that war is wrong, then Christian leaders need to be saying that right from the off, and encouraging Christians not to take part. Don’t report for duty etc. etc.
            That goes as much for the then Christian leadership in Germany as it does for the Christian leadership in Great Britain at the time.
            Otherwise we’re a bunch of ineffectual handwringers continually expressing regrets …

          • CliveM

            All war is wrong, it may however be necessary and the lesser evil.

            I have no problem with Church leaders reminding us of this. I am not a pacifist. I would go to war I. Defence of my country (although with knees knocking and bowels decidedly infirm) BUT there needs to be witnesses to a different way, otherwise what will stop us?

          • dannybhoy

            If you’re willing to do that as I am, you will have to accept that bad things will happen.
            Noone set out to kill the population of Dresden, but to neutralise it as a legitimate target.
            If we’re willing to fight then we have to accept the results.
            If we want to maintain our moral high ground then we shouldn’t fight.

            We can’t have it both ways Clive.
            Welby could have said he regretted that the Nazis gained control of Germany and that as a consequence, millions that’s MILLIONS, lost their lives and were deliberately exterminated because they were Jews.

            Then you can say “We must all work together to try and ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
            That’s fair, that’s honourable.

          • CliveM

            I don’t believe Welby was being dishonourable.

            In WWI the Churches of Britain and Germany acted a cheer leaders to the war effort. I still believe WWI was a just war. But the Churches made a mistake acting the way they did.

          • dannybhoy

            I didn’t say he was being dishonourable, but imv he was projecting his own feelings at the expense of his country and those involved. It wasn’t wise.
            As I said, if we as Christians are going to be anti-war, let’s be anti-war.
            We don’t get involved.
            We all stay home or all go to jail, knit blankets and hold prayer meetings.
            Then afterwards (if we can cope with the public odium) we can make statements about the really awful bits..

          • CliveM

            Anti war is a bad way of putting it. Except for psychopaths I don’t think anyone is pro war.

            I am anti war, but I understand their are worse things. Standing aside in WWII would have been worse. Sometimes it is honourable to fight, necessary even. Which is why most Churches have a just war theology.

            But the Churches job of reconciliation has to start when the war ends. Soldiers or airman have one role, priests have a different role.

          • dannybhoy

            “But the Churches job of reconciliation has to start when the war ends.”
            Give me Woodbine Wilie any day…
            He was in the trenches in ww1 and ministered to the men.

            As regards reconciliation, States can do that quite well without the churches. It’s the balance of power. We will never stop nations going to war as long as the earth exists.
            We never have.
            Those who would minister reconciliation have to have respect and clout before anyone will listen to them…
            I personally don’t think the CofE has enough of either at the moment..

          • CliveM

            Well we’re clearly not going to agree!


          • dannybhoy

            I believe in muscular Christianity, not the wimpy, handwringing stuff, often accompanied by that special churchy kind of “sad smile….”

            Strong men and women full of life, leadership and vitality, coupled with humility, compassion and kindness.
            Jesus wasn’t weak and I think most of the disciples were sons of the land or sea. Even Rabbi Saul made tents…

          • Provided the target was a legitimate and necessary military one, and all reasonable efforts were made to minimise civilian casualties, then Dresden can be defended as morally acceptable.

            And Danny, he was at event to commemorate the Dresden dead – not the Holocaust. The allies didn’t go to war to save the Jews.

          • War is wrong – but may be a necessary evil, waged as a last resort for just reasons by the State.

    • saintmark

      Agreed, Britain had been at war or preparing for war with Germany for most of the 1st half of the 20th century, this was a reminder to the Germans that you can’t keep doing this, it seems to have worked.

  • Doctor Crackles

    Another snippet is that the narrative of Dresden was forged in DDR and the city set-up as the victim city “opferstadt”. There stands a memorial outside Dresden called the Rondell, which has fourteen pillars commemorating fourteen horrors of WW2.

    “It has established a central patera, which is surrounded by 14 sandstone pillars. Representing the sites of the war 14 locations were selected. For the extermination camps are seven pillars for die Konzentrationslager von Auschwitz , Bergen-Belsen , Buchenwald , Dachau , Ravensbrück , Sachsenhausen und Theresienstadt . The destruction caused by acts of war the German Wehrmacht by Coventry , Leningrad , Rotterdam and Warsaw symbolizes. For the massacre of civilians by the Wehrmacht and SS are Lidice and Oradur . The stele with the inscription Dresden recalls the bombing of Dresden and civilian casualties as a result of the course of the war. Dresden is set between Coventry and Leningrad.”

