Tag Archives: House of Lords



Dear Editor

Following the 75th Anniversary of the Dresden bombing, we must remember that the wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell was outspoken in his opposition to the Obliteration Policy of German cities.

Lord Bishop Bell, who was anti-Nazi but not anti-German, questioned the morality of bombing civilians. Most of his fellow Bishops in the House of Lords did not openly support him, and his moral stand in what he believed to be right made him few friends, especially in the higher echelons of power.

But this brave Bishop, who was considered a future Archbishop, was revered by many. George Bell House, at the Cathedral’s 4 Canon Lane was dedicated in his honour – and there is a ‘Dresden Room’ within that building. 

Shameful, but discredited, attempts have been made to tarnish his reputation in recent times. Official apology has not been forthcoming.

Bishop Bell’s courage, bravery and integrity must not be forgotten

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society




By John D. Alexander

On February 4, 1944, a prominent Anglican bishop addressed Britain’s House of Lords. He deplored the devastation wrought by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in nighttime raids on dozens of German cities: Lübeck, Rostock, Cologne, Hamburg, and Berlin, among others.  His name was George Kennedy Allen Bell of Chichester.

Bishop Bell warned that not just military and industrial targets, but museums, libraries, churches, hospitals, schools, and architectural monuments were being destroyed indiscriminately along with residential areas. While apartment blocks could be rebuilt, cultural treasures were being lost forever that would be needed for the Germans’ cultural renewal after the war.

He mentioned cities that had not yet been bombed: “Dresden, Augsburg, Munich are among the larger towns….” He hoped that RAF Bomber Command would restrict future attacks to the military installations and arms factories generally situated in such cities’ outskirts, while avoiding town centers full of cultural monuments.

Biblical scholars remind us that “prophecy” involves much more than just foretelling the future. But Bell was speaking prophetically at multiple levels. All the cities he mentioned were eventually subject to devastating air raids before war’s end. Dresden’s bombing, in a series of attacks on February 13-15, 1945, has become infamous.

Bell was neither a pacifist nor a sentimentalist. He had been a committed anti-Nazi since the early 1930s. He fully supported the Allied war against Hitler even as his extensive ecumenical friendships with Germans such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer made him draw a crucial distinction between the Nazi regime and the German people.

Nor was Bell militarily naïve. In preparing his speech he relied on the advice and assistance of his friend Captain B. F. Liddell Hart, the noted military historian and strategist. Bell accepted the necessity of air raids on Germany, provided that they were directed at targets like military bases, airfields, arms factories, railroad yards, naval docks, radio stations, radar installations, and oil refineries.

However, in 1942, responding to effective German air defenses and limitations in navigation and targeting technology, Bomber Command adopted a policy of “area” or “obliteration” bombing. Instead of aiming at specific targets, the strategy was to mass as many bombers as possible over an urban area by night and to drop as many bombs as possible. The hope was that at least some assets of military, industrial, or administrative significance would be engulfed in the general devastation below. The violence was indiscriminate. In each raid, vast residential areas were destroyed, and thousands of civilians were killed.

Bell understood that this policy violated the Christian just war tradition’s jus in bello norms of discrimination, noncombatant immunity, and proportionality. He granted that unintended civilian casualties were inescapable in necessary raids against military targets. But the sheer extent of noncombatant suffering and death caused by area bombing was entirely out of proportion.

“I fully realize,” Bell declared, “that in attacks on centers of war industry and transport the killing of civilians when it is the result of bona-fide military activity is inevitable. But there must be a fair balance between the means employed and the purpose achieved. To obliterate a whole town because certain portions contain military and industrial establishments is to reject the balance.”

By early 1944, technological innovations and Allied air supremacy could have made a switch to “precision bombing” feasible. But under Sir Arthur (“Bomber”) Harris’ obstinate leadership, the RAF continued area bombing through the war’s end. Bell’s speech had not the slightest effect on military policy. But some suggest it cost him any prospect of becoming Archbishop of Canterbury when William Temple died suddenly eight months later.

The speech’s real value lay in putting a statement of prophetic Christian witness on record. Future generations could look back to see a clear voice of conscience raised to protest this immoral strategy.

The bombing’s 75th anniversary raises the question of why the name “Dresden” has taken on iconic significance. Using the same strategy, Bomber Command undertook similar attacks over a four-year period against dozens and dozens of enemy cities.

