It’s time to shatter the myths of the Battle of Britain

Today commemorated the climax of the Battle of Britain. You know the one, the one they made films about. And those few we still remember

‘The Few’ were immensely courageous, but the image of plucky Little Britain, David against the Goliath of Nazi Germany, is completely misleading

Seventy-five years ago today, fierce aerial battles were taking place over London and southern England, and later that evening, after the fighting was over and there was still no sign of a German invasion, reporters on the news announced some 185 enemy planes had been shot down. To all who heard it, and a large proportion of the population did, it appeared a significant victory had been won. Later, it emerged Sunday September 15 had also been the target date for Operation Sealion, the planned German cross-Channel invasion. With the RAF Fighter Command still in robust health, attempting such a high-risk venture was unthinkable. Two days later, Hitler postponed Sealion and then, on October 12, put it off indefinitely. Air battles continued and the night-time blitz lasted until May the following year, but the risk of invasion had passed.

Britain won because it was ready and prepared to fight such a battle

Few moments in British history have been so mythologised, however. Woven into the story is the image of plucky Little Britain, David against the Goliath of Nazi Germany. We portray ourselves as backs-to-the-wall amateurs, with those young and gallant Few the last line of defence against the mighty Molloch – after all, the Home Guard were not going to be much good against hordes of Panzers. By a whisker, we held out – but it was a close run thing and thank God Hitler decided to switch from attacking airfields and turned on London instead. It was tough on the East End, but it gave the RAF breathing space and the fight back was on.

Source: It’s time to shatter the myths of the Battle of Britain – Telegraph

That’s pretty much true, and I think we should add that fully integrated air defence system (in the summer of 1940) is above all one of the bequests to his country of Neville Chamberlin. For this is what he bought for Britain at Munich with his ‘piece of paper’. He too is one of the few, who placed his honour and his courage at the disposal of his country. Americans will recognize that we had nothing like it in Hawaii, over a year later.

And here is a bit more of the most beautiful aircraft ever built.





You all know that I don’t subscribe to ‘The Cult of Celebrity’. but in a fairly long lifetime, there have been a few exceptions, in the field of popular music there is only one, and we’re going to talk about her today.

One of you this week linked to my all time favorite singer, and one of my favorite songs, that she sang. When it burst out of the car speaker, late in 1964, a lot of things changed, for American music, for her, and maybe more.

This is the version from The Dean Martin Show in early 1967, and yes it was still getting some airplay.

When Downtown came on the radio, it was completely different, and it spoke to something in us all, I think. her voice is very obviously British, in that exact way, that Americans adore, and as far as us kids were concerned she was was one of us, although our dads (sometimes) did tell us that she had been recording since during World War II, and was a TV star as well, in the UK.

That’s all true, but she was also the first British female to make it onto the Billboard chart since Vera Wang in 1952. Downtown was #1 starting the week of 23 January 1965. The song was also #2 in the UK, and Ireland, and number one in  Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa, and was also a hit in Denmark (#2), India (#3), the Netherlands (#3) and Norway (#8). She was far from the last, though, the Atlantic got very narrow there for a few years, and American top 40 radio sounded an awful lot like BBC 1. And after Downtown, she would have fourteen more consecutive hit on the Billboard chart, and there was plenty of competition those days.

When asked why he approved it for a quick release in the States since it was so very English. Joe Smith of Warner Brothers replied: “It’s perfect. It’s just an observation from outside of America and it’s just beautiful and just perfect.” And you know, it was, and it is still.

But there was a lot more to Pet, than that wonderful voice, she is perhaps one of the greatest female entertainers of the twentieth century, like Julie Andrews, Judy Garland and such. In fact I think she could have been  better than them all, by a fairly wide margin. here’s a bit more about her.

When they talk about how she became Norma Desmond in the play, it’s sort of creepy, isn’t it, but that is what the great actors do, it’s why we are able to suspend our disbelief for a while. Petula could, and did, do it too, even on the concert stage. Watch her eyes her, closely, this is more than singing, I think she is feeling it, even as she shares the emotions with us.

