Remembering the Second World War – The Battle of Britain
The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) marked the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Britain with a ceremony held at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa on Sunday, Sept. 18.
“Our people are at the core of every successful mission. Today, we honour our RCAF personnel who, seventy-six years ago, fought alongside our allies with great determination — outnumbered but not out-spirited. The Battle of Britain was a turning point for the Allies during the Second World War, directly attributable to the commitment and bravery of the pilots and groundcrew who seized victory from the jaws of defeat during the dark days of 1940. It was also a turning point for our Air Force—the first time in history an RCAF squadron had taken part in combat action. Today, we honour their sacrifices and every day we strive to be worthy of their legacy of valour,” said LGen. Mike Hood, Commander of the RCAF.
The Battle of Britain is characterized by historians as the turning point of the Second World War. More than 3,000 allied aircrew were part of this Battle including more than 100 RCAF members. Twenty-three Canadians lost their lives in this Battle.
The Battle of Britain, called Britain’s “finest hour” by Sir. Winston Churchill, gave hope to the demoralized British and northern Europeans. It was the only Battle of the Second World War that was fought and won entirely in the air.
For the Canadians, the Battle of Britain was the first time a formed RCAF squadron entered combat in the Second World War. Before the formation of No. 1 Fighter Squadron, later renamed to 401 Squadron, Canadians had flown individually with Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons. During the battle, Canadians also flew with the RAF’s 242 “Canadian” Squadron and other RAF squadrons.
“I just happened to be born in Sackville, NB, 100 years ago, happened to be accepted to the RAF in 1939 and ended up flying Spitfires in the Battle of Britain, and I survived. I would like to take this recognition and dedicate it to those who fought and died and to those who survived, that we do not forget them,” said Squadron Leader (retired) John Stewart Hart, believed to be the last surviving Canadian of the Battle of Britain.
Second World War veterans, current RCAF members, and RCAF cadets marched alongside one another to the music of the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces as part of Sunday’s ceremony.
The ceremony also featured a fly-past of both vintage and current RCAF aircraft.
Featured image: Major Dany Gilbert, parade commander, salutes during the parade held on Parliament Hill on September 20, 2015, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.