A Brief History
On August 20, 1940, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the war-torn United Kingdom, delivered one of his most stirring wartime speeches, one that hailed the efforts of the Royal Air Force (RAF), known from then on and forever after as “The Few.”
All of Great Britain, but especially England, was being slammed by the might of Hitler’s Lufwaffe, and with almost all of the rest of Europe already under Axis control, the British were on their own. Hitler and his Nazi troops , however, could neither eliminate the UK from the war nor invade the island of Great Britain unless they defeated the RAF.
Hitler’s dream was not to be, for the British pilots and ground crews won the war of attrition that lasted from July through October of 1940 and became known as “The Battle of Britain.”
Although Churchill was also referring to the pilots and men of Bomber Command, most people took his words to refer only to those of Fighter Command, the air force personnel who maintained and flew the Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires. Of course, it would be remiss if the immensely important work done by the women who tracked the enemy’s formations was not mentioned.
The sentence uttered by Churchill, “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” will certainly continue to ring throughout history and keep the RAF, and especially its fighter forces, in the hearts of the British people.
Seldom have such stirring words been spoken by a politician in the acknowledgment and praise of the efforts of a military force. In continuation of this gratitude and recognition: RAF, we salute you!
For another interesting event that happened on August 20, please see the History and Headlines article: “10 Unusual Murder Weapons.”
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