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Speech in Senate Chamber: Royal Air Force Bomber Command Memorial

Royal Air Force Bomber Command Memorial

Inquiry—Debate Adjourned


Hon. Anne C. Cools
rose pursuant to notice of November 1, 2012:

That she will call the attention of the Senate to:

(a) the new monument recognizing the aircrews of World War II Bomber Command, called the Royal Air Force Bomber Command Memorial, and to the ceremony for the dedication and unveiling of this monument at Green Park, London, on June 28th, 2012, by Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, and to the attendance at this ceremony of Marshal of the Royal Air Force His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh; and

(b) the attendance at this ceremony of several members of the Royal Family being Their Royal Highnesses, Marshal of the Royal Air Force the Prince of Wales, and Air Marshal Prince Michael of Kent, and Air Chief Marshal the Duke of Kent, and Air Marshal the Duke of Gloucester, and Air Commodore the Earl of Wessex, and Air Commodore the Duke of York, and also Their Royal Highnesses, the Duchess of Gloucester and the Countess of Wessex, revealing the closeness of the Royal Family to Britain's Royal Air Force and their dedication to the memory of all of those who fell in the Royal Air Force in the Second World War; and

(c) Remembrance Day on November 11, 2012, the day for our Canadian veterans and those who served, when we remember, reflect on, and uphold all those who answered the call of duty, and those who fell in active combat, in their assigned theatres of war particularly in the Second World War, in defence of God, King, and Country, the British Commonwealth and the Allied countries; and

(d) Canadian aircrew in World War II, particularly those who served with Royal Air Force Bomber Command, and who are now celebrated in this new memorial unveiled by Her Majesty on June 28th, 2012, being both those with 6 Group Royal Canadian Air Force, and those with the other Bomber Command Squadrons, including some Canadian senators, who faced many Nazi night fighters and Nazi anti-aircraft guns nightly; and

(e) a Canadian from Alberta, a retired airline pilot, Karl Kjarsgaard, who is devoted to the memory of the efforts and sacrifices of the aircrews of Bomber Command, and to his special contribution to the construction of the ceiling of the Memorial, being the aluminum used to build it; and

(f) our own Canadian Bomber Command memorial located at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta, being a wall of remembrance wherein are inscribed the names of the 10,659 fallen Canadian aircrew as a monument to those who fell in Bomber Command, which for many years was the only Allied offensive against Fortress Europe; and

(g) honour, to celebrate, to uphold and to thank all the remarkable Canadian veterans for their incalculable contributions to humanity during the Second World War and to whom we owe an enormous debt.

She said: Honourable senators, I rise today of this Veterans' Week of Remembrance Day to honour and uphold the brave men in the aircrews from Canada and the Commonwealth who, with unflinching courage, answered the call of duty and served in Britain's Royal Air Force Bomber Command in the Second World War. I spoke on Bomber Command in the Senate on November 5, 2009. Today, I rise again to remember these Canadians, to praise their memory, and to uphold the enormity of their labours and their sacrifice. Let us remember, honourable senators, that on every city block, in every town across this country, there is a family who has a family member who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Honourable senators, Bomber Command, headed by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, was the Royal Air Force's brave, bold, and dangerous air offensive against the Third Reich, and its well organized and deadly military aggression. Bomber Command's aircrews, lovingly called the "Bomber Boys," placed themselves in harm's way, daily and nightly, to defeat the Nazis and halt Nazi aggression. They were at incalculable risk.

Today I uphold all those who served and all those who fell. I uphold those Canadians who served in Bomber Command from bases in the United Kingdom, particularly those in 6 RCAF Group, called the Canadian Group, and its fourteen bomber squadrons. 6 Group compiled a battle record second to none. I also uphold those Canadians who served in the other Bomber Command squadrons.

Let us recall that the New Testament book, Revelations, informs that war is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War is the failure of politics. It is a Grim Reaper.

The Second World War exacted an incalculable price. Bomber Command, one part of the war effort, exacted 55,573 young men's lives, of which 10,659 were Canadians. Bomber Command touched, engaged really, Canadian families in every corner of our vast land, as these families sent a family member off to serve. All Canadians in those years prayed for the Bomber Boys.

Honourable senators, because the Nazis had driven the Allied forces off the continent of Europe, there was neither means nor opportunity for Allied forces' offensives against Nazi aggression. Bomber Command, the fight from the skies, the "mastery in the air," was the only possible response and the only Allied offensive against Nazi-occupied Fortress Europe for much of the war.

Winston Churchill, Britain's Prime Minister from May 10, 1940, to until just after the war, described Bomber Command thus in his secret war cabinet memorandum, dated September 3, 1940, titled, "The Munitions Situation." He wrote:

The Navy can lose us the war, but only the Air Force can win it. Therefore our supreme effort must be to gain overwhelming mastery in the Air. The Fighters are our salvation, but the Bombers alone provide the means of victory. We must therefore develop the power to carry an ever-increasing volume of explosives to Germany, so as to pulverise the entire industry and scientific structure on which the war effort and economic life of the enemy depends, while holding him at arm's length in our Island. In no other way at present visible can we hope to overcome the immense military power of Germany, and to nullify the further German victories . . .

