Noel Coward's 1947 play 'Peace in our Time' is based in an alternative world where the Nazis, having achieved air superiority, have successfully invaded Britain at the end of 1940. In one scene there is a discussion about whether it would have been better if the Battle of Britain had been won.
Alma: It might have been better for America and the rest of the world, but it would not have been better for us.
Fred: Why not?
Alma: Because we should have got lazy again, and blown out with our own glory. We should have been bombed and blitzed and we should have stood up under it - an example to the whole civilised world - and that would have finished us.
Maybe unsurprisingly the play was not a success with audiences. In that 1947 run it featured Kenneth More (*), whose portrayal of Douglas Bader some years later was how the British public really wanted and expected to see themselves.
The Battle of Britain was pivotal for the world because it meant that victory over Hitler could come from the West as well as the East. But an important point lost in all the myths is not that it was a turning point for the UK, but that it wasn't. In fact it enabled things to carry on here much as they had done before despite massive changes in the rest of the world. Many of those who voted in the referendum were actually expressing a desire to live in the country they grew up in; one full of white people who had won the war. They, naturally enough, can't, and given that they are unlikely to change their minds, all the rest of us can do is wait for them to die; unfortunately they seem intent on taking us with them.
* It also featured Bernard Lee (who later on, as 'M', was part of a different fantasy in which the UK was still a significant player in world events), Dandi Nichols (who, as Else Garnett, had to put up with what that generation of British people have always actually been like) and Dora Bryan (whose wish for a Beatle for Christmas looks positively reasonable in hindsight). Let's finish with her, and at least have a smile:
I doubt if many people old enough to remember Britain as an independent nation account for a decent proportion of the electorate. The Suez Crisis should have made it clear that we weren't in charge of our own destiny. Which only goes to show how successful the self-delusional propaganda that you alude to has been.ReplyDelete