Battle of Britain: Celebrating and Commemorating 'the Few' 75 years later

Speech by British High Commissioner to Canada Howard Drake at the Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary National Ceremony in Ottawa.

Three Boulton Paul Defiants of No. 264 Squadron fly in a ‘vic’ formation, August 1940. © IWM (CH 885)

It is both an honour and a privilege to be invited to speak today as we gather here on Parliament Hill to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

This day should be both a celebration and a commemoration. A celebration of the achievements of ‘the Few’ who in the long summer of 1940, despite overwhelming odds, inflicted the first strategic defeat on the forces of the Nazi Third Reich; and also a commemoration for the tremendous sacrifice they made to secure that victory.

The Battle of Britain Memorial in London records the names of the 2936 airmen from 15 nations who fought together in the Battle. Over 500 of them made the ultimate sacrifice during the battle itself; many more were to die before wars end.

They were young men once, many too young to vote, but those that remain today in the twilight of their years and scattered across the globe are sadly dwindling in number. Wherever they are on this tremendous occasion I extend my personal gratitude and that of the people of the United Kingdom for their achievements and sacrifice.

Whilst it was ‘the Few’ that were immortalised in the famous words of Winston Churchill they are the first to acknowledge the outstanding dedication of the many individuals that combined to secure control of the air over the English Channel.

Then as now that control of the air remains an essential mission for the men and women of our two air forces who stand guard 365 days a year to secure the skies over our homelands.

It is also true that the spirit of cooperation between our two air forces so evident in 1940 remains as strong as ever and as I speak our men and women remain deployed alongside each other on operations across the globe to protect our way of life and all that we hold dear.

The Battle of Britain was a crucial victory for the allied air forces and in this the 75th anniversary year we remain as ever in the debt of ‘the Few’ but I also extend my heartfelt thanks to the men and women serving in our air forces today, to the veterans present here for their past service, and to all those that have paid the ultimate price in the service of our two nations.

Lest We Forget!

Published 20 September 2015