True, the Dresden raid was horrific. Swollen with refugees fleeing advancing Soviet armies on the Eastern Front 80 miles away, the city was largely undefended, with inadequate air-raid shelters. The RAF’s aiming point was the town center, where the ancient timbers of medieval buildings quickly caught fire when pummeled by high-explosive “blockbuster” bombs and a rain of incendiary devices. The resulting firestorm killed an estimated 25,000 civilians.

It was, however, neither the first, last, nor deadliest raid of the war. The British bombing of Hamburg on July 27, 1943 caused a similar firestorm, killing about 42,000 civilians. Less than a month after Dresden, the American firebombing of Tokyo (March 9, 1945), killed about 100,000 and left over a million homeless. It was the single most destructive bombing raid in human history. Then came the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

What may be special about Dresden, however, is that it was the first city whose destruction awakened significant numbers of consciences on the Allied side. The Nazi propaganda machine disseminated hundreds of photographs documenting the carnage, which soon appeared in British and American newspapers.

Public revulsion ensued, heightened by Dresden’s cultural significance as home to a vast collection of artistic treasures, and led to widespread questioning of the city bombing. Bishop Bell’s House of Lords speech of a year earlier may have sown seeds of conscientious doubt that began to blossom.

The questioning reached the highest levels of government. In a memo of March 28, 1945, Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote: “It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed. Otherwise we shall come into possession of an utterly ruined land. … The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing.” After vehement RAF objections to the word “terror” as the bombing’s objective, Churchill removed the offending phrase in a revised draft. By then, however, the point was moot with the European war almost over.

Historians and ethicists continue to debate whether the Dresden raid was militarily and morally justified. Some defend it as a legitimate attack against a vital center of administration, communications, transportation, and industry crucial to the enemy’s efforts to resupply the Eastern Front. Others condemn it as a moral outrage that killed tens of thousands of civilians for negligible military gains.

In the years since, the Dresden bombing has become something of a political football. Until 1989, the city was located in Communist East Germany, whose government pointed to the city’s destruction as an instance of Anglo-American terrorism. Since German reunification, far-right and neo-Nazi groups have appropriated that rhetoric, using the controversial and offensive term Bombenholocaust (holocaust by bombing) to describe the conflagration. At the opposite end of the political spectrum, German Antifa groups annually celebrate Bomber Harris for killing hundreds of thousands of Germans that they regard as complicit in Nazi crimes.

In today’s polarized political discourse, the memory of Dresden all too easily becomes a symbol and catalyst of division. A more hopeful and ultimately Christian approach looks instead to its potential as a signpost of reconciliation.

One of the most beautiful buildings destroyed in the Dresden firestorm was the baroque Frauenkirche — the Lutheran Church of Our Lady. For 60 years following 1945, its ruins stood in silent witness to the war’s devastation. But in 2005 it was painstakingly reconstructed and returned to service as a home for a worshiping community.

The gold orb and cross on the church’s dome were forged by Alan Smith, a London goldsmith whose father participated in the RAF raid on Dresden. On the main altar stands a cross of nails given by Coventry Cathedral in England — itself destroyed by the Luftwaffe on November 14, 1940 and rebuilt after the war. In the past 15 years, the Dresden Frauenkirche has become a center of worldwide ecumenical pilgrimage, hosting, among others, Catholic groups from neighboring Czech Republic and Poland, early victims of German wartime aggression.

Such symbolic gestures of repentance, reconciliation, and forgiveness testify to shared hope for a future free from such mass atrocities. In a world where war itself is unlikely to be abolished anytime soon, the urgent work continues of trying to limit noncombatant suffering and death as far as possible. Bishop Bell would approve.

The Rev. John D. Alexander, a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, is writing a book on the Church of England in the Second World War.

“Two members of the House of Lords should make a point of reading these inspiring letters: the Archbishop of Canterbury and the current Bishop of Chichester…” ~ Lord Lexden

More information:



An Anniversary Tribute to Bishop George Bell by Fr. Michael Fullagar – on the eve of the Coburg Conference in Chichester


Bishop George Bell

Dear Reader

(A victim of some strange illness these last months, I have not been officiating , but I wanted to honour on the anniversary of his heavenly birthday George Bell, one Bishop whom many of us consider great).

