Newsletter – 1988 Fall and Winter

The Bomber’s 5000th Visitor

Your Society’s Summer tour program saw its 5000th visitor go through the Lancaster on July 15. He was Bob Emmons of Johnstown, Colorado, who with wife Sue, stopped at the aircraft on this Friday morning. What a nice coincidence, Bob being a United Airlines 737 pilot who formerly flew Stratocruiser fuel tankers for the U.S. airforce in Korea and Vietnam. He was very interested in the Lancaster, having never before seen one. This stop became a highlight of the Emmons’ trip to Alberta and they had many questions about the aircraft. Sue Emmons also expressed interest in what our Society was doing in trying to preserve the Lanc. She was very busy taking video pictures of the airplane and of the museum. These, she said, would likely be shown to Bob’s Johnstown Rotary Club.

Mr. Emmons was given a bomber T-shirt, a cap, and a special tour of the Bomber.

The 10,000th Visitor Remembers

The 10,000th visitor during the summer was former Nanton resident Ian Orok of Red Deer, Alta. Ian and his family arrived at the bomber on the afternoon of August 14 on the first day of their summer vacation.

Ian said he could remember when the Bomber came to Nanton and was impressed with the recent upgrading work done to it and with a small museum. President George White was on hand to present Ian with a Lancaster golf shirt, a cap, a pin and a complimentary membership.

The Summer Program

Over 14,000 visitors toured the Society’s “Lancaster Museum” adjacent to the Bomber this past summer. They also went up into the plane itself. The museum was open on weekends from mid-May to mid-October and every day during July and August. Hours were limited from 10 am to 4 p.m.

Tours of the aircraft were conducted by six young ladies who were trained as tour guides by our restoration director, Milt Magee. We were very pleased with the quality of the tours and the knowledge which these girls acquired and passed on to our visitors.

The new displays in the small museum were well received. Former air crew and their families in particular seemed to enjoy the photographs, written information and the equipment displays, which correspond to the various aircrew positions. The Jacobs radial engine (from an Anson) now on display was restored by members Lenard Hoffarth, John Dozeman and Fred Hollowell, in our restoration shop. They had some help from several other members who helped strip down two engines to make this one.

The Avro Anson twin-engine bomber/trainer now on display beside the Lanc is attracting considerable interest as well. It will be a hands-on display for the enjoyment of adults and children next summer.

Statistics obtained from the summer program confirm that the Bomber has great potential as a tourist attraction, as well as being a valuable historical artifact. We will be using these statistics in our continuing efforts to gain funding from government to assist in the construction of a museum building to house the Bomber, a restored Anson and other aircraft of the era. This is the only way our long-term goal of preservation and restoration can be obtained.

The most satisfying aspect of the summer program was witnessing new generations of Canadians learning about the efforts and sacrifices made during the Second World War. This is one of the most important goals of the Nanton Lancaster Society. Many thousands of young Canadians had this experience during the summer, thanks to the support of you, our members.

With this very small summer program we have proved beyond a doubt that we do have a major tourist attraction. We only stopped a small percentage of the people who travel #2 highway. The museum that we are striving for could attract up to 100,000 tourist yearly. the benefits for the area and for those who would stop are tremendous! These WW II artifacts are a major part of our history and now is the time to preserve them. The wind and weather take their toll each year that the Lancaster remains outside.

Restoration Report

The summer proved to be fairly productive on the aircraft side of things, with the most visible improvement being on the playground Anson II now dubbed “FANNIE.” Wiring in the Lancaster was traced electronically in several locations and tagged by members of the “Knights of Atrebla,” Rover Crew, Calgary. A centre section escape hatch arrived from the U.K., a gift from Charles Church Spitfires Inc., and delivered by Mr. and Mrs. D. Spinks, of Lethbridge, on return from England. This replaced the temporary tin cover. Due to danger from occasionally crazy weather like we’ve been experiencing Southern Alberta lately, we decided to anchor the Bomber before and aft. The local TransAlta Utility fellows did this for us, as they had the right equipment to drill proper anchors deeply into the ground. They also affixed cable (with shields) from the Bomber anchors.

