Monday September 27, 2010

Local News

The Turning Point

Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary Memorial Service in Chilliwack

Staff/Voice photos



Reg Dawes (L) stands next to Chilliwack Community Band members and Marjorie Johansen (R) at the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain memorial service Sunday.


he 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain was last Sunday, September 19 and squadrons of veterans and cadets gathered in memory of lives lost in WWll battle which many say was the turning point in the war.

The planned venue for the memorial service was at the downtown cenotaph, however inclement weather forced the ceremony to move inside the Legion Hall on Mary St.

Master of Ceremonies, Reg Dawes, who is also Regional Vice President of the 879 Wing Command of the RCAF Association of Canada told the Voice that they had to make a quick decision to change venues and dispense with the wreath-laying.

It was a good show of support from local air veterans at the ceremony despite the rain.

"About 60 per cent of the squadron are here today," said Dawes. "The weather was too severe and too risky for veterans, for the flag bearing party and the band couldn't play, it was pouring down rain," he said. "The instruments would have suffered, the music would have gotten wet so we dispensed with the band."

Dark blue and gray uniforms occasionally flashed and glistened in the diminished pub lighting while the veterans listened to commemorative speeches. Air Wolf cadets stood at attention throughout the ceremony and later went downstairs to the cafeteria for refreshments.

Salvation Army Padre, Angus Haggarty, spoke and told stories about what some of the men and women went through during that time.

The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign fought by air. In July 1940, The German Luftwaffe turned it's attention from France to Britain where they hit the Royal Air Force Fighter Command airfields and its infrastructure around Portsmouth as well as convoys across the Atlantic.

The RAF's Mk1 and Hurricanes and Spitfires were capable of reaching speeds up to 345mph as they fought against the twin-engine Messerschmitts.

The name of the campaign is from a speech delivered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the House of Commons where he said "The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin"

Ultimately, Germany failed to destroy Britain's RAF and force them a surrender and the battle was seen as a turning point in World War ll.

Hear the ceremony in full here. See the photo gallery below.