So let’s head on Downtown, but remember Don’t Sleep on the Subway.

70 Years Ago Today: VE Day

A Lancaster from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight drops poppies over London during the 50th Anniversary of the VE Day Celebrations in 1995.

A Lancaster from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight drops poppies over London during the 50th Anniversary of the VE Day Celebrations in 1995.

70 Years ago GEN Eisenhower sent this message to GEN Marshall.

At 0001 hrs BDST 7 May 1945 the mission of this Allied force was accomplished.

signed Eisenhower.

And so it ended. The war in Europe. Hitler had committed suicide. The Germans had surrendered unconditionally. Here read it for yourselves.

This was the result in London.

Here is the Prime Minister Winston Churchill

On 4 April 1945, elements of the United States Army’s 89th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division captured the Ohrdruf concentration camp outside the town of Gotha in south central Germany. Although the Americans didn’t know it at the time, Ohrdruf was one of several sub-camps serving the Buchenwald extermination camp, which was close to the city of Weimar several miles north of Gotha. Ohrdruf was a holding facility for over 11,000 prisoners on their way to the gas chambers and crematoria at Buchenwald. A few days before the Americans arrived to liberate Ohrdruf, the SS guards had assembled all of the inmates who could walk and marched them off to Buchenwald. They left in the sub-camp more than a thousand bodies of prisoners who had died of bullet wounds, starvation, abuse, and disease. The scene was an indescribable horror even to the combat-hardened troops who captured the camp. Bodies were piled throughout the camp. There was evidence everywhere of systematic butchery. Many of the mounds of dead bodies were still smoldering from failed attempts by the departing SS guards to burn them. The stench was horrible.

When General Eisenhower learned about the camp, he immediately arranged to meet Generals Bradley and Patton at Ohrdruf on the morning of April 12th. By that time, Buchenwald itself had been captured. Consequently, Ike decided to extend the group’s visit to include a tour of the Buchenwald extermination camp the next day. Eisenhower also ordered every American soldier in the area who was not on the front lines to visit Ohrdruf and Buchenwald. He wanted them to see for themselves what they were fighting against.

During the camp inspections with his top commanders Eisenhower said that the atrocities were “beyond the American mind to comprehend.” He ordered that every citizen of the town of Gotha personally tour the camp and, after having done so, the mayor and his wife went home and hanged themselves. Later on Ike wrote to Mamie, “I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world.” He cabled General Marshall to suggest that he come to Germany and see these camps for himself. He encouraged Marshall to bring Congressmen and journalists with him. It would be many months before the world would know the full scope of the Holocaust — many months before they knew that the Nazi murder apparatus that was being discovered at Buchenwald and dozens of other death camps had slaughtered millions of innocent people.

Read the entire account.

Most of the American, British, and Canadian forces, having defeated the Germans were soon preparing to be transhipped to Asia to assist in the invasion of Japan, with the realism of veterans few expected to survive. But President Truman saved the allies perhaps 1 Million casualties and possibly the entire population of Japan with his decision to drop the Atomic bomb.

Thus ended the war that Hitler had started on 17 Sept 1939, soon another and greater foe of liberty would arise in Europe, and the Allies would face that one down until it disappeared in 1990. Thus lending point to the old adage: “If you would have peace, prepare for war”.

American troops went on to occupation duty, soon General Patton at a review in Berlin would pronounce the 82d Airborne as ‘America’s Honor Guard’. In 1950, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland would be formed and would soon become the eastern bulwark of NATO, along with the Norwegians, British, Dutch, Italians, Turks, Canadians, and Americans. thus would freedom be sustained in western Europe and in God’s own time the Soviet Empire would fall, restoring freedom to all of Europe. The Americans are still in Germany, no longer as an occupation force but, as an ally, and as a friend.

The result of the Second World War was thus the Liberation of Europe as a result of what was in Eisenhower’s term The Mighty Endeavor.


Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

So it was spoken; And so it was done.

Miscellany from Twitter

Seems to me like this describes the banks in a lot of places other than Greece

Still A Man for all Seasons

This is great, How many do you recognize?

