Our War Leaders in Peacetime - Harris
The “Bomber” Harris who tinkers with a car or plays lightheartedly with his six-years-old daughter Jacqueline seems a very different person from Marshal of the R.A.F. Sir Arthur Harris, G.C.B., O.B.E., who controlled R.A.F. bomber fleets in Europe for three years. In uniform he was known as a strict disciplinarian.
The one-time Chief of Bomber Command (he retired early in 1946) favours a natural all-round life with a job for his hands as well as his head. He likes getting into the sun, preferably by the seaside or on a farm, for he has never forgotten the days when, as a tobacco planter in Rhodesia, he took both hot sun and hard work for granted. His tobacco plantation was a successful venture, and he says he would not have given it up but for the outbreak of war in 1914.
His main interest in engines dates from those days. In August 1914 he drove to an enlistment centre in one of the first cars to reach Rhodesia, and after a year in the 1st Rhodesian Regiment flew one of the earliest types of R.F.C. fighters. His interest in the internal combustion engine does not extend to motor-boats. The latter he considers “abominations”, but of sailing he is very fond. The trouble is, he says, he has never been able to afford to buy a sailing boat large enough to house his family.
Born in 1892, Harris has been twice married, the first time in 1916. Twenty-two years later, with one son and two daughters, he married Thérèse Hearne. Their child, Jacqueline, is the image of her mother, and by all accounts when Jacqueline was a baby the man who invented “saturation bombing” handled her as adeptly as would any woman.
Today the family is in Rhodesia again, where Harris would like to settle. He now wants time for hobbies the war denied him. Big-game shooting was one of his pre-war sports. When in London, he was a member of the International Sportsmen's Club. Nowadays, at 54 years of age, he prefers watching animals to shooting them, although he says he could make a bit out of a gun as he did in the past, and that would help towards the boat he would like to acquire.
His interests are not restricted to outdoor sports. He likes reading, mainly on practical matters: before the war these included shooting, sailing, motoring and, of course, aeronautics. He is a stout champion of the cause of British Civil Aviation and want to see Britain and South Africa linked by a first-class air service. He is not particularly interested in politics. But “Bomber” Harris helped to knock the world down, and now he wants to know how it is to be rebuilt, for which reason he has extended reading to social subjects.