Honourable senators, at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, Prime Minister Churchill, American President Franklin Roosevelt and their chiefs of staff approved the Casablanca Directive. This significantly expanded Bomber Command's offensive capabilities and duties. I shall read parts of this directive, titled "The Bomber Offensive From the United Kingdom." It states:

Directive to the appropriate British and U.S. Air Force Commanders, to govern the operation of the British and U.S. Bomber Commands in the United Kingdom (Approved by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at their 65th Meeting on January 21, 1943)

1. Your primary object will be the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system, and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened.

2. Within that general concept, your primary objectives, subject to the exigencies of weather and of tactical feasibility, will for the present, be in the following order of priority:

(a) German submarine construction yards.

(b) The German aircraft industry.

(c) Transportation.

(d) Oil plants.

(e) Other targets in enemy war industry. . . .

5. You should take every opportunity to attack Germany by day, to destroy objectives that are unsuitable for night attack, to sustain continuous pressure on German morale, to impose heavy losses on the German day fighter force, and to contain German fighter strength away from the Russian and Mediterranean theatres of war.

6. When the Allied armies reenter the Continent, you will afford them all possible support in the manner most effective. . . .

Honourable senators, this directive was clear on the nature and purpose of Allied bomber offensives. It was clear that the Allied forces' intent was to rout the enemy from their occupation of Europe. It was clear that their dedicated focus was to bring the war to an end by their victory. From the skies, the Allied forces and their aircrews, in substantial measure, carried the war to the Third Reich, which had begun it.

The creation of the Canadian 6 Group in 1943 coincided with this significant increase in Bomber Command's operations, which led to D-Day, the decisive invasion of Normandy, on June 6, 1944. Canadian bomber aircrews performed bravely and with distinction, in this unfathomably dangerous, merciless and exacting theatre of war.

War is a Grim Reaper and a wicked master. I repeat: 10,659 Bomber Boys, Canadians, fell. In addition, many were killed in training, in operational accidents and taken prisoners of war. Let us remember them. Let us also remember all those Canadians who served on the ground and at sea.

Honourable senators, I shall quote some Nazi leaders on Bomber Command's bombing operations. Remember, colleagues, Canadians and Brits say "bombing" or "bomber operations." Americans say "missions." Therefore I always use Canadian terms.

Nazi leader Albert Speer, the Third Reich's Minister of Armaments, in his 1976 book Spandau: The Secret Diaries, at page 339 and 340 wrote:

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 antiaircraft 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.

In his 1970 memoirs, Inside the Third Reich, Minister Speer wrote about Bomber Command operations over Hamburg in July 1943. These are very famous operations. He said at page 284:

Hamburg had put the fear of God in me. . . .

He tells us something that is very revealing and, honourable senators, I ask that you listen carefully.

Hamburg had suffered the fate Goering and Hitler had conceived for London in 1940. At a supper in the Chancellery in that year Hitler had, in the course of a monologue, worked himself up to a frenzy of destructiveness:

Have you ever looked at a map of London? It is so closely built up that one source of fire alone would suffice to destroy the whole city, as happened once before, two hundred years ago. Goering wants to use innumerable incendiary bombs of an altogether new type to create sources of fire in all parts of London. Fires everywhere. Thousands of them. Then they'll unite in one gigantic area conflagration. Goering has the right idea. Explosive bombs don't work, but it can be done with incendiary bombs - total destruction of London. What use will their fire department be once that really starts!

Honourable senators, Minister Speer's "fear of God" was fleeting, overtaken by calculating Nazi determination. He added, still at the same page:

Fortunately for us, a series of Hamburg-type raids was not repeated on such a scale against other cities. Thus the enemy once again allowed us to adjust ourselves to his strategy.

Honourable senators, next is Joseph Goebbels, the Third Reich's Minister of Propaganda. David Bashow, in his book No Prouder Place, at page 115 cites Minister Goebbels' diary, in epigram to a chapter, Battering the Reich: The Road to Hamburg, as follows:

The damage is colossal and indeed ghastly . . . Nobody can tell how Krupps is to go on . . . It drives one mad to think that some Canadian boor, who probably can't even find Europe on the globe, flies here from a country glutted with natural resources which his people don't know how to exploit, to bombard a continent with a crowded population.

Honourable senators, I come now to the unveiling and dedication ceremony of the new Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, not far from London's Buckingham Palace. On June 28, 2012, our Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, unveiled this memorial. She was joined by many members of the Royal Family, being, Marshals of the Royal Air Force the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales; Air Commodores, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex; Air Marshal, the Duke of Gloucester; Air Chief Marshal the Duke of Kent; and Air Marshal Prince Michael of Kent. They were resplendent in their blue Royal Air Force uniforms. Present also were the Duchesses of Cornwall, of Gloucester, and of Kent, and the Countess of Wessex.

