During the Battle of Britain, the pilots of the Royal Air Force, known as 'The Few', were joined by Commonwealth and free forces from countries like Australia, Canada, Rhodesia, Czechoslovakia, Poland and France. Their skill and determination helped defeat a German air force far superior in numbers. Without control of the skies, Adolf Hitler had to abandon plans to invade. The bravery of the Battle of Britain pilots and ground crews resonates within the RAF to this day. As the following blog from the RAF Benevolent Fund reveals, however, the sacrifice of The Few isn't as well-known as some might hope.
 
"Today marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain when The Few bravely fought in the skies above Britain to defend our shores from Nazi invasion.
 
"Shockingly, 40 per cent of the people whose freedoms many of them died to protect, do not know what the Battle of Britain was and only 51 per cent know who The Few were.
 
Sir Winston Churchill
 
"It was Winston Churchill who first named the Spitfire and Hurricane fighter pilots The Few, when he paid tribute to their service:
 
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
 
"Of the 18-24-year-olds questioned, 10 per cent thought the Battle of Britain took place in 2014 and 10 per cent thought it was the name given to a Viking attack!
 
"The poll of 1,000 people, carried out by Opinion Matters, was commissioned by the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF’s leading welfare charity, ahead of the anniversary.
 
"RAF Benevolent Fund Controller Air Marshal Chris Nickols said: "As the nation marks this milestone, it is my hope a new generation will take time to discover more about the pilots and the ground crew who bravely answered their country's call."
 
"The Battle of Britain was waged during the summer of 1940 after France had finally succumbed to the advancing German forces in June and only Great Britain stood in Hitler's path.
 
"The battle for air supremacy played out in the skies above with RAF pilots outnumbered as many as four to one at the beginning of the conflict.
 
"While 74 per cent of all those interviewed thought it was important to mark anniversaries, the younger generation (18-24-year-olds) was less keen, with only 68 per cent agreeing.
 
Children in London made homeless by the Blitz
Children in London made homeless by the Blitz
"84 per cent of people knew about the Blitz, the indiscriminate bombing of London and other cities during the Battle of Britain, and 65 per cent could identify the Luftwaffe correctly – the German Air Force which was responsible for the devastation.
 
"In tribute to The Few and their memory, the RAF Benevolent Fund has interviewed some of the veterans who lived through the Second World War.
 
"RAF veteran Stan Hartill was ground crew for a Spitfire squadron, working 15-hour days to keep the fighter pilots in the air, defending our skies.
 
"Stan said:
 
"Really there was nothing between England and the German armies but the RAF. We knew we were fighting for our lives."
 
Watch Stan’s video here.
 
"The RAF Benevolent Fund helps Stan and veterans like him.
 
"When maintenance charges and car expenses became too much, the Fund stepped in to help Stan maintain his independence.
 
"Nickols continued: "In the 75 years since the Battle of Britain, the RAF Benevolent Fund's commitment has not waivered. Indeed, as the RAF's leading welfare charity, we deliver the housing, mobility and the financial assistance RAF family members sometimes need to lead full, independent and dignified lives, especially in their retirement. Last year alone we spent nearly £19 million supporting almost 40,000 RAF personnel, past and present, and their families."
 
"The RAF Benevolent Fund is inviting individuals across the UK to show their thanks for The Few by joining in the inaugural Great British Sunday Lunch – a chance for families, friends, and communities to gather together on Sunday 13 September to host a lunch, whether it be around the dining table or on a picnic rug in the late summer sun and raise money to help support veterans in their hour of need.
 
"More information can be found at www.rafbf.org/gbsl where individuals can sign up to get a free kit."

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