This is England


From the AFP, a recent poll suggests that a frightening number of Britons think that fictional Sopwith Camel ace James "Biggles" Bigglesworth existed, and that Winston Churchill is a mythical, Nazi-slaying comic book character:

Britons are losing their grip on reality, according to a poll out Monday which showed that nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real.

The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English king Richard the Lionheart was a myth. And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up. The same percentage thought Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale did not actually exist.


Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi and Battle of Waterloo victor the Duke of Wellington also appeared in the top 10 of people thought to be myths. Meanwhile, 58 percent thought Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Holmes actually existed; 33 percent thought the same of W. E. Johns' fictional pilot and adventurer Biggles.

Considering the source (British cable network UKTV Gold), I think a measure of skepticism is in order, though previous surveys have come to similar conclusions. As the BBC reported back in 2001, "Sir Edmund Blackadder was a real historical figure and Adolf Hitler was the prime minister who led Britain to victory in World War II, many schoolchildren in Britain believe."