‘The Few’ who saved Britain were even fewer than everyone thought. PL story

Seems like an appropriate day to pull out this story that I wrote for The Independent a while ago.

“The Few” who knocked the Luftwaffe out of Britain’s skies in 1940 were even fewer than anyone previously thought. Six out of 10 RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain never shot down an enemy aircraft, new research indicates.

“The Few” who knocked the Luftwaffe out of Britain’s skies in 1940 were even fewer than anyone previously thought. Six out of 10 RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain never shot down an enemy aircraft, new research indicates.

Christopher Shores, the author of Aces High, says that a relatively small number of pilots were responsible for most of the German aircraft shot down during Britain’s “finest hour”. He says that the top 17 RAF “aces” – less then 1 per cent of “the Few” – shot down 10 per cent of all enemy aircraft. 

But a survey published yesterday shows that many people in modern Britain have a woefully inadequate grasp of the debt owed to these Second World War heroes. An ICM poll to mark the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain found that some were not even sure that Britain was fighting the Germans, saying instead that they thought the enemy was the Romans or Normans – while 10 per cent thought the French were the foe. Some people were also confused as to whether their wartime leader was Winston Churchill or King Alfred.

For the survey, 1,000 people were asked four questions about the Battle of Britain – but fewer than half of those aged between 18 and 24 knew it was an air battle. The RAF pilots, whose victory forced Hitler to abandon his invasion plans, became known as “the Few” after Churchill’s speech in which he said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

The Battle of Britain was fought between 10 July and 31 October 1940. RAF pilots claimed to have shot down about 2,600 German aircraft, but figures compiled later suggest that Luftwaffe losses were more likely to be 1,700.

Of the 2,332 Allied pilots who flew fighters in the battle, 38.85 per cent were able to claim some degree of success in terms of enemy aircraft shot down, although the number claiming more than one victim amounted to no more than 15 per cent of the total.

To qualify for the description of “ace”, a fighter pilot has to shoot down or be involved with others in shooting down at least five hostile aircraft. During the Battle of Britain just 188 pilots achieved that performance – 8 per cent of the total involved. A further 233 of those claiming successes during the battle became “aces” later in the war.

Mr Shores says: “It is particularly illuminating that the 17 most successful pilots (0.7 per cent of those involved) claimed 220 victories between them (8-9 per cent of the total claimed) – a quite disproportionate high level of achievement.

The 188 “ace” pilots claimed approximately half of all the victories. The most successful were Sgt Josef Frantisek (from Czechoslovakia) 17; Pilot Officer Eric Lock (England) 16; Flying Officer Brian Carbury (New Zealand) and Sgt James ‘Ginger’ Lacey (England) 15 and 1 shared each; Pilot Officer Bob Doe (England) 15; Flt Lt Pat Hughes (Australia) 14 and 3 shared; Pilot Officer Colin Gray (New Zealand) 14 and 2 shared; Flt Lt Archie McKellar(Scotland) 14 and 1 shared; Flying Officer Witold Urbanowicz (Poland) 14. Eight others claimed 10 or 11 individual victories, with varying numbers of shares.

The findings complement research published in Aeroplanemagazine that examined which were the most effective RAF squadrons during the Battle of Britain. The most prolific were: 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron – a Spitfire squadron based at Hornchurch, Essex – which shot down 57.5 enemy aircraft; 609 Squadron, another Spitfire squadron, based at Middle Wallop, Hampshire, with 51.5 kills; and the Polish-manned 303 Squadron and 41 Squadron, which were nearly equal with 45 and 44.75 credits. Douglas Bader’s 242 Hurricane Squadron achieved 22 kills.

A recent television programme debunked the widely held belief that nearly all the fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain were ex-public school boys from an upper-class background. Of the 3,080 airmen awarded the Battle of Britain Clasp, only 141 (6 per cent) were educated at the top 13 public schools.



Duncan Campbell’s Honorary Doctorate award at University of Sussex. PL as introducer.

Graduation - Duncan and Paul with Chancellor and Vice Chancellor


I am delighted to introduce Duncan Campbell.  Duncan has, for forty years, been one of Britain’s most outstanding investigative journalists. He specialises in privacy, civil liberties and surveillance issues and his best-known investigations have led to major legal clashes with successive British governments.

Duncan is a proud Scot. Born in Glasgow in 1952, he grew up and was educated in Dundee.  With a penchant for the sciences, he won an open scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, graduating with a First Class degree in physics. Duncan’s relationship with Brighton and the University of Sussex goes back to 1973, when he came to study Operations Research.   He is a long-time resident of Kemptown.

