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The Battle of Britain

To reflect upon times when very much depends upon a few.

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To reflect upon times when very much depends upon a few.

Preparation and Materials

Assembly

This assembly focuses upon Battle of Britain Day, 15 September, but might be used at other times of the year when the Second World War is part of the school curriculum. With an adapted introduction, the material could also be used for reflection on Remembrance Day.

  1. Explain that 15 September is Battle of Britain Day. The Battle was an air battle, fought by the RAF (Royal Air Force) over the skies of southern England during the summer of 1940.  German forces had invaded Belgium, Holland and France, and were preparing to invade Britain, but the courage and determination of just a few forced a change of plan.
  2. Use some images of the Battle of Britain memorial to outline elements of the story of the Battle of Britain. Say that:

    The Battle of Britain is commemorated in a memorial that was unveiled in September 2005. It stands on the Victoria Embankment, across the river from the ‘London Eye’.

    The design of the memorial is very dramatic. At the centre of one of the panels, life-sized pilots are shown ‘scrambling’ for (running to) their aircraft. Most of the pilots were young but they were very brave and determined.

    ‘Spotters’ (people on the ground with binoculars) looked out for enemy fighters and bombers which, at first, came to destroy airfields and radar masts. On each occasion RAF pilots hurried to try to shoot them down.

    People watched anxiously as aerial battles took place in the skies above them. (How would you have felt?) The RAF was greatly outnumbered. During the battle, which lasted many weeks, almost 800 RAF planes were shot down and over 500 fighter pilots were killed.

    As the days and weeks passed, the pilots and the ground-crew who kept their planes ready grew very tired. It hardly seemed possible that the enemy could be stopped.

    Eventually, the German airforce, or Luftwaffe, began daily attacks on towns and cities in what became known as the ‘Blitz’. The memorial shows what happened in London. Many buildings were destroyed. People were rescued from damaged buildings. Miraculously St Paul’s Cathedral was not hit by any of the bombs.

    It was a terrible and frightening time, but people kept their spirits up with cups of tea in air-raid shelters. Everybody did his or her best for the war effort. Women spent long hours working in munitions factories, making the bullets and bombs used in the fighting.

    15 September 1940 was a day of heavy bombing raids and the RAF pilots were stretched to the limit. However, many German aircraft were destroyed and it seemed as if a victory had been won. Shortly afterwards, Hitler gave up his plans to invade Britain, although night-time bombing raids continued causing enormous damage to large cities.

    On the Battle of Britain memorial are found the names of almost 3000 pilots and airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain. One out of every six was from a country outside Britain. Their names are grouped according to their country.

    The memorial is also engraved with a famous phrase of Sir Winston Churchill: ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’

  3. Reflect that Battle of Britain Day is an occasion to be thankful for the bravery of the few who helped to win the freedom that many enjoy today. The efforts and determination of the pilots who fought in the battle changed the course of history. Such commitment and courage is still shown by members of the Armed Forces. (Reference might be made to the conflict in Afghanistan).

  4. It is also possible to conclude by reflecting that, in school and community life, the leadership and determination of a few makes a very great difference. Refer to a local community project or to a school initiative, highlighting how the commitment of a few can encourage and inspire many others. Indeed, there continue to be times when much depends upon a few.

Time for reflection

Prayer
Lord God,
We quietly remember the story of the Battle of Britain . . . the bravery and determination of just a few . . .
who did so much for so many,
It is easy to take the efforts of others for granted . . .
May we never forget them.
Amen.

Song / Music

‘He who would valiant be’ (Come and Praise, 44)

Publication date: 2010
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