Back to the Anson. Firstly, a tail section was made up from several damaged sections and then fitted to Fannie’s rear with various missing longerons and struts replaced. All torch welding was done by Jake Gerbrandt. Then a tailwheel was installed. A Jacob’s L-6 engine from another airframe was hung in the starboard position. Next, the main wheel went to the tire shop and the non the u/c struts of Fannie–a day’s work for Dan Fox and Co. He also installed a rear work floor. Now “she” can be repositioned if necessary. It took several weeks to remove the wrecked wooden nose and dangerous cockpit floor. Our tireless tour guides lent much assistance at this task. A tin nose from am MK I generously provided by the Western Development Museum in Moose Jaw had its dent fixed by Jeff Roddie of Mountain Auto Graphics of Nanton.

A new plywood cockpit floor was built and installed. On went the tin nose and suddenly the old bird had much more character. An L-6 engine came over from the shop one Sunday. It was hung in the port position. The broken windscreen bits and old formers were removed along with the pilot’s instrument panel. Both are now awaiting shop repairs.

Meanwhile, the engine crew had delivered to the museum building our first Jacobs L-6MB mounted on a stand to go on display. Crew boss Len Hoffarth with John Dozeman, Fred Hollowell and Jake Gerbrandt compromising the main crew, laboured at this engine for months. They are now finishing up details on its electrical and service system with shiny clean exhaust mainfold about to go on. (Mike Connors please note the carborator you cleaned up, will be used here!) The winter project for this crew will be to restore a selected Jacobs L-6 to “running” condition.

The FN50 m/u Lancaster III gun turret has been completely disassembled by the “Knights of Atrebla” Rover Crew. Clean up and reassembly is their winter work. Do you know where we can get any Browning MK II 303 guns for this and the other turrets? Please write us or call if you do. Work on the Martin 250CE m/c Lanc turret will recommence after Xmas. Most of the missing parts for this have arrived, bought in the U.S. and delivered with the help of Mullen Trucking. Other winter work will include making plywood formers from blueprints for “Fannie” and reconstructing her instrument panel.

A large base station radio needs an external repaint job and display cabinet. We have a link trainer shell and stand, courtesy of Tim Feusi of the W.D. Museum, Moose Jaw which could be worked up into a display unit. Also, groundwork is now being done for several upcoming “archaeological” parts trips which will take place next year.

We still do, and probably always will need your help and support to do this work. Several of our few volunteers are giving so much and now show signs of fatigue. Please come out and help us in whatever way you can.

Back From Munich

by Joe English (WWII Pilot, with #1 Group, 625 Squadron)

Looking out the rain flecked Perspex, down below I caught the line of the French coast as it slid beneath our wing. It was just past midnight and “black as Toby’s…,” ahead. We were all relieved to be on our way back to base at Scampton, Lincolnshire, and all in one piece. At this stage, Jack Mundy, our flight engineer was in the righthand jump seat next to me, chattering over something or just keeping a lookout in the starboard area, until we would be well over the Channel and hopefully clear of coastal flak or JU-88’s. (German night-fighters.)

It was January 8, 1945, and the fifth mission of our tour. I was ready to pull out the Cadbury bars, which along with a shot of coffee usually hit the spot about this time, after the “dry-mouth” adrenalin stretch over the Target. But Jack, our volunteer coffee pourer, was doing his busy- beaver routine at the wall panel which showed our fuel condition, etc. I could see him crouched on his haunches, tapping gauges and apparently not happy about something.

Suddenly I realized that he had been concerned and had made a comment shortly after we had left the Ruhr, (in his Norwich accent) to all who cared to listen, that “the old kite was burning more petrol…., a lot more than usual, but not to worry…” Now his voice came on the intercom, loud and a bit high pitched, “Skip,….Fellows…I,…we have a problem,! We can make make it nicely, but my calculations, but not to Base. The bloody kite (our usually dependable ‘H’) is going through petrol like s… through a goose,…!” His voice trailing off. Harv Gottfried, our navigator (and senior man), came on the “blower”, suggesting he’d have a firm compass course for me in a minute, “but to fly 335 degrees magnetic for now.” That should head us towards the emergency drome at Manston, near Margate on the nearest tip of the southeast coast of England. A fast natter with Jack, then between us throttles and pitch were set for most economical cruise and best altitude to maintain for the four big Merlins droning reassuringly outside our dimmed out aircraft.