Duncan is a major figure among the UK generation of post-Watergate journalists. During the 1970s, the excesses of western intelligence agencies during the Cold War were being made public on a daily basis. Duncan will always been known as the first journalist to reveal the existence of the British electronic intelligence agency GCHQ in a 1976 article “The Eavesdroppers”. This, though, brought him to the attention of the authorities. He became known nationally as the ‘C’ in the ABC official secrets trial of 1978.

On the 20 February 1977, while living in Brighton, Duncan and fellow journalist Crispin Aubrey were arrested after interviewing a former signals corporal called John Berry – thus the ABC case (Aubrey, Berry, Campbell). Duncan’s flat in Brighton was searched by the police. All three were charged under the Official Secrets Act and faced very long prison sentences.   Their trial became a cause celebre for press freedom and while they were convicted, they received a discharge from a High Court Judge critical of the abuse of secrecy laws.

In another run in with government, during the 1987 Zircon affair, Duncan caused the BBC to be raided by Special Branch after his revelations that the government had concealed from Parliament expensive plans to launch spy satellites.

Duncan came out in 1987.  A year later he was one of the six founders of the human rights and equality group Stonewall, along with actors Sir Ian McKellen and Michael Cashman. This April, at the wedding of Duncan with his partner Matt in Edinburgh, the guest of honour Joanna Cherry, the ‘openly LGBT’  Scottish National Party MP, in a moving speech, made special reference to Duncan’s involvement in setting up Stonewall – which she said had been crucial in changing attitudes to being gay in Britain.

Duncan has a formidable intellect and has been at the forefront of enabling the new wave of data journalism leaks. He and his husband recently helped the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists innovate in how to take raw data from a leaked 200 GB computer drive of secret offshore tax haven registers to produce high quality evidence of how the rich and powerful hide their ill-gotten gains.

In 2013, when Edward Snowden leaked documents from the US National Security Agency, Duncan was on hand to interpret the material.   He has continuously provided the most insightful interpretation of the dangers of massive electronic surveillance, and is helping University of Sussex colleagues investigate these issues.  Duncan is also currently critiquing the Law Commission’s proposal for a tougher espionage act that, he warns, would see journalists and their sources jailed.

Duncan’s radicalism, intellect, courage and his advocacy of LGBT rights makes him a natural kindred spirit for The University of Sussex.

Chancellor, I present to you for the degree of Doctor of the University, honoris causa, Duncan Campbell. “

NUJ calls for no detrimental changes to official secrets laws

NUJ calls for no detrimental changes to official secrets laws


The NUJ has responded to the Law Commission’s consultation on reforming official secrets legislation, arguing robustly that editorial matters relating to national security, official secrets and the public interest are decisions best left to journalists. The union has expressed strong opposition to the measures currently proposed including making it easier to prosecute journalists and increasing the likelihood of conviction. The union maintains that media workers should never be criminalised for upholding long-standing ethical principles that are enshrined in the NUJ code of conduct.


Séamus Dooley, NUJ acting general secretary, said: “We have provided the Law Commission with ample evidence of past instances where the legislation has been used to threaten or silence journalists who have been reporting in the public interest. We have also demonstrated that NUJ members have a long and proud history of defending the public’s right to know.


“We hope many of the recommendations made by the Law Commission will be abandoned. However, if the authorities continue to pursue legal reforms then they should support our calls for the introduction of a public interest defence for journalists and journalism.”


The NUJ submission is attached for information and a summary of the key points are below:


  • The examples contained within the NUJ submission show journalists who have been threatened with the official secrets laws in the past have not harmed public safety or national security
  • Journalists who obtain or gather information should not be deemed to be committing an espionage offence
  • There should be a public interest defence for disclosures and for the publication or republication of classified/protected data received from whistleblowers and/or sources
  • There should be a defence of prior publication where the information published has either been lawfully placed in the public domain or has already been widely disseminated
  • There should be no detrimental changes to the need to prove damage and causing further damage
  • Prison sentences should not be increased to 14 years
  • The authorities should prevent the use of journalists as intelligence agents or cover.


NUJ Law Commission submission June 2017 (3)

Sarah Kavanagh

NUJ senior campaigns and communications officer

E: sarahk@nuj.org.uk

M: 07843549006

Long version of letter in today’s Guardian on the failure of war on terror. PL a signatory.

From 9/11 to the London Bridge Attack: Time to Rethink the ‘war on terror’

Today, 16 years since 9/11 ushered in the US-led ‘war on terror’ and with attacks now occurring across Europe and multiple wars across the MENA region, it is time for the West to reflect far more deeply on these matters. Whilst the attacks should be condemned and sympathies expressed for the bereaved, these actions will not address the ways in which terrorism has become interwoven with Western foreign policy.

