This past week Facebook was awash with pictures of useless, corrupt and lousy politicians, vapid celebs, mad cats and Spitfires. The Spitfires are the most important of the lot and that is because we were all remembering the events of World War Two collectively lumped together as “The Battle of Britain“. The British officially recognise the battle’s duration as being from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps the period of large-scale night attacks known as the Blitz, that lasted from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941. Realistically we are commemorating the group of men who climbed into their Spitfires and Hurricanes to do battle with the Luftwaffe over the UK. They are often referred to as “The Few“.
The Few paid a heavy price for their courage and determination, and Winston Churchill described their deeds as follows on 200 August 1940:
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
And while the pilots flew their fighters above they were supported by thousands of unsung heroes who maintained the aircraft, manned the radar stations, made the breakfast, repaired the airfields, tended the wounded and did their duty often under intense pressure and enemy action.
The death toll amongst those involved is not easy to quantify because there are so many factors involved. Generally speaking the British RAF aircrew numbered 2,353 (80%) of the total of 2,927 flyers involved, with 407 Britons killed from a total of 510 losses. Not all of The Few were Britons either, as pilots from a number of countries served in the RAF during the battle of Britain. The aircrew are commemorated on the Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne, Kent, and their names are listed on the Battle of Britain Monument in London.
The memorial in London was unveiled on 18 September 2005 by HRH The Prince of Wales, in the presence of many of the surviving airmen from that era.
What I found striking about the memorial was the bronze reliefs that seemingly jump out of the background. They convey so much emotion in such detail that it is difficult to capture it on camera.
The Battle of Britain was a decisive one; the war could have gone very differently had it been lost by the RAF, fortunately that did not happen, and London came through in spite of the 32000 civilian deaths and 87000 injured.
The Roll of Honour of The Few only lists individuals, but each one would have connected to loved ones that would be equally affected by their loss. They lived and died young, and fought furiously, facing odds that often seemed insurmountable. The sacrifice of The Few has not been forgotten, but unfortunately in the new “woke” world that may be deemed to be politically incorrect and relegated to the memories of those who chose not to forget.
A number of South Africans served and lost their lives flying with the RAF during the battle. As far as I can ascertain their names are (Casualties are linked to SAWGP page):
BARRY, F/O N. J. M. 72514. South African. 3 & 501 Squadrons. Killed October 7th 1940
BOWYER, Fl/Lt W S. 39607. South African. 257 Squadron. Killed January 24th 1942
BURTON, F/O P. R. F. 74348. South African. 249 Squadron. Killed September 27th 1940
CHATER, S/L G. F. 34230 South African. 247 and 3 Squadrons
CLARK, P/O C. A. G. 42192. South African. F.I.U. Killed October 30th 1941
DIFFORD, F/O I. B. 39865 South African. 607 Squadron. Killed October 7th 1940
DRAKE, P/O G. J. 42398 South African. 607 Squadron. Killed September 9th 1940
GOLDSMITH, F/O C. W. 72152 South African. 603 & 54 Squadrons. Died of wounds October 28th 1940
GRAHAM, P/O L. W. 81912 South African. 56 Squadron
HAVILAND, P/O R. H. 76571 South African. 248 Squadron. Killed August 28th 1940
HAY, F/O. I. B. D. E. 39734 South African. 611 Squadron
HAYSOM, F/Lt. G. H. L. 39736 South African. 79 Squadron
HILL, P/O M. R. 72467 South African. 266 Squadron. Killed March 12th 1945**
HUGO, P/O P. H. DFC 41848 South African, 615 Squadron
HULL, F/Lt. C. B. DFC 37285 South African. 263 & 43 Squadrons. Killed September 7th 1940
LEWIS, P/O A. G. 41303 South African. 85 & 249 Squadrons
MALAN, F/Lt. A. G. DFC 37604 S/African. 74 Squadron
MORRIS, P/O E. J. 40132 South African. 79 Squadron
OELOFSE, P/O J. R. S. 42519 South African, 43 Squadron. Killed August 8th 1940
PEACOCK-EDWARDS, F/O S. R. 40747 South African. 615 & 253 Squadrons
POSENER, P/O F. H. 41735 South African. 152 Squadron. Missing July 20th 1940**
STAPLETON, F/O B. G. 41879 South African. 603 Squadron. Captured & POW December 23rd 1944
VAN-MENTZ, F/O B. DFC 70826 South African. 222 Squadron. Killed April 26th 1941
WALLACE, Sgt. T. Y. DFM 149635 South African. 610 & 111 Squadrons. Killed November 11th 1944
WATKINSON, P/O A. B. 42921 South African. 66 Squadron
(ROH sourced from www.battleofbritain1940.net)
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