Happy Friday

The Last Lion

Fifty years ago yesterday, Sir Winston Churchill died. It was not unexpected, amongst other things he was 90 years old.

He was many things, really. For most of us (British and American) he was the heroic leader of Britain when she stood alone against the Nazis in 1940. Who can forget

And that was perhaps the moment when the sympathies of America began to align with Great Britain, for indeed this was one of the darkest hours for freedom ever seen.

But there was more to him, He fancied himself as a general, with sometimes disastrous effects, such as at Gallipoli in the Great War. On the other side, he took a boyish delight in leading men, during D-Day the only thing that dissuaded him from observing from one of the invasion ships, was when the King said that if Winnie was going, so was he.

In his so-called wilderness years he warned about the dangers of appeasement (to the point that it has an evil reputation today) and yet Dr. John Charmley has said repeatedly, it is very hard to see what else Chamberlin else could have done. Here is a column from a few years ago that he wrote for BBC History.

Kind history

‘History will judge us kindly’, Churchill told Roosevelt and Stalin at the Tehran Conference in 1943; when asked how he could be so sure, he responded: ‘because I shall write the history’. And so he did, in the six massive volumes of The Second World War. The first volume, The Gathering Storm, describes his opposition to the appeasement of Hitler during the 1930s, and provides the text for a BBC TV drama of the same name.

It is a good tale, told by a master story-teller, who did, after all, win the Nobel prize for literature; but would the Booker prize for fiction have been more appropriate?

There is, in fact, nothing very controversial about the claim that Churchill was alone in his opposition to appeasement; it was one he made himself in 1948, and is generally acknowledged. If you want controversy, it must come in the form of an argument to counter the central thesis of The Gathering Storm, namely that Churchill was right and his critics wrong. This is a difficult task, because The Gathering Storm has been one of the most influential books of our time. It is no exaggeration to claim that it has strongly influenced the behaviour of Western politicians from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush.

Its central theme – the futility of appeasement and the need to stand up to dictators – is one that has been taken for granted as a self-evident truth in Western society, both during the period of the Cold War and subsequently. The evidence for this supposed truth is Churchill’s view of the 1930s as ‘the years that the locust hath eaten’, during which the Western powers, by their own folly, allowed Germany to re-arm; never again, the message went, must this be allowed to happen. It is a good tale, told by a master story-teller, who did, after all, win the Nobel prize for literature; but would the Booker prize for fiction have been more appropriate?

Continue reading Churchill: The Gathering Storm

Dr. Charmley also contributed to a current column from BBC News called The 10 greatest controversies of Winston Churchill’s career.

While I can understand the criticism, and some of it is likely justified, much of it strikes me as small minds applying today pernicious standards of political correctness, retroactively, just as we’ve talked about before in shallow interpretations if Kipling.

Churchill believed in the Empire and that it was good both for Britain and for the colonies as well. If we look at the world today, with the current removal of the Empire and now the retrenchment of American leadership, I find it difficult to disagree too much.

So yes, he had his faults, some of them great faults, he also had great virtues, and more because of his virtues, he has become an icon of Great Britain, the Commonwealth, and the United States as well, for not only is he one of a handful of honorary American citizens (less than half-a-dozen, I think) he was half American, his mother was Jennie Jerome of New York. I think that cross-pollination bore very good fruit, and continues to do so, as our countries go forward together.



Remembrance and Resolve

Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis ætas;
Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo.
iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna,
iam nova progenies cælo demittitur alto.

From the  Eclogue of Virgil:

An American flag flies over the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 13, 2001

And so for the thirteenth time, we remember that day, that day of infamy, in New York, in Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, when we realized that while we may not be interested in war, war is interested in us. Once again, last night, we heard an American president vow retribution on those who would kill Americans. His words were not my words, nor is my background his background, but perhaps we are united in this. I think there is no more important duty than this

There is a sense of frustration in the very air of America these days. Many of us have the sense that the sacrifices and lives of many good men and women were thrown away to save the face of other men, and now we shall have to plow ground that we have worked before. But we know, as we always have, that politicians are vain, and sometimes even evil, and we have to do the best we can with what we are given. This is mostly the post I wrote for the tenth anniversary. It will serve again, I think, like many of those who have read it. Like the President’s speech, they are mere words, but I think them good words.

