“Never was so much owed by so many to so few” was a speech made by the British prime minister Winston Churchill on 20 August 1940 during World War II. The name stems from the specific line in the speech, Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few, referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force crews who were at the time fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe with Britain expecting an invasion. Pilots who fought in the battle have been known as The Few ever since; at times being specially commemorated on 15 September, “Battle of Britain Day”.
Churchill apparently first used his famous words upon his exit from the Battle of Britain Bunker at RAF Uxbridge on 16 August when visiting the No. 11 Group RAF Operations Room during a day of battle. Afterwards, Churchill told Major General Hastings Ismay, ‘Don’t speak to me, I have never been so moved’. After several minutes of silence he said, ‘Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to so few’. The sentence would form the basis of his speech to the House of Commons on 20 August.
Transcript of ‘The Few’ – Churchill’s speech to The House of Commons, August 20, 1940
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