Posted on June 29, 2011 by

Britain’s Royal Air Force is about to unveil a monument to the thousands of Canadian aircrews who were key to the Allied victory in 1945
By Randy Boswell, Postmedia News June 28, 2011 3:04 AM

With Canada poised to celebrate the country’s birthday this week after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive from Britain, a more sombre ceremony symbolizing the deep bond between the two countries – a tribute to fallen Canadian airmen from the Second World War – is quietly taking shape in the U.K.

Britain’s Royal Air Force is preparing to unveil a “long overdue” national memorial to Canadian aircrews that helped achieve the Allied victory in the Second World War – including some 10,000 RCAF personnel who lost their lives battling Germany and other Axis enemies.

The poignant, maple leaf-inspired monument to this country’s air forces, made of granite cut from the Canadian Shield and transported to Britain earlier this year, is to be dedicated July 8 at the U.K.’s National Memorial Arboretum in the central English countryside.

The campaign to honour Canada was launched last year after a history-minded Royal Air Force officer observed that a Canadian tribute was “conspicuously” missing at the sprawling Midlands memorial garden.

“The arboretum already contains memorials to the Royal Australian Air Force and the Norwegian Navy,” stated RAF Flight Lieut. Alfie Hall, who spearheaded the plan after a May 2010 visit to the site for a ceremony honouring British soldiers killed recently in Iraq. “But a monument to the Canadian airmen is conspicuous by its absence.”

Since then, two RAF bases in Britain where Canadian aircrews were stationed during the Second World War – including Hall’s own RAF Leeming – led a fundraising drive for the monument that won support from two major corporate benefactors in the U.K. and Canada, along with numerous other donors.

Michael Oliver, chairman of the British energy company Oliver Valves, signed on as the project’s chief financial backer.

“It is very important that we remember the people who fought alongside Great Britain during the Second World War,” Oliver has stated

And Lafarge Canada, this country’s largest supplier of cement and other construction materials, arranged for the shipment of several massive stone blocks for the monument quarried from Sturgeon Falls, Ont.

The memorial’s granite base, which was set in place a few weeks ago, is in the shape of a large maple leaf. It’s surrounded by a circle of stone in 13 sections that represents Canada’s 13 provinces and territories.

On top of the maple leaf base rises a granite marker inscribed with a historical overview of the contribution of Canadian air forces during the Second World War.

The July 8 dedication of the monument is to be conducted by Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester.

A text of the service, already posted by project organizers, offers a stirring tribute to the Canadian aircrews for their Second World War service.

“Three thousand miles across a hunted ocean they came, wearing on the shoulder of their tunics the treasured name, ‘Canada,’ telling the world their origin,” those gathered for next week’s unveiling will hear.

“One day, when the history of the 20th century is finally written, it will be recorded that when human society stood at the crossroads and civilization itself was under siege, the Royal Canadian Air Force was there to fill the breach and help give humanity the victory. And all those who had a part in it will have left to posterity a legacy of honour, of courage, and of valour that time can never despoil.”

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