Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Arthur Bomber Harris takes against barmy inventors

Back in 1916 “Bomber” Harris had been a young major leading a fighter squadron in the tough and dangerous business of protecting England against the Zeppelin airships. He was one day sent a device produced by an inventor who declared it to be a foolproof method of destroying Zepplins. The device consisted of an explosive charge on the end of a wire which was dangled down beneath the fighter. The fighter then flew over the Zeppelin so that the charge hit the airship, exploding on impact and setting fire to the aerial monster.

Harris tried it out on a routine flight and found it a positive menace. The wire and charge seriously hampered the fighter and almost caused him to crash. Next day the inventor came down to the airfield to see how his invention was doing. Harris explained the problems to the man, who at first refused to accept that his brainchild was useless.

“Well,” said Harris, “why not forget the dangling wire and just drop the charge on to the Zeppelin?”

The inventor brightened up. “Yes, that might work,” he said.

“But the charge will need to be streamlined so that it will fall accurately,” suggested Harris.

“Absolutely,” agreed the inventor.

“And you will need some way to release it from the aircraft.”

The inventor beamed. “You’re right,” he said. “I’ll get back to work and see what I can come up with.”

“Just a moment,” snarled Harris. He pointed to his aircraft. “What the Hell do you think those things are?”

The things to which Harris pointed were light incendiary bombs designed for dropping on Zepplins. From that moment on Harris was proverbially hostile to what he called “inventor chaps” armed with “half-baked plans”.

This is an extract from Bomber Command at War by Rupert Matthews

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