RCAF marks 76th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

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News Article / September 18, 2016

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Royal Canadian Air Force

The Royal Canadian Air Force marked the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Britain today with a ceremony held at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. Second World War Veterans and current Royal Canadian Air Force personnel marched alongside Royal Canadian Air Cadets, accompanied by the music of the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces.

“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,” said the commander of the RCAF, Lieutenant-General Mike Hood. “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.”

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day…”

- British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, August 20, 1940

The ceremony also featured a fly-past of both vintage and current Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft from Vintage Wings of Canada in Gatineau, Quebec, and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario, including the 442 Squadron Mustang, the Robert Hampton Gray Corsair, and the Mynarski Avro Lancaster. Current RCAF aircraft included two CF-188 Hornets and the Government of Canada-configured CC-150 Polaris, which transports high-ranking government officials and foreign dignitaries as well as Canadian Armed Forces personnel.

More than one hundred Canadians flew in the Battle of Britain from July to October 1940. Hundreds more served as groundcrew. Twenty-three Canadian pilots lost their lives during the Battle, which is deemed to have lasted from July 10 to October 31, 1940.

Squadron Leader (retired) John Stewart Hart, who celebrated his 100th birthday on September 11, 2016, is believed to be the last living Battle of Britain pilot in Canada.

“I just happened to be born in Sackville, New Brunswick, 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,” he said recently. “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.”

The Battle of Britain marked the first time that a formed RCAF squadron (No. 1 Fighter Squadron, later renamed 401 Squadron) entered combat in the Second World War. Individual Canadians had flown with Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons during the First World War and earlier in the Second World War. Canadian pilots also flew during the Battle of Britain with the RAF’s 242 “Canadian” Squadron and other RAF squadrons.

Historians have described the battle, which involved nearly 3,000 allied aircrew, as the turning point of the Second World War. Described by Sir Winston Churchill as Britain’s “finest hour”, the Allied victory over the Nazi forces by the end of the Battle gave hope to Britain and northern Europe.

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