Churchills Few will forever be remembered by history as men who thwarted the seemingly invincible German war machine, when all seemed lost. They countered the full force of the Luftwaffe in the daylight battles during the summer of 1940, and in the night skies of the winter and spring of 1940/41. They were at the time, and still are, perceived as knights of the air, as our heroes.
Now, five distinguished RAF airmen, four pilots and one radar operator/navigator, who fought that air battle during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, have recounted their experiences in detail to author Steve Darlow. Their stories have never before been published, and they talk engagingly of their service life, combats, losses, injuries, friendships and fears flying Spitfires, Hurricanes, Blenheims, Beaufighters and Havocs. One pilot tells of the time he fell victim to the enemy My Spitfire stopped being a flying machine, it became a lump of metal.
I was going down with it and I couldnt get out. I broke the seat by standing on it. The pressure throwing me into the bottom was terrific A Beaufighter radar operator remembers being involved in shooting down a German aircraft He took a vertical dive, struck the ground and exploded with a shower of incendiaries.
I felt like a child with a new toy. I had at last proved myself but for some reason I suddenly felt a little sad. But Five of the Few is not just about the experiences of these men during 1940/41.
They would also distinguish themselves in subsequent air campaigns night defence of the UK, offensive operations over the continent and support to D-Day and beyond. In between the aerial combats and ground attack operations, promotions, decorations and command responsibilities would come their way. But not all would make it through safely to the end of the war.
One would end up behind barbed wire. Collectively Five of the Few is a war story of youth maturing, through aspiration and idealism, courage and bravado, fear and heroism, memory and reflection. It is a reminder of why so much was owed, and still is, by so many to so few.