As a graduate, I was an ordinand at Chichester Theological College  for just eight terms between 1957-1959.  As the College was short of accommodation at the time, I spent  my second year in a room  on the top floor of the Bishop’s Palace.   I was already well acquainted with the Bishop’s Chapel, as that served  also as the College Chapel, where we assembled, except when we worshipped in the Cathedral. Later on we had our own Chapel and a new Building, the latter due to the generosity of many, till the C. of E. closed down our oldest Theological College. It was due to the kindness of Bishop George Bell, one of the great Bishops of Chichester, that for a time both my spiritual and bodily home was to be in the Palace. We did not see the Bishop very often, but memories remain vivid of both him and Henrietta, his splendid wife.

As I am one of a dwindling  number of former students still alive who remember those days, Andrew Chandler,  of the University of Chichester, George’s excellent biographer and defender against calumny, asked me among others specific questions about the Palace Building as it was. Of course, if the accusers had only spoken to George Bell’s former Chaplain, who was still alive at the time, a Chaplain never far from the Palace, they would have learned that the Bishop was abroad for much of the time they mentioned. Nor did he ever own a Rolls Royce, as was suggested. If George Bell were by any chance aware of allegations made against his name, I imagine he would raise a wry smile, for this good man had to face opposition for much of his life, not least from Bishops and Politicians.

In George Bell’s memory, the Arundel screen in the Cathedral has been restored and re-erected. On one side is a profile of Bell with the inscription – ‘GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, BISHOP OF CHICHESTER 1929 -1958. A TRUE PASTOR. POET AND PATRON OF THE ARTS. CHAMPION OF THE OPPRESSED AND TIRELESS WORKER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY.’ Fresh flowers  were placed underneath the bronze even before  accusers apologised. One of George’s final acts was to dedicate in his honour Bishop Bell School, Eastbourne, now renamed St Catherine’s College, though I wonder which Catherine they mean (the Alexandrian  ‘Wheel’ one or Siena) . I cannot find any answer to that, and have not heard of any plans to bring back the original name.

As far as I know, George Bell House at 4 Canon Lane, has not as yet had its proper name restored, although George’s fourth successor as Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, has apologised, (incidentally the previous three being Roger Wilson, Eric Kemp and John Hind, all of whom I have had the privilege to meet) .   

We remain proud of George Bell’s connection with this glorious Church of St Mary, Hampden Park, which he consecrated on 24th October, 1953. As we enter the Church, we do not fail to see on the outer wall that tribute to a beloved Bishop.

A son of the Vicarage, winning the Newdigate prize at Oxford for a poem, then at Wells Theological College, George went to work in Leeds, where he greatly admired the social work of the Methodists. Later, as a Domestic Chaplain to Randall Davidson at Canterbury, George wrote his two volume official biography.

As a distinguished pioneer of the Ecumenical Movement, George befriended the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hanged by the Nazis on 9th April, 1945, at Flossenburg Concentration Camp. In 1938-9, Bell helped 90 people  escape from Germany to Britain. He spoke passionately in the House of Lords against the blanket bombing of civilians in Germany, which did him no earthly favours with either Prelates or Politicians. Many people believe that he would have become Archbishop of Canterbury rather than Geoffrey Fisher, if he had not been opposed by the Archbishop of York, and if Winston Churchill had not vetoed the appointment.

We continue to honour George Bell as ecumenist and peacemaker. As Patron of the Arts as Dean of Canterbury he enabled, among other events, the staging of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’. Later he supported the gift of murals to St Elisabeth’s, Eastbourne, the artist being Hans Feibusch, and also work by the Bloomsbury Group from Charleston on the walls of Berwick Church.

George and Hetty Bell left Chichester in 1958 for retirement in Canterbury but not for long. In that same year on October 3rd he died. Ronald Jasper, his first biographer wrote of George. ‘He will go down in history as one of the special glories of the Church of England: in days to come when the Catholic Church recovers again its lost unities, men will still remember the debt for that recovery owed to George Bell’.

When I lived in the Palace, very few of us could afford a car. One could and gave me lifts to Arundel for Sunday Evening Benediction. Another rose to owning a bubble car. Nevertheless, our parking by the Palace incurred the very voluble opposition of Hetty Bell, a marvellous sort of friendly dragon, whom we all loved. This outspoken lady was complemented by her husband who seemed almost shy at times. When we heard of the Bishop’s departure, some of us clubbed together to buy them a Kenwood food mixer. ‘Oh, excellent!’, was the immediate response of Hetty. ‘George was always a good mixer!’ And so he was, though subsequently I have also read into her remark, intended or not, that, when necessary, Bishop Bell was also prepared to stir things up. But then, in the words of the Prayer Book Collect, we are urged to pray:

‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded. ‘ Amen.


