The RAF have paid tribute to the Canadian Air Force with a Dakota flyover and rededication service at the National Memorial Arboretum.
First unveiled in 2011 by His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester and attended by senior representatives of the RAF and Canada, the Memorial which is set in the extensive grounds of the site in Staffordshire, is a timeless thanks to those who served in the Canadian Air Forces and to those from many nations who have supported them.
Comprising a granite pillar encircled with stone donated by the LaFarge company taken from the Canadian Shield, making this a piece of Canada in the middle of the UK. It also features a brief history of the Canadian Air Forces and the poem ‘High Flight’ written by John Gillespie Magee which is widely referred to as the ‘Airman’s Poem.’ Fittingly Magee was an American pilot, one of many who served in Canadian Squadrons at the outbreak of war. This is represented in both English and French, the two official languages of Canada.
“British and Canadian Air Forces have stood shoulder to shoulder throughout their histories. It is especially fitting therefore that we again joined forces today to rededicate this memorial in memory of the sacrifices made by Canadian airmen and women serving alongside their British colleagues. I am deeply honoured and humbled to be able to represent RAF High Wycombe, the former home of Bomber Command, from which the greatest Royal Canadian Air Forces losses were recorded throughout the Allied bombing campaign of the Second World War – A la prochaine, mon frère.”
Wing Commander McMahon
The Dakota from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight provided a poignant flypast over the ceremony, a type synonymous with the Second World War and a link with the key role that military aviation played in the development of Canada as a nation. This was especially evident after the First World War when the vast size of Canada was able to benefit from the unique capabilities of air transport as a supply and communication tool.
The wartime arrival of so many service personnel was felt widely in the areas hosting the large bomber squadrons and especially in North Yorkshire where complete Canadian crews were often matched with a British Flight Engineer. The memorial was built in a project led by the two RAF stations atRAF Leeming and RAF Linton on Ouse.
“The early bomber aircraft had two engines and didn’t require an engineer but this changed as the new ‘heavy’ bombers arrived and the RAF was able to provide those. This resulted in lifetime friendships between the people of both nations. I know one veteran who still enjoys visits from the family of his wartime pilot who travel from Toronto to reminisce.”
Squadron Leader Hall
The ceremony includes a wreath laying by both nations and by Mr Ken Cothliff whose father served with the Royal Canadian Air Force. A particular highlight was the attendance of Lieutenant Colonel Theriault, a serving Royal Canadian Air Force Officer representing the Canadian High Commission in London.
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