British historical memory and reference to Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris

25 January 2023

Dr Harry Raffal (RAF Museum) will discuss the course of British historical memory relating to “Bomber” Harris and assess some of the controversies surrounding his wartime role.

Little; Air Marshal Arthur Travers Harris (1892-1984); Royal Air Force Museum;

Talk Outline

‘A Certain Gentleman Called Butch’: British historical memory and reference to Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris

Arthur Harris has become a contentious figure in the RAF’s history. Harris spearheaded RAF Bomber Command’s strategic bombing campaign through the key years of the Second World War.  The heavy causalities that Bomber Command suffered, and the destruction it wrought on Germany, resulted in Harris becoming a controversial figure. This remains the case today, both in public memory and historical works on the Second World War.

This talk will outline the course of British historical memory relating to Harris. The controversies which are attached to Harris, from his responsibility for the area bombing of Germany to the origin of his wartime nickname ‘Butch’,  will be explored.  The current British public perception of Harris will be discussed, and it will be argued that Harris was a far more complex individual than he is often painted in historical narratives.

This lecture is also be available to watch remotely via the Museum’s Crowdcast Channel.

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About Harry Raffal

Harry Raffal is the Royal Air Force Museum Head of Collections and Research. He holds a doctorate from the University of Hull for his thesis on the operations of the RAF and Luftwaffe during the evacuation of Dunkirk. Harry is a Committee member of the RAF Historical Society (ex-officio), the British Commission for Military History and the Royal Aeronautical Society, Aeronautical Heritage Group. He has previously published research on the Third Afghan War, the RAF in the Battle of France, and the online development of the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces. His book, Air Power and the Evacuation of Dunkirk, was published by Bloomsbury in 2021.

About the RAF Museum Research Programme

The RAF Museum’s 2023 research programme will includes Lunchtime Lectures at the RAF Museum, Cosford; Air Power Lectures, co-organised with the Centre for War and Diplomacy at Lancaster University; and Air Power Seminars, co-organised with the University of Wolverhampton. You can attend these lectures in person or join us online as we live-stream from the venue.

The RAF Museum will also be hosting virtual only lectures throughout 2023. You can find more information on our virtual lectures, and our Crowdcast Channel, by visiting