Vintage World War II aircraft including a Lancaster Bomber, a Spitfire, and Hurricane, fly over Buckingham palace during the Royal Wedding in London, UK Friday April 29, 2011. HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton were married at the Westminster Abbey
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - It held the line for the free world against the advancing scourge of the Nazis during the Second World War, now the Royal Air Force Bomber Command is being honoured with its own hallowed memorial in London, England.
"Everybody in the free world got together in Bomber Command and stopped Hitler's conquest of Europe. He had conquered pretty much all of Europe except England, and without Bomber Command taking the war back to Germany, back to Hitler, the world would be a very different place right now, " said Laurie Hawn, Conservative MP and former member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Canada has contributed $100,000 for the monument.
"The sacrifice of Bomber Command was the largest sacrifice of Canadians in any theatre of war, in any conflict we have been in," Hawn said.
About 55,000 airmen fought for the Allied Forces in the skies over Europe, with a 44% death rate.
Ten thousand Canadian men died while serving with the RCAF during the war, and their sacrifice is being remembered in a special way at the Bomber Command Memorial.
A Handley Page Halifax III bomber was shot down over Belgium in May 1944, killing eight men. The plane was found at the bottom of a lake in 1997, and three members of the crew - mid upper-gunner John Summerhayes, tail gunner Fred Roach, and pilot Wilbur Bentz - were still at their stations. They were buried with full military honours. The aluminium salvaged from the hull of the plane is being used to build the roof on the new massive memorial in London.
Twenty-five Canadian veterans will travel to watch the Queen unveil the monument in June.
"After the fall of France and Poland, the only nation left was Britain and the dominions and the only thing we had to strike back with was the air force, so they carried the ball until D-Day. From 1940 to 1944, the only way that anything happened to the Germans was by Bomber Command," said Al Smith, flight officer and navigator with the sixth Canadian Bomber group. Smith's brother died while serving with Bomber Command. "It means a great deal to us. I am thinking of many of the chaps who aren't here to see this sort of thing anymore."