How did they win the Battle of Britain?

Watching “The Battle of Britain“, on BBC with Ewan and Colin McGregor, I found it impossible to stop the deep emotion welling up in me.

These are two brothers, Ewan an actor and Colin a modern-day fighter pilot, exploring this epic battle and flying Spitfires and Hurricanes.

The battle was about inspirational leadership and great courage against impossible odds.

The very sound of the engines begins to evoke memories of what was achieved and at what great cost. The very sight of the Spitfire swooping and diving reawakens the skill and vulnerable brilliance of those who fought.

This film is a “must see” for those who want to understand how the battle was won. There are leadership lessons aplenty and so much to appreciate, but allow me to pick out my highlights:

The brothers meet their heroes; amazingly a few of “The Few” remain.

Each man is dignified, self-effacing in victory, humble in survival, able to find humour in adversity, but serious and single-minded in battle.

At an average age of 22, five hundred and forty four of their fellow pilots did not make it.

How did they win?

It took all their young courage, gruelling five-sorties-a-day, never-give-up dedication. And inspired leadership.

From Dowding who designed a futuristic radar “internet”, to great competing commanders Keith Park and Douglas Bader, Churchill had the best.

He personally oversaw key moments of the battle himself, but not in the arrogant or morphine-fuddled mind of Goering, but by drawing on the tactical brilliance of his team.

On the hardest day Churchill humbly admitted he was “sick with fear”.

Bader was champing to attack with his “Big Wing”, but instead Park held him back for the key moment, the defence of the Blitz. Goering thought that the RAF was defeated, but instead it had regrouped and been allowed to strengthen as the attacks on Britain’s airfields ceased.

Bader’s “Wing” was let out of the traps to defend London. They won the battle of the mind, by demoralising the enemy Command, with their unexpected show of force.

The planned invasion was called off. The Battle of Britain was won.

Throughout this programme, the brothers see, embrace and fly those potent symbols of the battle. Colin actually has to “un-learn” some of his modern flying skills, to progress to fly the Spitfire.

What an amazing moment, especially after he handles the tricky landing, turns away to compose himself, and then stands tall to acknowledge the realisation of his childhood dream.

Proud brother Ewan is no less moved when he flies as a passenger, in formation, with the Memorial Flight.

My emotion too is pride; an intense pride in the achievement and sacrifice of others. As the roar of the Merlin engine fades, I am grateful to have inherited their legacy.

Thank you.

About drstevelewis

Good leadership is essential for any project to succeed. I specialise in the most difficult leadership challenges; those involving the way we relate to other people or the way they relate to us. With a background of many years in business and an earlier training in medicine I combine the two in a unique consultancy.
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4 Responses to How did they win the Battle of Britain?

  1. Mark Payne says:

    BRAVO Ryan… I am British but am ashamed of the blatant disregard the BBC have shown to allied pilots. In particular the Polish without whom we would never have won the Battle of Britain..
    SHAME on us British and the BBC!!!
    Mark.

  2. John Clark says:

    It is rarely mentioned that Germany had to achieve air control because they were unable to control the sea. Strategically , the Royal Navy was vital to the Battle of Britain, without the navy the war was lost. I do appreciate the courage of the aircrew but support of all sorts was essential, girls making ammunition was one example. Everybody won the battle

  3. Ryan Bromley says:

    A very nice recap of the Battle of Britain; however, a sadly lopsided narative. How is it possible to present a 1.5 hour factual documentary on the heroes of the RAF and the Battle for Britain without mentioning the allied fighters who fought among the British? Notably among them was the 303 squadron (one of 16 Polish RAF squadrons), who claimed more kills than any other RAF squadron along with the other 145 Polish fighters in the Battle of Britain. On the 8th of June, 1946, the Poles were excluded from marching in the victory parade celebrations as an appeasement to Stalin in the post war politics of Yalta. Also not recognised in the documentary were the Canadian’s, New Zealanders and Czechs (among others) who fought and died in the RAF as allies. Attributing the victory against the Germans to the the remarkable spirit of the British, admittedly under-trained, supported by high-tech radar installations is simply hubris. “How was this battle won?”, you ask. With a little help from your friends.

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