The Bell Society is asking concerned Christians to endorse their open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him to step down over his handling of the George Bell affair. Please contact Richard W. Symonds of The Bell Society to add your name to the letter. firstname.lastname@example.org
The evidence against Bishop George Bell has been gathered and thoroughly examined. Lord Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden have declared the allegations are unfounded and there is no case to answer . It follows, therefore, that no “significant cloud remains” over Bishop Bell’s head.
But Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Martin Warner continue to perpetuate this injustice against the wartime Bishop of Chichester by wilfully and arrogantly refusing to admit they were wrong. There is no willingness on their part to right that wrong. They display no humility in acknowledging that wrong. They have no intention to lift that “significant cloud”.
As Stephen Parsons says in ‘Surviving Church’: “Incompetence whether caused by ignorance, conceit or malevolence, is a particularly important matter when the individual refuses to admit to it and own up to it”.
After Archbishop Welby’s comment last year: “It is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet” – a few of us did not ignore or sweep under the carpet those allegations against Bishop Bell. We fully investigated the clear likelihood of ‘mistaken identity’ – especially after the IICSA brought to light the “bonfire” of John Treadgold Dean of Chichester. Our findings are one reason why we are so critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner – especially relating to excising the memory of Bishop Bell in Chichester.
Therefore, we, the undersigned, call for the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner, unless an immediate and full public apology is forthcoming regarding Bishop Bell and the name of George Bell House in Chichester is restored.
“The firestorm is incredible… Insane fear grips me and from then on I repeat one simple sentence to myself continuously: ‘I don’t want to burn to death’. I do not know how many people I fell over. I know only one thing: that I must not burn.”
On 13 February 1945, British aircraft launched an attack on the eastern German city of Dresden. In the days that followed, they and their US allies would drop nearly 4,000 tons of bombs in the assault.
The ensuing firestorm killed 25,000 people, ravaging the city centre, sucking the oxygen from the air and suffocating people trying to escape the flames.
Dresden was not unique. Allied bombers killed tens of thousands and destroyed large areas with attacks on Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin, and the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
But the bombing has become one of the most controversial Allied acts of World War Two. Some have questioned the military value of Dresden. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill expressed doubts immediately after the attack.
“It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed,” he wrote in a memo.
“The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing.”
This story contains graphic images.
Dresden is the capital of the state of Saxony. Before the bombing it was referred to as the Florence on the Elbe or the Jewel Box, for its climate and its architecture.
By February 1945, Dresden was only about 250km (155 miles) from the Eastern Front, where Nazi Germany was defending against the advancing armies of the Soviet Union in the final months of the war.
The city was a major industrial and transportation hub. Scores of factories provided munitions, aircraft parts and other supplies for the Nazi war effort. Troops, tanks and artillery travelled through Dresden by train and by road. Hundreds of thousands of German refugees fleeing the fighting had also arrived in the city.
At the time, the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) said it was the largest German city yet to be bombed. Air chiefs decided an attack on Dresden could help their Soviet allies – by stopping Nazi troop movements but also by disrupting the German evacuations from the east.
RAF bomber raids on German cities had increased in size and power after more than five years of war.
Planes carried a mix of high explosive and incendiary bombs: the explosives would blast buildings apart, while the incendiaries would set the remains on fire, causing further destruction.
Previous attacks had annihilated entire German cities. In July 1943, hundreds of RAF bombers took part in a mission against Hamburg, named Operation Gomorrah. The resulting assault and unusually dry and hot weather caused a firestorm – a blaze so great it creates its own weather system, sucking winds in to feed the flames – which destroyed almost the whole city.
The attack on Dresden began on 13 February 1945. Close to 800 RAF aircraft – led by pathfinders, who dropped flares marking out the bombing area centred on the Ostragehege sports stadium – flew to Dresden that night. In the space of just 25 minutes, British planes dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs.
As was common practice during the war, US aircraft followed up the attack with day-time raids. More than 520 USAAF bombers flew to Dresden over two days, aiming for the city’s railway marshalling yards but in reality hitting a large area across the city.
On the ground, civilians cowered under the onslaught. Many had fled to shelters after air raid sirens warned of the incoming bombers.
But the first wave of aircraft knocked out the electricity. Some came out of hiding just as the second wave arrived above the city.
