RCAF marks the 78th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

A man wearing a military uniform speaks with other personnel wearing military uniforms who are standing in rows.

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Royal Canadian Air Force

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) marked the 78th anniversary of the Battle of Britain on September 16 with a ceremony held at the Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport in Gatineau, Quebec. Royal Canadian Air Force personnel, Veterans, and Royal Canadian Air Cadets, accompanied by the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces, paraded to commemorate Canadian and Allied sacrifices made during the pivotal Second World War battle that took place over southeastern Great Britain and the English Channel.

The ceremony featured a fly-past of both vintage and current Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft, in honour of those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice throughout the summer and fall of 1940.

“We are here to honour the memory of those whose heroism defined one of the most pivotal moments in modern history,” said Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, commander of the RCAF. “The Battle of Britain was a defining moment in our history as air power played a major role in the Allied victory. Our airmen and airwomen draw strength from that past and perform their missions today with pride and professionalism. The commemoration of the Battle of Britain is a great way for us to reconnect with Canada’s proud legacy; let us never forget those brave Canadians who risked and gave their lives 78 years ago.”

More than one hundred Canadians flew in the Battle of Britain from July to October 1940. Twenty-three Canadian pilots lost their lives. Hundreds of Canadian ground crew also served valiantly during the Battle.

The Battle of Britain marked the first time that a formed RCAF squadron (No. 1 Fighter Squadron, later renamed 401 Squadron) entered combat in the Second World War. Individual Canadians had flown with Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons during the First World War and earlier in the Second World War. Canadian pilots also flew during the Battle of Britain with the RAF’s 242 “Canadian” Squadron and other RAF squadrons.

The most intense fighting took place on September 15, with the Allies being victorious. Two days later, Hitler postponed a planned invasion of Great Britain. As result, Battle of Britain Day is celebrated on or near September 15.

A key technology to Allied success during the Battle of Britain was radar, along with command and control facilities to get airpower to the right place, at the right time and in the right proportion to meet the threat. Although significantly more advanced, these principles and technologies are still used in the Royal Canadian Air Force today. Historians have described the battle, involving almost 3000 allied aircrew, as a turning point of the Second World War.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill praised the valiant efforts of the aircrew on August 20, 1940, saying, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”


Royal Canadian Air Force

History of the Battle of Britain

Image gallery

  • A woman wearing a military uniform, including a hat and medals, sings into a microphone.
  • Two men wearing military dress uniform, followed by two others in military uniforms, salute as they pass by a military person holding a large flag with other military personnel standing in rows beside and behind them.
  • A man wearing a military uniform speaks with other personnel wearing military uniforms who are standing in rows.
  • A man wearing a military uniform stands behind a podium, speaking into a microphone.
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