It’s no exaggeration to say that the fate of the world hung in the balance in the summer of 1940. With much of Europe having been occupied by Nazi Germany, the United Kingdom stood alone as a bulwark against Hitler’s ambitions.
It seemed inevitable that the might of the Luftwaffe would be turned against Britain as a prelude to invasion. And so it proved.
Throughout August and September, 1940, the Luftwaffe launched a series of air raids on an unprecedented scale. Towns, cities, airfields, ports and industrial sites were all repeatedly bombed. Many lives, military and civilian, were lost.
The Luftwaffe did not have it all their own way, however. Attack after attack was met by fierce resistance by the young pilots of RAF Fighter Command. Often pitted against fearful odds, the RAF fighter squadrons fought the Luftwaffe to a standstill. Come the autumn, the Germans quietly shelved their plans for invasion, never to be revived. Britain – and perhaps the world – had been saved.
One of those young RAF pilots was “Sailor” Malan, a South African who had joined the RAF in 1935. Five years later, he became famous as the tough, brave and intelligent leader of 74 squadron. As the Battle of Britain intensified, Malan used his experience of combat to formulate a set of rules for air fighting. These rules were widely circulated and soon became known throughout Fighter Command as “Ten of My Rules for Air Fighting“.
Malan survived the war and returned to South Africa, where he threw his energies into campaigning against apartheid. Sadly, he died of Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 53.
With 2015 being the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, I wanted to pay my own tribute to those who gave their youth – and in many cases their lives – to keep Britain free. After much head scratching, I hit upon the notion of rewriting Sailor Malan’s “Ten Rules”, but with road safety rather than air-to-air combat in mind.
The rationale for this reworking is simple. Hundreds of young men died in the air in 1940. Fast forward 75 years and they’re dying on the roads instead.
So without further ado, here’s what I came up with:
10 OF MY RULES FOR SAFER DRIVING
If you can see the whites of their eyes – you’re FAR too close. Always maintain a safe distance to the car in front.
When driving, think of nothing else. Keep both hands on the wheel and your mind on what you’re doing.
Always keep a sharp lookout. Or, in other words, keep your finger out. The world doesn’t end five feet in front of your front bumper, so look as far ahead as you can. Constantly scan the roadside as well as the road in front of you.
Take the initiative when it comes to safety. Check your tyres, lights, screenwash level and wiper blades before every trip.
Only make a manoeuvre when you’re sure that it’s safe to do so. Use your mirrors, check your blind spots and give proper indication of your intentions before making the manoeuvre.
Make your decisions carefully but promptly. Dithering can put yourself and/or others in danger.
Never drive for more than two hours without taking a break. Tiredness can kill.
When driving, always be on guard for the actions of others less thoughtful or aware than you.
INTELLIGENCE, AWARENESS, CONSIDERATION and CAUTION are words that MEAN something in safe driving.
Drive carefully – stay alert – get home safely!
I have tried to retain as much of the spirit and, where possible, the wording of Sailor Malan’s original text. Accordingly, the ‘rules’ created by me are far from being a prescriptive list.
Home page image: public domain