People fell dead as they ran from the flames, the air sucked from their lungs by the fire storm. Eyewitness Margaret Freyer described a woman with her baby: “She runs, she falls, and the child flies in an arc into the fire… The woman remains lying on the ground, completely still”.
Kurt Vonnegut survived the bombing as a prisoner of war in Dresden.
“Dresden was one big flame. The one flame ate everything organic, everything that would burn,” he wrote in his work Slaughterhouse-Five.
He described the city after the attack as “like the moon now, nothing but minerals. The stones were hot. Everybody else in the neighbourhood was dead.”
In total, the British lost six bombers in the attack, three to planes accidentally hitting each other with bombs. The US lost one.
Nazi Germany immediately used the bombing to attack the Allies. The Propaganda Ministry claimed Dresden had no war industry and was only a city of culture. Though local officials said about 25,000 people had died – a figure historians agree with now – the Nazis claimed 200,000 civilians were killed.
In the UK, Dresden was known as a tourist destination, and some MPs and public figures questioned the value of the attack. A story at the time published by the Associated Press news agency said the Allies were conducting terror bombing, spreading further alarm.
US and UK military planners, however, insisted the attack was strategically justified, in the same way as attacks on other cities – by disrupting industry, destroying workers’ homes and crippling transport in Germany.
A 1953 US report on the bombing concluded that the attack destroyed or severely damaged 23% of the city’s industrial buildings, and at least 50% of its residential buildings. But Dresden was “a legitimate military target”, the report said, and the attack was no different “from established bombing policies”.
The debate about the Allied bombing campaign, and about the attack on Dresden, continues to this day. Historians question if destruction of German cities hindered the Nazi war effort, or simply caused civilian deaths – especially towards the end of the conflict. Unlike an invasion like D-Day, it is harder to quantify how much these attacks helped win the war.
Some argue it is a moral failing for the Allies, or even a war crime. But defenders say it was a necessary part of the total war to defeat Nazi Germany.
It has even become a symbol for conspiracy theorists and some far-right activists – including Holocaust deniers and extremist parties – who have quoted Nazi casualty figures as fact and have commemorated the bombing.
Seventy-five years later, the bombing of Dresden remains a controversial act.
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‘DRESDEN/BELL’ EMAIL FROM DR GERALD MORGAN
The troubling question of the bombing of Dresden is raised in your columns by Sinclair McKay and A.N. Wilson under the heading ‘Was the Bombing of Dresden a War Crime?’ (The Spectator, 8 February 2020, pp.20-22). It is written with the luxury of knowing that Nazi Germany was defeated in 1939-1945, a knowledge denied to those with the awesome responsibility of winning the war. In many respects the contributions are self-indulgent and imbued with an arrogant sense of moral and even aesthetic superiority.
How to defeat Nazi German in 1939-1945 (no simple task)? Germany did not surrender after the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944, although a civilised nation might have done so.
Sadly Arnhem (17-26 September 1944) was a tragic failure, leaving Holland to the cruelty of German occupation throughout the winter of 1944-1945. Probably Boy Browning (Eton) was as much to blame for this failure as anyone else, but the British blamed the Poles under Sosabowski, who indeed wanted to fight on once Operation Market Garden had been undertaken.
So far from surrendering the Germans invaded the Ardennes on 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945 and in defeating them the Americans lost some 85,000 men. No small price to pay. I remain loath to criticise those who fought and won the war even in the wake of Arnhem. And, as if the Poles had not suffered enough, thanks to continuing German resistance the Soviet offensive in Poland was launched on 12 January 1945.
I have greater admiration for George Bell, Bishop of Chichester (1929-1958), for he opposed area bombing in the midst of the war when it took great moral courage to do so. Unsurprisingly his words of wisdom were not heeded at that time. Since then his reputation has been trashed by the present Archbishop of Canterbury (yet another Old Etonian).
And what lessons have we drawn about the bombing of civilian populations since 1945? In March 2003 the messianic Tony Blair, supported by countless Labour and Tory MPs (including Theresa May) unleashed with the Americans a bombing campaign on Iraq.
In the 1960s Harold Wilson and the Labour Party expelled the Chagos Islanders from their home in the Indian Ocean to make way for an American bombing base at Diego Garcia.
How easy it is to convict Sir Arthur Harris and Mr Winston Churchill of war crimes in their absence.
Perhaps we can at least restore the reputation of the Bishop of Chichester by according him the presumption of innocence.
