Bomber Harris's family goes to war over 'psychopath' slur

SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: Bomber Harris’s family goes to war over ‘psychopath’ slur

Despite earning the admiration of Churchill and being commemorated by a statue in central London, Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris remains the most controversial British commander of World War II.

Yet his family have been staggered by the accusation made by bestselling U.S. author Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book that Harris was ‘a psychopath’.

And now they have come out fighting. 

Breaking the family silence, Harris’s grandson, Tom Assheton, a former Household Cavalry officer, tells me: ‘Never think that my grandfather’s pugnacity equated to lack of feeling.

Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris remains the most controversial British commander of World War II

‘He was someone who understood that war was terrible — and understood evil, as embodied by Hitler.’

Deriding what he describes as ‘armchair air marshals’ like Gladwell, Assheton laments that the American displays little understanding of Sir Arthur.

‘I knew my grandfather. He was much more grounded than this murderous person who wanted to turn Germany into a pile of rubble and flame,’ says Assheton, 57.

‘Canon Collins, who later helped found CND, was a cousin of his. He was a wartime RAF chaplain.

‘My grandfather didn’t boot him out [of the RAF]. He was quite prepared to have a discussion with anyone about what was right or wrong.’

Harris’s attitude towards conflict was determined by his experiences in World War I, adds Assheton.

‘He flew over Passchendaele in 1917, seeing the soup of mud and ground-up bodies. It made a very strong impression on him.

His family have been staggered by the accusation made by bestselling U.S. author Malcolm Gladwell 

Harris earned the admiration of Churchill and was commemorated by a statue in central London

‘He wanted to be a farmer in Africa but spent the next 30 years serving his country.

‘He wanted to finish the war as quickly as possible . . . and the bombing campaign meant that a million able-bodied Germans were committed to air defence and couldn’t join the land battle against the Allies.

‘There is no glory in war. My grandfather knew that better than anyone.’

Assheton, who co-presents the podcast Bloody Violent History with James Jackson, is intent on emulating his grandfather — in one respect at least. 

‘I’m taking flying lessons this summer,’ he explains. ‘I’ve got his old goggles. Just dusted them off . . .’

Princes William and Harry may scarcely be talking any more, but their mother’s wedding dress designer, Elizabeth Emanuel, is delighted she’s helped them find one thing on which they can agree. 

They’ve allowed Princess Diana’s bridal gown to go on display at Kensington Palace for the first time in 25 years, and Emanuel tells me: ‘It’s wonderful they’re together on this because the dress is still so popular, even after all of these years.’ 

She believes the Netflix hit The Crown has whipped up huge interest in the gown, which features a 25ft train and 10,000 pearls: ‘Lots of people have seen The Crown and now they’ll get to see the real thing.’ 

First role and Joan’s a beauty 

Dame Joan Collins is celebrating a significant showbusiness milestone this month

Evergreen actress Dame Joan Collins is celebrating a significant showbusiness milestone this month — the 70th anniversary of her first speaking screen role in the 1951 comedy film Lady Godiva Rides Again, featuring Diana Dors and Dennis Price.

Joan did not play Lady Godiva but had a small role as a beauty queen contestant — as did Ruth Ellis, who years later was convicted and executed for murder.

‘The immortal line was ‘I forgot my lipstick’,’ recalls Dame Joan. Not something she has ever been guilty of doing in real life. 

The movie was made nearly 15 years before her current husband Percy Gibson, 56, was born.

Dr Who’s Peter Capaldi, who stars in the forthcoming blockbuster The Suicide Squad, thought working life in the U.S. was going to be a beach. 

‘I didn’t know Atlanta, and everyone said, ‘We’re going to the beach this afternoon’. 

I thought: ‘That sounds like a lovely Hollywood-type lifestyle. Then I realised there isn’t really a beach in Atlanta, because it doesn’t have a coastal element. It was in the studio.’ 

Ralph gets Mandy on side, relatively

Lord Mandelson has put in his tuppenceworth in Thursday’s by-election at his old constituency of Hartlepool.

He has spoken with some warmth about property entrepreneur and independent candidate Ralph Ward-Jackson.

‘He was asked about the ‘third force’ in Hartlepool politics,’ Ward-Jackson, whose great- great- great uncle was MP for West Hartlepool, tells me.

‘He mentioned my ancestor and said that, if people were fed up with the main parties, they could vote for me — adding that I have much closer links to the town than the Conservative candidate. He could have added ‘and the Labour candidate’.’

Marriage has transformed Oscar-winning writer Sir Tom Stoppard, who admits he struggles to survive even a day without his third wife, Sabrina Guinness, whom he wed in 2014.

‘I lived on my own for a long time and I was never lonely — not for five minutes. I’m more vulnerable now,’ says the 83-year-old playwright.

‘Sabrina went to London for a doctor’s appointment the other day and I felt miserable to be left for 24 hours. It didn’t seem enough to have thousands of books I could turn to.’

Shark tale to make India’s jaw drop

India Hicks (left), plucked up the courage to swim with the sharks (right) at the weekend

Prince Charles’s fearless goddaughter, India Hicks, is not afraid to swim with sharks and reveals that she plucked up the courage to dive with them at the weekend.

‘Diving with Tiger Sharks? Not on my bucket list. It was on my cousin’s. Somehow, I ended up on his trip,’ explains the entrepreneur, 53, who was a bridesmaid to Lady Diana Spencer. 

‘Yes, they are wild creatures, but it’s all very professionally handled, I was reassured.’

The mother-of-five, who lives in the Bahamas, managed to keep the sharks at bay. ‘I was hand-rubbingly enthralled by this adventure. It was quite something.’

Jagger finds inspiration as he queues for the jab!

Are the Jagger brothers turning into freedom fighters?

Sir Mick recently released Eazy Sleazy, a blistering attack on lockdown, and now younger brother Chris, 73, has unveiled Waiting In Line — a track he wrote after queuing up for the Covid vaccination — from his forthcoming album.

Like Mick, Chris is no anti-vaxxer, and sings: ‘I guess it’s gonna be/Worth the price/For getting on/With the rest of my life’. Which, in Chris’s case, means spending more time with his 14 grandchildren.

‘I did some home schooling with one of them, Marley,’ Chris tells me. ‘I was teaching him blues harmonica — and Shakespeare, learning ‘to be or not to be’.’

Big day for Mackintosh’s little sweetie

Millie Mackintosh hosted a pink-themed party at her home in West London, to celebrate her daughter Sienna’s first birthday

ConfectionEry heiress Millie Mackintosh, whose family invented the nation’s favourite Quality Street, has wasted no time introducing her daughter Sienna to the sweeter things in life.

The 31-year-old hosted a pink-themed party at her home in West London, which she shares with her husband, former Made In Chelsea co-star Hugo Taylor, to celebrate their little girl’s first birthday.

She hired an events company to dress up their kitchen with adornments including pink balloons, a mini teepee and a large two-tier pistachio floral cake.

‘Sienna’s first birthday was such a special day,’ says Millie, who, like Hugo, dressed up in pink for the occasion.


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