Veterans Affairs Canada

Veterans Affairs Canada

April 05, 2012 11:34 ET

Harper Government Provides Support for Bomber Command Memorial in London, United Kingdom

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - April 5, 2012) -

Editor's Note: Three photos are associated with this release.

The Honourable Steven Blaney, Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs, today announced the Government of Canada's contribution of $100,000 toward the creation of a new Bomber Command Memorial in London, United Kingdom. The memorial, to be unveiled in London's Green Park in June, will honour all members of the Bomber Command from Allied countries and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. The Honourable Laurie Hawn, Member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre, also met with media and stakeholders in Ottawa today to announce the funding.

"It is our sacred duty to remember and honour the brave men and women who served our country so selflessly. Our Government is proud to support the Bomber Command Memorial which will help us remember the important contributions of our Veterans," said Minister Blaney. "Once completed, the Bomber Command Memorial will serve as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who served our country during the Second World War."

"Our Government is proud to honour our Veterans who fought for peace, freedom and democracy around the world, and today we salute the 50,000 Canadian service men and women who served in Bomber Command operations during the Second World War," said Mr. Hawn. "Let us remember in particular the more than 10,000 Canadians who paid the ultimate price in defending the skies over Europe."

Minister Blaney also announced today that the Government of Canada will support Bomber Command Veterans in travelling to London for the official unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial in June of this year. While in London for the unveiling, these Canadian Veterans will reunite with their comrades from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Veterans Affairs Canada will help offset costs related to accommodations and ground transportation, while the Department of National Defence will provide for air travel.

"The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces are dedicated to honouring the 55,573 fallen British and Allied forces of the Bomber Command," said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. "This new Bomber Command Memorial will serve as a tangible and long-lasting tribute to the service, courage and ultimate sacrifice of those who served so valiantly during the Second World War."

The Bomber Command Memorial in London's Green Park will honour the 55,573 men of Bomber Command who lost their lives in the Second World War. Bomber Command personnel suffered a death rate of no less than 44 percent. Of the approximately 125,000 who served, almost 10,000 became prisoners of war. Canada's commitment to Bomber Command was 15 squadrons, with the No. 6 (RCAF) Group flying more than 40,000 missions.

"This is a unique gesture from the Canadian government and I thank Minister Steven Blaney for both the financial contribution to the Memorial and the support being offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to Canadian veterans in June," said Malcolm White, Chairman, Bomber Command Association. "That Minister Blaney is here in London to make this announcement demonstrates the significance of the Bomber Command Memorial to Canada. I personally want to thank Canada for the sacrifice of your brave airmen who served in Bomber Command; we remember them now and for ever."

During the Second World War, while the Royal Air Force Fighter Command defended the United Kingdom against aerial attacks, it was the role of Bomber Command to attack the enemy's military strength by bombing key targets in an attempt to weaken its military and industrial capabilities.

For more information on Canada's role in Bomber Command and the Second World War, visit veterans.gc.ca.

BACKGROUNDER

Canadians in Bomber Command

The story of the approximately 50,000 Canadians who served with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Royal Air Force (RAF) in Bomber Command's operations over occupied Europe describes one of our country's most important contributions to the war effort.

When Canada entered the Second World War on September 10, 1939, the RCAF was our country's smallest military service. By the end of the war, we had the fourth-largest air force of the Allied powers. Approximately 250,000 Canadian men and women served in the RCAF.

Canada played a vital role in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). This wide-reaching plan was jointly undertaken by Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The training of aircrew from these countries took place largely in Canada. More than 135,000 airmen were trained in Canada. These men formed the backbone of Bomber Command. Many of the Canadians who trained under the program served with RCAF squadrons in No. 6 Bomber Group-the only non-British Group to serve in Bomber Command.

The men who served in Bomber Command faced some of the most difficult odds of anyone fighting in the war. For much of the war, the regular duration of a tour of duty for those in Bomber Command was 30 combat sorties. The risks were so high that about half of all aircrew never made it to the end of their tour. Despite the heavy losses, Bomber Command was able to maintain a steady stream of aircraft flying over enemy targets like U-boat bases, docks, railways and industrial cities in Germany, as well as enemy targets in occupied continental Europe from Norway to France.

Life as a member of the aircrew on a bomber was difficult. Usually seven men formed the crew of a typical four-engined bomber like the Halifax and the Lancaster. These men worked together under great pressure on their night sorties. Take-offs were often tense, with a roaring aircraft loaded with tons of bombs and more than 6,000 litres of highly-flammable aviation gasoline racing down the runway. At high altitudes, the aircrews shivered in sub-zero temperatures, their oxygen masks sometimes freezing up. Evading enemy fire and search lights made for difficult flying that sometimes caused aircraft to go into a spin, while the pilot fought for control.

Women also played a role in Bomber Command. Members of the RCAF Women's Division (WD) were stationed in England during the war years. While women did not serve in combat roles, they did play important supporting roles in the war effort.

For several months in 1944, Bomber Command was dedicated to softening German defences in occupied Europe in advance of the Allied invasion that was to come. When the war in Northwest Europe returned to the ground with the D-Day invasion on the coast of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the Canadians in Bomber Command were there too. A number of Canadians also served with the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force (ATAF), the air support for the British and Canadian armies on the ground in Europe which drew some of its men and light bombers from Bomber Command.

By the end of the Second World War, No. 6 Bomber Group had carried out more than 40,000 sorties. Approximately 8,000 decorations for bravery were awarded to No. 6 Group aircrew. There were some exceptional acts that would earn Canadian airmen the highest honour for military valour a Canadian can have-the Victoria Cross.

During the Second World War, Canada had a population of only about 11 million people. Yet, from that relatively small population, more than one million men and women would join the military to fight for peace and freedom. However, of the various military roles in which a Canadian could serve during the Second World War, few held as much risk as the Air Force's Bomber Command.

Information on Canada's fallen heroes can be found on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial at www.virtualmemorial.gc.ca.

To learn more about the sacrifices and achievements made by Canada's Veterans during times of war, conflict and peace, please visit the Veterans Affairs Canada Web site at veterans.gc.ca.

To view the photos associated with this release, please visit the following links:

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Contact Information

  • Media Inquiries:
    Janice Summerby
    Media Relations Advisor
    Veterans Affairs Canada
    613-992-7468

    Codie Taylor
    Director of Communications
    Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
    613-996-4649