    The list is a strange one in that it omits names I would have included, such as Treblinka and Babi Yar. Apart from Auschwitz the camps listed are not death-camps and would have comprised a variety of different types of prisoner. Dresden is carefully placed to form some sort of equivalence between the acts of the German machine and the response.

    It is also interesting that nothing is mentioned east of Warsaw. Nothing of the horrors of Ukraine and Lithuania. Nothing that includes the Soviet Union as was and the terrors inflicted on its ‘peaceful’ inhabitants.

    I smell a rat here. Here we can see the creation of a favourable history one that plays up German suffering and greatly dilutes the peculiar ‘Jewish’ component of Germany’s war history. This is the history that Germany and the rest of the world is being sold. It seems Welby has bought it.

    • CliveM

      It was political. The intention was to draw the East Germans attentions to the failings of the capitalist, imperial west. Therefore it wasn’t enough to highlight German atrocities, it had to show that these atrocities were common across capitalist nations. This was about Communism not about excusing the Germans.

      • Doctor Crackles

        I agree, hence the focus on the West and silence about Russia.

        My fear is Clive is that this perversion has gained traction since reunification in Germany and beyond.

        • CliveM

          A week after the raid, the Nazis claimed a death toll of 250 thousand. In the 1970’s the TV programme The World at War, still quoted 100 thousand.

          Dresden has been the centre of myth making, lies and misinformation ever since it happened.

          The Battle of Cologne in 1943 left over 40 thousand dead. A city completely destroyed. The Germans themselves said that another 5 such raids and Germany would have had to surrender.

          Dresden wasn’t so special. The lies must be exposed.

          • Doctor Crackles

            Yes, totally agree.

            Koln would not have been much use in DDR I suppose.

  • carl jacobs

    This speech by Welby is contemptible. What he is doing is pandering to a German sense of victimhood. That is worse than an apology.

    Over three days in February allied bombers brought death and destruction on a scale and with a ferocity it is impossible to imagine.

    That’s a ridiculous assertion. There are all kinds of people who experienced death and destruction on a far more personal scale than Dresden and far exceeding it in both scale and ferocity. The bombing of that city doesn’t rate such a description. Let’s start with the siege of Leningrad. Or the Camps. Or the Warsaw Ghetto. Or the SonderKommandos pretty much anywhere they existed. This is just a way of saying to the Germans “You were victims, too. The SonderKommandos are equalized by Dresden.”

    In the rage of war our hearts inevitably harden and increasingly brutal and devastating force is unleashed.

    We were hardened just like they were, you see. That was the cause of it all. What is the message? Moral equivalence.

    “To remember wrongdoing untruthfully is to act unjustly.”

    That is an astonishing quote to use in this context. How is one not to conclude that he is saying anything else but “The bombing of Dresden was wrong.” Especially since he has already set the context of moral equivalence.

    See below for my discussion of the “regret paragraph.” I won’t repeat it.

    Healing such wounds …

    Wounds which we inflicted. Wounds inflicted in the context of “wrongdoing” and the need for regret, no less.

    …requires enemies to embark on the journey to become friends, which starts with our memories of the hurt we have suffered

    “We have suffered!” Who the Hell started the war? The memories of “suffered hurt” should not be foremost in the German mind when it comes to WWII. This is again pandering to a sense of German victimhood. It is a blatant assertion of moral equivalence between the two sides.

    … and ends with a shared understanding of the hurt we have caused each other.

    “Caused each other?” WHO THE HELL STARTED THE WAR? “I’m sorry, Mr German, that I had to hurt you to keep you from conquering me and throwing Western Civilization into a thousand years of darkness.”

    This speech is worse than morally vacuous. It’s morally imbecilic. Whatever damage the AoC had done to himself is not one-seventh of the damage he deserves.

    • Come of it, Carl.

      You want him to go there, as a Christian leader, and say: “Well, sorry folks. You brought this all on yourself. You supported Hitler and deserved all you got. So a few thousand women and children died. That’s war. It had to be done. We won; you lost. Get over it.”

      • Doctor Crackles

        He could have been somewhere else.

        • carl jacobs


          • CliveM


          • carl jacobs

            I don’t follow the question.

          • CliveM

            Apologies Carl I did answer this but it seems to have disappeared!!

            You have answered the question I meant to ask to HJ.

            Damn smart phones.

