Who's in there, I asked the cop near the fenced-in curb. Camilla, he said, and Prince William--for the 75th Battle of Britain anniversary. Oh oh oh. The British Museum visit promptly banished to after lunch, I began looking for a good vantage point. It was hard. I was a pygmy straining for a look behind the growing forest of Caucasian backs in front of me.
In this, he was thwarted by the Royal Air Force, whose squadrons of young pilots engaged the Luftwaffe in legendary dogfights over the English skies. The RAF's bravery and successful defense of the realm effectively scuttled Hitler's planned invasion of England, rallied the world against the Nazi onslaught and helped alter the course of war. The sacrifices of those young men--“a truly multinational force comprising 574 British, 139 Poles, 98 New Zealanders, 86 Canadians, 84 Czechoslovakians, 29 Belgians, 21 Australians, 20 South Africans, 13 French, 10 Irish plus others from the USA, Jamaica, Palestine and Southern Rhodesia” [from here]--moved then-UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill to utter one of his deathless lines: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
That morning, what were left of the young heroes of 1940 shambled out of Westminster Abbey still distinguished-looking in their crisp military coats and medals, but a number of them already looking feeble and on wheelchairs. The royals were there to pay tribute to these men--boys, really, 70 years ago--who had saved England and the Free World from tyranny.
The event, quiet and solemn and dignified, moved me tremendously. How great for a country to continue to remember its heroes. Back here, my late lolo--in his teens already a guerrilla against the Japanese, and then post-war was denied recognition for decades by the US for his and his comrades' sacrifices--couldn't even get a decent Philippine flag for his burial. A debt owed by so many to so few, indeed--yet so stingily remembered.