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Clarence Simonsen was born in a small farmhouse six miles from Acme, Alberta on 24 March 1944. During the postwar RCAF era, Simonsen watched bright yellow Harvard trainers buzz across the farm on the flying instructor’s course from Medicine Hat to Penhold, Alberta. That thunderous sound left a lasting impact on the young farm lad, who always seemed to be drawing aircraft in his spare time. In his early teens, Simonsen had his first exposure to artist Alberto Vargas and subsequently discovered the world of aircraft nose art and the pin-up in time of war.
During a four-year stint in the Canadian Army (Provost Corps, Simonsen was posted to Cyprus with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in 1965. As he left Canada for the first time, he wondered if this was how bomber crews felt twenty-five years earlier. For the next six months he conducted Military Police duties with members of six other countries. In his spare time he painted unit cartoons and did his first large mural art work. He began to understand the effect art can have on isolated military men. By late 1966, Simonsen was a member of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force with his major avocation being the research, collection and repainting of aircraft nose art.
Clarence Simonsen (left) with Tom Walton. Tom painted the original “Sugar’s Blues” on No. 428 Squadron Lancaster KB-864 in 1945.
Clarence has been involved with three highly acclaimed books on the subject. He was a major contributor to, “Vintage Aircraft Nose Art – Ready for Duty,” that was published in 1987. Then in 1991, he co-authored, “Aircraft Nose Art from World War I to Today.” His most recent work, “RAF and RCAF Aircraft Nose Art in World War II,” was published in 2002. Clarence is recognized as the leading authority in his area of expertise. He has also written numerous articles for aviation magazines and has made presentations at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, USA and other venues.
The Nanton Lancaster Air Museum is pleased to be able to display dozens of examples of aircraft nose art from Bomber Command aircraft that was painted by Clarence. None of these pieces is actual wartime work on the original aircraft skin. Rather it is “replica” nose art, painted fairly recently but often in most cases on actual aluminum skin from a wartime aircraft. We are also honoured to present a portion of Clarence’s research and related photographs in this section of our website.
Clarence Simonsen painting “Ell Cat” on the museum’s Lancaster cockpit replica.
Bomber Command Museum of Canada