TRURO – Bill Herron had good reason for attending the Battle of Britain ceremony on Sunday at the Truro Cenotaph.
Besides being president of Truro’s Branch 26 of the Royal Canadian Legion, Herron lost three uncles in the skies of Europe during the Second World War.
“I think of them,” Herron said following the ceremony, which honoured Canada’s contribution to one of the most well-known conflicts of the war. “This really holds a special significance for me.”
The Battle of Britain, which took place from July to October 1940, is considered a turning point in the Second World War and is the first campaign fought exclusively between opposing air forces. Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces had swept across Western Europe with only Britain left standing in their path. The Nazis planned to use their air force, called the Luftwaffe, to soften British defences in preparation of an amphibious invasion.
But despite being badly outnumbered, British airmen, including members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, managed to fend off the Luftwaffe and hand the Nazis their first major defeat of the war.
From there, Britain was used as a springboard from which the Allied forces mounted the D-Day invasion in June 1944 on their way to finally defeating the Nazis in May 1945. Pilots of the conflict became known as ‘the few’ after British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous phrase “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
“I think it’s quite obvious,” air force veteran Ken Isenor said when asked how important it is to remember those who laid down their lives in the battle. “They saved our country.”
That’s’ why the 82-year-old, who served in the RCAF from 1948 to 1970, said he made the trek from his home in Wallace to attend the ceremony.
“I wanted to pay my respects,” he said.
About 150 members of the public attended the ceremony, which started with a parade by members of the Legion, the Royal Canadian Air Force Association 102 Wing, air, army and sea cadets and members of the RCMP and Truro Police from the Truro Farmer’s Market to the cenotaph.
The last post was played and wreaths were laid in memory of those who lost their lives in the battle. The ceremony also included a flyover from a CP-140 Aurora aircraft based at CFB Greenwood.
Herron was pleased with the turnout.
“I think the weather helped but Truro has been noted for its crowds,” he said. “Remembrance Day draws huge crowds and today was excellent. It was a good turnout and hopefully it will keep going.”
Truro has a significant connection to the Battle of Britain, as Deryk Upton, who lived in the Hubtown after the war, is credited with shooting down 12 Nazi planes making him Canada’s only double ace of the battle. He was awarded a distinguished flying cross for his efforts. Upton died in 1965 and is buried in the Robie Street cemetery.