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The Story of a Tire

A Lancaster tire acquired by the Museum in 1986, has been one of the more popular displays in the museum ever since. Visits to the museum by two of the aircrew who flew on the aircraft equipped with this tire have evoked memories for the gentlemen involved and resulted in newspaper articles in the Calgary Herald.

The Story of a Tire
by Jon Spinks

KB-773’s tire on display in the museum

In early 1944, the 35,415 pounds of a brand new Canadian built Lancaster were lowered onto two Dunlop tires at Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario. The Lancaster’s serial number was KB773 and it was flown across the Atlantic to England and the Second World War.

The aircraft saw action with No. 431 (Iroquois) Squadron of No. 6 Group RCAF. It flew over thirty operations against enemy targets from its base in Croft, Yorkshire.

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In July, 1945, KB773 returned to Canada. It was eventually flown to Claresholm, Alberta for storage and later to Vulcan, Alberta. In 1948, War Assets announced the sale of a number of aircraft, including nine Lancasters, at Vulcan. Although the radar units, bomb sight, and guns had been removed, the aircraft were in very good condition. Farmers Allan McLean and Ken Bjornson went 50/50 on KB773, purchasing it at auction for $350, and towing it backwards from Vulcan to the McLean farm. Others bought Lancasters as well and over the next few years aircraft were common on farms in the area where they provided much needed nuts, bolts, rubber, wiring, and other items made scarce by wartime rationing. As well, escape hatches became outhouse windows, spinners were used in chicken coops, fuels tanks hauled farm fuel, and tires were used on town graders.

Towing a Lancaster to the farm.

In the early 1950’s the RCAF began to run short of parts for its force of reconnaissance Lancasters. A company travelled about southern Alberta purchasing the Lancasters back from the farmers, breaking them up, melting down the aluminum, and selling useable parts back to the RCAF.

Of no use to the scrap company, this tire that had carried Canadian aircrew and many loads of bombs in the war effort was left with a few other unwanted parts in a scrap pile on the McLean farm.

In its continuing effort to locate Lancaster parts, the Nanton Lancaster Society acquired the tire in 1986, the first year of its existence.

The farm family poses next to their bomber.