There isn’t one of us who doesn’t remember what we were doing. I was having a day off and was watching Good Morning, America and I will remember to my dying day Diane Sawyer’s “Oh, my God!”.

I was very lucky though, although I have family working in the financial district, I lost no one close to me. But in a very real sense they were all my family; the workers, the Firemen and Police doing their everyday heroics, the passerby. They were all our family: the family of the free. For this was an attack on freedom. For this was an attack on the free market system and the military that protects it.

To me then and now it hearkened back to another ‘Day of Infamy‘: 7 December 1941, both in the manner of the attack, a sneak attack on a peaceful country, and in how I instantly understood, as I never had, what my parents and their generation had felt on that awful Sunday afternoon.

And I knew something else, even as they had, I now lived in a country at war, where nothing short of victory was acceptable. I thought my country was united in that, I still think most of it is. I also knew that the retribution of America and her allies would be terrible and no interference by anyone would be tolerated. For indeed “They had sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat”.

And I was heartened by the reaction of the world, especially this:

Nobody ever showed their support better than the cousins, which is not surprising, after all the Queen has known us well since she was Princess Elizabeth driving an ambulance in the Second World War.

Another thing I understand now was my Dad’s and his generation’s respect for Roosevelt even if they disagreed with almost all of his policies, he was the war president. I now have that feeling, even love, for George W. Bush.

We really are an exceptional nation, nobody in the world, outside of the Anglosphere understood our determination, in Bevin Alexander’s words “to proceed door to door in the very heart of the Arab-Muslim world, to make clear that we were ready to kill and to die to stop our society from being undermined, and to say, gun in hand, to the people, and to the governments who permit terrorists to exist, “What is it that you don’t understand about leaving our country alone?”” And I find it notable that those stalwart Allies of the Anglosphere are marching forward to the battle in step with us, as it has been for nearly a century now.

And so, almost before we knew what was happening the first counterattack was underway. It ended in a smoking hole in Pennsylvania, it was a very expensive counterattack but it was successful. And like the targets of the attack itself, it was conducted by ordinary Americans, no different from you and me.  The counterattack launched with that simple command, “Let’s Roll”.

The time for our superb military had not yet come. But it would, with dire consequences for our enemies.

Bin Laden should have studied us better, for indeed the man who said this was half American:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.

The American people are difficult to turn into an enemy, for we much prefer to be everyone’s  friend, but attacking the homeland will do it, every time. There is no more fearsome enemy in the history of the world than the aroused people of America.

A quick look back will show this. On 7 December 1941 the battleship USS Arizona was sunk on battleship row in Pearl Harbor. 35 months later, the other old battleships of the 7th Fleet, also sunk at Pearl Harbor, sank the Japanese fleet at Leyte Gulf, in the last surface gun action ever fought. The new battleships in 3rd fleet were off chasing the IJN’s aircraft carriers. Moored close to the Arizona is the USS Missouri on whose deck 11 months after Leyte Gulf, in Tokyo Bay, Imperial Japan surrendered. Yes, we are impatient, and sometimes fickle, but do not mess with our homeland.

It never fails to amaze me how much the enemies of the United States rely upon the goodness and restraint of the United States. The Taliban who supported al Qaeda knew that their sheer existence beyond the next 30 minutes depended exclusively on the forbearance of the United States.

If we were the imperial power that we are so often accused of being, Afghanistan would now be the world’s largest sheet of glass. If a city rebelled against Imperial Rome, the retribution was that every living thing, right down to the dogs, was put to the sword, the city was destroyed and the ruins sown with salt, so nothing would grow. I dare you to find Carthage on a current map.