      • carl jacobs

        Well, it does have the advantage of being the truth. I should rather he said that than grovel before moral equivalence. There are many things he could have said. He shouldn’t have said what he did. If that was all he could think to say, then he shouldn’t have been there.

  • The speech by Justin Welby is a statement by a Christian leader about the evil of war. The whole speech has to be read – not just snippets lifted from it. So, with His Grace’s leave:

    “Over three days in February allied bombers brought death and destruction on a scale and with a ferocity it is impossible to imagine. In the rage of war our hearts inevitably harden and increasingly brutal and devastating force is unleashed.”

    A factually and morally true statement – carrying no criticism of the bombing raids. Hearts do harden during war – brutal and devastating force is unleashed.

    “Walking together as friends requires talking together in truth. As Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf challenges us: “To remember wrongdoing untruthfully is to act unjustly.” “

    Morally, the rage of war hardens men’s hearts to the use of brutal, devastating force and killing.

    “Much debate surrounds this most controversial raid of the allied bombing campaign. Whatever the arguments, events here seventy years ago left a deep wound and diminished all our humanity. So as a follower of Jesus I stand here among you with a profound feeling of regret and deep sorrow.”

    He set the debate about the rights and wrongs of the Dresden raid to one side. It wasn’t the issue he wanted to address. The killing of so many people, whether ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, does leave wounds and it does diminish humanity. As a follower of Jesus, what else can he express but sorrow and regret?

    “Healing such wounds requires enemies to embark on the journey to become friends, which starts with our memories of the hurt we have suffered and ends with a shared understanding of the hurt we have caused each other.”

    Can we and Germany focus on the suffering and hurt of the war – rather than continue a narrative of “you got all you deserved”? Isn’t that the Christian message? Forgive your enemies?

    “This journey is only possible in the context of God’s love. It is a testimony to God’s mercy that so many across post war Europe were able to take up the almost impossible command of Jesus to love even our enemies.

    In so doing we follow him in the way of the cross, so powerfully present here in the Frauenkirche and in the nearby Kreuzkirche through the Coventry Cross of Nails. Helmut Heinze’s statue, Choir of Survivors, is a deeply moving work, now located within the ruined Coventry Cathedral, a gift from this city of Dresden. Dedicated to civilian victims of aerial bombing, it speaks of the brokenness of our human family.”

    A reference to Coventry ……. To mutual suffering …….

    “It has also become a profound symbol of this reconciliation journey. It is when we find it in our hearts to memorialise the suffering of our former enemy that we know reconciliation has come to fruition.

    “Given the pain of our past it is only the love of God in Jesus that makes that possible. We should never underestimate the miracle which peace in Europe represents – arguably the most significant political process of reconciliation in history.

    “From now on there can be no more wars of faith,” writes Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving them.” “

    A little bit pro-European Union, and possibly with a pacifist edge, that bit, but still. He can’t get it all right.

    • carl jacobs

      The suffering imposed on the Germans should never be mentioned in the same breath as the suffering inflicted by the Germans. They are not cut from the same moral cloth. Do you think the Poles should cry a tear for the poor suffering Germans of Dresden?

      You are like the man who says “That criminal was raping and killing a woman, when her husband hit him in the head with a crowbar. He suffered brain damage and now he is permanently crippled. They both suffered after all. They both deserve sympathy.” They may both be suffering. But not for the same reason.

      Guilt matters.

      • Depends on your point of view. In Jack’s world, suffering is primarily supposed to be medicinal – not vengeful.

        In the situation you cite, the perpetrator is clear and it is he alone who suffers the consequences of his actions. Jack wouldn’t have qualms about hitting him on the head with a crowbar, if this is what was required to stop him. He wouldn’t rejoice in his injuries afterwards, nor constantly remind him he deserved them. Jack, in time, might even feel regret over his sufferings because, whatever his crime, he is made in the image of God.

        Yes guilt matters. So too does forgiveness.

        Back to Dresden. What you’re saying sounds a bit like:

        “Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are His own.”

        • carl jacobs

          No, Jack.

          I am refusing the application of the label “victim” to any citizen of the Third Reich for actions taken by allied forces in their effort to defeat the Third Reich. If there is a railyard in that German city to the east of me, I am going to bomb that city to destroy the rail center. Why? Because the 30th Infantry Division is advancing through a gap in the German lines, and I don’t want the 352nd Volksgrenadiers to maneuver through that rail center so it can oppose the advance. And that means that some number of German civilians are going to get killed. And I can live with that. Because the fate of the 30th Infantry Division is more important than the fate of those German civilians who happen to be in the proximity of that railyard. I don’t care who they are. I don’t care what their relationship to the war might happen to be. They aren’t victims of my action. Would it be better if they didn’t have to die? Yes. Does that make a difference to the fact that the railyard is going to be bombed? No.

          War is hard. If you want to label those dead civilians as victims, the point the finger at whoever is responsible for starting the war. Don’t implicitly blame the soldier for doing his job.

          • Who’s labelled them as ‘victims’, Carl? Not the Archbishop; not Jack.

            Casualties of war, more like. Both winners and losers in any war, those living and those dead, are all victims in one way or another of the conflict.

          • carl jacobs


            Who’s labelled them as ‘victims’

            The Archbishop of Canterbury hisself, one Justin Welby.

            There is a straight line from …

            Over three days in February allied bombers brought death and destruction on a scale and with a ferocity it is impossible to imagine.

            … though …

            In the rage of war our hearts inevitably harden and increasingly brutal and devastating force is unleashed.

            … on to …

            Walking together as friends requires talking together in truth. As Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf challenges us: “To remember wrongdoing untruthfully is to act unjustly.”

            “Bombing” produced by “hardened hearts” resulting in “wrong-doing.” The connection is obvious, your tortured reading notwithstanding.

          • Jack thinks you are putting the wrong construction on those sentences. Where has he said German’s were the victims of British bombing? The bombing was brutal and devastating; war does harden hearts; and war inevitably involves wrong doing – on all sides.

          • carl jacobs


            He takes two sentences to go from the Dresden bombing to remembering wrong-doing. That word “wrong-doing” implies victimhood. Now I suppose you could say that the speech doesn’t contain a coherent train of thought, and therefore the sentences within it don’t actually relate to each other. Perhaps it is just a collection of random thoughts thrown together by a computer program.

            But I don’t buy it.

          • Carl, war is wrong. Killing is wrong. Killing unarmed and innocent civilians and children is wrong, wrong, wrong. In war it can be morally defended. If Dresden had to be bombed to win the war, and the number of deaths in the civilian population were a consequence, it can be justified. However, war and what it leads to – on both sides – remains evil.

            That’s the message Jack received.

          • carl jacobs


            Except the “wrong-doing” is an obvious reference to the bombing mission he mentioned just two sentences earlier. To suggest he broke context and just arbitrarily chose to throw in a reference to the generic wrongness of war is what I meant by “tortured reading.” It disconnects sentence three from sentences one and two. This was after all a commemoration of the Dresden bombing in Germany in front of a bunch of Germans who see Dresden as an unnecessary act of savagery. He was confirming what his audience believed.

          • He was calling for reconciliation.

            “Much debate surrounds this most controversial raid of the allied bombing campaign. Whatever the arguments, events here seventy years ago left a deep wound and diminished all our humanity. So as a follower of Jesus I stand here among you with a profound feeling of regret and deep sorrow.”

            Jesus would weep for all the dead – at all the human suffering. He was representing the Gospel message.

            Are you forgetting he also mentioned Coventry in the same address:

            “Helmut Heinze’s statue, Choir of Survivors, is a deeply moving work, now located within the ruined Coventry Cathedral, a gift from this city of Dresden. Dedicated to civilian victims of aerial bombing, it speaks of the brokenness of our human family.”

            And his theme:

            “It is when we find it in our hearts to memorialise the suffering of our former enemy that we know reconciliation has come to fruition.”

          • carl jacobs


            OK, so you have now demonstrated that the two sentences before the statement of “wrong-doing” are both about the raid on Dresden. You have also shown that the two sentences after the statement of “wrong-doing” are both about the raid on Dresden. But the sentence with the reference to “wrong-doing” is not, Not, NOT about raid on Dresden. Even though it falls right in the middle of a discussion about the raid on Dresden. Glad we cleared that up.

            The “whatever the arguments” statement is addressed to whom, Jack? It doesn’t indicate agnosticism on the part of the speaker towards the controversy. It indicates he doesn’t want to address it. So to whom is he speaking when he says it? Certainly not to his German audience who is there to remember Dresden – you know, all that stuff about “To remember wrongdoing untruthfully is to act unjustly.” See how they connect? There is no inconsistency between that sentence and what I have said.

            And the reference to Coventry just annoys me because it equates the bombing of Coventry with the bombing of Dresden. It’s yet one more example of the moral equivalence at the root of this speech. There is no equivalence, because Bomber Command wasn’t the Luftwaffe. They were fighting for very different things. I will ask this, however. Why of all the locations where Germans were killed in that war did they pick Dresden as the proper location for that memorial? Don’t tell me about casualties because that isn’t the reason.

