Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Mystical Airman

As you can't help but notice it's seventy years since the Battle of Britain ended. But who actually won it?

Well us, obviously, but who was in charge? Most people know that Nelson won Trafalgar and Montgomery won Alamein, but the man who led the RAF to victory over the Luftwaffe has mysteriously dropped out of history. Possibly because he was unjustly sacked shortly after his victory, but probably also because he spent the last years of his life literally away with the faeries.

In 1940 Dowding didn't just have to fight the Germans, he also had to fight his own side. His method of defending Britain, with fighters dispersed to avoid being destroyed on the ground and swooping on the Germans in small groups didn't go down too well with his colleagues who believed that aeroplanes should be paraded in huge aerial formations like battleships. Never mind that when it was tried it didn't work, if the top brass left the tactics to the jocks in the fighter planes how could they justify their own existence?

Dowding was nothing if not his own person. He fought, and won, the Battle of Britain his way and for his trouble was sacked in November 1940. Having a lot of time on his hands he wrote up his autobiography which he called "Twelve Legions of Angels". The title was perhaps a hint of what was to come next.

The country having no further use him, Dowding retired from the RAF and then took the unusual step of joining the Theosophical society. Rejecting Christianity, he mixed the eastern mysticism of the theosophers with an earthy interest in faeries. In between he hunted ghosts, joined spiritualists on esoteric journeys where he met the departed spirits of deceased airmen, lobbied the House of Lords for the humane treatment of animals, argued the virtues of vegetarianism and debated the existence of UFOs with a young astronomer called Patrick Moore in the monacled xylophone player's first TV appearance. He knew his former colleagues thought him a crank, but he didn't care.

To go from war hero to premature hippy is quite a feat, but Dowding seems to have managed it. So if anyone ever asks you what New Age weirdos have ever done for the country, you can say that one won us The Battle of Britain!

1 comment:

byron smith said...

Fascinating story - thanks!

(A couple of typos you might like to check:
his won person --> his own person
virtues vegetarianism --> virtues of vegetarianism)