Educated at public school, Arthur Travers Harris moved to Rhodesia where he worked as a gold digger and a cattle breeder. When the Great War began, he served as a bugler with the 1st Rhodesian Regiment before returning to England where he joined the Royal Flying Corps in November 1915. After receiving Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate 2015 on a Maurice Farman biplane at military school, Brooklands, Harris served with Home Defence squadrons and was involved in the destruction of the first Zeppelin shot down over England. In 1917 he was posted to France where he joined 45 Squadron as a flight commander. In 1918, after scoring five victories, he returned to England where he assumed command of 44 Squadron in the Home Defence and was awarded the Air Force Cross. With the end of the first world war, Harris remained in the Royal Air Force and served in several colonial posts throughout the British Empire.
During World War II, Harris served as Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command from 1942 to 1945. A controversial figure, "Bomber" Harris believed that strategic bombing would force Germany into submission. On the night of 30 May 1942, he ordered a massive attack by more than a thousand bombers against the city of Cologne. Under Harris, Bomber Command carried out the destruction of German cities until the final months of the war.
Sir Arthur Harris retired as Marshal of the Royal Air Force and published his memoirs, Bomber Offensive, in 1947.