“Today we honour the air and the ground crew of Canadian and Allied air forces who turned the tide of the Second World War during the Battle of Britain. Our lives might be very different today, if they had not answered the call and fought against oppressive forces. Winston Churchill’s “finest hour” speech characterized the demands and hardships of the Battle of Britain, reflecting on his hope and aspirations for freedom and the amazing dedication and sacrifices of the allied effort. The exemplary values of dedication, professionalism and courage that Churchill noted live on in our aviators of today.”
Lieutenant-General Al D. Meinzinger, Commander, Royal Canadian Air Force
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 the planned invasion. As result, Battle of Britain Day is celebrated on the Sunday after 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 3,000 allied aircrew, as the turning point of the Second World War. Sir Winston Churchill, in praising the valiant efforts of the aircrew, said: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”