Aftermath pp 139-150 | Cite as

The Battle of Britain

  • With Jeremy Lake

When Richard Hillary, in the process of recovering from terrible injuries sustained as a fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain, sat down to write The Last Enemy, his thoughts turned from the story of men, machines and the camaraderie of arms to a growing sense of loss. His fictitious final chapter, an account of the death of a working-class woman in the Blitz, touched on the essential paradox of this battle (Hillary 1997: 174–176). This was that although the heroic ‘few’ and their machines were rightly eulogised as ‘knights of the air’ through art, music and film, the summer of 1940 witnessed the realisation that civilians were not immune to ‘the new impersonality of warfare [which] turned killing and maiming into the remote consequence of pushing a button or moving a lever’ (Hobsbawm 1995: 50). 100 civilian deaths in June air raids rose to 300 in July and 1,150 in August. The grim tally between 3 and 11 September was 1,211, including 976 in the London area (Hennessy 1992: 31;...


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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

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  • With Jeremy Lake

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