Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Very Annoying Historians
Over the last few years a new breed of intellectual has emerged to begin stalking all those comforting historical certainties you learnt at school and used to rely on. You know the type. 'Stalin was a cat loving family man', 'Louis XIV was Secret Marxist'. It starts a media flurry and people like me blog about it. The latest contribution to the pointless revisionist school of history comes from Dr Andrew Cumming, and this week he's chosen to junk the reputation of the RAF in the Battle of Britain.
He's spent his time analysing National Archive documents detailing the "kill/loss ratio" for the critical period of 24 August to 6 September 1940, and found the figures "unimpressive". He further claims the RAF's performance against the enemy during late 1940 was "ineffectual", and that Britain owes "far more to the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy than we are prepared to acknowledge".
I do not know Dr Cumming. Doubtless his research was assiduous. But climbing into a Spitfire, Hurricane - or something even less up to date in 1940 - required astronomic amounts of courage. The men who did it had just a handful of flying hours before facing combat at speeds of over four hundred miles an hour. They were sitting on top of a fuel tank, and knew that pilots in their position frequently burned to death. They were always outnumbered, sometimes absurdly so, but attacked anyway. They lost friends on a weekly or daily basis yet turned up for flying duties regardless.
Is Dr Cumming saying they should have stayed at home? Bollocks.