” Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few “
Most people will recognise the Winston Churchill quote. Bonus points if you know any of the rest of the speech from which it comes.
If you want to get beyond the words and see who ‘The Few’ really were, a visit to The Battle of Britain Memorial on the Kent coastline is a must.
I hope I can inspire you to visit this memorial.
Battle of Britain: The History Bit
A quick history refresher to set the scene.
From the beginning of WW2, Hitler and his armies had raged across Europe, invading and conquering without too much trouble. In 1940 Germany invaded France and rolled across the country, eventually reaching the Dunkirk coastline.
We know how that went- Battle of Dunkirk, Allied defeat and mass evacuation of troops back to Britain. Winston Churchill, wise old fox that he was, saw what was coming.
” The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin “
From July until October 1940, pilots and their ground crews fought for control of the air over the English Channel and Great Britain.
They flew for Britain but the nationalities were mixed, with many coming from parts of the British Empire and conquered nations including Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Germany lost the airborne battle and the defeat became a turning point of WW2.
The Battle of Britain Memorial
Many individuals made up The Few and the memorial neatly reflects this. It’s quite small in scale, comprising of individual elements that come together to create a thought provoking experience.
The central point is a statue of a seated airman looking out to sea. The figure is depicted wearing a flying jacket, meaning his rank and nationality are not revealed. He could be an Officer or a gunner. British or from elsewhere. Awaiting a colleague’s return or contemplating his next flight.
The figure of the airman sits upon a base holding the badges of all Allied Squadrons and units that took part in the BoB.
The lone airmen represents all but is no one person in particular. In contrast, two busts stand in tribute to individuals whose leadership shaped victory.
One is of Sir Keith Park who commanded the RAF’s No 11 Group Fighter Command – the squadrons that bore the brunt of the Battle of Britain. The other is that of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, led RAF Fighter Command throughout the Battle of Britain in 1940.
In a subtle but clever nod to each mans role, Sir Keith is looking out to sea and the skies where the fighting took place, whereas Lord Dowding is turned slightly to look at the Memorial Wall, where the names of all his men are listed.
The Christopher Foxley -Norris Memorial Wall
A memorial wall named in tribute to late Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris, a Hurricane fighter pilot in 1940 and driving force behind the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.
Everyone listed on the marble wall flew at least once. Names are listed alphabetically, without rank, again highlighting that every one of The Few contributed to victory.
The Replica Aircraft
From the ‘who’ to the ‘how’. Replicas of the aircraft that went into battle; the Hurricane and the Spitfire. Interesting to see and a neat backdrop to the lone airman at the centre of the memorial.
There’s also an impressive sculpture of a downed Stuka, its nose planted to the ground. The silver Stuka is stark next to the colourful replica aircraft, but it works. An interesting contrast.
Bob: The Squadron Dog
Many squadrons or stations adopted dogs as mascots and pets. The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust carries on this tradition, but with a statue rather than a real life four legged friend.
Going by the name Bob, for obvious reasons, he represents all the ‘Good Boys’ that saw airmen off and welcomed them home. I love the idea of The Few having a dog about the place.
A wet nose and a wagging tail is never a bad welcome home, is it?
Cockpit Cafe & Balcony
The Memorial is home to a cafe serving a range of drinks and light meals, including a Spitfire Beer if you’re inclined. There is a balcony with seating and I’m told, on a clear day, views across to France. The day of our visit wasn’t quite the weather for the views, unfortunately!
The Practical Stuff
Find the Battle of Britain Memorial at New Dover Rd, Capel-le-Ferne, Folkestone, CT18 7JJ. The memorial is well sign posted.
The memorial site is accessible on foot 365 days a year via side gate. Parking, cafe and shop open as follows:
1 March to end September, open every day between 10am and 5pm
1 October to end February, open Tuesday to Sunday between 10am and 4pm
Ample parking, pay cash on entry or by card in ‘The Wing’ building at memorial entrance. £1 per hour.
The Battle of Britain Memorial in Kent makes a wonderful stop off point if you’re in the area for the LeShuttle service (formerly known as Eurotunnel) across to France. We stayed at the nearby Holiday Inn Express Folkestone Channel Tunnel, a comfortable and pet friendly hotel ideally situated for access to both LeShuttle Terminal and the BoB memorial. A recommended stay.