So You Think You’re Having A Tough Day?

6th June 2019
Malcolm Triggs

Running a business can be tough. The challenge of finding new customers, the pressure of keeping existing clients happy, the never-ending paperwork and the almost inevitable staff issues can make the entrepreneur’s lot a far from happy one.

There are, of course, some great moments; landing that big contract, completing a challenging project or celebrating an award win to name a few. But there will also be challenges and setbacks along the way.

Tackling those challenges takes determination and a single-minded approach to getting the job done, particularly when the livelihoods of a loyal workforce depend on the business owner finding a way to solve the problem.

That determination to see the job through has echoes in the wartime spirit displayed by the pilots of the Royal Air Force when they faced the numerically superior Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

In that case it wasn’t just their colleagues that depended on their commitment, but the rest of the nation. With Hitler poised the other side of The Channel, preventing the Luftwaffe from achieving superiority in the air was the country’s priority.

It is a matter of record – but no less remarkable because of it – that the RAF won the day, with the fewer-than 3000 Allied aircrew standing firm to repel the larger enemy force and prevent an invasion.

Twenty-first century commerce is, of course, a far cry from the bravery and sacrifice displayed in the summer and early autumn of 1940, but there are some fascinating examples of the kind of determination that allowed nothing to get in the way of achieving the ultimate goal; freedom from tyranny.

While he was later perhaps better known as the man who sparked a constitutional crisis because of his love for Princess Margaret, Peter Wooldridge Townsend was a skilled pilot who was awarded the DFC after shooting down a Heinkel 111, the first enemy aircraft to fall on English soil during the war.

His bravery was reflected in the fact that he later received a Bar to the DFC, followed less than a year later by the DSO, while his determination to get the job done was highlighted when he injured his foot when landing by parachute after being shot down by a Messerschmitt Bf 109.

By now a Squadron Leader commanding No 85 Squadron during the Battle of Britain, Townsend knew that he would be replaced if he did not rejoin the squadron within three weeks, and he was determined not to let that happen.

In his autobiography Time and Chance he explained how he avoided being grounded: “My wound prevented me from walking, but not from flying, so, when I arrived at our new base, Church Fenton in Yorkshire, I took the precaution of going straight to the hangars, where I was helped into a Hurricane. Then I took off.

“When I reported to the doctor, he told me gravely: ‘It will be some time before you can fly again.’ ‘But I’ve just been flying,’ I replied, and he said no more.”

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