The brave young men who knew Hitler had to be stopped

Alastair Stewart

Former ITV News presenter

The Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, London which was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II today. Credit: ohn Stillwell/PA Wire

I am an RAF child who grew up with 'V bombers' at the bottom of his garden. Armed with nuclear weapons , they were the fighting machines of post-war Bomber Command.

They were poised, at four minutes notice, to head east and visit death upon the people of the Soviet Union and her Allies. But they never did. It was the Cold War my father Jimmy was convinced we could and would 'win'.

As I stood for ITV News at the BrandenbergGate in November 1989, I had to concede he had been right.

I, the 'leftypro-CND teen', had been wrong. His side had achieved peace without annihilation.

Had my side won, I'm not sure I could guarantee I'd be here to tell the tale.

This morning I thought a lot about him as I sweltered in Green Park, to witness the unveiling by the Queen of the Monument to his predecessors - the extraordinary men of wartime Bomber Command.

Their's was a 'hot war' - a campaign of blanket brutality, designed to obliterate the Nazi war-machine. Tragically, the work-force of that machine, and their neighbours, were casualties too. Those events have divided historians, politicans and phillosophers ever since it stopped in 1945.

Lubeck, Koln, Dresden, Berlin and other towns and great cities - the battle honours that, for decades, dare not speak their names. Steeped in such contention, no campaign medal was struck, no monument erected to the campaign no top the men who prosecuted it.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh talk to Ed Carter-Edwards a former member of Bomber Command from Canada Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire

55,573 died - just under 50% of all who served in Bomber Command in the Second World War.

But my father, and those who went before him, were not cold-blooded killers.

They were skilled, brave young men who thought fascism was evil and who believed Hitler, and his friends, had to be stopped.

This is not romantic, retrospective justification. We often talked about it and I, with many of his friends, who'd seen it too. In their hearts and minds, their's was a noble cause.

A Lancaster bomber flies past the Bomber Command memorial in London. Credit: Pool

Churchill gave the orders. Air Marshall Harris contrived the tactics.125,000 young volunteers did their bidding.

Loyal, to the last, to Crown and country. It is just the way that generation was; and the defeat of the Nazis was their cause.

Widows were moved. Old comarades, always haunted by the fact that they are here and their friends are not, also shed a tear. The current generation of military brass were suitably understated.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth attends the unveiling of the memorial to Bomber Command in Green Park, with the Duke of Edinburgh Credit: REUTERS/Paul Hackett

Sitting two rows infront of me, Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Defence.

The people of Runnymede can send him to Parliament, or not; David Cameron can cut a deal with the Liberals to put him in Cabinet, or not; we can chuck them all out, when we've had enough of them.

The ghosts of Bomber Command helped bequeath that to us.

As Douglas Radcliffe MBE, who had been a Wirelss Operator in a Wellington Bomber, read those moving words 'We will remember them' I was content to think that now we can: openly and honestly, in Green Park and beyond.