by Jack Meadows
Most of us who heard at the time of Churchill’s famous pronouncement about “The Few” did so via radio or newspapers. We were suitably moved and then got on with the job (as an RAF Flying Instructor at the time I have no personal axe to grind here). Only recently did I come upon a full transcript of what he actually said in the The House on August 20, 1940. It was an eye-opener.
“The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power. On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers who will play an invaluable part in the case of invasion and whose unflinching zeal it has been necessary in the meantime on numerous occasions to restrain.”
It must have been the media -the fighter boys were too busy and anyway more generous -which quickly preempted the tribute for that more visible and glamorous section of the RAF which ever since has basked in glory that was rightly its but not its alone. For, as Churchill said, the bomber boys were doing their own bit just as nobly, if less spectacularly.