“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
-Winston S. Churchill (20 August 1940)
While reading Erik Larson’s newest book, “The Splendid and the Vile,” a nonfiction account of the German Blitz during World War II and the unfolding events of the Battle of Britain, I was determined to go see some of the visuals of what happened during the fighter pilot battles over Great Britain.
Spitfire Productions’ 1969 film, “Battle of Britain” was an excellent portrayal of some of the dogfights between fighter planes and the bombers trying to destroy and demoralize the British forces, aimed at causing Winston Churchill to surrender and ask for peace with Germany. Adolf Hitler knew that he couldn’t support a two-front war between the UK from the West and Russia from the East.
The quote above by the UK’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill referred to the tireless efforts of the Royal Air Force crews who were fighting a pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe. Britain expected a ground invasion to be imminent. The pilots who fought in the battle have been referred to as “The Few” ever since. Their actions and willingness to risk their lives day after day shooting down bombers and engaging German fighter planes are commemorated annually on September 15 for “Battle of Britain Day.”
For a film that is now over 50 years old, it was an exciting, action-packed movie. There was some unnecessary gore when German bombers were gunned down by British Spitfires, and the occasional over-dramatized moment. For the era, the special effects were impressive. There was some great aerial combat shots and explosions. There was even a German bomber that crashed into a train station in London in one scene that was documented to have similarly occurred during the real battle.
It was very interesting to watch some very young, budding stars in the film too, namely, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Laurence Olivier, and Ian McShane among others.
The film, now over 50 years old, has stood the test of time. There really is no other film that portrays the battle like it did since 1969. If you are looking to learn more about the Battle of Britain, check out Erik Larson’s meticulously detailed book, “The Splendid and the Vile,” or stream “Battle of Britain” on Amazon Prime.