Battle of Britain remembered throughout Canada

October 9, 2019 — Defence Stories

Author: RCAF Public Affairs

Royal Canadian Air Force wings throughout Canada marked the 79th anniversary of the Battle of Britain on September 15, 2019.

The battle, fought in the skies above southeast England during the summer and autumn of 1940, was the opening move in Germany’s plan to invade England—destruction of the fighter force and the establishment of air superiority over the English Channel and the landing zones in southeast England.

In nine days spanning May and June of 1940, some 300,000 men and women had escaped from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, picked up by large naval ships and an ad hoc rescue flotilla of small civilian watercraft which became known as “the Little Ships”. Vessels of all shapes and sizes steamed or sailed or chugged back and forth between England and France. It was an amazing feat.

Left behind on the continent were the military vehicles and machines of war, stores of spare parts and petrol, general supplies, and medical equipment, as well as many documents—all needed to successfully wage a war.

Hitler’s next goal was the invasion of Great Britain.

A few days later, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill rose in the British House of Commons to say, “The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin. … Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

Every year in September, around the world, air forces which participated in the Battle of Britain hold ceremonies to mark the losses and remember the victory of a small group of valiant airmen, supported by ground personnel, who, against all odds, turned back the Luftwaffe and thwarted the invasion plans. We solemnly commemorate the sacrifices of those who waged that battle, and won.

Canada is no exception. Now, 79 years after the battle, we don’t so much celebrate as remember with awe and pride in equal measure the Canadians who contributed to that impossible victory.

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