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Like many others, I have been immensely touched by the outpouring of emotion and interest displayed by so many people across the country to this month’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. A celebration of both the achievements of those pilots and a commemoration of the sacrifice that was made to ensure victory. The sheer volume of people who queued for hours to catch a glimpse of the famous Spitfire flypast last week is testimony to the gratitude felt by very many today towards those who gave so much in order that the United Kingdom we live in today has remained the land of our forefathers.

 b2ap3_thumbnail_Spitfire_20150922-150801_1.jpgFrom May to September 1940, the German Luftwaffe threw its might into an intensive attack on strategic British infrastructure and air defenses, in preparation for a full scale land invasion endeavouring to secure air superiority to ensure safe transit over the Channel for the invading land forces. The response of the nation’s aircrew - in reality only about 3000 men, drew on extraordinary reserves of bravery and selfless altruism.  Those young men, supported by both men and women of the ground support crew, flew raid after raid, often so tired they could barely stay awake, engaging the waves of enemy bombers and often heavily outnumbered. It was not uncommon for only a handful of Spitfires to take on 50 or 60 german bombers, flying in formation.   


b2ap3_thumbnail_RAF-pilots-scrambling_20150922-150754_1.jpg

 

Testimonial from those young pilots shows them to have displayed an almost unimaginable  (to our eyes anyway) bravery. Many were sent up to do battle after only ten hours of solo flying, very much ‘by the seat of their pants’. Resources and training were in incredibly short supply and evidence shows that there was a general lack of facilities including a shortage of aircraft to be used as practice targets. Many had not even had any weapons training and thus were handicapped by an inability to shoot their weapons very effectively. Loss of life and crash landings were a fact of life and they simply had to put it behind them and obey the next order to ‘scramble’ when it came.

b2ap3_thumbnail_RAF-Pilots-and-mascot-1941_20150922-150746_1.jpg

In the famous words of Winston Churchill: "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 and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and devotion. "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

 

My generation, born just after the end of the war, was one which did not actually experience the war but we are children of those who did and thus the stories and history have a personal resonance which can be lacking for generations who come after. It was amazing then to find that people of every age, young and old came together last week to celebrate the effort made by those brave young pilots 75 years ago. The sight of those old Spitfires flying across the English countryside certainly brought a tear to my eyes and brought back many memories to my 90 year old father. From pride and patriotism to deep sadness and horror  - most of us cannot help but to try to imagine what it must have been like to have both been part of that age and to empathise with the feelings and thoughts of those left behind - the mothers, wives, lovers, sisters and brothers. Like many, I wonder how I would have dealt with trials and the loss of that era. 

And yet coupled with that is a massive sense of pride that our little country rose up and selflessly gave of its finest in order to protect the values which we held and indeed still hold dear.

Definitely worth a visit is the moving Battle of Britain Memorial Trust  at Capel Le Ferne in Kent (http://www.battleofbritainmemorial.org/), a dedicated site in tribute to the bravery and sacrifice shown by the aircrew who fought and died for their country.

So, I hope you enjoyed following the coverage of events last week and if you feel inspired to try and find  out the stories that shaped your family’s history, why not give it a go? And when you’ve got those stories and photos together, send them to us and create a special family history collage http://collaggecompany.co.uk/collage-for.html to keep those memories alive.

Good luck and happy hunting!

Just send us your family photos & memorabilia, call us on 01420 562208 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - we would love to hear from you!

                                                                      www.collagecompany.co.uk

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Emmy Watt set up ‘The Collage Company’ in 2010 after finding a gap in the digital photographic market. Instead of creating photo books, which end up on the shelf along with long-forgotten photo albums, they wanted to find a way of getting all your favourite photos out on show and still produce a quality product. Taking their marketing and design experience they have taken the traditional collage idea into the 21st century...

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