Wednesday, September 23, 2015

World War Wednesdays: the Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary Ceremony, Ottawa


      A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain, a major  Second World War air battle between the British Royal Air Force and German Luftwaffe during the summer and autumn of 1940. The official date for recognition of the battle this year was September 20, 2015, also known as Battle of Britain Sunday. To mark the occasion, a ceremony was held on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, to commemorate this significant event in our history. I was very fortunate to have attended the ceremony, and wanted to share some of the highlights with you this week! (If the videos do not work automatically, there are links below to where I uploaded them on YouTube).

     One of the main highlights of the ceremony was the presence of two reproduction planes which were parked on the lawn in front of centre block so that people could see up close the aircraft involved in the battle. On the left in the photo is the Supermarine Spitfire, and on the right is a Hawker Hurricane. The Spitfire has become the symbol of the Battle of Britain, and the Hurricane proved a strong example of Britain's defiance against the seemingly unstoppable British advance.
Another view of the Spitfire

The Hawker Hurricane

The Spitfire in front of the Peace Tower

The Hurricane in front of the Peace Tower
    Before the ceremony, the bells in the Peace Tower had been programmed to chime the tunes of popular British WWII songs such as Vera Lynn's "When the Lights Go On Again" and "The White Cliffs of Dover". I'm not sure if you'll be able to hear them in the video, but I captured the main tune to "When the Lights Go On Again".

    The flag on the Peace Tower was also changed for the occasion to that of the Governor General of Canada's to signify his presence.
     The ceremony itself was very moving, as it incorporated some of the traditional sombre elements of ceremonial remembrance along with aspects more specific to the event, including quotes from Winston Churchill and some of the airmen involved in the battle. A poem by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., a member of the No. 412 Squadron, RCAF who was killed in December of 1941, was read, which was particularly emotional.

     The ceremony culminated in a truly rare and remarkable sight-- flypasts from Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft past and present. I was lucky enough to capture them from the perfect spot, on what was a perfect day to be looking at the sky.

     In the centre is the Avro Lancaster bomber. The other planes are: a Curtiss P-40-N Kittyhawk, a Robillard Brothers North American Mustang IV (P-51 in the USA), a Hawker Hurricane Mk IV, and a Supermarine Spitfire XVI, all courtesy of Vintage Wings of Canada.

     The larger helicopter in the center is a CH-147F Chinook, and the other two are CH-146 Griffons.
    A CC-117 plane.

     A CC-150 Polaris and two CF-18 Hornets.

     And finally, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds flew the "missing man" formation to honour those who passed away in service of their country. You'll see the one aircraft depart from the group in a salute to the brave men and women who served during the Battle of Britain. 
Canada's Commander-in-Chief, His Excellency the Right Honorable David Johnston looks on as the Snowbirds emerge,  courtesy of Rideau Hall. 
     As seen in the pictures, it could  not have been a better day to honour this remarkable event. It was amazing to witness these aircraft in person, and I certainly will never forget it.

Thanks for reading, 


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