“For me, and I think the British people, these aeroplanes represent innovation, ingenuity, determination, and an unwillingness to be bullied.”
- Squadron Leader Andy Millikin, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, RAF, as featured in the just released film documentary, Spitfire (2018).
“Spitfires, George. Greatest plane ever built.. Rolls Royce Merlin engines. Sweetest sound you could hear out here.”
- Dawson (Mark Rylance) in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017).
“Churchill followed the day’s fighting from No. 11 Group headquarters at Uxbridge, and he left clearly affected. Climbing into his limousine with Ismay, he said, “Don’t speak to me. I’m too moved.” His lips were trembling. They rode in silence for a few minutes. Then Churchill turned to Ismay and said something that “burned into” Ismay’s mind, so much so that he went home that night and repeated the words to his wife.
Five days later, when the most difficult and dangerous period in the battle was about to begin, Churchill paused during a long address to the House of Commons on the overall war situation, and delivered his tribute to the RAF:
“The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge of mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and their devotion.”
Then, he spoke the words that had so moved Ismay:
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
- From William Manchester and Paul Reid’s The Last Lion, volume three, ‘Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965’.
The history of the Spitfire is a catalogue of triumph against adversity. Its designer, the aeronautical engineer RJ Mitchell, died in 1937, three years before his creation’s finest hour. Throughout its history, the Royal Air Force had been dismissive of fighter aircraft, hewing to the conventional wisdom that the bomber would always get through. When, in 1931, the British Air Ministry put out its original request for new fighters, F7/30, three designs were selected, and none of them proved to be much good. The Air Ministry briefly considered ordering aircraft from Poland instead..
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