Battle of Britain echoes in ceremonies throughout Canada

News Article / October 3, 2016

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From 16 Wing  and RCAF Public Affairs

On airfields and town squares, in hangars and museums from Newfoundland and Labrador to Nunavut to British Columbia and beyond, Royal Canadian Air Force personnel and veterans, family members and friends, gathered on September 18, 2016, to mark the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The personnel of 16 Wing Borden, Ontario, were no exception. A parade was held at the RCAF Memorial on Canadian Forces Base Borden’s Maple Leaf Drive to honour the sacrifice and acknowledge the courage and tenacity that enabled the Allied Forces to achieve an historic victory. Colonel Andrew Fleming, commander of 16 Wing, served as the reviewing officer for the event.

More than 100 Canadians flew in the Battle of Britain, which spanned the months of July through October 1940. It was the first time in Canada’s history that our own identifiable air assets participated in fighting missions. Twenty-three Canadians lost their lives during those four months.

In his address, Colonel Fleming paid tribute to those who fought in the Battle of Britain by recounting how, by late autumn of 1940, despite the German advantage, the Luftwaffe was pushed back due to the efforts of more than 2,900 British, Commonwealth and Allied aircrew. One in three of those young men, whose average age was 22, was either killed or wounded.

He reminded everyone in attendance that those brave aircrew were not alone in their fight. They prevailed over the enemy, despite all odds, because the Luftwaffe failed to recognize that it was facing an “integrated defence system” that included countless groundcrew, air technicians, radar operators, observers, and plotters, many of whom also lost their lives during the attacks on airfields and headquarters tin southeast England.

And even as Canadian and Allied personnel were giving their all through summer and autumn 1940, airmen were undergoing training in Canada as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which had been signed into existence in December 1939. The BCATP trained aircrew from the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force and other nations at schools throughout Canada. By the end of the Battle of Britain, they began filling the ranks of the squadrons decimated during the Battle. Under the BCATP, Camp/RCAF Station Borden became home to No. 1 Service Flying Training School.

Colonel Fleming led the gathering in paying tribute to those who lost their lives in this endeavor, and reflecting on the indomitable spirit these young Canadians, and Commonwealth and Allied personnel, displayed when facing daunting adversity.

The Commonwealth and Allied Forces triumphed in the Battle of Britain despite initially  being outnumbered and outgunned, and having less experience. It was their bravery and steadfastness that carried the day, and inspired those who followed them, through to a victorious end to the war.

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