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Down Memory Lane: "Lancs In The Fifties"


Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Lancaster at AirVenture Oshkosh

In 2006, EAA Chapter 1410 High River had the honour of sponsoring the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Lancaster (Hamilton ON) to appear and fly several flights at AirVenture Oshkosh.

During this time period we met and were connected with many individuals and their stories involving the Lancaster and the Allied Bomber Command. These stories continue to enrich our sense and value of our history. Saturday, while standing and quietly looking at Nanton's magnificent Lanc, a man of about 50 approached me and stated some obvious comments about this incredible aircraft and its exploits during the second World War. He told me that his father had been an upper turret gunner and his uncle a rear turret gunner on Lancasters during the battles over Germany. At one point during a raid, his uncle had turned his head and leaned back for some reason; at the precise moment an ME109 cannon shell had entered the turret and removed the last half an inch of his rather long nose! We shared a smile, and agreed on the importance of our history and our obligation to pass its values on to our younger generations.

Jack Dueck, EAA HAC

On August 22-23, large crowds gathered at the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum to enjoy the legacy and remember the role that our beloved Lancasters played post-World War II.

Following their wartime service, more than 100 Canadian-built Lancaster bombers were converted to post-war configurations and served in a variety of roles with the RCAF - including Cold War reconnaissance patrols; search and rescue missions; photography and mapping; and ice patrols in the Arctic.

The celebration's theme was to offer a 'Tribute to the air crew, ground crew, and the Lancaster Mk X's that served with the post-war Royal Canadian Air Force."

The museum's aircraft, "Lanc 159," served with No. 103 Search and Rescue Unit at Greenwood, Nova Scotia, and with 407 Squadron at Comox, BC. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of its last flight with the RCAF.

This gala event began on Friday with a pancake breakfast, registration, and open-house museum access all day. It ended with a reception for members and friends in the evening. Saturday began in the same manner, with hundreds of guests viewing the museum's artifacts - aircraft, photographs, and displays - iems as unique as Guy Gibson's log book depicting the "Dambusters' Raid."

A delicious luncheon was served to post-war Lancaster veterans and friends as many new acquaintances were made - and old ones renewed. At a table next to ours we visited with the remaining members of Joe English's Lancaster crew as well as cast members of '"The Bomber Boys," a program produced by the Discovery Channel.

Throughout the day, the crowd watched and listened to the unmistakable sound of Merlin engines 3 & 4 being "run-up" on Nanton's Lancaster FM159. Although this aircraft last flew 50 years ago and is not destined to resume flight, the museum's volunteer ground crew intend to continue to rebuild and service the engines so as to allow future museum visitors the opportunity to witness and hear all four engines with their very distinctive Merlin liquid-cooled V-12 sound.

Saturday's guest keynote speaker was Lt. Col. Mario LeBlanc, Commanding Officer of 407 Squadron based at Comox, BC. (Incidentally, this is the same Squadron to which our Lanc FM159 belonged.) Lt. Col LeBlanc spoke of the 407th's tremendous responsibility in the mapping, surveillance, and development of Arctic outposts during this post-war period - a time when Canadian sovereignty was being established, and when we didn't yet know the land-shapes that belonged to Canada.

The museum is a history lesson for all of us and brings us back to our Canadian aviation roots. It brings back an era of the British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP), when our countryside was dotted with triangular runway stations and the air was filled with Tiger Moths, Cornells, Ansons, Cessna Cranes, and Harvards. A great crowd pleaser was the Kinner engine start-up of the Museum's beautifully restored Fleet Finch. And where else can you see a static display of an historic Blenheim?

During the afternoon, we saw a flyby of Vintage aircraft, stoking the nostalgia in our hearts and souls.

Saturday night wound up with dancing to the Woodhouse Big Band. We relived our youth and our exuberance dancing to the style of Glen Miller, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.

Sunday again gave the crowd an opportunity to visit the museum's many displays and to meet new and old friends from across Canada as well as parts of our global community. We were treated by a flypast of a 407 Squadron Aurora. And so ended a very memorable tribute to our Canadian history.

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