Friday, 12 April 2013

It's Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris, Comrade Hitchens

Peter Hitchens writes a corporate webleg for the Mail on Sunday newspaper. On 30 June 2012 he wrote an article attacking the reputation of "Bomber/Butch/(Anything but Ginger) Harris, whom he referred to as Air Chief Marshal throughout.

Now, anyone who has read a book about Harris (I recommend Probert's excellent Life and Times) will know that Harris was only ever an acting and temporary ACM during WW2, but he was substantively promoted to Marshal of the RAF (the highest rank, an honour normally only accorded to retired Chiefs of the Air Staff) on 1 January 1946. It was published in Flight on 10 January 1946.

I have brought this error to Mr Hitchen's attention several times and also the Mail Group Corrections & Clarifications column, but to no avail because bitter experience has taught me that Peter Hitchens considers  he IS ALWAYS RIGHT ( he likes to occasionally embolden text on his clog). I won't link to it because he tends to be a bit boastful about his traffic and pride is a sin - best not to encourage him.

When I try to picture the inside of his head, it always begins with  the image of a muddy creek at low tide in which an old Flower-class corvette is moored next to a Norman church. A bicycle is chained to the shore end of the gangplank. Next to it is an old kitchen table piled high with books by Peter Hitchens (but no one else) and an honesty box. Dotted about in the golf-green manicured sward, like a dystopian version of Caol Ruadh Sculpture Park are large stones with instructions carved on them : Keep On The Path, Keep Off The Grass, Atheists Eat Babies, Only Christians Are Moral, etc. Beware the reflecting pool of pure vitriol. From the funnel of the old boat an acrid pennant of stewed coffee belches out all day long (that reminds me of another sign CAFFEINE IS NOT ADDICTIVE AND IS SAFE BECAUSE I LIKE IT. ) This is all, of course, a fictional construct of my impression of the mind of Peter Hitchens, not of the Orwell Prize winner himself. I have no doubt that the real Mr Hitchens lives in a large villa next to Inspector Morse's old one in a respectable part of Oxford, and that he functions near to the normal end of the DSM.

But I do wish he would admit his error.

Update 21 April: Harris had another nickname when AOC 5 Group in 1939-40: "Tubby". It was due to a combination of increasingly desk-bound duty and his appetite. And apparently the "Butcher" epithet was coined by lovable Josef Goebbels and has passed into mythtory as a consequence of German revisionists (Ve vere Victims, too), pro-Nazis and pacifist lefties with an anti-patriotic axe to grind (the sort George Orwell rightly despised).


Michele said...

You are of course, perfectly correct, and only the truly ignorant, or those with a specific agenda would be so disrespectful to a great man.

Did this Peter Hitchins [never heard of him] ever served in the RAF? Has he actually served in anything I wonder. I have; and spending time in the military gives one a completely different outlook.

Mr Hitchen [whoever you are] Ginger Harris was Marshall of the Royal Air Force, which supersedes his rank of ACM - to refuse to acknowledge that fact impacts on your credibility.

Brian said...

The same Peter Hitchens (pbuh) wrote recently "I have learned since what a spiteful, self-righteous, snobbish and arrogant person I was" The problem is that the self-deluding oaf can't see that his underlying character hasn't changed despite a 180 degree change of politics and belief.

He is a supporter of the naive Bishop George Bell who opposed strategic bombing and preferred a conditional surrender with Germany. I shall be blogging on Stauffenberg's unsavoury terms soon.

Brian said...


If you hear thunder down under, it will be Butch harumphing at being called Ginger ;).

Comrade Hitchens served in the pro-IRA International Socialists as an anti-IRA member. Sounds odd until one discovers that people were only chucked out of the IS for being too left-wing probably on account of the organisation being secretly run by MI5 - the Industrial Organiser of the IS allegedly later went on to write editorials for the Daily Mail. Men of deeply held political principles soon learn that the money is on the right wing.

Michele said...

In my time in the RAF we usually referred to Harris as Ginger Meggs!! I shall not explain why, but if you are of my generation, you probably know why anyway.

I have googled this Peter Hitchens fellow, and am somewhat bemused about what it is he actually does believe in; apart from an apparent feeling of shame that Britain held out against Germany during the last war, an act which I feel he takes somewhat personally.

Your description of his IS memberships seems to indicated that he himself is somewhat confused about where he stands ... socialistically wise, if you see what I mean.

I don't think I shall bother with him again.

Brian said...


Well that's another nickname I never knew. The reason why he disapproved of being called Ginger was that the RAF public relations department was in a creative period of dubbing everyone with the faintest amount of red hair "Ginger" - why should Harris compete with Ginger Lacey for example?
I've just googled Ginger Meggs and I reckon "Bert" (as he was also called) would chuckle in appreciation. He was always most comfortable with what the stuffy English upper-class of the time disparaged as "colonials" and his liking of and ability to work well with the Americans could justifiably be worth his Marshalship alone.

As for Peter Hitchens, a much better journo called Anthony Howard said of him "the old revolutionary socialist has lost nothing of his passion and indignation as the years have passed us all by. It is merely the convictions that have changed, not the fervour and fanaticism with which they continue to be held."
You know what "didn't suffer fools gladly" is shorthand for in obituaries ;)

He has a "righter than thou attitude" and, although he claims to like debate on his clog, ignores comments from contributors that he can't rebut.

You're probably right to ignore him. I just like to prick his pomposity.

And one second of your service in the RAF is worth every year of his "illustrious" career.