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The Few


Have you ever felt unimportant? Thought that if you ceased to exist or had never existed no one would notice? Imagined yourself a tiny speck in an infinite universe, of no possible significance? If so, join the crowd. Most people occasionally doubt their self-worth, but a preoccupation with our nothingness is surely mistaken. History is littered with ordinary individuals who achieved extraordinary deeds and changed the course of history. Often, they were unaware of doing anything special. A striking feature of war veterans is their modesty. “We did our best because we didn’t want to let our mates down” or “I didn’t do anything unusual; we had a job to do and we got on with it” is the kind of thing they say — that is, if you can persuade them to say anything at all.

In 1940 the German army seemed unstoppable. They had overrun the Netherlands, Belgium and much of France. The Dunkirk evacuation ending on 4th June was a miraculous achievement, but nevertheless a defeat. On 16th June France surrendered. The whole world, including many Brits expected that Britain would be next, in just a few weeks, when a German armada would cross the Channel. Our best chance was a peace treaty with Germany, they said.

But on the 18th June, Churchill gave a speech in the House of Commons, and said this:

“The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war . . . Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ “

A few weeks later, on10th July an air battle called the Battle of Britain began. The RAF had 640 fighter planes, against the Luftwaffe’s 2,600. The Luftwaffe’s objective was to get supremacy in the air over Southern England and the Channel, to make possible an invasion by sea and land. But the Germans could not break the RAF and by 31st October the battle had been won. This was the first defeat of the German war machine, and was crucial for the survival of Britain and the outcome of the War. There were just 2,936 fighter pilots, of whom 544 died. In a speech during the battle, Winston Churchill famously said:

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

Ever since, the Battle of Britain fighter pilots have been know as “The Few”. Each year on 15th September we commemorate their achievement, and also that of the bomber pilots who played a significant role too.

So, if you ever feel alone and have nothing significant to offer, remember that a few individuals can change the world. Remember the Spartans at Thermopylae, the French at Verdun, the Texans at the Alamo, Gideon and the Midianites and, many others. And perhaps you might re-read this scripture prophesying about our day:

they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. (2 Nephi 28:14)

Ah yes! we are also part of the “Few” in a different kind of battle . Every time we stand up for truth and goodness, every time we speak out against hate and intolerance, each time we do a good turn for a neighbour, each time we testify of our Lord Jesus Christ we make a difference in the battle with the powers of darkness for hearts and minds. And we are all needed, every one of us. We make a difference together as a group but also separately, by ourselves.


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