A memorial to World War Two Bomber Command, unveiled in London this week, has been described as a "monument of shame" by an organisation that campaigned against the bombing of German civilians in the 1940s.
The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the main pacifist organisation in Britain, said the memorial goes beyond commemoration and implies endorsement of Bomber Command's tactics.
The PPU was at the forefront of campaigns against the UK's mass bombing of German civilians during the Second World War.
Supporters of the monument point out that its wording calls for remembrance for people killed on all sides of the conflict - an unusual feature for a British war memorial. But several British pacifists have said that this is undermined by the rhetoric around the unveiling of the monument, which seems to applaud those responsible for ordering Bomber Command to target civilians.
About 50,000 members of Bomber Command were killed in the war. Bomber Command killed about 300,000 people, mostly German civilians.
A PPU statement said, “The vast new memorial to be unveiled by the Queen goes far beyond mere commemoration. Its sheer scale and attendant ceremony are a clear statement by its supporters, the military and the state that the core activities of Bomber Command - which an unbiased International Court would readily identify as a war crime - are here seen as laudable, heroic and noble.”
The PPU said that the surviving men of Bomber Command have good reason to be angry with the “duplicity” of the government of the time. They were shunned at the war's end. The politicians, and Churchill in particular, chose to distance themselves from the actions of which they had earlier approved – and in Churchill's case, ordered.
The mass bombing of German civilians was criticised at the time not only pacifists but by several politicians and religious leaders. The Quaker Labour MP Alfred Salter was among those who campaigned against it.
The PPU said this week, “It is regrettable that the concern expressed by people in Britain at 'obliteration bombing' during the war itself finds so little echo 70 years later”.
The organisation also criticised attempts to “lionise” Bomber Command's commander-in-chief Arthur Harris – known as “Bomber Harris” - who they described as “the architect of indiscriminate mass killing”.