Heroes of the Battle of Britain remembered

A vintage drop-wing single-engine aircraft flies in front of trees, with a flag in the foreground.
A restored Spitfire Mk IX takes to the sky at the Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport in Québec on September 16, 2018, during the national ceremony marking the 78th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. PHOTO: Corporal Alana Morin, FA03-2018-0095-151

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By Corporal Vinesh Nagawa

The 78th anniversary of the Battle of Britain was marked on September 16, 2018, just outside the Vintage Wings of Canada hangar at the Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport in Québec. For many, the Battle of Britain is a brief history lesson vaguely remembered from high school. For those who served, it was a time of danger that changed their lives, and the world, forever.

More than 100 Canadian pilots flew during the Battle of Britain, which took place from July 10 to October 31, 1940, in the skies over southwest England and the English Channel. Twenty-three of them died. An unknown number of Canadians also served as groundcrew and support personnel during the Battle.

These brave young Canadians took to the skies or ensured the aircraft and pilots were ready to fight with one purpose only: defending King and country by defeating the enemy.

On Battle of Britain Sunday, when Royal Canadian Air Force Honorary Colonel Loreena McKennitt began to sing “O Canada”, everyone stood proudly as the RCAF Colour—a unique, consecrated flag—was marched onto the parade square. And there were tears on the faces of many of the veterans who attended the parade.

Even as the Snowbirds flew overhead following the thunderous roar of the CF-18 Demonstration Hornet, it was the distinctive sound of pistons puttering away on a nearby runway that turned the veterans’ heads. A restored Spitfire Mk IX was preparing to take off during the parade. Seventy-eight years ago, it was the sound of freedom. For many, that sound underscored Sunday’s ceremony.

“The pilots won the Battle of Britain, but they could not have achieved victory without the dedication of the valiant men and women on the ground,” said commander of the RCAF Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger. “Had the RAF and its Allies been defeated during the Battle of Britain, the course of the war and our history would have been very different. Today, we commemorate their victory and remember the sacrifices of those ‘few’ to whom ‘so many owe so much’, as Winston Churchill put it. They deserve our most sincere gratitude and respect for the sacrifices they made to ensure our freedom.”

Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger spoke directly to the veterans, saying simply, “You are our true heroes.”

RELATED LINKS

Royal Canadian Air Force

RCAF marks the 78th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

Battle of Britain

Royal Air Force (in English)

Supermarine Spitfire

Image gallery

  • A vintage drop-wing single-engine aircraft flies in front of trees, with a flag in the foreground.
  • A senior man wearing a blue blazer and wedge cap stands at a lectern and reads to a large crowd.
  • A young woman in a blue uniform and cap speaks at a lectern, with a flag and others in uniform behind her.
  • A man wearing a blue jniform and tartan kilt plays the bagpipes.
  • A man wearing a red beret holds a wreath while a man in a khaki uniform salutes. A young man and woman in blue uniforms stand with them.
  • A man in a blue uniform speaks at a lectern.
  • Three senior men wearing blue blazers with many medals sit outside in a row.
  • Five senior men wearing caps and similar dark blue blazers with medals stand in a line.
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