OTTAWA – This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the first major military campaign to be contested entirely in the air.
At a time when the world watched Nazi forces overwhelm and invade countries across Europe, Britain stood strong, determined to fight their enemy to the bitter end. Vastly outnumbered, Allied airmen took to the skies to combat the superior Luftwaffe and prevent Hitler’s invasion of Great Britain.
Canadians served valiantly in the Battle of Britain; more than 100 Canadians flew in support of the Battle, and 23 Canadian pilots lost their lives during the conflict. Some of these brave men flew with the No. 1 Fighter Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which became the first RCAF unit to engage enemy planes when it met a formation of German bombers over southern England in August 1940.
Others were integrated within Royal Air Force squadrons, such as the 242 (All-Canadian) Squadron. This squadron scored an incredible victory when nine of its planes met 100 enemy aircraft over Essex later that same month, claiming 12 victories and escaping unscathed. The skill of Canadian air crews and their sacrifices had a powerful impact on the course of the war and helped ensure the freedom of the world.
Today, our Air Force is prepared to take on the challenges of the 21st century. Our airmen and airwomen strive to ensure Canada is safe and protected; 70 years ago, they did the same in Great Britain. As we move forward and enter a new era of the Air Force, let us never forget what the contributions of our men in the skies of Britain in 1940 meant to our country.
Please join me in honouring our fallen and celebrating those still with us today.
The Honourable Peter MacKay
Minister of National Defence