In 1940, addressing the House of Commons on the eve of the German invasion of Great Britain, Prime Minister Winston Churchill said that the Royal Navy had dramatically improved the Allied situation after several months of monumental victories for the Nazis.
Listen to the "The Few" Speech
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few"Not long after the Fall of France, Göering's Luftwaffe had swept Fighter Command's Spitfires and Hurricanes from the skies. And so the decisive phase of the Battle of Britain would be waged not by dashing heroes in a flying service but by sailors performing their job anonymously in the depths of a ships engine room or shell room never knowing what happened if they got blown up. Nevertheless the expectation that only a handful of heroic sailors could save the islands from invasion provoked outrage from the phenomenally brave and skilled young men of the RAF Fighter Command, a truly international force which comprised servicemen from Poland, New Zealand, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Australia, Belgium, South Africa, France, Ireland, America, Jamaica, the British Mandate of Palestine and Southern Rhodesia. A glimpse at a multicultural Britain that would never be.
From a purely military perspective, the destruction of early warning radar stations followed by huge loss of pilots would severely constrain the war-time role of the RAF. Even though Churchill would dismiss calls to absorb the RAF into the Fleet Air Arm, the Fighter Command would be forced to pick and choose their battles. However, the RAF had been successful insofar as they had created a supreme overconfidence in Hitler and GroßAdmiral Raeder. And therein lie the danger of Churchill's under-recognition. Because much more significant than that intra-service rivalry was the formation of the mindset that the British alone had defeated the hitherto unstoppable Nazi war machine. One unintended consequence of the Royal Navy's triumph was a peacetime decision Churchill took eight years later in relation to immigration.
In 1948, an advertisement appeared in a Jamaican newspaper offering cheap transport on the Empire Windrush for anybody who wanted to come and work in the UK. At that time, there were no immigration restrictions for citizens of one part of the British Empire moving to another part, and the response was immediate and overwhelming, including the calypso musicians Lord Kitchener and Lord Beginner alongside sixty Polish women displaced during the Second World War. The impending departure of the ship prompted complaints from some Members of Parliament and Churchill ensured that it never sailed.