Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

September 20, 2009 11:30 ET

Statement by the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, on the Occasion of the Battle of Britain Day, Sept. 20, 2009

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 20, 2009) - When British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill said, "The Battle of France is over, the Battle of Britain is about to begin" he understood the gravity of the strategic situation that existed in the summer of 1940.

Britain and the Commonwealth stood alone in Europe. The German Luftwaffe (air force) seemed unstoppable and an invasion of Great Britain was believed to be forthcoming.

But in the late summer and early fall of 1940, Commonwealth airmen beat back superior numbers of German aircraft and prevented an invasion. The Battle of Britain, as it came to be known, was a key event in the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany.

Over 100 Canadians flew with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the Battle of Britain, and 23 of them made the ultimate sacrifice. Canadians, whether flying with No. 1 Fighter Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) or with other RAF Squadrons including 242 (Canadian) Squadron, had a profound impact on the history of the world.

It is often said that Canada became a nation at Vimy Ridge in the First World War. Canada's Air Force, which had been established only 16 years before, may have reached a similar degree of maturity over the skies of Britain in 1940, when the future of humanity, darkened by the shadow of Nazi conquest, was in serious question.

The men and women of Canada's Air Force answered the call then as they continue to do so today. The Air Force is an integral part of Canada's national defence and a significant factor in preserving our security and maintaining peace. As we celebrate both the Canadian Centennial of Powered Flight and the 85th anniversary of Canada's Air Force, we remember the dedication and valiant sacrifices of those who flew the skies during the Battle of Britain, and those who supported them on the ground.

On Sunday, September 20th, I invite all military and civilian personnel and fellow Canadians to participate in their local ceremony. For those in the National Capital Region, I encourage you to join the veterans at the national ceremony that will take place at the Canada Aviation Museum.

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