“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” These were the immortal words uttered by Winston Churchill about the Battle of Britain (July 10-October 31, 1940). During the summer of 1940 the German air force (Luftwaffe) tried to win air superiority over the south of Britain and the English Channel in the hope of destroying the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the British air craft industry.
Here’s the story about the commemoration from The Daily Mail, August 21, 2010:
It may be 70 years old, but the resounding call to arms during the Battle of Britain still stiffened the sinew bringing pride and not a few tears yesterday.
Churchill’s famous address was delivered by actor Robert Hardy at 3.52pm – exactly the time they were originally spoken in Parliament by the wartime Prime Minister on August 20, 1940.
Forces sweetheart: Dame Vera Lynn mingled with veterans during the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Britain today
Former fighter pilots, Churchill’s daughter Lady Soames and Dame Vera Lynn were among hundreds of people, many waving Union Flags, who crammed into the street outside the Churchill War Rooms in central London to mark the emotional occasion.
Many had been members of RAF Fighter Command, who became known as The Few because their 600 aircraft were heavily outnumberedby the Luftwaffe which had some 1,750 planes and bombers.
Yet through those bleak months, the RAF crews tigerishly defended the skies over the UK and proved too skilful for their German counterparts. Their courage was legendary – one in three were either killed or wounded in dogfights, yet they returned to the skies day after day to wreck Hitler’s invasion plans and turn the course of the war.
Yesterday Lady Soames, 88, said: ‘It is very moving because 70 years ago I was in the House of Commons to hear my father deliver the speech. For me it has particular meaning but I find it wonderful that I look around this crowd and for all of us somehow the speech rang a bell.’
In the crowd was Wing Commander Tom Nei l , 90, who destroyed 17 enemy aircraft and took to the skies 141 times. He now lectures about his experiences, to ensure history is remembered.
Looking at the hundreds at Whitehall yesterday, it was clear that the courage of ‘The Few’ still resonates across the generations.