Instead we very carefully target our retribution on those that we believe are guilty. Indeed, we have developed weapons that allow us to target an individual  from several hundred miles away. Instead of our massive air raids in World War II we now use a stealth aircraft with individually targeted missiles. I have seen reports that say that the Pakistanis, when they see one of our drones overhead, calmly go about their business, knowing that only the target is in danger, as opposed to the panic when their own air force is attacking.

This is the way that America, a country that values each and every human life makes war.

This is America the Avenger. Not on the innocent people of cities and countries, but upon the malefactors hiding in its back streets and hills.

This is America at war. Not destroying cities and countries but only individual enemies.

This is America, the superpower that can destroy any country on Earth in an hour, but chooses to put its own sons and daughters at risk to find only the guilty.

This is America, where steel from the World Trade Center now is incorporated into the bow of the USS New York, leading the ship into harms way.

This is America, the first revolutionaries, who learned to control the revolution, but not to let it die and slip back into tyranny, about whom our President said, long ago:

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

and who later that day also said:

Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.  Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

  In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

This is the America that I grew up in and love, and I will not allow the destruction of, from without or within. For above all others, this hill, with its city gleaming bright, is worth dying for and worth living for.

Many things have happened since President Kennedy said those words on a cold January morning.

The Berlin Wall was built up and torn down.

The World Trade Center was built up and knocked down.

The specter of the Soviet Union no longer threatens the world.

The threat of Islamofascism has arisen from the shadows.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain that had descended across the Continent, has now been lifted. Old and proud states of eastern Europe have been liberated. Many having seen what America believes, in action, have become proud allies of America.

Al Qaeda decided that the old American will had been eroded and has had that illusion shattered, and is on its way to destruction. Almost weekly we hear of the demise of more of its leadership as America again sorts out the guilty from the innocent.

Many things have happened since 9/11/01 also. How will it all work out? We will never know. This is the eternal war between liberty and slavery.

As Cassandra of Villainous Company put it on 27 June 2005:

Our own Revolution was not without blemish. Innocent men were tarred and feathered. Families torn asunder. People bled, and suffered and starved. There was even [shudder] terrorism. But it lit a flame that has burned brightly for over 200 years. There are signs that this is happening in the MiddleEast: Arabs are looking at election day in Iraq and Afghanistan and demanding democratic reforms in Egypt and Lebanon and Kuwait. The fire in men’s (and women’s) hearts is spreading.

We would like certainty. We would like painless progress. We would like closure. We will not get any of those things.

On July 4th we must ask ourselves, what do we believe? Our military – brand new immigrants who enlist before the ink is dry on their visas – believe in those words so strongly that they will lay down their lives to spread the fire of democracy. They also believe (as I do) that their purpose is to serve American foreign policy aims, no matter how abstract and long-term they may seem. No matter how difficult to explain to the American people. No matter how frustrating in the short term.

What kind of world will we bequeath to our grandchildren? It may be that long before we know. But our actions today will have an incalculable effect on that far-off tomorrow. And if our policy is not firmly grounded in the spread of those long-ago words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

…then I wonder if we shall not be the first Americans who fail to pass the blessings of liberty on to the next generation?

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph. is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke.

And so as we remember and celebrate the lives of the victims of that horrible day ten years ago, so we must also renew our determination that their sacrifice and the sacrifices of our military since shall not have been in vain. For as another President said:

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


And so once again the dread war tocsin sounds calling us forth to unfinished business. We cry that we are weary of this business, and truly we are, for we have been fighting this war overtly for thirteen years, but in truth we joined this battle against evil in the First Barbary War, back in 1801. Some would say this has been man’s battle ever since we left the garden, and it will remain our battle until the Lord returns. I think that is true.

But you know, in the last few weeks, I again saw Americans act as is our wont, when we saw two of our countrymen butchered  because they were American, our weariness was forgotten and a great roar went up, and the Americans will be seen again fighting evil in the middle east. And again America will have allies, and who those allies are will tell who is who, and the American people will draw their own conclusions.

But do mark this: America will be free.


Now comes the final era of the Sibyl’s song;
The great order of the ages is born afresh.
And now justice returns, honored rules return;
now a new lineage is sent down from high heaven.

%d bloggers like this: