Halifax MZ516 was on strength at No. 76 Squadron of 4 Group Bomber Command based at Holme-upon-Spalding Moor, south of York, England. With markings MP-V, it was known as “Vera the Virgin.” MP-V took off at 22:09 on February 1, 1945 for a raid on Mainz. While homebound, and flying at 7000 feet over East Anglia, the starboard outer engine began vibrating. Attempts to feather the motor were unsuccessful and with the situation deteriorating rapidly the order to abandon was given. Three of the crewmembers were able to leave the aircraft before it crashed at Jones Farm, Heath Road, Banham, six miles northwest of Diss in Norfolk. This had been the aircraft’s 77th operation.
F/S P.J. “Mac” McBrinn RCAF, F/O H.R. Mock, P/O R.J. Cowie RCAF, F/O K.W. Oddy, and Sgt J.P. Ellingson RCAF were killed. F/S F.A. Farley (navigator), F/O R.W. Wheatley (bomb aimer), and F/S K. Rogers (wireless operator) survived.
Phil Black served as a navigator with No. 76 Squadron. His crew flew in MP-V on a raid to Stuttgart in late January, 1945, after which they went on a short leave. Upon their return to the Squadron they were told that “Vera” was no longer there.
Phil “scratch” built the model with Bruce Guest providing substantial input, especially regarding authentic camouflage and markings. The scale is 1:12 with a wingspan of 96 inches and weighs 28 pounds. The model features retractable undercarriage, operational flaps, and operational bomb bay doors. Powered by two .90 cubic inch engines, it was successfully flown twenty times by Rollie Martel.
Dr. Black feels that the principal reason it lasted over its time in the air was due to Rollie’s superb skill. During the 2000 Canada Competition at Pit Meadows, it was judged first in static competition. However disaster struck when control was lost (not due to pilot error) and the aircraft crashed. The model was rebuilt to flying condition but it was decided to retire it for static display. Dr. Black donated the model to the Nanton Lancaster Air Museum in 2005.
“Vera the Virgin” carried appropriate nose art, although bottles were used in lieu of the more conventional bomb symbol for operations flown. Vera is depicted with her left hand on her hip and with two fingers raised on her right hand, but not quite in the style popularized by Churchill.