Lacking moral fibre

Hastings writes that even now (or at least at the time he was writing Bomber Command), it is difficult to obtain information about crew who were classified as LMF: lacking moral fibre.

Based on his interviews, he estimates that as many as 1 in 10 men were unable to complete their tours due to medical or psychological reasons. From his vantage point in 1979 he comments that “Few of these cases would be classified by any but the most bigoted as simple cowardice, for by now the Moran principle that courage is not an absolute human characteristic, but expendable capital every man possesses in varying quantity, has been widely recognised. But in 1943 most cases of men relieved of operational duty for medical or moral reasons were treated by the RAF with considerable harshness (270).”

There was great fear at the top of the service that if an honourable path existed to escape operations, many men would take it. Court martials, humiliating stripping of rank and public disdain fixed crews to their grim operations.

Many men talked of their fate:

“One much-liked officer came fresh from a long stint as an instructor to be a flight commander. ‘You better tell me about this business, chaps’ he said modestly in the mess. ‘I’ve been away on the prairies too long.’ After a few operations he concluded readily that he had no chance of survival. ‘What are you doing for Christmas, Stuart?’ somebody asked him in the mess one day. ‘Oh, I shan’t be alive for Christmas,’ he said wistfully, and was gone within a week, leaving a wife and three children.” (Hastings 281)

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3 responses to “Lacking moral fibre

  • Amy Scott

    This is so terrible…I shudder to think of the horrible choice some men had to make (I guess most often this choice was made for them). Continue on with unbearable tours (facing a real possibility of death) or face public censure (social death). There is such a difference between having mental, emotional difficulties and “lacking moral fibre.” I would love to hear more about those 1 in 10 men who had to leave. We’ve discussed before that some men have been forgotten by history. Surely these men have been largely forgotten (well done Hastings for even putting their story into focus). I wonder if there are any books out there that explore this issue in greater detail. If so, I want to read them. I’ve been very inspired by this post! Thank you!

  • andrew simmonds

    Andrew

    I’ve read many books on the experiences of Allied aircrew, particularly Bomber Command and there are many anecdotes and references to LMF. I’ve discussed with a former RAF colleague the possibility of writing a dissertation and ultimately a book on this subject, The Radio 4 dramatisation of Hastings ‘Bomber’, describes the principle character Sam Lambert, Sergeant, as an aircrew member that fits the label of LMF. Although he is quietly moved away, and not openly humiliated, his experiences and of so many others requires recognition. In a recent BBC documentry on Bomber Command, LMF was mentioned, but avoided. Its understandable, that the RAF finds this issue difficult, but recognition is required that acknowledges the change of attitue and the formation of the RAF psychiatric service, which I believe from a nursing perspective was formed at RAF Yatesbury towards the end of the war. As Amy says, if there are any books out there or experiences i’d be really interested to know.

  • Niall

    Hi Andrew – could you drop me a line at niallfirth1 (at) gmail.com? I am a journalist and am interested in writing about LMF. My granddad was a bomber pilot in WWII/. thanks Niall

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