The seaward-looking statue that sits at the Battle of Britain Memorial to the east of Folkestone wears a flying jacket which purposefully obscures both his nationality and rank. One-fifth of Fighter Command battling against the German offensive was not British, and most airmen were inexperienced. This pilot’s unwavering gaze in the face of an unremitting cliff top wind honours the scores of names, from near and far, and high and low, which are writ on the wall behind him.
The interactive ‘Scramble Experience‘ inside ‘The Wing‘ building guides us through the Summer and Autumn of 1940. We listen to men and women tell of their fears and hopes and, at times, boredom. Their stories relate their resilience and bravery, and the knowledge that death was all around. One survivor explains that he wouldn’t get too friendly with anyone, because they might not be alive the next day. We learn much about what we thought we knew, but didn’t.
The clip below is taken from the film shown in ‘The Scramble Experience‘. As always, a tingle goes down my spine when I hear Churchill’s own words which speak to the individual as well as to the whole.
Back in 2020, the man on the till who sells us our replica ration books recalls his Nana’s fine meals, “Oh, she was a great cook. You know – she cooked traditional things, but used powdered eggs instead of real ones and margarine instead of butter.” He explains that he had rickets as a child, which he puts down to a limited wartime and post-war diet. Maybe he is right, but most people – the poorest especially – enjoyed improved nutrition during the Second World War and immediately afterwards. Amongst other measures, foods were fortified with calcium and Vitamins A and D, and rickets almost disappeared, only to reappear again post-war (after rationing had stopped in 1954).
So perhaps those powdered eggs weren’t so bad after all. And this is what you could do with them; from Spanish Omelette to Mock Fried Egg to good old Yorkshire Pud.
Before we go, one photograph in particular catches my eye: children crouch in a trench in Kent. They all look up, but in different directions. A dogfight is being fought above their heads. It was all so close, and not so long ago.
Don’t miss (at the right time of year) the highly recommended Battle of Britain Museum – not to be confused with the Memorial – which can be visited during the summer months at nearby Hawkinge.