UP Catholic E Edition Page 14

S eventy-five years ago, on Sunday, Sept. 15, 1940, Winston Churchill and his wife, Clementine, were driven from the prime minister's country house, Chequers, to the nearby village of Uxbridge: a Royal Air Force sta- tion and the headquarters from which Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park was directing the RAF's No. 11 Group against the onslaught of the German Luftwaffe in southern England. When the prime minister and his wife walked into No. 11 Group's Operations Room, Park, a doughty New Zealander who flew his own personal Hurricane fighter, said, "I don't know whether any- thing will happen today. At present, all is quiet." That soon changed. As Churchill looked down from the balcony, young women began moving markers on a large map table, like croupiers at a casino. The markers indicated Luftwaffe bombers and fighters queuing up over France, then heading to Eng- land on what many regard as the decisive day in the Battle of Britain - the outcome of which determined the course of World War II in Eu- rope. As the numbers of approach- ing German planes grew to 250, Park scrambled sixteen RAF fighter squadrons and called in an- other five from No. 12 Group, based in the English Midlands. By noon, No. 11 Group was fully engaged in an aerial brawl over the entire south of England, and some of Park's Spitfires and Hurricanes began returning to their bases to refuel and re-arm. As the German attack continued and Park called in another three squadrons from No. 12 Group, Churchill, who had been uncharacteristically quiet, turned to the Air Vice-Marshal and asked, "What reserves have we?" The answer was grim: "There are none." As Churchill later wrote in The Second World War, "The odds were great; our margins, small; the stakes, infinite." The odds, the margins, and the stakes had been all of that since Hermann Goering had decided to end Britain's bulldog recalcitrance and bomb the United Kingdom into a negotiated peace. He failed, in part, because of the inferiority of some of his aircraft and the techno- logical breakthrough made by Britain's "boffins," the scientists who invented radar in the 1930s. But as always in war, the moral was to the material by a large factor and the RAF was replete with he- roes. Sadly, their stories are now largely forgotten. More often than not, the British pilots who flew those Hurricanes and Spitfires were a year or two re- moved from secondary school. These youngsters were joined by Polish and Czech volunteers who came to Britain to continue their countries' struggle against the Third Reich. The RAF's young fighter pi- lots often flew four or five missions a day, in the most physically and mentally taxing circumstances imaginable; fully one-third of them were killed, gravely wounded (often by horrible burns), or cap- tured during the Battle of Britain. Well might Churchill have said, after the Luftwaffe tacitly conceded defeat, that never in the field of human conflict had so much been owed by so many to so few. But those brave pilots would not have stood a chance had they not been led by another forgotten figure, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, who conceived the system of radar stations linked to centralized fighter con- trol that made it possible for group leaders like Keith Park to deploy their limited resources in the most effective way possible. And it was Dowding who con- fronted Churchill in June 1940, as the French were collapsing be- fore the Nazi Blitzkrieg, and made the prime minister face the grim arithmetic of the moment: no more British fighter squadrons could be frittered away in a futile effort to save what was unsal- vageable on the other side of the English Channel. Winston Churchill, who had promised the French more RAF planes, was not an easy man to contradict. But Dowding had the courage to do so. And in saving the RAF's fighter squadrons from being chewed to pieces in the Bat- tle of France that he knew was lost, Dowding made his young pi- lots' victory in the Battle of Britain possible. May these oft-forgotten heroes, who saved the liberties of the west- ern world, rest in peace. Remembering "The Few" PAGE 14 THE U.P. CATHOLIC FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2015 Serving both sides of the river! Funeral Home "Serving the Area Since 1927" 549 Tenth Avenue Menominee, MI 49858 906-863-3227 cadieufh@att.net Jim Dellisse - Manager Gary Cadieu CABIN ON THE LAKE GWINN, MI 3 Bedroom, 2 full baths & Sauna. Call 906-226-8079 for weekly rates or judithwebb@charter.net Website: http://webpages.charter.net/ webbcamp/WebbCamp1.htm COOPER OFFICE EQUIPMENT Full Copier Line From Tabletop To Networkable Digital Laser Systems (906) 228-6929 Phone 800-432-7682 Fax 800-908-8542 Purchase & Lease Options Authorized KONICA Printers-Copiers Dealer ATTENTION SNOW BIRDS Don't forget to take The U.P. Catholic Newspaper with you when you fly off this year. Call Wendy at (906) 227-9104 or email wnegri@dioceseofmarquette.org with your winter address and the dates you want the newspaper to be forwarded. We will send it to that address without any additional charge to you or your parish family. Have a safe trip and we'll look forward to your return in the spring. THE CATHOLIC DIFFERENCE George Weigel

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