Mike Chalk, our wireless operator, sent his signal to Base, a brief emergency report for the “Brass.” It was not quite evident that we were running into a very unexpected head wind and a major weather front. Ernie Croteau, down in the bomb aimers “basement” in the nose, confirmed our time of crossing the French coast with Harv and once again assured us that there were no bomb hangups. We had delivered them “all” on target, according to “the quiet man from Kapuskasing!”

We hadn’t heard from Burk Thomas in the mid upper turret, other than his Utah-Cardston drawl answering his teammate-tailgunner, “Size 14” (feet that is) George Stow of Miniota, Manitoba, fame. No panic calls for me “DIVE PORT SKIP!” for the start of the “corkscrew” manoeuvre for avoiding an initial German night-fighter attack. Not tonight, looks like we’ve got enough trouble just trying to stay out of the “Drink.”

We had been on time at the Marshalling Yard target and our bomb load went down as called for by the Master Bomber, just ahead of the target indicators, where the first wave of the Lancs and Hallies had obscured the actual target. Ernie had sounded his usual confident self as his “bombs gone” shout came up from his brightly lit cage.
Now we waited for the English coastline to come up. Hoping like hell that our many times practiced ditching procedure wouldn’t become reality tonight!

“So Harv, how does it look?” I ask. He summarizes confirmed by Mike on the radio and Jack on the gas gauges. “We’re bucking a high head wind (not predicted by the meteorological dept.)…we’ll have to nurse the engines to stretch a low fuel situation as far as possible…bloody hell!”
On course toward Manston, the first glimmer of light was a miniature checkerboard way off in the distance, through turbulent black cloud, long before we saw the coast. What a temptation it was to give the old Merlins full power to speed us at maximum to the little bulls- eye Forget that, as it would be madness, confirmed by Jack’s reports on his “juggling and balancing” act with our rapidly depleting fuel supply. Silence now reigned as we allowed him to concentrate fully on getting us there without any of the four big engines coughing out. I had the “feathering” procedure jumping around in my head, my right hand was ready to hit the correct button. The original tiny lighted square grew beautifully in size and intensity, while appearing and disappearing alarmingly as the Lancaster rode the turbulence toward Margate Holiday Beach.

Jack hollered that it looked like we had several gallons left, and if “they” didn’t cut out as we went over the beach in our dive for the aerodrome beyond (about 3 miles), “we might just get lucky as usual!” The Manston people below had the FIDO. (Fog Intensive Dispersal Of) on. Always, everything described in a backwards manner. This was a complete necklace of burning gas around the huge mile square asphalt landing area, burning a beautiful bright light and dispelling the ground fog and rain. I brought our plane in very fast and low over the edge of the field, dumping the throttles in the process. Waited impatiently for the speed to turn off, then down went the undercarriage and flap… told George to “drag his feet at the rear.” We finally touched down… a three pointer!

As we taxied in, the nicest Christmasy snowflakes started drifting down between us and the land rover that had arrived to lead us clear of the huge “parking lot” runway. By the next morning a foot of snow covered the base, and we had a lovely five-day holiday from the war. We held our lucky hand to the end of our tour and of the war.

Joe English is a local Society member, former Lancaster pilot and the architect of the proposed museum building.

Fall-Winter Projects

The Society is planning on a busy winter, pursuing its goals on several fronts. We can use help if you have some time to contribute.

Some of the projects we will be working on include: expanding and improving our museum displays; making a display to honor Alberta-born Ian Bazalgette, a Lancaster Victoria Cross winner; adding an audio component to our crew station display; restoring a Jacobs engine to running status; completing the restoration of our mid-upper gun turrets; continuing work on our Anson; creating a travelling display to take to airshows; and making further approaches to governments and corporations for funding assistance.

Why EQ-N?

These letters were painted on the Lancaster fuselage this summer. As well, the familiar RAF rondels and fin flashes were added.

