Story and photo by MC2 Matthew Snodgrass
CAMP BASTION, Helmand province – Royal Air Force and Coalition servicemembers held a ceremony commemorating World War II’s Battle of Britain at Camp Bastion, Helmand province, Sept., 15.
The ceremony commemorated the 71st anniversary of Winston Churchill’s announcement to Parliament of the Royal Air Force’s victory over the German Luftwaffe in the vicious aviation battle of 1940.
The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign of World War II to be fought entirely by air forces, and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date. The battle was primarily fought over England for air supremacy of the United Kingdom which would determine whether German forces would be able to invade by land. From July to October1940, the Luftwaffe attacked population centers, coastal shipping convoys, R.A.F. airfields, aircraft factories and areas of political significance. The R.A.F. won a decisive victory, making an invasion by the Germans impossible for them to achieve.
“The ceremony allows us to celebrate one of our greatest victories,” said Group Captain Colin Da Silva, commander of Bastion garrison. “The Royal Air Force’s victory greatly changed the course of the war.”
The ceremony was a chance for coalition forces to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“Four hundred twenty-seven pilots of the allied forces died during the battle to achieve victory,” said Da Silva. “The ceremony was held to commemorate the great sacrifice they made.”
The virtues that brought about victory for the R.A.F. during that conflict are still present today, Da Silva said.
“The ceremony is especially poignant today when we have brave men and women today throughout Afghanistan bravely giving their best and sometimes giving the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” said Da Silva.
Despite the great amount of time that has passed since the Battle of Britain, coalition servicemembers still share the essential core values.
“People change all the time, but the qualities of duty, loyalty, bravery and integrity are there as much as they were in 1940,” said Da Silva.
Da Silva said he’s proud to be commemorate the occasion with coalition forces in Helmand province.
“I was proud we could still celebrate the victory, even while in Afghanistan despite everyone’s busy schedules, and because it is one of the Royal Air Force’s greatest moments,” he said. “We were able to share this pride with some of our friends and colleagues from other nations. We all stood together today in prayer and celebration in respect for our fallen and our service.”