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The Battle of Britain

In the week when we celebrate Battle of Britain Day (September 15th), it is interesting to discover - in a recent article by Brian James in History Today and in the book ‘The Battle’ by eminent historian Richard Overy - that virtually every aspect of this enduring myth is now being challenged by the weight of modern historical research. The heart of the myth is that a small number of courageous young pilots in RAF Fighter Command (‘the few’) stopped the German invasion of Britain, a view described by Dr Andrew Gordon, head of maritime history, as ‘hogwash’. Gordon is one of three military historians at the Joint Service Command Staff College, who teach future commanders the lessons of our military past. In their view, it was the Royal Navy that prevented the German invasion in 1940. ‘The Germans stayed away because while the Royal Navy existed, they had not a hope in hell of capturing these islands,” says Dr Gordon. ‘The navy had ships in sufficient numbers to have overwhelmed any invasion fleet.’ These historians assert that when Churchill talked of ‘the few’ in a famous speech to Parliament, he meant all of the RAF - not just Fighter Command but also Bomber Command, and Coastal Command (which suffered considerable losses). Overy says that there is still disagreement as to when the ‘Battle of Britain’ began and ended. It was, in fact, not a single encounter but a series of steadily escalating bombing raids and fighter battles that reached its most intense point on September 15th - a day on which the RAF had 300 Spitfires and Hurricanes in the air. They shot down 56 German planes and lost 26 of their own. continued overleaf...

Aces High: but what about the Royal Navy’s role in the Battle of Britain?

All Saints Centre, Lewes
When? 7:30pm
How Much? £5