Friday night movie: The First of the Few (1942)

Description:

Biopic of aircraft designer R.J. Mitchell whose Spitfire became one of the mainstays of the RAF in World War II. Mitchell worked for Supermarine who specialized for many years on developing seaplanes. He enjoyed a good deal of success winning prestigious air races with the help of his test pilot Geoffrey Crisp. Money was always in short supply however and the government was always hesitant to invest. When Supermarine is bought out by Vickers, Mitchell has a bit more leeway. After a visit to Germany in the 1930s, he sees the Nazi threat first-hand and decides to design a fighter with a completely new engine. The result was the famed Spitfire.

Here’s the Spitfire:

Supermarine Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire

The speech by Prime Minister Churchill

What does the title of the movie refer to? It’s from a speech by the Conservative prime minister of Britain during the war – Sir Winston Churchill.

Excerpt:

The great air battle which has been in progress over this Island for the last few weeks has recently attained a high intensity. It is too soon to attempt to assign limits either to its scale or to its duration. We must certainly expect that greater efforts will be made by the enemy than any he has so far put forth. Hostile air fields are still being developed in France and the Low Countries, and the movement of squadrons and material for attacking us is still proceeding. It is quite plain that Herr Hitler could not admit defeat in his air attack on Great Britain without sustaining most serious injury. If after all his boastings and bloodcurdling threats and lurid accounts trumpeted round the world of the damage he has inflicted, of the vast numbers of our Air Force he has shot down, so he says, with so little loss to himself; if after tales of the panic-stricken British crushed in their holes cursing the plutocratic Parliament which has led them to such a plight-if after all this his whole air onslaught were forced after a while tamely to peter out, the Fuhrer’s reputation for veracity of statement might be seriously impugned. We may be sure, therefore, that he will continue as long as he has the strength to do so, and as long as any preoccupations he may have in respect of the Russian Air Force allow him to do so.

On the other hand, the conditions and course of the fighting have so far been favorable to us. I told the House two months ago that, whereas in France our fighter aircraft were wont to inflict a loss of two or three to one upon the Germans, and in the fighting at Dunkirk, which was a kind of no-man’s-land, a loss of about three or four to one, we expected that in an attack on this Island we should achieve a larger ratio. This has certainly come true. It must also be remembered that all the enemy machines and pilots which are shot down over our Island, or over the seas which surround it, are either destroyed or captured; whereas a considerable proportion of our machines, and also of our pilots, are saved, and soon again in many cases come into action.

[…]The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and b~ their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

But before you can have “the few” fighter pilots who saved Britain, you have to have the fighter! That’s why R.J. Mitchell, the inventor of the fighter, is the First of the Few.

It’s very important that we in the West understand the importance of investing in defense research, so we can develop new weapons, so that we can deter aggression. This is the doctrine of peace through strength.

The few mentioned in Shakespeare’s Henry V

You may also be interested in a famous speech by Henry V.

Excerpt:

WESTMORELAND: O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING HENRY V: What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Henry V is on the short list of approved Wintery Knight movies.

Happy Friday!

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2 thoughts on “Friday night movie: The First of the Few (1942)”

  1. It’s very important that we in the West understand the importance of investing in defense research, so we can develop new weapons, so that we can deter aggression. This is the doctrine of peace through strength.

    —Wintery Knight

    My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.

    —Jesus, being interrogated by Pilate before his execution (John 18.36)

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    1. So here is Thomas who is in favor of not intervening in World War 2 and allow millions of Jews to be killed and all of Europe and Asia to be enslaved by tyrants. He thinks that Christianity is just as easy to practice in a concentration camp as it is in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton.

      And why does he think this? He thinks this because his knowledge of Christianity is bounded by devotional Bible reading. He has never thought to apply what he reads in the Bible to other areas, like economics, history or even just way theology. Much better to misinterpret the Bible and let millions of innocent people die under tyranny.

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