The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, Man., has unveiled a national memorial that commemorates about 19,000 lives lost in the Second World War.

The memorial includes a 91-metre granite wall with 64 granite plaques inscribed with the names of Canadians who died while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, along with the names of Commonwealth members who died in or near Canada.

WWII Air Force memorial, Brandon

The memorial at the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, Man., includes a 2.6-metre bronze airman statue overlooking a 91-metre granite wall. (Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum)

At the far end stands a 2.6-metre bronze airman in training overlooking the wall, says Stephen Hayter, the museum's executive director.

"This hearkens to about 20 years ago when the museum produced a memorial book called They Shall Grow Not Old, and it has a brief paragraph on each of the 18,039 that perished while serving in the RCAF," Hayter told CBC News shortly before the unveiling ceremony Wednesday afternoon.

"Also we've included the British, New Zealanders and Australians that died in or near Canada, and that's why the figure is approximately 19,000 individuals."

'Aerodrome of democracy'

With Wednesday marking the 75th anniversary of Canada's entry into the Second World War, Hayter noted that the RCAF played a very significant role in the war.

"Because Canada was really chosen for the location for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, Canada became what was known as the 'aerodrome of democracy,'" he said.

"We were training ground crew and air crew for the war effort. We were so drastically under-prepared for the Nazi invasion of Poland, we realized that we had to get an air force up and running rather quickly."

Hayter said the memorial recognizes those who served on the ground as well as in the air.

"We often talk about pilots, we often about planes. But you know, there is a comment that's very true: it takes 10 individuals on the ground to get one person in the air, and they're often unsung and they should not be," he said.

"The bottom of our statue, we have etched images of our ground crew … we're talking all of the individuals that made it possible that we could have a significant air force."

This week has been proclaimed Memorial Week by the City of Brandon.