Battle of Britain: Churchill's 'few' remembered
Updated on 20 August 2010
As a ceremony marks 70 years since Winston Churchill famously spoke of the "few" fighting for the Battle of Britain, historian Richard Overy tells Channel 4 News the words captured the spirit of the nation.
The 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain will be marked today by a reading of the speech and a flypast outside the Churchill War Rooms in central London.
Churchill's stirring "so much owed by so many to so few" address will be read at 3.52pm - exactly 70 years after the wartime prime minister delivered it in parliament.
More than 2,900 British, Commonwealth and Allied aircrew took part and successfully fought off the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain which began on July 10 1940 and ended on October 31 that year. The triumph helped wreck Hitler's plans to invade Britain and is believed to have laid the foundations for Allied victory five years later.
In a speech on 20 August 1940, Churchill told MPs: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
Author and historian Prof Richard Overy told Channel 4 News that the Churchill's phrase encapsulated the "myth of the battle" which still resonates today.
"At the time Churchill didn’t expect the impact [of the words] at all," he said.
"The phrase caught the imagination and immediately people took it up as a way of describing a David v Goliath view of RAF fighter command.
"I think really people were looking for language to describe how they saw the battle and these few lines somehow captured that spirit."..
(More very interesting info on Channel4 here)
Dame Vera Lynn, whose songs did so much to lift the morale of Britons during the war, was also at the event.
She said of Churchill's speech: "He was talking about a collection of very brave chaps and we are all grateful and thankful that we had them at the time.
"It's right and proper that we should always remember them. They were a few but they did a fantastic, big job." (here)[emphasis mine]
And speaking of Vera Lynn?
ALWAYS remembered and honoured.....