Remembering Arthur, Honiton's war hero who helped turn the tide of WWII

The commemorative plaque donated to Allhallows Museum

The commemorative plaque donated to Allhallows Museum - Credit: Honiton Museum

At a ceremony in the Mackarness Hall on July 24th 1945, the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors admitted Sir Arthur Travers Harris as the third Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Honiton. He was presented with a casket containing the certificate of Freedom and a guard of honour was provided by the ATC.

During his acceptance speech, he said: "Twice in my lifetime I have seen the whole effort of nations poured into war. If only such effort were to be put into working for peace and progress. Twice I have seen the youth of nations butchered. Let us not see that again."

Arthur Travers Harris was born in Cheltenham and attended Allhallows School in Honiton for three years. He excelled in shooting, hockey, cricket, rugby, high jump, long jump, and hurdles. Arthur’s father wanted him to join the army, but he chose to go to Rhodesia instead and tried gold mining and drove mail coaches. In 1914 he enlisted in the 1st Rhodesian Regiment and a year later returned to England to join the Royal Flying Corps. He learned to fly at Brooklands and finished the first world war as a Major.

In 1937 he was appointed to Command No 4 (Bomber) Group and went to the USA in search of aircraft for the RAF. He chose the Hudson and Havard. By 1942 he was Air Officer Commanding in Chief, Bomber Command. His office saw the development of the RAF bombing offensive against Germany. The most striking tribute to Bomber Command came from German Field Marshall von Runstedt. He stated that the strategic bombing, which paralysed the German war machine, was the biggest single reason why Germany had lost the war.

In a school questionnaire which Arthur completed in 1945, he wrote that his scholastic attainments were "remarkably subcalibre". Under 'Later Education', he wrote "personal effort in a hard world". He also wrote that he was "incensed" to find that although he was the first person to win Mr Chudleigh's new Victor Ludorum cup, his name was engraved on the old cup and so his name was not the first inscribed on the new cup.

After Allhallows School in Rousdon closed in 1998, this plaque was donated to the Honiton Museum collection.