A purely objective assessment of the Battle of Britain does not explain why interest in the Battle of Britain remains so high 80 years later. There were, after all, many other decisive battles in WWII from Stalingrad to Midway. The appeal of the Battle of Britain is less military and diplomatic than emotional.
In the summer of 1940, the RAF stood against an apparently
invincible enemy, a juggernaut of seemingly
huge proportions, while RAF Fighter Command was tiny -- and largely composed of 18-22 year-old amateurs hastily inducted! Even including the
foreign pilots flying with the RAF, there were only roughly 1,200 trained fighter
pilots. (Numbers varied due to training, casualties and recruiting.) They were anything but "cannon fodder." Although very few of them were "regulars," because the process of learning to fly to the proficiency required took more than a year, fighter pilots represented a cadre that could not be readily replaced. The RAF had to beat the Luftwaffe with the few men it had.
Churchill – as so often – captured the sentiment of his countrymen when he claimed that “never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” This image of a small “band of brothers” standing up to a massive and invincible foe in a defensive battle for their homeland was reminiscent of other heroic battles – Henry V at Agincourt, Edward the Black Prince at Poitiers, Leonidas and his 300 at Thermopylae. Such battles, pitting a few defenders against a hoard of enemy, have always appealed to students of history and readers of historical fiction like almost nothing else.
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