The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung used to run a regular feature, the Proust questionnaire. It was designed to reveal a personality through answers to such enquiries as ‘what is your favourite colour?’, etc. One question was ‘what is your favourite military achievement?’ No doubt in Proust’s time it would have been Marathon. Isaiah Berlin found the modern answer of genius: the Battle of Britain. In the summer of 1940 England looked likely to go the way of France, crushed by the terrible Nazi machine. The bombers duly appeared, in hundreds, over London and the airfields. They were stopped by RAF fighters and though in London many thousands were killed there was never any danger that morale would collapse. It was a heroic moment.
History moves on, and we have known for a good generation or more that the German Luftwaffe was not nearly as formidable as was then thought; in fact, the British were producing more aircraft, and had been doing so since April 1939. Hitler’s Germany was just not particularly efficient. In