Sir Arthur Harris

Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Travers Harris is remembered in the RAF chapel in Westminster Abbey. His name, with those of other wartime leaders, was painted in 1989 below the Battle of Britain memorial window.

He was born in Cheltenham on 13th April 1892, a son of George, of the Indian Civil Service, and his wife Caroline (Elliot). Educated in England while his parents were abroad he then spent time in Rhodesia, where he joined a regiment at the outbreak of the First World War. Later he joined the Royal Flying Corps and flew on hazardous night flights against Zeppelin airships which were bombing towns in England.

In 1916 he married Barbara Kyrle and had a son and two daughters. By his second wife Jill Hearne he had a daughter.

After the war he joined the newly formed Royal Air Force and commanded a training school and squadrons in India and Iraq and later in Cairo and Palestine. He urged the development of new heavy bombers for national defence and at the outbreak of the Second World War he commanded a bomber group. In 1940 he was deputy chief of air staff. After a spell in America helping to speed up delivery of parts for aircraft he became Commander in Chief of Bomber Command in 1942. He transformed the command and its capability.

Towards the end of the war, in order to disrupt the German opposition against the Soviet army, General Eisenhower named various targets to be heavily bombed, including Dresden. In 1946 Harris received many honours and returned to Africa. He died on 5th April 1984 and is buried at Burntwood cemetery at Goring. A statue has recently been unveiled outside St Clement Danes church in London.

Further reading

"Bomber offensive" by A. Harris, 1947

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004


13th April 1892


5th April 1984




Lady Chapel

Sir Arthur Harris
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sir Arthur Harris
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris Bath stall plate

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

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