ARCHIVED - Ceremonies throughout Canada mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

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News Article / September 24, 2015

By Ruthanne Urquhart

The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, observed in ceremonies and services throughout Canada and the Commonwealth on September 20, 2015, carried us back to four months in 1940 when the British Isles were up for grabs.

In just four weeks, from early May to early June of that year, German forces had completed their sweep of northwestern Europe, driving hundreds of thousands of Allied personnel to the brink at Dunkirk. There, many perished, but more than 300,000 were rescued and carried to the south coast of England by ships and boats – military, commercial and private – from the south coast of England and from up the many rivers and streams that flowed into the Channel.

With bated breath, the world watched through June as the vastly superior (in numbers, training, and experience) pilots of the German Luftwaffe overflew England by day and night. They bombed shipping convoys, ports, airfields and radar stations while successfully, for the most part, fending off the defences of the Royal Air Force.

But behind the scenes, since before Dunkirk, a quiet invasion of a different sort had been happening in the British Isles. Pilots, other air crew, and groundcrew from Commonwealth nations around the globe had been slipping into England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and congregating in Southern England. After Dunkirk, the trickle increased, and soon the Royal Air Force had a cadre of British and international personnel determined to carry the air battle over England to the Germans.

In just four months, they succeeded; by the end of October, Germany had for the moment given up all thought of invasion.

Those pilots, aircrew and groundcrew did not win the war. Rather, throughout the war, their courage and daring and tenacity inspired Allied forces on to ultimate victory. Each year on Battle of Britain Sunday, we remember them with wonder and gratitude.

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