A fascinating play exists about Bishop Bell. Well, actually, the play is more about Winston Churchill. But in this play, entitled “Soldiers” and first performed in Germany in 1967, Act Three (“The Garden”) stages a confrontation between Churchill and George Bell on the ethics of ‘carpet bombing’. Although such a meeting never took place, “Soldiers” carries the emotional truth of the Bishop’s costly public stance.

“Soldiers” was written by Rolf Hochhuth, who also wrote the controversial play “The Deputy”, which was made into a movie, Amen (2003), by Costa-Gavras. The writer studied Bell’s speech and letters well, and his life. The play is hard on us who have been taught differently to see the P.M. portrayed on stage as an exponent of Power Politics, and of unscrupulousness in the name of a great cause. Not only is Churchill seen as the power behind the murder from the air of countless non-combatants, mostly young mothers and their small children, and seniors; but it is also claimed that he engineered the assassination of the Polish Prime Minister, General Sikorsky. You could skip most of that, and just read act three.

Toward the end of the play, Bishop Bell is ‘bested’ by Churchill and ushered out of the Great Man’s presence. Here is the playwright’s stage direction at that point:

“BELL turns away, he is forced to, overcome by despair, and the trembling in his voice. … — his voice fades like that of mankind in the tumult of the massacre of history….
CHURCHILL, alone, sunk in thought, gives himself up, unobserved, to the impression BELL has made on him.”

The play’s last words concerning Bishop Bell are these:
CHIEF OF STAFF: Well — did the P.M.
silence the old demagogue?
SECRETARY (sighs, smiles) :
If he ever got to be Archbishop of Canterbury … !
CHIEF OF STAFF: I expect that will be taken care of.

P.S. The first English-language production of “Soldiers”, which was in Toronto, was well cast: Winston Churchill was played by John Colicos, whom we know as ‘Baltar’ from the original Battlestar Galactica. George Bell was played by Chris Wiggins, whom we know as ‘Jack Marshak’ in Friday the 13th: The Series. How did they know?
Listen here.