To date, policy responses involving civil liberty crackdowns, threats to control the internet and repressive measures such as Prevent, which target entire communities, especially Muslim, have not been evidence-based and have, indeed, run counter to advice from experts and the security agencies themselves. Responses to the immediate problem of terrorist acts, such as those witnessed in London and Manchester, need to be much more intelligent and informed.

At the same time, simplistic and politicised representations of ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ terrorism vs. the West are wholly inadequate and are belied by emerging facts. It is now clear that, even as far back as the response to 9/11, the US sought to exploit this event in order to initiate regime operations against countries unconnected to Al Qaeda. The recent Chilcot Report quoted a British Embassy report stating ‘The “regime-change hawks” in Washington are arguing that a coalition … (against international terrorism) could be used to clear up other problems in the region’. The most notable outcome of this exploitation was the catastrophic invasion of Iraq.

More recently, the highly destructive conflicts in Syria and Libya have highlighted powerful inconsistencies regarding Western governments claim to be fighting terrorism. In Syria, the priority of toppling Assad has involved support, intentional or unintentional, for a variety of extremist groups and key allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have been implicated in providing support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups. Indeed, the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia based on massive arms deals, and support in that country for ‘Islamist Jihadists’, has now become an election issue in the UK. Regarding Libya, the recent Manchester attacks have triggered remarkable claims regarding the possible relationship between the alleged attacker, Salman Abedi, and British security services and a broader policy of facilitating the movement of extremists between the UK and Libya to help overthrow Qadafi in 2011.

Responding to the dreadful events in London and Manchester requires level-headed policy responses and critical reflection upon the way in which Western governments have become embroiled in exploiting terrorism and even facilitating it. If we are to move beyond the ritualistic cycle of terror attack-condemnation-military response-terror attack, it is time to come to terms with, and bring to an end, Western involvement in terrorism.

Professor Noam Chomsky

John Pilger, Journalist and Documentary Film Maker

Professor Vian Bakir, University of Bangor

Professor Ruth Blakeley, University of Kent

Professor Oliver Boyd-Barrett, Emeritus

Professor Daniel Broudy, Okinawa Christian University

Professor Emanuela C. Del Re, University of Niccolo’ Cusano

Professor John L. Esposito, Georgetown University

Professor Des Freedman, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor David Ray Griffin, Emeritus, Claremont Graduate University

Professor Penny Green, Queen Mary University London

Professor Jenny Hocking, Monash University

Professor Eric Herring, University of Bristol

Professor Tim Hayward, University of Edinburgh

Professor Tareq Y. Ismael, University of Calgory

Professor Richard Jackson, University of Otago

Professor Jeremy Keenan, Queen Mary University London

Professor Timo Kivimäki, University of Bath

Professor David Miller, University of Bath

Professor Mark Crispin Miller, New York University

Professor Fredrick Ogenga, Rongo University

Professor Julian Petley, Brunel University

Professor David H. Price, Saint Martin’s University

Professor Piers Robinson, University Of Sheffield

Professor Salman Sayyid, University of Leeds

Professor Tamara Sonn, Georgetown University

Professor David Whyte, University of Liverpool

Professor James Winter, University of Windsor, Ontario

Amir Amirani, Producer and Director

Dr Nafeez Ahmed, Anglia Ruskin University

Dr Matthew Alford, University of Bath

Max Blumenthal, Author and Journalist

Dr Emma Briant, University of Sheffield

Remi Brulin, New York University & John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Dr TJ Coles, University of Plymouth

Sarah Earnshaw, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Dr Philip Edwards, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr Lucy Morgan Edwards, Researcher

Muhammad Feyyaz, University of Management and Technology, Lahore

Dr Ciaran Gillespie, University of Surrey

Dr David Ray Griffin,

Stefanie Haueis, Fachseminarleiterin, JGHerder-Gymnasium, Berlin

Dr Mark Hayes, Southampton Solent University

Dr Emma Heywood, Coventry University

Dr Nisha Kapoor, University of York

Dr Paul Lashmar, University of Sussex

Dr Sarah Marusek, University of Johannesburg

Dr. Narzanin Massoumi, University of Bath

Dr Anisa Mustafa, University of Nottingham

Ismail Patel, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Peace in Palestine

Dr Elizabeth Poole, Keele University

Dr. Piro Rexhepi, Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Dr Rizwaan Sabir, Liverpool John Moores University

Cathrin Ruppe, University of Applied Sciences, Münster

Dr Joshua Shurley, Clovis Community College, California

Dr Katy Sian, University of York

Dr Greg Simons, Uppsala University

Dr Fahid Qurashi, Canterbury Christ Church University

Dr Milly Williamson, Brunel University

Stephanie Weber, Curator of Contemporary Art, Lenbachhaus Munich

Dr Kalina Yordanova, Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors

Dr Florian Zollmann, University of Newcastle