“EQ” are the designated letters of 408 Squadron, now a Tactical Helicopter Squadron based at CFB Edmonton. It was the famous “Grey Goose” bomber squadron during World War II and flew Lancasters as well as Halifaxes. We have recently concluded a parts trade with the squadron and appreciate their co-operation.

The 408 squadron had a Lancaster fuselage which they were hoping to restore. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond their control, the aircraft was sold to a foreign collector and is no longer in the country.

The “N” in the aircraft designation was chosen for the Town of Nanton. In all, “EQ-N” was painted on our Lanc in tribute to 408 Sqdrn., for the part they played in the past history of Lancasters and as a token of our appreciation for their help and interest in our project.

The Inhibitors

The most recent work your Society has begun is inhibiting of the Lancaster’s Merlin engines. This was done by a work party on September 26. Engine crew boss Lenard Hoffarth had previously mated an auto oil pump to an electric drill. This set-up was plumbed into each engine in turn, to force inhibiting oil through all parts of the Merlins, including the propeller hubs. The volunteer crew also removed the valve covers in order to visually monitor the oil reaching this area. The engines have not been inhibited since the Lanc came to Nanton 28 years ago. Everyone was a bit concerned as to their condition. They were pleasantly surprised to find everything still filmed with oil and no sign of rust anywhere. New inhibiting oil was also poured into each cylinder and the covers bolted back on. Used auto spark plugs were used to seal off cylinders. These plugs were the result of Lenard at his work place. (He works at Magwood Motors, a GMC dealership). This program was dubbed “Save a plug to save the Lanc!” It produced enough plugs for all the engines.

Every one had hoped to inhibit all the engines that Saturday, but only enough oil was obtained to do the starboard engines. The port engines will be done as soon as more oil is obtained. The good condition of the opened up Merlins has however relieved worries about corrosion. One more step has been taken toward preserving the Bomber.

Special Thanks

Special thanks out to the following persons for various contributions:

  • Lieut. Craig Bessler of 408 Sqdrn., Edmonton, for all his help with Lanc parts etc., and the tour for Society members of 408 Sqdrn., helicopter facilities and museum.
  • Tim Feusi, museum tech., with the Western Development Museum, Moose Jaw, Sask., and his associate Peter Conrad for their help in supplying parts for Cessna Crane, Link Trainer and other parts. Tim’s personal philosophy is, “If you have extra parts that others (who are trying to preserve our heritage) need, give or exchange those items, don’t sell them.” Rare thinking in these days of commercialism, and very commendable!
  • Harry Whereatt, Assiniboia Sask., for aircraft parts and for showing Society members his antique airplane rebuilding projects, which are; a Hurricane, a Lysander, Tiger Moth, etc. Harry also finds time to fly a Harvard now and again!
  • The Calgary Aero-Space personnel for all their recent and past help.
  • To Lynne Maynard of Nanton, for her proof reading of this and past newsletters. (We don’t always do as she says, thats why there are still some errors!)

AND to those hundreds of you who have donated and contributed. Herewith, our MANY THANKS to ALL.

Air Museum Aircraft Models

Many of the Lancaster, Halifax, and Wellington models which are to be seen in the Society’s small museum were built by Calgary member Garth Hurl. He has been building models for some 20 years and is a member of the International Plastic Modellers Assoc. These models were built from plastic kits, with major and minor modifications to some.

The Lancaster MK II is one model which had major modifications. The Merlin engines were replaced with miniature Bristol radial engines using an English conversion kit.

Most of the miniature aircraft were painted in authentic RAF colours, using Humbrol paints and a airbrush. The decals however, with the exception of the MK I, all depict aircraft in Canadian service. The MK X model is different also as it was built and painted in the markings of our own Lancaster, FM-159, while it was in service with the 407 “Demon” Sqdrn. (RCAF).

Garth also completed the museum building model which had been started by Joe English. Again the model Lanc, Anson and Tiger Moth are Garth Hurl’s creations, along with the landscaping.

Hurl’s aim is to build an example of every bomber used by the RAF Bomber Command, for display in the Society’s museum.

