The Second World War ended for all intents and purposes August 1945, just shy of 67 years ago, 67 years before Britain honoured the contribution of tens of thousands of young men, including those form the Commonwealth countries, that served their countries with distinction carrying the war to the enemy. In the process many, many thousands were killed in combat.
Of those young men killed 10,000 were Canadians. From Prairie Boys to East or West Coast Fishermen, as young as their late teens they volunteered to go war in what today would be considered smaller aircraft, smaller and lighter than those that WestJet flies.
They went as pilots, gunners, navigators, bombardiers and flight engineers. They flew into the pitch black of enemy territory with no GPS or modern navigation aids. To be hunted by enemy fighters and assailed by enemy artillery that reached several miles into the sky.
While some modern historians have minimized their contribution one only has to look at what they did accomplish:
- They took the war to the enemy at a time when Europe was all but conquered.
- They gave hope to a Europe that the enemy had bombed into submission from the air and took the war to an enemy that bombed Britain nightly.
- They destroyed factories, materials, fuel stores and military equipment helping stall the enemy’s ability to wage war.
- They tied up thousands of artillery guns, millions of tons of shells and munitions as well as many, many tens of thousands of soldiers that would have otherwise been in frontline combat.
Can you imagine how different D-Day would have been had the enemy had those resources available? Would Europe have been freed? Can you imagine what the world would be like today if Europe had not been freed?
Canadians gave their youth and in 10,000 cases their lives in the service of their country in the first truly “Total War” and played an important role in setting the stage to end a war that had cost millions of lives across continents East and West as well as virtually every ocean.
While other airman, soldiers and sailors have many memorials dedicated to their service and the price they paid it is fitting that those of Bomber Command are recognized now.
Even if it is 67 years after their sacrifices were made and duty served.
Now that Britain has recognized the contributions of Bomber Command surely it is time Canada did the same, in time for the 70th Anniversary of Canada’s RCAF Group 6 of Bomber Command.
I know that I will be thinking of the Canadians of Bomber Command this Canada Day. Will you?