London, Feb 4: Mahatma Gandhi is a myth and Winston Churchill never existed is what most Britons think of the legendry figures.
According to a TV survey in Britain involving 3,000 respondents, the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill , Cleopatra and Florence Nightingale are characters dreamed up for films and books. Surprisingly, Winston Churchill, the 'greatest Briton of all time,' is merely a myth for a quarter of the population.
The trail of ignorance does not end here, some think Charles Dickens was himself a character in fiction rather than the creator of David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and Martin Chuzzlewit.
In a damning indictment of the Britain's historical knowledge, many of those surveyed said they believe Sherlock Holmes was a real person, along with the pilot Biggles and even the Three Musketeers.
Renowned English historian Correlli Barnett says :''This suggests a complete lack of common sense and respect for our greatest heroes of the past.'' ''Something must be completely lacking in Britain's education that people could be so ignorant as to think these people never actually existed, no doubt these other ones like Robin Hood, people mistake as being real because they have recently been featured on the TV,'' the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.