“For the Few”

by Jeremy Gadd

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3

James Edward Gadd,
Flight Sergeant, 611 Squadron,
is listed among the aircrew named
as having fought in the Battle of Britain.

Hard to imagine now: aircraft soaring;
the reek of oil and stench of rubber;
the cramped cockpit; the vibration
and roaring of the Merlin engine;

the claustrophobic oxygen mask;
radio static and warnings of the
waiting Hun in the sun in his ear;
the taste of fear—of death, and worse—

of being maimed or burnt alive.
Did you survive? Were you aware
as you flew, you would become
known as one of “The Few”?

(Churchill knew his Shakespeare.)
Were you aware your endurance,
resistance and resilience would be as
important, for the future of freedom,

as at Marathon, Thermopylae or Tours?
Or were you another young man,
future on hold, without a plan,
simply doing his duty?