          • Probably because of the level of destruction, Carl. Why else? Jack has no idea. There’s a memorial at Nagasaki too.

            And why are you ignoring the Christian content of the message and focussing on what you consider to be a criticism of the raid? This is where your interpretation is falling down.

          • carl jacobs


            His idea of reconciliation is based upon a tacitly shared notion that what happened at Dresden was militarily unjustifiable and therefore wrong. It’s along the lines of “You bombed Coventry. We bombed Dresden. They’re the same. Let’s go forward together in sorrow and regret about what we did to each other.” No, I wouldn’t do that. I would never base reconciliation on a lie just to find common ground with the other side. That is what I think he is doing. He is mitigating German guilt by equating what the Germans did to what the British did. He is doing this for the very reason you said. He couldn’t very well say “You did this to yourselves.” That would be impolitic. But what he is doing is based on a lie. It may salve German feelings. It may open doors to something he can call reconciliation. But it’s all based on a lie.

            Welby didn’t apologize for Dresden, that is true. He called the subject “complex.” Bovine excrement! [The reader may substitute the actual expression.] It isn’t complex at all. There was either a military justification for the raid or there wasn’t. This is not a complicated question. What is complicated is the differing attitudes between the two nations. He is trying to walk a fine line between German feelings and British feelings. He wants to set aside the controversy. That is exactly what he shouldn’t do. This raid cannot be judged apart from its military context. It cannot be solely judged on the impact to the people in the city. That is what the Germans want. That is what Welby is facilitating. He is just trying to do it without making the home front mad.

          • Granted if you want to look at his address in those terms, then you can spin an argument in support of it. However, so far as Jack is concerned, Justin Welby was speaking as a Christian leader – not as a moral philosopher, nor a military expert, and certainly not as a politician.

          • carl jacobs

            “Spin.” Heh.

          • Yep …. Jack will give this to you Americans, you certainly hold your ground.

            This will make you chuckle. Recently Jack was ‘accused’ of being a convert to Catholicism from Calvinism. Why? Because he quotes the bible and believes our lives are in the hands of God. Go figure.

          • carl jacobs

            Let me say this about Japan.

            I have been to Japan five times. I like Japan. I value and respect its culture. However, I would never discuss the subject of WWII with a Japanese citizen. Because quite frankly, I would say that Japan received about one-seventh of the punishment it earned in that conflict. Now what profit would there be in saying that today? The men responsible are all dead. The current Japanese are guiltless of the blood on the hands of their ancestors. There is no warfare between us. There is no division that requires reconciliation. Let it lie. That’s what the British and the Germans should do. Let it lie.

            If they want to memorialize Nagasaki, that is their duty and right. But I won’t memorialize it with them. I won’t have any part of it. Japan wasn’t a victim in that war, and even today it has no right to wear that mantle.

          • Back to the same issues …….. another thread; another day.
            The atomic bombing of Japan is a whole other kettle of fish. And whether and how nations should be punished for wrong doing, beyond defeat and unconditional surrender, is another topic too.

      • gunnerbear

        Well said. Pity ‘The Bomb’ wasn’t around sooner – using that might have saved even more lives.

        • bluedog

          The first atomic weapon was detonated on 16th July 1945, the Nazis had surrendered in May. They were lucky. Or were they? Would a decision to drop an atom bomb on Berlin have been taken, all things considered? The effects of radiation were not fully understood but the political implications of dropping an atom bomb within sight of the Red Army would have been incalculable.

          • Anton

            The Americans understood less well than Churchill the importance of pushing as far east from Normandy as possible because Stalin was never going to let go.

          • bluedog

            It seems comrade Putin is cut from the same cloth.

    • CliveM

      Happy Jack

      I wonder why we should expect our Church leaders to say differently. Since as far back as the Church has had influence it has tried to stem or moderate the violence of war. As they should.

      In my view the bombing campaign was necessary. However when you look at the death toll, the innocents killed ( and even German babies are innocent) whilst the guilt for this and the wider war resides with the Germans, it is right that we regret the necessity.

      War is human failure. War is a rejection of Gods will for us. A Church leader needs to reflect this.

  • Inspector General

    One hopes that when the UK finally comes to it’s sense and leaves Germany
    with the EU empire they’ve always wanted, they don’t start thinking we’ve
    stabbed them in the back when the thing collapses around them….

