Battle of Britain Program Booklet

Download the Battle of Britain Program Booklet (PDF, 4.43 mb). HTML version below.

Download the Battle of Britain Program Booklet (PDF, 4.43 mb). HTML version below.

2017 National Ceremony
10:00 a.m., Sunday, September 17, 2017
Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport, Gatineau, QC

The visual theme for this year’s Battle of Britain ceremony commemorates the 77th anniversary of the Battle and honours the valiant aircrew and groundcrew who served during the summer and fall of 1940. It is based on original artwork created by Mr. Jim Belliveau for the 2015 CF-18 Demonstration Hornet. His designs graced the Demo Hornet for a quarter century.

The program cover features key individuals and iconic aircraft from the pivotal air war. From left to right:

The Supermarine Spitfire Mk I was the most famous Allied fighter aircraft of the Battle of Britain and the Second World War. Fast and manoeuvrable, it was the favoured aircraft for taking on German fighters. The slightly heavier and slower Hawker Hurricane Mk 1 (not pictured), however, carried out the lion’s share of missions during the Battle, and was sent to tackle Luftwaffe bombers.

Flight Sergeant Georges Nadon, a French-Canadian Spitfire pilot flying with the Royal Air Force’s No. 122 Squadron, made significant contributions to the air war from 1941 until 1945.

The Messerschmitt Bf 109E (also known as the Me 109), flown by the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, was one of the first true modern fighters of the era. Fast and agile, it remained the backbone of the Luftwaffe fighter forces throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire, Hurricane and Bf 109 were fairly evenly matched throughout the Battle of Britain.

Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during the Second World War, whose words praising the airmen fighting the Battle have echoed through the decades:

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Flight Lieutenant Gordon Roy McGregor, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s No. 1 Squadron who earned the title "Ace" during the Battle, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions against enemy aircraft.

Schedule of events

  • Second World War Aircraft Take Off
  • Parade Marches On
  • Arrival of Guests of Honour and Commander RCAF
  • National Anthem performed by Royal Canadian Air Force Honorary Colonel Loreena McKennitt and the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces
  • Inspection
  • Reading of "High Flight"
  • Reading of "Airman’s Prayer"
  • Prayer of Blessing by the Royal Canadian Air Force Senior Chaplain
  • Act of Remembrance
  • "Last Post"
  • Two Minutes of Silence
  • "Rouse"
  • "Piper’s Lament"
  • Laying of Wreaths
  • Speeches
  • "God Save the Queen"
  • Parade Marches Off and Flypast
  • Snowbird Performance Flypasts will occur throughout the Ceremony

The Battle of Britain: Fighting for freedom

The Battle of Britain was the first major battle fought almost entirely between opposing air forces. Waged from July to October 1940, it pitted a small group of Allied fighter pilots against a far larger German air force – the Luftwaffe” 

By June 1940, France had fallen. The Nazis’ next objective was to subjugate Great Britain but they knew they needed to defeat the Royal Air Force (RAF) before mounting an invasion. The RAF, weakened by losses during the Battle of France, became Britain’s last line of defence.

Although many Canadians joined the RAF during the 1930s, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) numbered fewer than 5,000 personnel when war was declared on September 10, 1939. Only No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron was equipped with modern Hurricane fighter aircraft and it was needed for home defence. Still, with Great Britain’s back against the wall in June 1940, Canada dispatched No. 1 Squadron overseas, although it would be two months before it was declared operational.

From July 10 until August 11, the Luftwaffe launched mass attacks against coastal shipping. While No. 1 Squadron continued to train, Canadians flew as members of RAF units, including No. 242 ‘Canadian’ Squadron, which had made a name for itself during the Battle of France.

On August 12, the Luftwaffe began attacking coastal airfields to destroy the RAF on the ground, resulting in many casualties among the ground and support crews. After an attack, with scant time to treat the casualties and gather the dead, these personnel rushed to fill in bomb craters, put out fires and repair aircraft, as well as re-arm and refuel returning fighters.

