The people of London once again this last week showed their resilience in the face of tragedy. Right around the corner from Westminster bridge is a memorial to another time in London’s history when the people banded together to fend off death and destruction. The Battle of Britain Memorial stands on the bank of the Thames across the water from the London Eye and near Whitehall and Parliament.
This bronze and granite sculpture, dedicated by Prince Charles in 2005, commemorates those who fought to keep London free from a German takeover in 1940. France had just fallen to Hitler, and Hitler expected Britain to follow suit. He knew that before invasion, the Royal Air Force (RAF) would need to be destroyed. Bombing of England began in June, 1940 and lasted until October.
The men of the RAF, numbering about 3,000, are “The Few” referred to by Winston Churchill.
By September, the Germans mistakenly concluded that the RAF stood on its last legs. Bombing targets moved from the coastal airfields inland to London.
In the face of grave threat, the men and women of the city came together in remarkable teamwork to defend their home. Besides the men of the RAF, the city benefited from the efforts of plane mechanics, factory workers, anti-aircraft gunners, and searchlight operators. More than a million men volunteered for the Home Guard. The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) worked as radar operators. They have their place in the Battle of Britain Memorial.
The outcome of the Battle of Britain? Not only did London survive but also the German Luftwaffe suffered from an almost lethal blow. England remained free and would eventually provide the staging area for the massive Allied invasion of France on D-Day.
The Battle of Britain is a testament to the well-known English reputation to Keep Calm and Carry On. But that doesn’t minimize tragedy. Once again, our hearts are with this historic, strong city.