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George Oliver – Nose Artist

The museum is pleased to display a very special suitcase that has been donated by George Oliver of Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

Rear-gunner George Oliver flew with No. 408 Squadron in Lancaster Mk II aircraft. Rather than having the standard Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, these Lancs were fitted with Hercules radial engines. George recalls the reason for the Nose Art painting on Lancaster Mk. II LL725, “For some reason the call sign at Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, was changed from Z-Zebra, to Z-Zombie [the living dead]. On our 8th operation to Essen, Germany on 24 March 1944, we lost an engine and had the option to dump our bomb load and return to base. The crew decided to carry on but arrived over the target late and all alone. After the release of our bomb load, ‘All Hell Broke Loose’ and we were lucky to escape the intense ack-ack. On our return to base we found out that we were posted as lost in action. After this experience we all agreed “Zombie” [return of the living dead] should become the nose art, and it was.”

Crew photo taken February 12, row (l-r)George Oliver (rear gunner), Bergie Bergman (wireless operator),Claude Franklin (pilot), John Metcalfe (engineer);bottom row (l-r)Leo Robideau (mid-upper gunner),Mike Bartman (navigator), Terry Delaney (bomb aimer).

George painted the “Zombie” nose art on Lancaster LL725 on 7 April 1944 after the crew had completed an air-test flight and later he painted it on his suitcase. On 20 July 1944, George completed his tour of 30 operations, 22 flown in “Zombie.” He flew two additional operations, one in Lank-L as the mid -under gunner with Frankling 27-5-44 and another in Lank-L on 17-6-44 with Bryson as mid-upper gunner. George says he must have came back from leave early because the money ran out and filled in for something to do. Eight days later LL725 was shot down on a raid to Hamburg, Germany, one of three Lancaster Mk. II’s the squadron lost that single day.