This week as members of N0.415 Prince Edward County Wing, Royal Canadian Air Force Association, we are celebrating the 82nd anniversary of the Battle of Britain. It was a crucial battle for the Allies and one that would influence the outcome of the Second World War. The climax of this battle occurred on September 15 1940.
After France fell in May 1940, the Germans turned their attention to England, attacking its ports, airfields and radar stations in preparation for an invasion. Their attacks did not spare the British cities and its inhabitants and, unlike the miraculous evacuation of Dunkirk when more than 330 000 English and French troops were rescued from the shores of France and brought to England, the British people had nowhere to run. The Battle of Britain was the first battle to be fought and won solely in the air.
The imposing German air force – the Luftwaffe – had at its disposal twice the number of aircraft as well as air force personnel who had already been seasoned by air combat. The courageous pilots from the Commonwealth, Poland and many other countries fighting for freedom from Nazi rule, were exposed to the worst of the dangers during their perilous high altitude maneuvers against German attack,
However the battle cannot be measured only by what happened in the sky. The tireless, unwavering efforts of the committed ground crew, the vital network of committed radar operators and observers, the anti-aircraft and barrage balloon batteries, and the aircraft production chain that employed hundreds of dedicated men and women in Canada had all contributed immensely to the effort. The victory was miraculous, but there was a high price to pay. More than 400 Canadian aircrew and ground crew served in the battle. Of the 100 or so Canadian pilots, 23 perished during the battle and 30 more died later in the war. Our airmen and airwomen gave without measure, and left an extraordinary legacy to all members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served after them.
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” -Churchill
Like the heroes who defended freedom and international security during the Battle of Britain, the members of today’s Royal Canadian Air Force give of themselves without limit, for the ideals we all believe in and hold so dear. Commemorative events such as these provide an excellent opportunity for us to remember the sacrifices of those who preceded us, and for those who now serve across Canada and around the world, around the clock.
Robert Bird Picton