4 Wing Cold Lake held a small ceremony on Sunday to commemorate the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Over several months in 1940, the Royal Air Force (RAF) and its allies, including the RCAF, repelled Nazi Germany’s attempt to weaken Britain’s air defences. The German air campaign was intended to precede Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain.
The Battle of Britain was Hitler’s first significant defeat, and the first battle to have been decided exclusively by air power. It was also a formative moment for the RCAF.
While many Canadian aircrew and ground crew personnel served with the RAF, the RCAF’s No. 1 Squadron flew as a Canadian unit during the battle. The squadron would later be designated as 401 Squadron, which now operates out of Cold Lake as 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron.
The Battle of Britain ceremony has special significance for Flight Lieutenant Ben Dutton, an RAF officer currently serving with RCAF 419 Squadron in Cold Lake. In the UK, he said, the heroes of 1940 are not forgotten.
“There’s a lot of support,” he said. “It’s not so much just a military thing, there’s a lot of the civilian populace involved in it as well.”
Air forces and individuals from 14 countries allied themselves with Great Britain during the battle. Flt Lt Dutton says it was significant for him to be commemorating the victory in Canada on Sunday.
“It’s being done elsewhere in the world as well, by all the nations that were involved,” he said. “It definitely serves to highlight the nature of that moment. It’s incredibly important.
“It’s a history that we pray is not going to be repeated in its significance, but certainly it was a desperate time.”