Separating myth from reality in a history of the Battle of Britain

We all know that the time before we were born was a golden age when men were manlier, women lovelier, civilisation more civilised, culture more edifying, values more valued and so on. But what if it isn’t actually true?

What if, say, it turned out that Winston Churchill was damn near as slippery and unprincipled a politician as David Cameron? What if the Battle of Britain wasn’t actually won by ‘the Few’ — and wasn’t even primarily a fighter battle anyway? What if, damn it, the famously long hot summer of 1940 was in fact mostly overcast with just a hot bit right at the end in September? What if our radar technology really wasn’t that early or special? What if that famous Low cartoon — ‘Very well then, alone’ — was a joke, given that, even before America joined the party, we had an empire of 500 million on our side?

This is the problem I’m having reading The Many Not The Few, Richard North’s revisionist history of the Battle of Britain.

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One thought on “Separating myth from reality in a history of the Battle of Britain”

  1. What matters, of course, is that the Nazis were stopped, and Fighter Command were the sharp end of the spear. Whenever I hear the term “revisionist history”, I have to wonder about the motivation of the revisionist. History, of course, has to be reconsidered in light of new evidence, but there are always those who need no evidence to trash what they consider to be anathema. Even a cursory consideration of the factors that led to British victory in the B of B would require one to acknowledge the contribution of the people who didn’t actually strap on parachutes and go prop-to-prop with the Luftwaffe- those planes actually had to be built by someone, didn’t they?- but war is Drama, and the undramatic is always secondary. Hang on to those myths, James, because they are as true as anything, certainly as true as the plodding, finicky details that historians consider to be The Truth.

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