The quality of history teaching in our schools!
Lord Ashcroft
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The Battle of Britain? Wasn’t that at sea?

Half of secondary school pupils do not know battle took place in the air.

30 per cent more students recognised the dog from Churchill Insurance’s advertisements than war leader Sir Winston Churchill.

Only a third knew World War Two began in 1939 and a fifth thought it ended on D-Day.

One in 20 thought there had been three world wars.

It was a turning point in the war, when only the bravery of The Few who took to the skies to defend their country stood between Britain and the might of Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe.

But less than half of today’s secondary school pupils know the Battle of Britain was fought in the air, a poll has revealed.

Only 62 per cent could correctly identify a photograph of Sir Winston Churchill, it found – but 92 per cent recognised a picture of Churchill the insurance dog.

‘Oh yes’? More like ‘Oh no’: Over 90 per cent recognised the dog from the Churchill Insurance advertisements yet only a measly 62 per cent of the students polled could identify Sir Winston Churchill.

More could identify Jedward, Wayne Rooney and Katie Price than their country’s wartime leader.

Only a third of 11 to 18-year-olds know the Second World War began in 1939, according to a poll by former Conservative Party deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, while only one in five knows what happened on D-Day.

The survey of 1,000 children at secondary schools across Britain was commissioned to mark the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial in London later this week.

Its results will heighten concern about the quality of history teaching in our schools.

It found that only 34 per cent of pupils – including 45 per cent of those aged 17 and 18 – knew the Second World War began in 1939. Only 39 per cent knew it ended in 1945, again including only 45 per cent of 17 and 18-year-olds.

Forty-three per cent knew the Battle of Britain was fought in the air, 29 per cent believed it was fought on land, and 8 per cent at sea. Twenty per cent admitted they did not know.

Just 34 per cent correctly said the Battle of Britain took place in the 1940s, and only 11 per cent of these – about one in 27 of the whole sample – knew it happened in 1940.

Only a fifth of children had any idea of what happened on D-Day, with the most frequent answer being the day the war ended.

Eighty-six per cent correctly said there had been two world wars – but one in 20 thought there had been three.

Nearly a third were unable to give any unprompted explanation of why Britain fought in the Second World War

And while 89 per cent identified Germany as an adversary during the conflict, only 15 per cent could name Japan unprompted.

Nearly a quarter thought Britain’s enemies had included Russia, France, China, the USA, Australia or New Zealand.

Only 61 per cent correctly named the USA as an ally of Britain’s in the Second World War. One in ten thought our allies had included Italy, Germany or Japan.

When the children were offered four different explanations for what Bomber Command is or was, only 36 per cent correctly said it had been part of the RAF.

There was some encouraging news, however – 95 per cent correctly identified the Royal British Legion’s poppy, and 84 per cent knew what it signified.

Lord Ashcroft, who made a £1 million donation towards the new Bomber Command Memorial, which is being unveiled on Thursday, said: ‘It is sobering to find that so many children of secondary school age simply do not know important facts about crucial events in Britain’s recent history.

‘My own father fought in D-Day, and I was keen to discover how much today’s young people know of what happened just 70 years ago.

‘I don’t mean to criticise the children. We must all take responsibility for ensuring that what we know is passed to the next generation. These findings show we can never be complacent about our duty to remember.

‘One of the ways we can do this is to build lasting memorials to those who have sacrificed so much to serve our country. That is the purpose of the Bomber Command Memorial, which I am proud to support.

‘The Memorial is long overdue. Those who flew on countless missions over Nazi Germany and occupied Europe, many of whom were barely out of their teenage years, knew the odds were stacked against them, and many did not return.

‘All of us should be thankful for the sacrifice they made to ensure that we can all live in a free society.’.


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