Thoughts old and new, on the Battle of Britain

So it all began in Orkney, not over Sussex and the weald of Kent! The Scots are bidding for a share of the Battle of Britain, held semi-officially to have begun on July 10 1940. As Patrick Bishop (btw a historian with Eamonn on the IRA) explains, analysis of the battle featuring the Few has failed to dislodge its place, secure in the pageant of British history.

I was dramatically  reminded of the anniversary yesterday in the baking heat of Osterley Park, a National Trust property in West London. There on the grass was displayed this real life, intact ME 109, shot down over Lydd, Kent at the height of the battle. You can stick your finger in the holes made by the Spitfire’s bullets in the engine cowling. Tiny, lightweight, deceptively frail looking – but fast and deadly. The pilot called  Zimmerman survived.  It was all the more  thrilling for taking me by surprise.

I’ve never met one of the Few, but during the Falkands conflict, I interviewed several Argentine pilots who straffed the task force in their own very effective home-built Pucaras

 (one sits in the Imperial War Museum).

 These guys sported moustaches, wore silk cravats and spoke pukka English. One told me: ” It is an honour to fight to descendants of the Battle of Britain.”  They were having the time of their lives.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London