One other model, which now hangs from the ceiling in the small museum, is a 1/48 scale Lancaster. This was given to us for display by Mr. Duke Saucier of High River.

Contest! Contest! Contest!

The Society is working out details for a contest which will take place next spring. Everyone who has a paid-up 1989 membership on or before the deadline date of this contest will be eligible to participate. You are right now wondering what the prize(s) might be, aren’t you? Well, we have tentatively arranged for the main prize to be a ride in a WWII P-51 MUSTANG!!! This aircraft is owned and flown by local antique aircraft collector Neil McClain.

Don’t worry, we’ll let you know all the details in the Spring 1989 newsletter. Of course, the ulterior motive behind this is to boost our membership. Who could resist entering a contest with such a prize?

Parades & Procrastination

Our Society’s involvement with parades and floats must be blamed on (credited to ??) local member Doug Anderson. He came up with this “grand PR idea” of entering a float in the Calgary Stampede parade, after taking the local Chamber of Commerce float to a parade in the neighboring town of Black Diamond. This float features a 1/20 scale model of a Lancaster. Doug had made temporary Lancaster Society signs for it, making it a joint promotion along with the Chamber of Commerce. Your gullible N.L. editor became part of a “covert” committee of two in this PR venture. We found out that the entry deadline was two days hence! Doug made some phone calls. (He’s a great persuader on the phone!) The word was that if the parade committee had the float specs in their hands right away we might get accepted! A fast trip to Calgary and Doug had us in! One major item still had to be taken care of. The float towing unit (President George White’s garden tractor was pressed into service) had to be disguised as part of the float to meet regulations. The “covert” committee now had several more volunteers.

“Make it into a small airplane” was the prevailing idea. Ye editor opened his mouth, “Great idea guys!” (I’d made a cardboard and wood mini-airplane float several years before.) “No problem!” The group’s ideas started with a mini Tiger Moth and ended with the majority agreeing that a “baby” Anson was the way to go. Again, with little thought as to the effort this venture might entail “this ” person whipped out paper, pen and tape to make a rough sketch saying, “I’ll need a couple of days to finalize this.” CLAP, CLAP!!

For ten days or more “procrastination.” Suddenly the realization there is less than a month to go. Everyone else is busy, busy, at this time, so I clear out the double garage. Two weeks later the uncovered wooden frame is nearly completed. My good wife Carol and “idea” man Doug, came to my rescue, stapling cotton cloth and stretching it over the skeleton, while I painted it. Doug went on holidays the next day….the cover half done! Time was running out. A call for help resulted in John Dozeman making propellors, Jake Gerbrandt welded up the “turret” and mock gun, while Dan Fox came with help and good ideas to finish the main “airplane.” Two days before “p” day Dan test drove the “eyeball” scale model of an Anson. It worked fine!

Next day it was hooked up to the float which had new Society signs made by local sign painter Andy Munro. “Pilot” Dan “flew” the outfit down to the real Lancaster in a test run. Our summer student tour guide girls invaded it and wanted to be part of the parade. Tour Director Milt Magee finally relented, saying the would make the “huge sacrifice” of doing the text day’s tours himself! President George White volunteered to help with this.

To make this story shorter, we made it to the Stampede Parade. Four of the girls rode on the float, two walked ahead of it wearing WWII Airforce uniform jackets, while Dan Fox drove the “Anson.” All the TV networks gave us coverage, some telling the millions of viewers about our Society’s aims and objectives. The area newspapers also gave good coverage. We earned an honorable mention ribbon as well.

During the summer the float was taken to Cutbank, Montana (won second place) and Claresholm Alberta, (placed first in class). It would have been in our own Nanton Day’s parade, but this was rained out.

The “props” have been upgraded and are now motorized. There will be more improvements (made over winter?). All the late nights were worth it after all. Of course, we are very likely to procrastinate again and leave the improvements until the day before! Just to make things more exciting!

