This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Skip to Content

Speech in Senate Chamber: Senator Cools honours Canadians, who served in Bomber Command during World War II

Hon. Anne C. Cools rose pursuant to notice of November 3, 2009:

That she will call the attention of the Senate to:

 

(a) this year’s Remembrance Day on November 11, 2009, when we shall remember, celebrate and honour the veterans of Canada, those who served, and those who fell in active combat in their assigned theatres of war particularly in World War II, in defence of God, King, and Country, Canada, the British Commonwealth and the Allied countries; and

(b) to Canadian airmen in World War II, particularly those who served with Royal Air Force Bomber Command, being both those with 6 Group R.C.A.F., and those with the other Bomber Command Squadrons, including Squadron Leader Ian Bazalgette, and some Canadian Senators, to those Canadian airmen in arms who faced many thousands of German anti-aircraft guns nightly; and 

(c) to the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum in Nanton, Alberta, and its own Canada’s Bomber Command Memorial, being a wall of remembrance wherein are inscribed the names of the 10,643 fallen Canadian airmen as a monument to their sacrifice; and

(d) to the August 15, 2009 Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum’s remembrance ceremony which also celebrated the twinning of the towns Nanton, Alberta and Senantes, France, and which ceremony was attended by the Mayors of these two towns; and

(e) to Squadron Leader Ian Bazalgette, an Albertan raised in England, who received the Victoria Cross for his courage in landing his crippled, enflamed Lancaster Bomber, with its injured crew, while successfully avoiding the destruction of Senantes, a village of 200 people, whose residents retrieved his body, hid it from the Germans and later buried him in their church yard where he now rests, fully adopted by the people of Senantes; and

(f) to the numerous volunteers and concerned individuals whose tireless efforts preserve and maintain their Lancaster Society Air Museum, their Lancaster Bomber, and their wall of remembrance dedicated to the 10,643 Canadian airmen who fell in Bomber Command, that Command which for many years was the only Allied offensive against Fortress Europe; and

(g) to honour, to celebrate, to uphold and to thank all the remarkable Canadian veterans for their incalculable contributions to humanity during World War II.

She said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in remembrance of Canadian airmen in arms in Bomber Command during the Second World War, particularly 6 Group, the Canadian Bomber Group created in October 1942 to be entirely manned by Canadian officers and men; and which, by the end of the war, consisted of 13 squadrons. However, first, I wish to remember all the Canadian men and women in arms who served Canada, risking their lives, their persons and their psychological well-being. In the last week, Canadian families have received yet another grim blow as two more precious young men have lost their lives in Afghanistan. Today I uphold these two young men, both from Alberta, Lieutenant Justin Boyes and Sapper Steven Marshall, and the other 131 Canadians who have fallen in this war in Afghanistan. Let us remember them, all of them, in all the wars in which they have fought.

Honourable senators, war is the failure of politics and the failure of human beings to reach reconciliation and accommodation. In the history of human existence, war is a grim tale, as human beings resort to arms as only human beings can do, as human beings apply their intelligence and their genius to destroying life as only human beings can do. The muses are eloquent in expressing the paucity of the human condition. The Scottish poet Robert Burns called it “Man’s inhumanity to man.” In his poem, 'Man Was Made to Mourn', he mused on the capacity of human beings’ will and desire to inflict pain and suffering on their fellow humans. He wrote:

Man’s inhumanity to man

Makes countless thousands mourn!

Honourable senators, man’s inhumanity to man makes countless millions mourn. 

Honourable senators, war robs families of their beloved young sons, brothers, fathers and husbands. War robs young men and women of their lives, their youths, their loves and all their dreams. War is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It is a terrible, awful and omnipotent master. This fierce horseman is a grim rider and a grim reaper. The First World War had set new definitions of war, employing previously unknown forms of warfare. By the Second World War, these had been expanded by scientific and technological advances, combining to create a highly industrialized, highly complex type of warfare, a warfare that is totally consuming and totally unforgiving in its sweep. This modern horseman of the Apocalypse is cataclysmic, devouring everything in its path. This grim rider will destroy combatants, civilians, adults, children, whole villages, whole cities, food supplies and drinking water, at speeds that are too rapid and on a scale that is too vast for our human comprehension. 

Honourable senators, during the Second World War, Canadian airmen with Royal Air Force Bomber Command, both with 6 Group’s 13 squadrons, and those with the other Royal Air Force Bomber Command squadrons night after night confronted the then heights of technologically advanced warfare. Canadian airmen, young men, in their bomber planes, Lancasters and Halifaxes, et cetera, faced great perils. Night after night, Canadian airmen in their bomber planes took off from U.K. airbases, one a minute, 60 an hour, for many hours, to strike enemy targets in Europe. These brave young men on their bombing operations, bomb ops night after night, faced the German night fighters in the air, and the plentiful and powerful German anti-aircraft guns from the ground, reportedly 100,000 of them. Canadian airmen, young men, night after night, faced a then deadly enemy, a highly disciplined, highly organized and well-equipped enemy that was committed to its own victory, a victory that was within the enemy’s reach at certain critical moments during World War II.

Honourable senators, to grasp the great contribution of Canadian 6 Group and Bomber Command, let us look to what Albert Speer, the German Minister of Armaments and War Production, had to say about it. He was a practical man in the practical business of making a brutal and aggressive war. About Bomber Command’s air war, in his book Spandau: The Secret Diaries, published by Macmillan in 1976, he said at page 339:

The real importance of the air war consisted in the fact that it opened a second front long before the invasion of Europe. That front was the skies over Germany. The fleets of bombers might appear at any time over any large German city or important factory. The unpredictability of the attacks made this front gigantic; every square meter of the territory we controlled was a kind of front line. Defense against air attacks required the production of thousands of anti-aircraft guns, the stockpiling of tremendous quantities of ammunition all over the country, and holding in readiness hundreds of thousands of soldiers, who in addition had to stay in position by their guns, often totally inactive, for months at a time.

