Forgetting “The Few”

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few

–Winston Churchill, referring to the fighter pilots who fought and won the Battle of Britain

The British publication News of the World recently sponsored a reunion of Battle of Britain pilots. (via Newmark’s Door) Searching for links on this story, I ran across a September 2000 item in The Independent:

An ICM poll to mark the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain found that some were not even sure that Britain was fighting the Germans, saying instead that they thought the enemy was the Romans or Normans – while 10 per cent thought the French were the foe. Some people were also confused as to whether their wartime leader was Winston Churchill or King Alfred.

For the survey, 1,000 people were asked four questions about the Battle of Britain – but fewer than half of those aged between 18 and 24 knew it was an air battle.

I doubt if the general level of knowledge has improved much in the last 10 years.

C S Lewis observed (I’m quoting very loosely here) that if you want to destroy an infantry unit, you cut it off from its adjacent units..and if you want to destroy a generation, you cut it off from previous generations. Such cutting-off seems to be proceeding, on both sides of the Atlantic, at a rapid pace.

12 thoughts on “Forgetting “The Few””

  1. As often happens these days, one comes back to Orwell.

    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”


    “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.”

  2. I think this is the result of an intentional skewing of history education by leftist. I’ve seen the results here in the states as well wherein high school graduates know next to nothing about WWII except Japanese internment.

    Leftists are in the business of selling untested and unproven fantasies to people. In order to get people to buy into their latest idea, they have to make people believe that the current systems are not only not working but are so irredeemable evil that any change whatsoever must be better than the status quo.

    Destroying history is key to this idea. Every accomplishment that leads up to the status quo must be either minimized or dragged through the mud in order to create a visceral feeling of disgust for the status quo.

    In the case of the Battle of Britain, the last thing a modern leftists wants is to have the population looking back on traditional British institutions as powerful weapons against a deep and dark evil. They certainly don’t want a story told in which articulate intellectuals played only a minor role.

    Leftists only like stories in which talkers are the heros. Those who act and those who make, can only ever be villains. This is what our children are taught every single day of their government education.

  3. Yeah, well the troubles with England all began when “they” wouldn’t let Peter Townsend, one of the “few” to marry the Queen’s sister. That and the disgraceful treatment of Air Marshall Hugh Dowding, and it has been all downhill for them ever since.

  4. “Destroying history is key to this idea. Every accomplishment that leads up to the status quo must be either minimized or dragged through the mud in order to create a visceral feeling of disgust for the status quo…”

    Amen and amen. To live without a coherent sense of history is to live in a kind of sensory-deprivation tank. No knowledge of how and why things worked, or didn’t, no sense of dangerous patterns forming … and no sense of hope, knowing how desperate a situation could be – and yet, people still pulled through.

    This is why I took to writing historical novels, starting about five years ago. I was convinced that a time was coming, where it would be vital for people to learn our history again, to reclaim our ancestors (literal and metaphorical) and to know them as brave, decent, competent people, with a sense of hope. We would have to remember where we came from, and how the United States came to be, and what a grand experiment in self-government that it was, and still should be. The most painless way to do this, I thought – was to make a ripping good and popular story; first to entertain and then to inform readers about all the fantastic stuff that seems to have been omitted in history classes these days. It seems to be working, because readers have told me, over and over, that I was telling them stuff they had never, ever heard about before, and oh, they wish they had learned history the way that I was telling it!
    (Insert shameless plug for “To Truckee’s Trail” and the Adelsverein Trilogy here … BTW, I am now working on a story about the early settlements in Texas and the Texas War of Independence, which I hope will fill in the backstory of the Alamo… Available early in 2011, I promise.)

  5. None of the ‘elite’ who actually control the useless British State Education system send their precious children to the gutter schools which their liberal, leftist, socialist machinations have produced. No, the children of the Labour party hierarchy go to independent schools which have a remarkable record in achievement, standards and educational excellence, whilst the proles and plebs are left with the dregs issued by the bog-standard Comprehensive schools so beloved of the Socialist elite.