Highlites of the Fifth Commonwealth Wartime Aircrew Reunion (Sept. 1988)

Joe English, our local ex-Lanc pilot, was in attendance at this years aircrew reunion. Here in his own words are the highlites as he saw them:

  • Over 5000 people registered for this largest of similar reunions.
  • Winnipeg Convention Centre – huge – plenty of space for all the various meetings, booths and recreation activities.
  • First impression: Definitely, I’m in the wrong building – this is a “senior citizens” centre, only people with grey or white hair admitted!
  • Second impression: Hearing the usual flat Canadian accents, but mixed with this many others, notably, British, Irish, “Ki-Wi” (New Zealand), “Austr-y-lian, ” and American – my making new acquaintances from the era we all shared.
  • Third impression: Looking over a huge gathering of very noisy and antimated people. This group probably had the major role in winning freedom for our present society about 40-50 years ago. (My feeling – WELL DONE, enjoy yourselves at this great get-together!)

Personal highlites:
Meeting Art Chapman of the Western Canada Aviation Museum, (WCAM). He took a 100 or so of the Lancaster Society brochures to hand out from WCAM’s convention booth and to place in their museum for distribution. Next morning, at his special invitation I toured the museum. It is the old TCA-Air Canada hangars at the airport – (Stevenson Field). It is the biggest, most extensive, most active, oldest, best operated and organized museum of its kind. (These are Joe’s words and opinions). All of our members should try to visit it. A study of their methods would help us do the museum thing better.

PS. The Portage La Prairie airshow was great! (Joe’s contributions nearly always have a post-script)! Part of this (PS) was a recommendation that, for airshows and other gatherings, we need to make a portable booth with a folding back drop of photos and other Society promotional items. Is there someone among our readers who would like to tackle this job?

Bits and Pieces

Parts acquisitions and donations this summer have included a first aid bag; a Tiger Moth tool bag; several tools; two T-1 bombsight computers; a Lancaster documentary video; a collection of manuals for B25, Lanc, Anson and Twin Wasp engines; several instruments including a Lanc RPM gauge; a 1/48 scale Lanc model now hanging in the museum); a Sept. 1942 Commercial Aviation magazine; 2 WAAC hats; 2 pair flightboots; and several Lanc wing panels yet to be picked up; Cessna Crane parts from Moose Jaw; more Jacobs engines; 2 new Lanc u/c retract jacks and a new flap jack. On Sept. 19 a group of us travelled to CFB Namao at Edmonton to retrieve a derelict 1942 towing tractor and pick up a rear turret. This is part of the aftermath of408 Squadron’s Lancaster project demise. Many other items are yet in the works, but we still need many artifacts to embellish and complete the various dimensions of our museum projects. If you have something you would like to contribute, please contact us. Your clutter or junk could be our gold!

The President’s Message

It is gratifying to observe the many accomplishments of the Society this past summer. High marks go to Milt Magee and the girls who worked with him in conducting tours through the Lancaster. We have had many complimentary remarks on how will this was done. Over 15,000 persons had on opportunity to see the inside of the Bomber and have its operation explained to them. This has brought home to many the endurance and sacrifice of the aircrew during WWII.

A big thanks goes out to Garth Hurl and his Rover crew from Calgary. They were responsible for the new look that the big bird took on with its fresh coat of paint and new identification letters.

Due to the dedication of some of our other members, interesting things are going on in our shop. Gun turrets from the Lanc along with Anson engines and other things are being refurbished. I would like to encourage anyone with an interest in this kind of work to contact our Society, as there are lots of things to do.

I recently had the opportunity to see the restored Lancaster fly at Hamilton Ontario. Thousands of people attended this show. The Warplane Heritage Museum personnel, who have spent the last 4-5 years doing this, can be justly proud of their accomplishment. A feeling of great satisfaction must come with the completion of such a project.

While in eastern Canada, I paid a short visit to the Aviation Museum in Ottawa. They have about any aircraft ever made on display there. A Lancaster, which looks perfect, is one of these. I was particularly interested in a separate display which was a mock-up of the front portion of a Lanc. This depicted all the crew forward of the main wing spar in their positions and in the act of “doing” their particular job. This display had walkways where the visitor could look right into the cockpit while this “crew” carried on its mission. Our future museum should have a similar display.

We have the unique position of being the only group in western Canada that has a rebuildable Lancaster and is actively attempting to preserve and refurbish it, along with other WWII aircraft.

     George White