Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

September 18, 2011 11:00 ET

Statement by the Minister of National Defence Marking the 71st Anniversary of the Battle of Britain

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 18, 2011) - This year marks the 71st anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the first major military campaign to be contested entirely in the air.

In that summer of 1940, Britain was faced with an unprecedented threat from an unyielding enemy. Nazi Germany had conquered much of Europe, and the invasion of Great Britain was looming. The German Luftwaffe, heavily outnumbering the Allies, began an attack on Britain that would last for months. Military targets and civilian population centres alike were attacked.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill understood just what a defining moment the Battle of Britain would be, as he stated in June 1940: "Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour'."

Indeed, day after day, Allied pilots ensured that Churchill's words would ring true forever as they valiantly beat back the Luftwaffe. More than one hundred Canadian pilots, along with other pilots from the Commonwealth and around the world, took part in the Battle of Britain. They countered wave after wave of German bombers and fighters, and denied victory to the Nazis. By mid-September, it was clear that the Allies won the Battle of Britain, and that Germany would not invade. Twenty-three Canadians died during the battle. Their sacrifices helped ensure Allied victory, and our freedom.

Today, the airmen and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force continue to demonstrate the bravery, skill and determination shown by the heroes of the Battle of Britain, as they defend Canada and Canadians, and promote freedom around the world.

Please join me in honouring all our veterans, and serving members, for all that they have done and continue to do for this great country.

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