    • CliveM

      The Germans won’t but the French will. They already think that the various Euro crisis are an Anglo Saxon plot.

      • Inspector General

        Damn good point Clive, but they are themselves the author of their own decline…

        • CliveM

          Yes absolutely. It shows a national immaturity that they are incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions.

          Bit like my son when he was 4.

          • Inspector General

            A least you had hope for your 4 year old :->

          • CliveM

            Yes, the French seem to be beyond hope!! :0)

          • Linus

            We’re certainly beyond the reach of childish taunts and calculated insults. It’s behaviour we’re used to from the English. We don’t call you “perfide Albion” for no reason.

            Arrogance and hatred have always coloured the English attitude towards France. Jealousy is a terrible thing to behold. And what an advertisement for the Christian religion! Whatever else it may be doing, this Holy Ghost of yours doesn’t seem to be making better people out of you, does it?

          • CliveM

            Ah Linus, I knew you could be relied upon to rise the bait.

          • Perry R

            So you didn’t intend your comments seriously, but you did intend somebody to take them seriously… that takes a fair bit of equivocation.

          • CliveM

            It was a good old fashioned British wind up, based on a general truth.

            Linus takes things too personally, I’m helping him to chill out.

  • Anton

    Is it possible that the role of time is being neglected in this debate? That Welby has said what would be the right thing in 40 or 50 years time but not yet?

    • dannybhoy

      He could have said it as much as he liked to Germans in private!
      I have talked to Germans about ww2, and I do see that nothing is simple when Nazis are using violence and intimidation to impose their will.
      But ultimately it was Germany’s “man with a horrible plan” who was responsible for the war..

      • Anton

        I’m not disputing that. But how emotive an issue are the Napoleonic wars today, for instance?

        • dannybhoy

          They’re not, but as far as I know (and I could be wrong) neither France’s Catholic church nor Britain’s Protestants condemned it.
          So no controversies there then, France ultimately lost and we won, and Christians kept quiet.
          This is an issue because a man who wasn’t even involved speaks up and inadvertently condemns all the RAF and USAF men involved.
          What is really achieved?

          • He condemned no one – inadvertently or otherwise.

        • They are emotive for Linus ……

          • Especially this year.
            I trust we shall all be celebrating the bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo in a few months’ time.

    • bluedog

      That’s actually a very important point. How long, O Lord, how long?Uncompromising positions are fine in the face of the perpetrators, but to condemn the grandchildren and great-grandchildren is to assume the position of a muttering old man, who can never forget an ancient horror and who walks the streets cursing inanimate objects. If we try to lead our lives as Christians, we should remember to forgive, although we are not required to forget. Perhaps Welby could have avoided his current predicament if he had couched his remarks in those terms.

  • carl jacobs

    Archbishop Cranmer

    a chorus of Es geht um Deutschlands Gloria

    So, this was a song from the Reich that I had never heard before. So, of course, I had to go to YouTube and listen to it. Demands of History, you see. And now that song has been stuck in my head all day.

    Thanks. Thanks alot.

  • I agree with Justin Welby that war is a tragedy and must be avoided. Apologising for the hurt is something each generation must do, what ever side you may be on. It is a process of healing that each generation needs if we are to stop further conflicts. We should remember and reflect because today we see history repeating itself with wars and rumours of wars all over our planet.

    If we reflect how Hitler arose to power and how he persecuted his own people to try and create a super race, then maybe we can learn from history and see how other leaders are following the same path, then hopefully and prayerfully the people can choose their leaders wisely and remove those who are doing harm peacefully.

    Our Lady of Fatima called the world to prayer and asked us to pray for Russia and warned that their would be greater war. We have had two world wars and we must pray that we do not have a third world war. Mary promised in Medjugorje that what Our Lady started in Fatima, she will finish in Medjugorje, so I urge you to respond to the call of prayer and follow our Heavenly Mothers Messages from Medjugorje and support our leaders who are working for peace.

    The people of Russia are suffering, it started with the persecution of the Gay Community that has filled many with hate and then turning on their neighbours. We see Syria in ruins and the Middle East crumbling under a barrage of hate. We see atrocities in Africa and the pain and suffering which is caused by hate and people be incited to hate by their leaders or dictators and the call for peace is urgent and the call for the Church to Evoke The Holy Spirit to Bestow on The Earth the Gift of Love is urgent.

    While the Church embarked on a campaign against The Gay Community fuelling the hatred of homophobia the whole world round, we have seen devastation throughout the whole world. Pray, Pray, Pray for Peace on Earth.