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The Allied bombing of German cities in World War II was unjustifiable

A ebate on the role of Bomber Command in World War II, with three of Britain’s most distinguished WWII historians and one of our best known moral philosophers going head to head.

No one doubts the bravery of the thousands of men who flew and died in Bomber Command. The death rate was an appalling 44%. And yet until the opening of a monument in Green Park this year they have received no official recognition, with many historians claiming that the offensive was immoral and unjustified. How can it be right, they argue, for the Allies to have deliberately targeted German cities causing the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians? Even on a strategic level the offensive failed to bring about the collapse of civilian morale that was its intention.

Others, however, maintain that the attacks made a decisive contribution to the Allied victory. Vast numbers of German soldiers and planes were diverted from the eastern and western fronts, while Allied bombing attacks virtually destroyed the German air force, clearing the way for the invasion of the continent.


For the motion

A C Grayling

Philosopher and author of Among the Dead Cities: Is the Targeting of Civilians in War Ever Justified?

Philosopher and author of Among the Dead Cities: Is the Targeting of Civilians in War Ever Justified?

Richard Overy

Professor of history at Exeter University

Richard Overy is a professor of history at Exeter University who has published extensively on World War II and air power in the 20th century. His books include The Battle of Britain: Myth and Realityand The Morbid Age: Britain between the Wars. Overy’s book Dictators: Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia won the 2005 Wolfson Prize and the Hessell-Tiltman Prize. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal History Society.

Jeremy O'Grady

Editor-in-Chief of The Week

Co-founder of Intelligence Squared and Editor-in-Chief of The Week, one of the most influential subscription and newsstand weeklies to emerge in the UK media for a decade. Jeremy worked as a researcher in local government before working for ten years as a senior examiner at the British Board of Film Classification. He launched the Week in 1995 along with Jolyon Connell, and has helped to pioneer its unique style and content.

Antony Beevor

Award-winning historian of the Second World War

Antony Beevor is an award-winning historian whose latest book is the No. 1 international bestseller The Second World War. He is a visiting professor at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck College, University of London and the University of Kent. His other books include Stalingrad, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hawthornden Prize for Literature, and Crete – The Battle and the Resistance, which won a Runciman Prize.

Patrick Bishop

Historian, author and journalist

Patrick Bishop is a former foreign correspondent and one of Britain’s best-regarded military historians. His books include the best-selling Bomber Boys which casts new light on the men who flew in the Strategic Air Campaign. He has worked for the Telegraph, the Evening Standard, the Observer and the Sunday Times, and as a reporter for Channel 4 News. His other books include Fighter Boys and Battle for the Falklands: The Winter War.