Bob DiMillo, past president of Royal Canadian Air Force Association Wing 424.
CORNWALL, Ontario - The sacrifice of allied airmen during the Battle of Britain is a well-documented part of Second World War history.
The failure of Germany to achieve its objectives of destroying Britain's air defences, or forcing Britain to negotiate an armistice or an outright surrender, is considered its first major defeat and a crucial turning point in the Second World War.
It cost the lives of 544 allied air crew, while another 422 were wounded.
But what about women? Allied women were nobody's patsy.
The Women's Auxiliary Air Force in Britain numbered more than 180,000 at its peak in 1943.
Here in Canada the largest contribution made by women to the war effort came through their unpaid labour in the home and in “volunteer” work. Almost immediately after Canada’s entry into the war, women across Canada took the initiative, founding organizations to co-ordinate women’s volunteer war work.
To honour the female contribution to the war effort this year's Battle of Britain commemoration ceremonies are centred on female pioneers of Canadian flight.
"This year we want to call special attention to them," said Bob DiMillo, past president of Royal Canadian Air Force Association Wing 424 in Cornwall. "They made a tremendous sacrifice."
Like many other military-type service clubs, Wing 424 is grappling with a declining veteran population.
There are just three Second World War veterans that remain as active members of the club.
But DiMillo said word is spreading to young people about the sacrifice of war veterans - be they men or women.
"It's a little sad," DiMillo said of the declining numbers. "But it's rewarding in another way because we have the air cadets coming in.
"We want them to carry the banner later on. I enjoy doing this because when you see the kids in their uniforms - they are so proud."
The Battle of Britain ceremonies take place Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. at the air force wing on Water Street. The 45-minute ceremony, which features members of the club and military members, as well as local cadets, will be followed by a reception at the wing.
For more information contact wing 424 at 613-932-5334.
Only in September 1942 did Ottawa step in and take over the direction of this work, appropriating a name already in use in Ontario—Women’s Voluntary Services.