Remembering the battle that shaped Britain
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81 years on from the Battle of Britain, the bravery and triumphs of the RAF in the summer of 1941 remain some of the most influential moments in our history.
Not only has the Battle of Britain shaped the course of Britain’s history, but it embodies the British spirit and reflects the national values which make us proud to be British.
The lack of acknowledgement and coverage dedicated to this anniversary, which commemorates a deeply significant moment in our nation’s history, is disappointing every year; we should remember the Battle of Britain with the reverence and respect it deserves.
When we consider British spirit, what it means to be a part of this small island, we should cast our minds back to the seminal moment in our history: the Battle of Britain, the most influential moment in recent history and a turning point in World War Two. The courage and selflessness of those ‘few’ brave pilots, making the ultimate sacrifice to defend our way of life, changed the course of British history. The spirit of those Few, to whom is owed so much, was significantly reflected throughout the many at home; the strength of character demonstrated by the British people in the Blitz is a collective memory, and one we remember with pride.
The Battle of Britain represented a Nazi military operation, and the most sustained bombing campaign yet. The Nazi German forces, formidable in number and radiating confidence on the back of successful campaigns in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, looked to destroy the British air force and with it, British morale.
The failure of the Luftwaffe to overwhelm the RAF and defeat British stoicism marked a firm halt to the Nazi advancement in the West and gave hope to all those who fought for a free Europe. As a result of the Battle of Britain, the planned invasion of Britain – called Operation Sealion – was abandoned, and once again Britain held out.
Despite the daunting swathes of German fighter planes, which significantly outnumbered British forces, the bravery of RAF pilots remains the most remarkable and inspiring aspect of the battle. The RAF had only 1,963 aircraft, compared to the 2,550 Luftwaffe planes; the individual bravery and sense of duty of each and every pilot is unforgettable. Churchill admired the courage of these 2,945 men of the RAF – joined by volunteers from across the Commonwealth - in his famous words “Never has so much been owed by so many to so few”.
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The Battle of Britain embodied a symbolic victory, which sounded a bell of hope for a conquered Europe.
The events of 1941 saw Britain retain its status as an essential base for launching D-Day and any subsequent invasion. If the Battle of Britain had been lost, and Operation Sealion had gone ahead, then effectively the Nazis would have won the war against the west.
It is difficult even to imagine the atrocities and horror that might have befallen Western Europe, had Hitler been permitted to assume power. As Churchill himself warned, “if we fail . . . all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science.” The defence of the Western World rested on the shoulders of Churchill, and his valiant fighter pilots.
Both sides sustained severe losses. The devastated German forces never recovered from the 1,700 aircraft and 2,662 casualties sustained in the air battle. 1,542 lives were lost in service, defending the British cause.
On the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Britain, their bravery and sacrifice renders modern Britain indebted and grateful. We should take this opportunity to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom, principles, and way of life: our democracy, and our hatred for racist prejudice. Not only did the Battle of Britain secure a pivotal moment in World War Two for Britain, but proved a definitive moment for the whole of Europe.
Therefore, it really frustrates and infuriates me to see the leftist woke activists drawing links between Churchill and racism; the audacity of such comments is striking. It is difficult to think of someone who has contributed more to stamping out vicious and violent racism than he. As Boris Johnson said of the vandalism of Churchill’s statue in Westminster, so too are such allegations “absurd and shameful”.
At a time when the rest of Europe was crumbling, Churchill stood – isolated and brave – in the face of predicted defeat. While the foreign secretary, Lord Halifax, alongside the majority of the establishment, advocated surrender and a peace treaty with Nazi Germany, the new Prime Minister – Churchill – refused. Considering an armistice with Hitler was inconceivable, a thought so repugnant that there seemed no alternative but to pin every hope on the RAF and their last stand against the invasion of Britain.
Only a strong leader and character could have succeeded in rallying the nation as Churchill did, with trademark spirit-rousing rhetoric. A nation which – by all accounts – ought to have felt defeated and dismal in the wake of Dunkirk and hopeless in the face of the wave of Nazi triumph which washed through Europe. And yet, the words of Winston Churchill spoke to the spirits of the British people: the war was not over yet.
There is no point in attempting to put it better than Churchill did himself: “Upon this battle [depended] the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it [depended] our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions."
The Battle of Britain was evidentially an influential battle, not just in British history, but in determining the future of Europe. Churchill, with the weight of Europe’s future resting upon him, told the nation: “If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free”.
On the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, we must remember with admiration those who gave their lives to defend Britain against the threat of tyranny and hatred – as well as the bold and brilliant leadership of the man who gave the nation a voice of hope in their darkest hour: Winston Churchill.