Battle of Britain memorial service honours 117 Canadians
Twenty-three Canadian pilots died fighting against tyranny in the most significant air battle in the history of aviation.
“You can never stop remembering that,” Colonel P.T. Goddard, Wing Commander at 15 Wing, told the Times-Herald.
On Sunday, 15 Wing held its memorial service of the Battle of Britain, commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the nearly four-month-long battle.
There were 117 Canadians who fought in that 1940 battle during the Second World War — the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces.
“Canada’s Air Force was a fledgling air force at that time, had not seen combat. This really marked an entry into that capability,” Goddard said.
Canada’s pilots fought alongside more than 2,000 British pilots. There were 145 pilots from Poland and 135 from New Zealand.
There are no living Polish pilots from the battle. Goddard didn’t know if there are any Canadian pilots remaining from the Battle of Britain.
Goddard said that most of these pilots were young men, about 22-years-old. They needed a hit ratio of 5:1 to stay alive in the air.
“A lot of lessons learned, obviously. A lot of very courageous young men who had little experience, and really, from that point was the growing point for the Air Force,” Goddard said.
Canada “had aces in that war,” but Goddard said the legacy of the Battle of Britain was multiple nations coming together to stop German advances.
That victory helped to drive the spirit of the Air Force: the young, patriotic and courageous men and women who are willing to get out on the front lines, despite the odds, for their country.
“You work in a three-dimensional environment that you’re not really meant to be in,” Goddard said. “We’re not birds so we do our best to operate in that environment. But it requires very strict discipline and it requires a persona of excellence.”
Austin M. Davis can be reached at 306-691-1258 or follow him on Twitter @theAustinX