Battle of Britain Sunday observed across Canada

News Article / October 16, 2014

 By Ruthanne Urquhart

On this day, we remember the contribution of the few, given for the lives of many, all in an effort to conserve freedom and dignity, and to ensure that our most basic of human rights were left intact…*

These words, or words very like them, echoed from Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, to Comox, British Columbia, as members and veterans of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), their families, and Canadians of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs gathered on September 21, 2014, to observe the 74th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

More than 100 courageous young Canadians made their way to the south of England in early 1940 to join like-minded young men from Commonwealth nations around the globe in a battle that would shape the world. They left Canada on a grim adventure from which 23 of them did not return.

Measured against the number of Canadians who served during the Second World War, and the number who died, “more than 100” and “23” do not seem remarkable numbers. But the victory those young Canadians helped to wrest from an enemy equal or superior in everything but heart was truly remarkable.

The Battle of Britain, a scant four months in duration, should have faded into the landscape of the four-year war. Instead, it and the young Allied and Commonwealth pilots and ground crew who carried the day became the beacons that inspired Allied Forces through that war, and continue to inspire us today.

Canadians attending Battle of Britain ceremonies throughout Canada on September 21, 2014, celebrated the more than 100, mourned the 23, and renewed our heartfelt pledge of remembrance.

*taken mainly from the Anglican Church of Canada's Battle of Britain: Chapel Observance Order of Service (english only)

On this day, we remember

On September 21, 2014, the 74th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Wings and many Canadian Armed Forces chapels and congregations of different denominations joined air forces and churches of Allied nations around the world in Battle of Britain ceremonies and services, giving thanks for the men and women who delivered Great Britain from impending occupation in 1940.

the contribution of the few,

In total, about 2,355 pilots and air crew from Great Britain and about 575 from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ceylon, Czechoslovakia, France, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, and the United States threw themselves against a Nazi Luftwaffe that had already bombed much of Europe into submission.

given for the lives of many,

The many comprised the people of Great Britain. In 1940, the population of England and Wales was about 41 million. This many people would have been most immediately affected had Nazi sea and ground forces successfully crossed the Channel and invaded southern England. The population of Scotland and Northern Ireland would have raised that number to about 47.5 million, the number of people likely to be affected by the same hardships and atrocities Nazi occupation had already begun to impose and enact across Europe.

all in an effort to conserve freedom and dignity,

By 1940, freedom and dignity had all but disappeared from the lives of Europeans under the yoke of occupation. Curtailing freedom is an obvious result of occupation. Undermining human dignity is an insidious, artful and very effective way of controlling and manipulating populations of occupied nations. This enemy was highly skilled in both.

and to ensure that our most basic of human rights were left intact…

It was not until later in the war that Hitler focussed on his final solution for the Jewish populace of Europe. In the early days, the Nazi strategy regarding religious beliefs, practices and tolerance took more of a simple, broad-brush approach. No religion; no belief system; no form of worship. The right to worship as we choose is one of our most basic rights and under Nazi occupation was one of the first to disappear.

On every September 21, as RCAF wings and many Canadian Armed Forces chapels and congregations of different denominations join air forces and churches of Allied nations around the world in Battle of Britain ceremonies and services, the very fact that we can do so underscores and celebrates that unforeseen victory in 1940.

We remember them.

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