Eighty years ago today, a decisive battle took place over the skies of Britain. Adolf Hitler sent some 1,120 aircraft to attack London but they were defeated by a force of 630 RAF fighter planes and, just two days later, the Nazi dictator cancelled his plan to invade.
Although the Battle of Britain began in July 1940 and continued into October, 15 September was chosen for this reason as the day to remember this most important period in history.
If the Battle of Britain had been lost and the Nazis had managed to successfully invade the UK, there would have been no D-Day in 1944 and Europe would not have been liberated from this murderous tyranny. It is possible that the Soviet Union would have defeated Germany, but that would have replaced one brutal dictator with another.
So the pilots who attacked and defeated a force almost twice their size 80 years ago today and all those who took part in the conflict each made a real difference to the course of events on a global scale. Winston Churchill was quite correct when he said the famous words: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
The “Few” included the pilots of two Scottish-based fighter squadrons and also ground personnel, many of whom were women, whose efforts were key to the success of the fighting in the air. The knowledge of scientists like Robert Watson-Watt, who developed the Chain Home radar defence system, was also vital. Death-defying bravery, highly effective organisation, and genuine expertise combined to defeat a fearsome war machine which had, until that point, been all-conquering.
In June 1940, shortly before the Battle of Britain began, Churchill spelt out what was at stake: “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including 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 perverted science.”
As we continue to mark the sacrifice of all those who fought to defeat the Nazis, we should remember the importance of preventing their evil, racist, warped ideologies from ever becoming so strong again.
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