My wife and I returned recently from a trip to the United Kingdom. The British people were welcoming, helpful and very accommodating, not at all like some other countries we have visited that seemed to dislike Americans.
It has been said that if you have familial roots in the UK, visiting there feels like coming home. I would echo that sentiment. It feels right to contact people and land of your ancestry.
Being a student of history, the trip was a rare treat. The trip had many highlights, but a couple things stood out.
One was the shrapnel damage from the relentless bombing of Britain during World War II, especially in London, still visible on many of the buildings. Our guide indicated the damage was left intentionally unrepaired to remind the British people of those horrible days when Britain initially stood alone against the Nazis’ relentless bombing campaign.
Secondly, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s War Rooms were of great interest.
The Battle of Britain took place between July and October 1940, according to our guide. The Germans began attacking coastal targets and British ships operating in the English Channel. They launched their main offensive in August 1940. The attacks moved inland, targeting airfields and British infrastructure.
On Aug. 31, the British fighter command and control suffered its worst day of the entire battle. But the German Luftwaffe overestimated the damage to the Royal Air Force (RAF) and their resolve to protect their homeland. Britain’s RAF, consisting of 749 fighter planes (Spitfires and Hurricanes) to the German Luftwaffe’s 2,550 fighter planes, handed the Germans their first major defeat. The RAF was joined by 13 nations, and some of them had battle experience against the Luftwaffe in their respective air forces.
This international coalition force became known as “The Few.” At the height of the Battle of Britain, the RAF had only 749 fighter aircraft.
Churchill summarized the British resolve best in his “we shall fight” speech in 1940: “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France. We shall fight on the seas and oceans. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
Churchill’s War Rooms were a group of offices at Whitehall. The rooms were occupied by key government, military strategists and Prime Minister Churchill himself. During the air raids, the rooms were a place for the War Cabinet to meet. The rooms were used 24 hours a day until August 1945. The War Rooms were reconstructed to look exactly as they did when Churchill and his cabinet mapped out Britain’s battle plans for the war.
At the end of the day, it was the British people and their unbounded faith in themselves and their ability to withstand the worst Germany had to offer that won the day.
Richard Stride is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at email@example.com.