Above Image: information below.
Last Sunday, September 20th, members and veterans of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) marked the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Ceremonies were held across the country to commemorate the battle.
In Ottawa, the ceremony was held at the Beechwood Cemetery.
“Over forty RCAF members who served back in 1940 are laid to rest here. While we do not know exactly what role each of these individuals played during that turbulent time, and in the period around the Battle of Britain, we continue to reflect on their courage, their bravery, and we will always honour their service to Canada,” said Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger in his remarks.
He addressed Second World War veteran, Mr. Robert Bradley, and offered a few words.
“When he was a young 17 and a half-year-old man, Mr. Bradley underwent training as an air gunner. After receiving his wings, Mr. Bradley was posted overseas and underwent bomber training to fly in the mighty Lancaster. This amazing man flew 30 missions as a tail gunner in a Lancaster Squadron before serving as a gunner trainer until the war’s end.”
As a part of the ceremony, Vintage Wings of Canada aircraft, which represent those flown in the Battle of Britain by the Royal Canadian Air Force, flew over the ceremony.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, public was invited to watch this year’s wreath-laying ceremony on the RCAF Facebook page, as it was not possible to attend in person.
The Battle of Britain was fought in the skies over southeast England and the English Channel from July 10 to October 31, 1940, and it was the first battle fought exclusively in the air. The battle represents the Royal Canadian Air Force’s first commitment to combat in the Second World War.
Waged from July to October 1940, The Battle of Britain pitted a small group of Allied fighter pilots against a far larger German air force, the Luftwaffe. The Allied victory gave hope to the people of freedom-loving nations, like Canada and Great Britain.
Described as the turning point in the Second World War, more than 100 Canadians flew alongside nearly 3,000 Allied aircrew in the battle for domination of the skies.
A total of 544 Allies lost their lives in the Battle of Britain, including 23 Canadian pilots, with about 35 more Canadians who died before victory was won in 1945. More than half of the approximately 100 Canadian pilots who participated in the Battle of Britain never came home.
Members of the ground crews also won the Battle of Britain. Their work was critical, and they worked tirelessly to keep the aircraft flying, often under enemy fire.
The yearly ceremony in Kingston’s City Park honours Canadians who fought with members of the British and allied air forces in a key event in world history and was attended by a few members of the 416 Wing Air Force Association of Canada and 1 Wing Headquarters.
“Today, we honour the sacrifices of those brave Canadians and allies who risked their lives 80 years ago. The successes of today are built on a foundation of past achievements. Let us never forget the road that brought us to where we stand now. We remember with awe and pride the Canadians who contributed to that impossible victory,” stated Chief Warrant Officer Andy Sargent, 1 Wing Headquarters Chief Warrant Officer.
Lieutenant-Colonel Chung Wong, 1 Wing Headquarters Commanding Officer, says the heroes of the Battle of Britain represent the very best of what it means to be Canadian.
“The Royal Canadian Air Force of today has been built by those who have served before us. It is our history that defines us and the future we prepare for. That legacy continues in our airmen and airwomen who put their lives on the line every day to defend Canadians at home and abroad.”
Colonel Chris McKenna, Commander 1 Wing, says it’s important that we remember the heroic actions of those brave Canadians and allies who built a storied legacy and a solid foundation of which the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) of today can be proud.
This year’s contingent was significantly scaled down in order to adhere to COVID-19 mitigation measures and gathering restrictions.
In North Bay, a small group of people, including veterans and current serving military members, gathered at the Memorial Park Cenotaph to mark the historic occasion. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, members of the public were encouraged to watch the ceremony either on the 22 Wing Ayr Mess Facebook page or during a live broadcast on YourTV North Bay.
Colonel Mark Lachapelle, 22 Wing and Canadian Air Defence Sector Commander, says they gathered through virtual technology and live broadcasting to mark the 80th anniversary. Although they could not gather in large numbers to pay homage to the sacrifices made, it is still important that they commemorate this battle 80 years later.
Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Slusher, Detachment 2, First Air Force Commander, United States Air Force, highlighted the contribution and sacrifices men and women have made while serving Canada.
“This year marks the 68th anniversary that members of the United States Air Force have served at Canadian Forces Base North Bay, and as active members of the North Bay community, we welcome the opportunity to join together to celebrate,” he says.
A small number of Americans also flew in the Battle of Britain as members of the Royal Air Force and the RCAF, in combat against the Luftwaffe over England in the summer of 1940.
Three Canadians received the Distinguished Flying Cross for their efforts during the Battle of Britain: the commanding officer, Squadron Leader Ernie McNab; his second-in-command, Flight Lieutenant Gordon Roy McGregor; and Flying Officer “Dal” Russel.