New research from the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund has found that almost half (44%) of the British public surveyed don’t know what the Battle of Britain was.
- 44% of the British public surveyed don’t know what the Battle of Britain was
- Two-thirds (67%) of 18-24 year olds confused the battle with other military events
- 48% of respondents stated they would like to know more about historic events
Younger people were found to be less familiar with the critical campaign in the Second World War, which saw fierce fighting between Allied and German air forces, with just one third (33%) of 18-24 year olds surveyed able to correctly identify it.
The RAF Benevolent Fund, which provides support to RAF serving personnel, veterans and their families surveyed over 2,000 people across the UK to test the British public's knowledge of the important historical event.
Of those Brits aged 18-24 unsure about the battle, many (67%) confused it with other military moments in British history. Remarkably, 12% of respondents believed it to be a fight for supremacy over the English Channel during the First World War, 9% believed it to be the Civil War fought between England and Scotland in 1646, 6% a Viking invasion and a further 3%, the 2019 General Election. Almost a third of the age group surveyed (30%) admitted to having no idea what the Battle was.
Despite 56% of all those surveyed being aware of the Battle of Britain, a majority were still unable to correctly identify key details about the conflict. Almost half (46%) were unaware it took place in 1940, and 78% either didn’t know how long the three month and three-week battle lasted or guessed incorrectly.
Widening knowledge gap among younger generation
Younger people aged 18-24 also struggled to identify key details of the Battle, with just over a third (34%) knowing it took place in 1940 and only a quarter (25%) identifying 'The Few' as fighter plane pilots, compared to 76% of those aged between 55 and 65 years old.
The Fund conducted similar research in 2015, which showed that 37% of 18-24-year-olds knew the Battle took place in 1940, and 29% who 'The Few' were, showing knowledge of the battle has declined over the past five years as the years since it took place increase.
Half (51%) of those in this younger category (compared to 48% of all respondents) stated they would like to learn more about historic events that took place in the Second World War. To raise awareness of the Battle of Britain, the Fund is launching a six-part Battle of Britain podcast and has also teamed up with well-known historian Dan Snow to organise The Big Battle of Britain Virtual Quiz, taking place on 11 July to mark the 80th anniversary.
Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: "As we reach this significant 80th anniversary, it is vital the sacrifice of The Few and all who supported them is remembered and marked by all generations.
"Such important historical moments have lessons for all of us and that's why we're encouraging the British public to find out more. By supporting RAF veterans and their families we get to hear their incredible stories first-hand but as time passes, those opportunities are running out.
"It can be difficult to relate to events like the Battle of Britain which happened so long ago but many people were involved, not just fighter pilots, but also Royal Observer Corp volunteers, radar operatives, members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and many others. So, it’s likely that many grandparents or great-grandparents could have played a role.
"It's crucial we not only listen to these veterans and others, but also repay their service by supporting them when they need us, which is the mission of the RAF Benevolent Fund."
If you know any RAF veterans and their partners in need, refer them to the Fund by visiting rafbf.org or by calling 0300 102 1919.
Journey with us back to 1940 as the pilots of Fighter Command, supported by those on the ground, took to the skies to defend Britain against a Nazi invasion. On All Stations Series Two we celebrate the inspiring stories of bravery and courage during the Battle of Britain. Hear from those who served and lived through this unique period of our history.