Rev Michael Fullagar Michael Fullagar was Rector at Freemantle for nine years, from 1978-87. Before coming to Freemantle he had worked in Zaire.

Priest-in-Charge at Westbury, he was appointed Chaplain to Wycombe General Hospital in 1994.

Now retired Michael helps out in the Benefice of St Mary Hampden Park and St Peter the Hydneye, Eastbourne

Jan 29 2019 – “Bishop Bell – Complete justice denied after second inquiry” – Lord Lexden OBE


Lord Lexden


Bishop Bell – Complete justice denied after second inquiry

For three years Alistair Lexden has been part of a campaign to establish the truth about allegations of child sex abuse made, long after his  death over sixty years ago, against the great Anglican Bishop, George Bell.

He spoke at length about the Church of England’s deeply unsatisfactory handling of the allegations in a Lords debate on 20 December (see below). The Church was gravely at fault in paying compensation of some £15,000 in 2015 to a complainant on the basis of her uncorroborated  testimony after a deeply flawed internal inquiry, on which Lord Carlile of Berriew QC produced a damning  report, published in December 2017.

A second inquiry by a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, Timothy Briden, was established at the beginning of 2018, after a further allegation had been made. His report, which was published on 24 January, stated that this allegation, and one other which also surfaced in 2018, were “ unfounded”. Here justice has been done.

The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the Briden report and praised Bishop Bell as “ a remarkable role model”. He also “ apologised unreservedly for the mistakes” made during the investigation of the first allegation, but he nevertheless stood by the decision to accept the wholly uncorroborated complaint despite the damning Carlile report—as a result of which Bishop Bell’s towering reputation has been traduced.

The overall interests of justice required the Archbishop to admit that the first allegation was not proved and Bishop Bell is therefore innocent. He refuses to do this. Desmond Browne QC, a former Chairman of the Bar Council, has  followed everything that has happened since 2015. He said on 24 January: “ What is now clear is that the investigations by two experienced lawyers have established George  Bell’s innocence. But not once has the Archbishop of Canterbury offered Bell the presumption of innocence.” Justin Welby has failed in his clear duty.

January 25 2018 – Lords criticise Church’s handling of George Bell case, as Bishop of Peterborough calls for ‘a major review of anonymity'” – Daily Telegraph – Olivia Rudgard

Lords criticise Church’s handling of George Bell case as Bishop of Peterborough calls for ‘a major review of anonymity’

In a debate in the House of Lords on Monday peers called on the Government to "uphold the cardinal principle that an individual is innocent until proved guilty".  
Peers called on the Government to “uphold the cardinal principle that an individual is innocent until proved guilty”.   CREDIT: PA ARCHIVE 

Peers including the Bishop of Peterborough have called on the Government to protect the identity of people accused of a crime after their death.

One member of the House of Lords said Anglicans were “deeply ashamed” of the Church of England’s handling of the case of Bishop George Bell, who was accused of abusing a child several decades after his death in 1958.

A report published at the end of last year by Lord Carlile found that the highly-respected bishop’s reputation had been unnecessarily damagedby the Church when it publicly named him in an apology to the alleged victim in 2015.

In a debate in the House of Lords on Monday peers called on the Government to “uphold the cardinal principle that an individual is innocent until proved guilty”.

In cases until there is overwhelming evidence to suggest guilt, it seems reasonable for people’s reputations not to be damaged in this public wayRt Revd Donald Allister

Official historian of the Conservative Party Lord Lexden asked home office minister Baroness Williams whether the Government would “review the law governing the naming of deceased individuals against whom criminal allegations have been made”.

He called on the Government to review the law in order to to ensure the anonymity of dead suspects accused by “one uncorroborated alleged witness”.

Fellow peer Lord Cormack added that the case was “deeply shocking” and said “the reputation of a great man has been traduced, and many of us who are Anglicans are deeply ashamed ​of the way that the Anglican Church has behaved”.

The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd Donald Allister echoed the calls and added: “In all cases where the complainant has a right to be anonymous, there seems to be a case for the respondent also to be anonymous, and in cases until there is overwhelming evidence to suggest guilt, it seems reasonable for people’s reputations not to be damaged in this public way.”

However Baroness Williams said the Government “do not have plans to review the law”.

