Squadron Leader D Finlay, CO of No. 41 Squadron RAF, standing with four of his pilots in front of a Supermarine Spitfire Mk II at Hornchurch, Essex, December 1940.
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

This week we commemorate Remembrance Day, and honour those who gave their lives for our freedom.

Some of those we remember are the airmen who made the ultimate sacrifice eighty years ago in the Battle of Britain during World War II. This battle, fought in the skies in 1940, saved that island nation from almost certain invasion by Hitler’s Nazis.

But it came at a terrible cost to the Allied flight crews who were battling the Luftwaffe. The average life expectancy of a Spitfire pilot during the battle was heartbreakingly short: a mere four weeks.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid tribute to those airmen in his famous wartime speech on August 20, 1940:

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

This became one of the most famous of Churchill’s sayings, and those airmen became known as “The Few.”

Battle of Britain poster
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

But did you know that Churchill actually started out with a different line when he was composing his speech, and felt he had to change it?

Churchill first came up with a variation on these stirring words after visiting an RAF operations bunker on August 16, 1940, where he heard of the courage and sacrifice of the Battle of Britain pilots. Upon exiting the building, he told Major General Hastings Ismay,

“Don’t speak to me, I have never been so moved.”

While travelling by car with “Pug” Ismay a few days later, Churchill was rehearsing the speech he was soon to give to the House of Commons. He read aloud this line:

“Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to so few.”

Ismay interjected, “What about Jesus and his disciples?”

“Good old Pug,” Churchill said, recognizing that Ismay was right. He immediately changed the wording to “in the field of human conflict” instead of “in the history of mankind.”

Churchill knew that nothing in human history matched the sacrifice that Jesus had made on the Cross.

Cross at sunset
Photo by Pete Linforth on Pixabay

Jesus didn’t just save one nation, as “The Few” did. He made possible the salvation of countless millions from nations all over the world.

Jesus’ death on the Cross provides atonement for the sins of anyone who believes in Him, and ensures that they don’t need to spend eternity separated from God.

This is a debt we can never repay.

When we think of the Cross we can truly say, “Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to just one man.”

So by all means, remember “The Few” this Remembrance Day. The people of Great Britain owe them much.

But never forget “The One” to whom we owe everything.

© 2020 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.

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