    They wrecked an education system which had fulfilled its promise to the parents, with grammar school selective education for the brightest, technical or secondary modern for those whose who wished for a skill-based education or general studies. In place of these three levels, they placed Comprehensive education, which meant that the eduaction levels went down, not up, because mediocrity always seeks company!

    For a correct reading of the effect placed on British Education by these Champagne Socialists, in terms of our glittering history, i would simply point to the following answers as catalogued in a History examination:-

    Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread which is bread made without any ingredients. Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. He died before he ever reached Canada.

    Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.

    The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies,comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Romeo’s last wish was to be laid by Juliet.

    I do not exaggerate!

  6. Could one more accurately say that Juliet’s wish to be laid by Romeo led to her being laid by Romeo?

    (sorry for the blasphemy…couldn’t resist)

  7. The other day I was defending the Tea Party, in the process noting its intellectual roots – Aquinas, Locke, Jefferson. The response was that Locke invested in slaves, Jefferson owned them. Aquinas wasn’t smeared, but I guess he was a Catholic priest, and we all know about them nowadays.

    Now, with that attitude, one can wipe every contribution of anyone up to, say, 1850 at a single stroke. Then, of course, between anti-semitism, homophobia and, say, anti-female suffrage, we can do away with everything up to, say, 1960.

    Perhaps this is the pointy end of Lewis’ process:

    Step 1: discredit anybody already dead
    Step 2: ostracize anybody alive who disagrees with the consensus

    Presto! Unity.

  8. MikeC…”the children of the Labour party hierarchy go to independent schools which have a remarkable record in achievement, standards and educational excellence, whilst the proles and plebs are left with the dregs”

    At least in the U.S., I’m not sure that attending expensive independent schools necessarily implies a coherent teaching of history. The books in the children’s section of chain bookstores generally provides a pretty good index of what’s being assigned in schools, and in affluent areas where I’d guesstimate that 50% of the kids go to private (in the U.S. meaning) schools, the history selection still looks pretty edited for conformity to the PC narrative.

  9. Mala Lex…re smearing everyone before 1960 so so:

    I read an interesting line that apparently comes from the traditional/preChristian Hawaiian religion:

    “Monsters cannot survive in an atmosphere of gratitude”

    Modern “progressivism” seems determined to eliminate the emotion of gratitude in any form from the public sphere…the elimination of gratitude toward any people of earlier times being one part of this project.

    The converse of the “monsters cannot thrive” statement is of course that monsters can and will thrive in an atmosphere where gratitude is absent.

  10. My daughter went to private schools here in Orange County, which has pretty good public schools, and I was quite pleased with her high school teachers. Her history teacher, for example, had them write an essay on the Hitler Stalin 1939 non-aggression pact. They were discuss why each signed the agreement. I saw nothing approaching that level at the U of Arizona.

    The British “public schools” had their problems, as anyone who read “Tom Brown’s School Days,” is aware. But, the British of 1939 were still the heirs of the Victorians. Now, I wonder if they could defend themselves. As late as the Falklands, they were formidable but, I fear, that is gone. Maybe a real leader could still bring it back. Cameron is certainly not the one. If he is lucky, Clegg will do a deal with Labour and give Cameron more time to feel around in his pants and find something there.

  11. David – not sure how Juliet’s desire to get laid caused her to get laid relates to the discussion – but it is a great line. Thanks. I am sure it will come in handy some day.

    Micahel – As the father of one U of A history graduate and another U of A history major now in his junior year, I can vouch for the truth of your comment. Both received excellent history educations from the History Channel and the Pima County Public Library – then struggled to retain that knowledge under an onslaught of drivel from a deeply politically correct faculty. It is painfully ironic that their real knowledge of history and love for it was obtained free of charge. The years wasted at the University of Arizona learning nothing, but necessary for a piece of paper certifying that knowledge were painfully expensive.

  12. Bill…just so you don’t think I’m *totally* nuts instead of only 85% nuts, the line about Juliet was expanding on one of the items in Mike Cunningham’s list of strange things written by students…

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