The Battle of Britain was the first major battle fought almost entirely between opposing air forces. Waged from July to October 1940, it pitted a small group of Allied fighter pilots against a far larger German air force – the Luftwaffe.

By June 1940, France had fallen. The Nazis’ next objective was to subjugate Great Britain but they knew they needed to defeat the Royal Air Force (RAF) before mounting an invasion. The RAF, weakened by losses during the Battle of France, became Britain’s last line of defence.

Although many Canadians joined the RAF during the 1930s, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) numbered fewer than 5,000 personnel when war was declared on September 10, 1939. Only No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron was equipped with modern Hurricane fighter aircraft and it was needed for home defence. Still, with Great Britain’s back against the wall in June 1940, Canada dispatched No. 1 Squadron overseas, although it would be two months before it was declared operational.

From July 10 until August 11, the Luftwaffe launched mass attacks against coastal shipping. While No. 1 Squadron continued to train, Canadians flew as members of RAF units, including No. 242 ‘Canadian’ Squadron, which had made a name for itself during the Battle of France.

On August 12, the Luftwaffe began attacking coastal airfields to destroy the RAF on the ground, resulting in many casualties among the ground and support crews. After an attack, with scant time to treat the casualties and gather the dead, these personnel rushed to fill in bomb craters, put out fires and repair aircraft, as well as re-arm and refuel returning fighters.

On August 20, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his famous speech, praising the airmen fighting the Battle: Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

The most critical phase of the Battle took place from August 24 to September 15 as the Luftwaffe launched a massive campaign to destroy the RAF on the ground and in the air. Hurricanes and Spitfires, alerted by radar and guided by control centres, clashed with German bombers and escorting fighters several times per day.

On September 7, the Luftwaffe began a bombing campaign against London and other cities. During the "Blitz", British civilians endured a rain of bombs both day and night. This shift in focus gave the fighter force in southeast England a chance to repair its airfields and radar sites.

Massive aerial fights reached a crescendo on September 15 when the Luftwaffe launched multiple attacks on London. By the end of the day, more than 1,500 aircraft had engaged in combat. Angered by the Luftwaffe’s inability to destroy the RAF, Hitler postponed the invasion on September 17. Smaller attacks continued, but by October 31 the Battle had, as one historian put it, simply petered out.

More than 100 Canadian pilots took part in the Battle of Britain, most flying with the RAF and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm; 23 lost their lives.

As well as the British and Canadian aircrew, personnel from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, the United States and Zimbabwe (South Rhodesia) took part, supported by thousands of groundcrew, support personnel, civilian employees and volunteers. It was an international effort to defend democracy, although few of them recognized the significance of their actions at the time. Canada’s role, although not large, reflected a national commitment to collective defence in the face of unwarranted aggression.

High flight

The adventure and thrill of aircraft flight was captured in all its glory by RCAF Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr. A volunteer from the United States, Pilot Officer Magee wrote this homage to aviation that is now deemed the Air Force’s poem.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Pilot Oficer John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
412 Squadron, RCAF
Died December 11, 1941

For the fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea. Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Signs sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars that are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon
1869–1943

Our thanks

The Royal Canadian Air Force extends its gratitude to the Veterans who are here with us today, as our honoured guests and as participants in this year’s ceremony and March Past.

Representatives from the:

  • Royal Canadian Air Force Association
  • Royal Canadian Legion

We thank the following organizations and individuals for their dedication and support to the Battle of Britain ceremony: 

  • Royal Canadian Air Force Association
  • Royal Canadian Legion
  • Vintage Wings of Canada
  • Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport
  • Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum
  • Canada Aviation and Space Museum
  • City of Gatineau
  • The Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces
  • Royal Canadian Air Force Pipes and Drums
  • Royal Canadian Air Cadets
  • Gatineau Fire Services
  • St-John Ambulance
  • 38 Field Ambulance
  • Gatineau Police Service