The presence of twelve Royal Family members showed the national importance of this event and the Royal Family's attachment to the Royal Air Force and their esteem and affection for the aircrews who served and fell. All present were mindful of the personal closeness that Queen Elizabeth has to this war when her family, particularly her mother and her father, was a beacon of strength and symbol of resistance across the world. This event was uplifting. The prayers, the hymns, the readings and the blessings were moving and evocative. The presence of some 5,000 aging Bomber Command veterans from home, the U.K. and abroad was sacred. They have grown old as their fallen comrades could not.

Honourable senators, I attended this beautiful and solemn event with a delegation from Nanton, Alberta's Bomber Command Museum of Canada. It was composed of David and Leslie Birrell; James Blondeau; Clint Cawsey; Robert Pedersen; Marylou Slumskie; Mark Turner and his father Ted Turner, a Bomber Command veteran; Doug Summerhayes, son of Jack Summerhayes, who fell in Bomber Command; and Karl Kjarsgaard of the Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) Group.

Honourable senators, Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney, assisted by Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn, led Canada's official delegation of 42 Bomber Command veterans. The happiness of these veterans was manifest. Their pride in their long-ago efforts and their delight in this recognition was evident, as was the affection between Minister Blaney and them. I thank him.

Honourable senators, those men were extremely happy, but it was a happiness dotted with many tears as they remembered many fallen comrades and battle trials.

Senator Joseph Day of our Senate Veterans Affairs Committee also attended.

The memorial is magnificent and stately —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to inform the honourable Senator Cools that her 15-minute speaking time is up. Is she requesting more time?

Senator Cools: Yes. Thank you.

Honourable senators, the memorial is magnificent and stately with its tall, white columns. It holds a nine-foot high sculpture by the celebrated sculptor Philip Jackson, of a seven-man aircrew just returned from a bombing operation. His detail in the young men's faces is gripping and poignant. Above them is the memorial's stunning ceiling, a metallic structure of aluminum, whose story is very special for Canada. This aluminum was recovered from a bomber plane of RCAF 6 Group, the Halifax LW682 shot down in 1944. Seven of its eight aircrew were Canadian bomber boys.

Honourable senators, Halifax LW682 was shot down by a Nazi fighter plane on May 12, 1944. It crashed in Nazi-occupied Belgium. All eight aircrew were killed. Five bodies were recovered before the plane sank into a bog with the other three. It lay there, submerged, with these three Canadians entombed for 53 years until it was rescued and surfaced in 1997. Attended by their families graciously flown to Belgium by our Government of Canada, these three fallen Canadians were given funerals with full military honours and laid to rest beside their other fallen comrades. One of the family members in London with us was Doug Summerhayes who was a young boy when his father, Jack Summerhayes, was killed in the Halifax LW682.

Honourable senators, this humane recovery operation was led by Albertan Canadian Karl Kjarsgaard and his Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) team. They also salvaged the plane's aluminum, brought it to Canada and had it melted into ingots. In 2012, for the construction of London's Bomber Command Memorial, Karl Kjarsgaard delivered these ingots to Liam O'Connor, the memorial's gifted and appreciative architect, who was pleased with this Canadian gift of authentic combat remnants. He had them pressed into aluminum sheets in Norway and then returned to England, from whence the plane had flown its final bombing operation that fateful night. Architect Liam O'Connor constructed the memorial's glorious ceiling from these aluminum sheets.

Honourable senators, let us understand that the folklore and history of war memorials is rich in their inclusion of authentic combat remnants, combat relics really. Many opine that this Canadian contribution of bomber plane combat remnants will be remembered as one of the most important in memorial history. I am told that this new war memorial is already very popular and well visited in London.

Honourable senators, I now remember those 30 Canadians of Bomber Command who served in the bombing operation the Dams Raid, the Dambusters, by RAF 617 Squadron, led by a Brit, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who was awarded a Victoria Cross for this perilous bombing operation. The lead navigator in the Dams Raid was a Canadian, a young fellow called Terry Taerum from Milo, Alberta. I recently held in my hand a photograph of him briefing Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris after the raid. A pilot named Ken Brown, from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, was the only Canadian pilot on the raid. Of the 30 Canadians in the Dams Raid, 14 fell and one was taken prisoner. Let us remember them.

Honourable senators, let us also remember those late senators who served in Bomber Command including Senators Orville Phillips, Richard Doyle and Archibald Johnstone. Prime Minister Churchill, in the House of Commons, on August 20, 1940, said:

The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

Honourable senators, I close with a scripture passage that I use particularly around Remembrance Day because for so long it has been connected to Canada's war veterans. I read from the Old Testament, Ecclesiasticus, chapter 44, verses 1, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 14:

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 our Canadian veterans and fallen of Bomber Command. Let us uphold them. Let us honour them. Let us love them. Let us always remember that their sacrifice was also their families' sacrifice, and at the end of the day it was Canada's sacrifice.

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