Gerald Morgan, FTCD (Leader: English Parliamentary Party, 2001)
Dr Gerald Morgan, FTCD (1993)
Lydbrook School (1946-1953),
Monmouth School (1953-1961),
Meyricke Exhibitioner, Jesus College, Oxford (1961-1964),
D.Phil. (Oxon.), 1973
Director:The Chaucer Hub.
Tel.: 086 456 56 60
The Revd Dr Barry A. Orford
‘BISHOP BELL’ LETTER SUBMITTED BY THE REVD DR BARRY ORFORD TO THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
The Daily Telegraph
February 13th, 2020
The article by Sinclair McKay (February 13th) on the 1945 bombing of Dresden was timely and welcome. What a pity, though, that he did not mention the most prominent wartime challenge to the British policy of Obliteration Bombing, which came from Bishop George Bell of Chichester.
In 1944, when Hamburg had been devastated the previous year and Dresden was still to suffer, Bishop Bell, a fervent anti-Nazi, questioned in the House of Lords the morality of such bombing of targets which were not primarily military. Few of his fellow bishops supported him, and he earned himself both widespread abuse but also agreement. The bravery of his stand is undeniable.
Recently, there have been shameful (and now discredited) attempts in Bell’s diocese to tarnish his reputation. Since an apology for this behaviour is still not forthcoming, it is more than ever necessary that we are reminded of George Bell’s courage and integrity, both in wartime and beyond it.
Seventy-five years ago on Saturday, the July plot failed. Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg placed a bomb in a briefcase next to Hitler in the conference room of the Wolf’s Lair, but someone moved the briefcase a little. When the bomb detonated, the heavy conference table shielded Hitler from the blast. Stauffenberg and many other conspirators were caught. He was executed early the next morning.
This Friday, in Christ Church, Oxford, a special service will commemorate the plot [Stauffenberg’s failed attempt to kill Hitler 75 years ago], and all those who resisted Nazism in Germany. It will centre on the altar dedicated to George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, and the main external supporter of German Christian resistance to Hitler.
In Sweden in May 1942, Bell met a young German pastor called Hans Schoünfeld [Schonfeld] and the famous theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who would later be executed in Flossenbürg concentration camp. The former disclosed to him the extent of the resisters’ plot to overthrow Hitler, giving him many of the key names. Charged with this information, Bell went to see Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary. Could the Allies help, with assurances that they would negotiate a settlement with a new German state that renounced aggression and embraced Christian principles? Writing to Eden afterwards, Bell asked: ‘If there are men in Germany also ready to wage war against the monstrous tyranny of the Nazis from within, is it right to discourage or ignore them?’ Eden was suspicious that the moves by the churchmen might be untrustworthy ‘peace-feelers’, which Hitler’s spies were bound to know about. Besides, the Allies were edging towards the doctrine of unconditional surrender. Bell’s efforts came to nothing. The July plotters acted without exterior help. They failed, and died horribly.
Controversy about this will never cease. It is easy to sympathise both with the pleading of the Bishop and with the scepticism of the foreign secretary. But one has to be impressed by Bell’s striking way of putting it: ‘Germany was the first country in Europe to be occupied by the Nazis’, and so its people needed liberation as much as any other. At the service will be read out the words of Helmuth James von Moltke, a resister to the Nazis who opposed the assassination of Hitler on the grounds that this would make him a martyr, but was executed for treason all the same. In his farewell letter to his wife, von Moltke wrote: ‘In the last analysis, the dramatic thing about the trial was this … what we had discussed were questions of the practical-ethical demands of Christianity. Nothing more; it is for this, and this alone, that we have been condemned …Your husband … stood … not as a Protestant, not as a landed proprietor, not as a nobleman, not as a Prussian, not as a German — but as a Christian and as nothing else…’
Faithful readers will know that this column has defended Bishop Bell from a charge of child abuse which the Church of England chose to accept as true 70 years after the alleged acts. A full inquiry by Lord Carlile proved that the processes used to investigate this claim had been worthless. The Church was forced to accept this. It refused, however, to pursue the logic of Carlile’s finding and declare Bell innocent until proved guilty. The Archbishop of Canterbury stated that a ‘significant cloud’ still hangs over Bell; but the cloud is not evidenced. By chance, I was in Chichester for a family gathering last weekend. We stayed at 4 Canon Lane, a guesthouse which was, until the accusation, called George Bell House. His name was then painted out. I was sorely tempted to paint it back again, but realised this would upset the blameless staff, so contented myself with expressing my thoughts in the visitors’ book. I also reminded myself of the geography of the Bishop’s Palace. ‘Carol’, Bell’s accuser, alleged that Bell would collect her from his kitchen and take her upstairs to his study, where he abused her. In fact, the kitchen she mentioned belonged to the theological college next door, and Bell had no access. His study was elsewhere.
