In the summer of 1940, Britain was staring down the barrel of a gun. Defeated by the Germany Army on land and besieged by U-boats at sea, the nation was forced to rely on its last defence against invasion – the Royal Air Force. But the RAF had fewer pilots, inferior planes and less experience than the amassed forces of the Luftwaffe. As German bombs began to rain down on British soil much of the world believed that our days were numbered. The American ambassador in London, Joe Kennedy, told Washington that the British had little with which to defend themselves but their courage. The French were even more forthright. According to Admiral Darlan, commander of the French Navy, Britain had only five weeks of independence left, ‘unless they surrendered sooner’.
The story of what happened next is one of the defining moments of British history. By sheer pluck and determination, a small number of fighter pilots defied the odds to hold off the Luftwaffe until an invasion of our shores was no longer possible. ‘The few’, as Churchill