How fiction might have become fact

A new TV series based on an alternative future has again highlighted the importance of the victory won by the heroes of the RAF in the Battle of Britain.

The National Memorial to the Few here at Capel-le-Ferne pays tribute to the heroism and sacrifice of the men who won the most crucial battle fought by this country in the whole of the last century.

If the RAF had lost the battle in the sky, the likelihood is that a Nazi invasion would quickly have followed. Defeat saw Hitler postpone and then cancel the invasion of Great Britain, not only preventing an immediate attack but also retaining a vital springboard for the retaking of Europe in 1944.

But as the BBC’s new five-part drama, which began on Sunday evening, highlights, it could have been very different.

SS-GB, based on the novel by Len Deighton, is set in 1941 and based on the premise that the Luftwaffe has won the Battle of Britain and the Wehrmacht has conquered Southern England.

As the BBC website goes on: “Winston Churchill has been executed, King George VI has been imprisoned in the Tower of London, and Swastika banners adorn the bombed out ruins of Buckingham Palace. Tyranny has triumphed. The Nazis have won”.

What happens next in this fictitious future will play out on our television screens over the next month, but as Battle of Britain Memorial Trust historical consultant Geoff Simpson explained, the scenario is not impossible.

“The Luftwaffe came closer to winning the Battle of Britain than many people imagine. The events in SS-GB are clearly fictional, but the reality is that we could have been days away from an invasion when Hitler changed the tactic of bombing airfields, RDF (radar) stations and aircraft factories to give emphasis to attacks on London, thereby giving Fighter Command a respite.

“The RAF was suffering badly from a lack of experienced pilots and only the determination, dedication and sacrifice of the aircrew and the groundcrew involved kept this country safe. Fewer than 3,000 aircrew took on the might of Nazi Germany and won. Without their bravery, Len Deighton’s portrayal might have been truth not fiction.”

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