We have been passed the torch, and we must not fail

News Article / September 21, 2020

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The national Battle of Britain commemorative ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the epic aerial battle was held on September 20, 2020 in Ottawa. The Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force spoke during the ceremony. Here are his remarks.

Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger

Good morning, and welcome also to those joining us online for this unique commemoration marking the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

I’m particularly moved here this morning to be here at the veterans’ section of Beechwood Cemetery beside the Cross of Valour, hallowed ground with its serene beauty, and as such, I believe we’re in a perfect setting to pause and remember our fallen. 

Over forty RCAF members who served back in 1940 are laid to rest here. While we do not know exactly what role each of these individuals played during that turbulent time, and in the period around the Battle of Britain, we continue to reflect on their courage, their bravery, and we will always honour their service to Canada.

Joining us to commemorate this epic air battle is World War II veteran, Mr. Robert Bradley. When he was a young 17 ½ year-old man, Mr. Bradley underwent training as an air gunner.

After receiving his wings, Mr. Bradley was posted overseas and underwent bomber training to fly in the mighty Lancaster. This amazing man flew 30 missions as a tail gunner in a Lancaster Squadron before serving as a gunner trainer until the war’s end.

We are so lucky to have him here this year. Thanks for joining us, Mr. Bradley.

As you may have noticed, as a consequence of the current pandemic reality today, there is no parade, no pipes and drums, no displays of period aircraft, and no lines of RCAF members and cadets in their uniforms joining us this morning.

Aside from Mr. Bradley and a few others, we also have no contingent of our amazing veterans here today, who would no doubt be standing tall, resolute and absolutely representative of the ideals of service before self, courage, dedication and honour. All of our veterans are in our thoughts today.

As many of you know, there are no Canadian veterans of the Battle of Britain left to join us either.  No one to share their stories, name their fallen comrades, or paint a picture of that horrible, chaotic time. All those that supported this critical battle will not be forgotten.

The Battle of Britain was fought in the skies over southeast England and the English Channel from July 10 to October 31, 1940, and it was the first battle fought exclusively in the air.

More than 100 Canadian pilots, and an estimated 300 Canadian ground crew served side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with their colleagues in the Royal Air Force to fend off Nazi domination of the airspace over Britain, obviously to prevent a German invasion of Great Britain.

The battle unquestionably shaped the future of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and brought us through our youth. Canada’s Air Force was a mere 16 years old in 1940, but the dedication of our airmen and airwomen was absolute.

Twenty-three of those valiant Canadian pilots didn’t come home during those dark days, and another 35 or so pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain lost their lives by the war’s end.

It now falls upon us to remember – to remember their actions, their bravery, their sacrifice, and above all, their names.

We must teach those who follow about the importance of the Battle of Britain, and what it meant to Canada, to England, and to the world.  

As we continue our planning for the RCAF Centennial in 2024, we strive to be worthy of those who gave their lives in the service to Canada.

We have been passed the torch, and we must not fail.

Thank you

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