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Wing Commander Peter Ayerst
"I have met the chaps, the German pilots and the crew I shot down"
 real 28k

German Ambassador to London, Dr Von Ploetz
"It is deeply ingrained in the memories... of the generation who lived through those days"
 real 28k

The BBC's Suzanna Reid
"It was built to withstand the most ferocious of blasts"
 real 56k

Friday, 15 September, 2000, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
The Few forgotten by the many
British pilots
The efforts of The Few' are known by surprisingly few
Commemorations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain reach their climax this weekend.

The battle was one of the most decisive in British history, but a new survey reveals a startling level of ignorance among young people. Less then half of them knew Winston Churchill's 'The Few' were RAF pilots.

The survey, carried out by The Mirror newspaper and ICM research, was published to mark Battle of Britain day - it falls each year on 15 September.

On that day 60 years ago, the RAF inflicted its biggest casualties to date on the German Luftwaffe. Shortly afterwards, Adolf Hitler called off 'Operation Sealion', his proposed invasion of Britain.

Battle of Hastings
Many confused the battles of Britain and Hastings

Only one-third of young people in Britain between 18 and 24 could answer four basic questions about the Battle of Britain.

They were given a choice of four answers for the following questions: Who were the British fighting in the Battle of Britain? Who was the leader at the time? At the time the leader referred to the effort of The Few, who was he talking about? When was the Battle of Britain?

Less than half knew the Battle of Britain took place in 1940 and one-in-nine confused the date with the Battle of Hastings, which took place in 1066.


It's a tragedy and a disgrace

Bill Bond of the Battle of Britain Historical Society

More than one-in-three did not know the Germans were the enemy and although nearly 70% knew Winston Churchill was Britain's wartime leader, six per cent thought it was King Alfred. Two per cent thought it was Margaret Thatcher.

The ignorance is not confined to the young generation. One-third of those aged between 45 and 54, whose parents would have vivid memories of the Battle of Britain, could not answer all four questions.

Bill Bond, of the Battle of Britain Historical Society, said: "It's a tragedy and a disgrace".

Dame Vera Lynn, an entertainer inextricably linked with the war years, said the ignorance of young people was a "great pity".

Battle of Britain Day has been marked across the UK, with commemorative services at RAF stations from Lossiemouth in the north of Scotland to St Mawgan in Cornwall.

RAF pilots
Britain was saved by a relatively tiny number of RAF pilots

The official RAF commemorative air show is at RAF Leuchars in Scotland on Saturday.

On Sunday there will be a Battle of Britain service at Westminster Abbey in the presence of the Princes of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh.

The biggest event will be at Biggin Hill airport, where 16 surviving Spitfires and four Hurricanes will be the centrepiece of a huge air display in front of dozens of Battle of Britain veterans.

BBC 1 will have live television coverage of both the service at Westminster Abbey and the Biggin Hill air show.

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