Bomber Command’s air war front was “the skies over Germany”. For a long time, that is, until D-Day, June 6, 1944, Bomber Command’s air war had been the only offensive action of the Allied forces. In fact, it was the only possible action against Nazi Germany and Fortress Europe, occupied Europe.

Honourable senators, Bomber Command’s air war had been paralyzing the German armaments industry at its core. Albert Speer, as noted before, was a practical man in the practical business of war. In another book by him, Inside the Third Reich, he said at page 284:

Hamburg had put the fear of God in me . . . I informed Hitler that armaments production was collapsing and threw in the further warning that a series of attacks of this sort, extended to six more major cities, would bring Germany’s armaments production to a total halt.

Bomber Command’s efforts had tied up vast German resources that otherwise would have been directed against the Allied forces elsewhere.

Honourable senators, on August 15, 2009, I had the honour to join Bomber Command veterans in Nanton, Alberta, where I was invited by the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum. This museum, founded and created by thousands of hours of volunteer work, commemorates the brave Canadian men who fought in Bomber Command. In fact, the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum has built a wall of remembrance called Canada’s Bomber Command Memorial, wherein are inscribed the names of the 10,643 fallen Canadians in Bomber Command. The museum also owns a Lancaster bomber used by many 6 Group Squadrons. That day I spoke at the sixty-fifth anniversary celebration of the 1944 heroic feat of Bomber Command Squadron Leader Ian Bazalgette. Squadron Leader Bazalgette was born in Alberta, raised in England, and he now rests in the churchyard at Senantes, France. He was not in 6 Group, but he was in another RAF Bomber Command Group. Bazalgette’s courage was remarkable and his selflessness unparalleled. Despite damage to his Lancaster Bomber and a near crash, he had been able to complete his Bomb Ops. After additional damage, he asked those of his crewmembers who could to parachute out. Wanting to deliver the injured crew safely to the ground, he endeavoured to land his enflamed Lancaster Bomber. He did so successfully, but it exploded, killing him.

One must understand the atmosphere in Europe at the time. The people of Senantes rescued his body, hid it from the Germans and later gave it a burial in the churchyard. They adopted him as a hero.

Honourable senators, amidst these Herculean difficulties in landing his plane, any one of which was daunting, Bazalgette was deeply concerned for the safety of the people and the village of Senantes, a small village of a few hundred people. God alone knows how his mind and heart could fathom to attempt such humane and self-sacrificing generosity. On August 17, 1945, King George VI conferred upon him the highest military honour of all: the Victoria Cross. Squadron Leader Bazalgette’s actions represent the human being in its finest expression of humanity. The words “valour, honour, service” are poignant. They express and epitomize human behaviour in its highest and finest form. Honourable senators, let us remember him as he rests in the churchyard at Senantes, France, and all the others wherever they rest.

Honourable senators, in 1998 the late Senator Orville Phillips, from Prince Edward Island, himself a veteran of Bomber Command, served as Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, of which I was a member and its Deputy Chair. En passant, I also honour two other senators who also served in Bomber Command; Senator Johnstone and Senator Doyle. The Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs had studied the Canadian War Museum and its then pressing issues. Its report was entitled, Guarding History: A Study into the Future, Funding, and Independence of the Canadian War Museum. In the report’s foreword, Chairman Senator Phillips wrote at page i:

The Canadian War Museum is a very special place, not just for Veterans and Historians, but for all Canadians. It is the place our sons and daughters can visit and see for themselves the horrors of war their parents and grandparents knew but could never share.

Senator Phillips understood the psychic assault and injuries to men and women who have engaged in active combat in the theatres of war — a psychological and emotional damage that for too long has received too little attention and too little care. In Senator Phillips, the veterans of Canada had a true and faithful friend. He was their comrade in arms.

Like the Canadian War Museum, the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum is a very special place made possible by the efforts of so many generous people. Let us remember all these airmen, many who came from places in small-town Canada such as Nanton.

Honourable senators, the losses and casualties in Bomber Command were high. A Director of Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum, Karl Kjarsgaard, himself a pilot who is involved in the Halifax 57 Rescue Project which is trying to salvage the Halifax Bomber LW-170 from the ocean floor off Ireland, spoke of these losses. In Remembering Canadians in Bomber Command, my video recording of last August’s event in Nanton, Alberta, he told me about these losses. He said:

. . . only one in four airmen that was in Bombers survived their tour. 76 percent were either killed or injured or prisoner of war, so 76 percent did not make it. Only 24 percent did.

Mr. Kjarsgaard continued and spoke about 6 Group, the Canadian Bomber Group. He said:

 But let me tell you this, and most Canadians don’t know this, when the war was over, and they went and looked at the combat records of all of the Bomber Groups of all of the British Bomber Command, 6 Group the Canadian Bomber Group was number one for lowest loss rate in combat, most efficient and the most aircraft ready to go every night to go out on combat. They were number one in all of Bomber Command.

 Let us remember them.

Honourable senators, today I celebrate, commemorate and honour the Canadians who served. I shall cite the Scriptures, the Old Testament Book, Ecclesiasticus Chapter 44, Verses 1, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 14. Ecclesiasticus says:

 Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us . . .

 All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.

 There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported.

 And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born . . .

 But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten . . .

 Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.

Let us remember them. Let us honour them and their families, and our country, Canada, for their incalculable sacrifices and contributions to Allied victory in 1945.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: If no other senator wishes to speak, this item is considered debated.

 

The remainder of this day's Senate Debates are available here.