“Any decision to name an individual where that is considered to be in the public interest will necessarily be specific to the circumstances of an individual case,” she said.

Lord Lexden on Bishop Bell and Presumption of Innocence – House of Lords – November 16 2016



My Lords, much gratitude is due to the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Campbell-Savours, for introducing and seconding this amendment, drawing on their long experience of work and reflection in relation to a very important issue. I shall return briefly to a question that has come up naturally in the course of our discussion—the simple question of whether the presumption of innocence until proved guilty is still in practical, effective existence where allegations of sexual abuse are concerned. Last week’s Henriques report showed that during Operation Midland innocent people were treated as if they were guilty, even though there was no serious evidence against them. A recent detailed study by the Oxford University Centre for Criminology concluded that there has been a cultural shift towards believing allegations of abuse and the presumption is now in favour of believing those who present themselves as victims. The study documents in great detail the immense harm done to very large numbers of ordinary, innocent people who had unfounded allegations made against them. In any walk of life, a person whose name appears publicly in relation to a mere allegation of abuse can expect to suffer much hardship. This wholly unsatisfactory state of affairs extends from state to Church, from the living to the dead.

As I have mentioned on previous occasions in your Lordships’ House, grave damage has been inflicted on the reputation of one of the greatest 20th century bishops of the Church of England, George Bell, after a completely secret and internal investigation of a single, uncorroborated complaint, made many decades after his death. At least the injustice done as a result of Operation Midland has been the subject of a thorough authoritative inquiry. In June, the Church announced an independent review of the case involving Bishop Bell. Four and a half months later, we still await the name of the review’s chairman and his or her terms of reference. There is no right reverend Prelate in the Chamber at the moment but I hope that these comments will be noted by the Lords Spiritual.

The authorities of Church as well as state must recognise that we need not just to halt but to reverse the trend that has eroded the presumption of innocence. We need another cultural shift, a decisive, morally responsible one that will stop the ruin of innocent lives and reputations. This amendment, I believe, would help us to achieve that shift.

Lord Lexden on Bishop Bell – House of Lords – October 25 2016


House of Lords

Here is what Lord Lexden said in the House of Lords last Tuesday (Oct 25):

  • To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are planning to give anonymity to sex abuse suspects before they are charged.

  • My Lords, as noble Lords will be aware, an amendment on this issue has been tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in Committee on the Policing and Crime Bill, which will be debated in early November. The Government’s position is that there should be a presumption of anonymity prior to charge for any sexual offence, but that there will be circumstances in which the public interest means that a suspect should be named.

  • In relation to allegations of sexual abuse, does my noble friend agree that many people are asking themselves and Members of both Houses of Parliament whether the presumption of innocence until proved guilty is still in existence? Is it not our duty to take action—either by instituting anonymity until the point of charge, as backed by the Director of Public Prosecutions last week, or by other effective means—to reduce the terrible toll of suffering caused by false and malicious allegations against innocent people in all walks of life? Finally, do the Government agree that the institutions of both state and Church need to show much greater concern for the reputations of eminent people from the past who cannot speak for themselves? I refer to statesmen such as Sir Edward Heath, traduced by Wiltshire Police without a shred of evidence, and the great bishop, George Bell, who died in 1958 and whose reputation has been severely damaged by today’s Church authorities as a result of a secret process—a kind of private trial, which was widely deplored in a debate in this House earlier this year.

  • I totally agree with my noble friend that the strength of our legal system is that people are innocent until proved guilty, and I hope that that always stays the case. I also completely sympathise with his point about the terrible suffering that people can go through when their names are made public but they are not in fact guilty of anything. I will not talk about individual cases but he mentioned people against whom the accusations were found to be groundless. It is important to say that there is a very fine and difficult balance to be struck. The voicing of victims’ concerns and the naming of people in the public interest to allow further evidence or further victims to come forward needs to be balanced with the right to privacy and protection of the person who is suspected.



    Anonymity for sex abuse suspects

    Wednesday, 26 October, 2016

    In a Lords debate on 30 June (see below), Alistair Lexden called for the introduction of measures to protect people suspected of sex abuse from harassment by the media and misconduct by the police which do grave damage to their reputations while they are under investigation without any charges having been laid against them.

    He returned to this very serious problem, which has caused appalling personal tragedies, through an oral question in the Lords on 25 October.

    He asked the government to give anonymity to sex abuse suspects before they are charged. Follow the link to read the exchanges which followed… Hansard