On the crenellations which surround the cathedral’s impressive Victorian spire, we spotted three peregrines looking dramatic against the evening sun. The return of birds of prey is an attractive feature of modern times. The downside is that more raptors means fewer songbirds.
A confidentiality clause should have governed the payment made to “Carol”, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, has said
The house at 4 Canon Lane, Chichester, once called Bishop Bell House
THE blackening of George Bell’s name would not have happened had there been a confidentiality clause governing the payment made to “Carol”, who accused him of sexual abuse, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said on Monday.
Dr Warner was addressing supporters of Bishop Bell at the Rebuilding Bridges conference, held at 4 Canon Lane, Chichester, to which supporters wish to see the name “George Bell House” restored.
The naming was up to the Dean and Chapter, the Bishop reiterated (News, 1 February), but he indicated that the cathedral should make more of the Sisters of the Cross, who had donated the house.
“I don’t think simply renaming it ‘George Bell House’ will just do the job. We cannot rewrite history, but we must do better.”
More generally, he suggested that the Church of England must “speak of the achievements, the good things that Bishop Bell did” to restore his reputation. It was “report that makes a person famous for their good deeds. . . So, it seems that for us in the diocese and the Church of England at large, it is important that we are able to speak of the achievements, the good things that Bishop Bell did.”
This had been done on “a number of occasions”, he said, one of which had been his address at a commemoration of the Reformation, in Coburg in 2017. “I believe history will tell the good deeds of Bishop Bell, and I believe they will stand the test of time.”
Dr Warner resisted calls to pronounce Bishop Bell innocent, prompting one speaker to explain that “most here are troubled because the idea of innocence until proven guilty touches everyone.”
He did, though, indicate his acceptance of a key recommendation by Lord Carlile of Berwick, who conducted a review of the Church’s handling of the accusation against Bishop Bell, that the dealings with Carol should have been confidential. “The fault lies with us as the institution, and it is clearly identified in Lord Carlile’s report, as having gone public. We have to own up to that and face it. I’m very clear about that. I take part of the responsibility.
“If you want to know about justice, it’s not about guilty or innocent, but what is made public. Had we said nothing about a settlement with Carol, had there been a confidentiality clause, none of this would have reached the public domain. . .
“We are clear on how wrong we were on publicising the process.”
A statement by Lord Carlile was read at the conference: “The Church should accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and Bishop Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.”
His review had not been asked to determine whether Bishop Bell was innocent, but he had concluded that the case was not strong enough even to be brought to court (News, 22 December 2017).
Among the resolutions carried at the conference was one calling for an apology by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and another asking for a debate in the General Synod.
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This Portrait is in storage within the Cathedral Library [September 9 2017] – No Public Access [except on Heritage Open Days eg September 9 2017]
The Plaque reads:
“Bishop Bell has a worldwide reputation for his tireless work for international reconciliation, the arts, education, and church unity. The House that bears his name provides a place where work in these areas can continue and prosper. The generosity of an Anglican Order, the Community of the Servants of the Cross (CSC) has enabled the purchase of the House. Canon Peter Kefford (Treasurer of Chichester Cathedral 2003-2009) was the prime initiator in establishing George Bell House as a centre for Education, Vocation and Reconciliation”
Photograph: Howard Coster, 1953. It is the last portrait photograph of Bishop Bell.
“Bishop Bell declared peace on war. We silence him at our peril. His exculpation may well prove a critical pre-condition for our very survival”
~ Richard W. Symonds [The Bell Society]
The Plaque reads: “Bishop Bell has a worldwide reputation for his tireless work for international reconciliation, the arts, education, and church unity. The House that bears his name provides a place where work in these areas can continue and prosper. The generosity of an Anglican Order, the Community of the Servants of the Cross (CSC) has enabled the purchase of the House. Canon Peter Kefford (Treasurer of Chichester Cathedral 2003-2009) was the prime initiator in establishing George Bell House as a centre for Education, Vocation and Reconciliation” Photograph: Howard Coster, 1953. It is the last portrait photograph of Bishop Bell.