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Pie in the Sky?

As Battle of Britain Day approaches Brian James has been finding out why some of today’s leading military historians argue that it was not the RAF but the Royal Navy that saved Britain in 1940.

On Sunday, September 17th, Britain will once again remember the epic struggle of Fighter Command in the Second World War at a service of thanksgiving and rededication in Westminster Abbey before a congregation of airmen past and present. Like the great flypast of three hundred airplanes last September, the event will encourage Britons everywhere to recall how a handful of heroes saved these islands from invasion. But is this true – or the perpetuation of a glorious myth?

It is not mere revisionist history that puts this question, and indeed offers the suggestion that it would be at least equally fitting if, on this Battle of Britain Day, the Royal Navy were to send its ships in procession along our coasts – for it was the navy, not the RAF, that prevented a German invasion in 1940. This is the contention of  three senior military historians at the Joint Services Command Staff College. Together they run the High Command course that teaches the past to the air marshals, generals and admirals of the future. What today’s senior officers learn of Britain’s military history they learn from this trio – and some of what they may be told goes against many popular beliefs.

In the words of Dr Andrew Gordon, head of maritime history:

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