Newsletter – 1989 Fall and Winter

The Lanc Has Over 20,000 Visitors!

Visitor numbers went up dramatically this past season. Our final count (Thanksgiving day) was 20,196 visitors to the Lanc. Numbers for July/August were up 40% from 1988!

Full tours through the aircraft, by our seven student tour guides, plus the enlarged museum display, brought many encouraging comments from visitors. New enlarged signs, north and south of town also helped pull people in off the road.

That the Bomber is an excellent tourist attraction by itself is now more proven. The NLS executive is satisfied that with a decent sized building, wherein to display the hundreds of other BCATP artifacts on hand, plus enhanced publicity, that 1989 numbers could be at least doubled.

New signs were erected this past May. Our thanks go out to two supporters. The printed portion of the sign is the work of local retired sign-painter Andy Munro. Andy donated this sign and a duplicate, for the northbound highway. The Lancaster silhouette signs (2) were painted by Calgary member Garth Hurl. These signs were one reason for the dramatic increase in visitors to the Lanc and museum. Thanks Andy and Garth.

Society Establishes Building Fund -Descision Made to Build a Smaller Eexpandable Museum Building

At the Society’s September 13th meeting a decision was made that has begun a new effort for attaining a building to house the Lanc and the BCATP building.

The meeting proposed that the NLS seek funding and build a smaller “bare bones” structure to house the Lancaster rather than the building formerly proposed. This came about because little progress has been made to date in finding funding for the former proposal, the 19,000+ sq. ft. design by (architect and former Lanc pilot) Joe English.

The new direction was taken for the following reasons:

    • i) the immediate need to protect the Lanc from further damage such as it suffered in last winters storms.
    • ii) that various government grants are available to upgrade and improve such a basic building.

It was agreed that a metal building of about 12,000 sq. ft. with a 120 foot front could accommodate the Lancaster, would serve.

The budget estimate for this building’s shell is $120,000.

It should also be mentioned that the town of Nanton has made a commitment to provide a site for the new Air Museum building.

Phase I of the project is the construction of the building shell itself. This would ensure the Lancaster was protected and would survive as a major tourist attraction. (Once the rudders blow off it won’t be very attractive! This is the next distinct possibility if it is left outside.) Phase II will involve the construction of a museum display area within the building and transfer of our existing museum displays, which will form the nucleus of an expanding, major BCATP air museum.

The first step in funding this building was an application for a portion of the Nanton CTAP (Tourist Action Plan) monies. NLS has applied for $60,000 of this grant. Whether we receive this funding and how much has yet to be determined.

Of the remaining $60,000, NLS has on hand $20,000 in matching funds. The NLS Fund Raising committee will be approaching government, corporations, the Legions and NLS members for the remaining $40,000. Outlined on this page is a proposal for membership participation in the funding of this project.

Now is the time to see the Lancaster Bomber preserved and properly restored in a museum setting, now is the time to support us.

Recent Major Aquisitions

The society’s collection of artifacts has been growing by leaps and bounds in the last few months. The most recent acquisition of major importance happened in October when four local members travelled to Saskatchewan.

Dan Fox, George White, Bob Evans and John Green flew to southwest Saskatchewan in John’s Piper Commanche airplane on October 18th. Due to this trip, NLS now owns a Fairchild Cornell (PT-23). This aircraft type was a primary trainer in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

The Cornell was obtained from Mr. Ernie Oakman of that area. In appreciation for his help in the society’s ongoing efforts to create a BCATP air museum, Ernie’s name will appear, as donator, on a plaque, which will be part of the Cornell display in the air museum, as soon as a building is in place.

This latest acquisition is presently in storage in Saskatchewan and will be brought to Nanton sometime next spring. The Cornell is partially disassembled, but is complete except for some fuselage fabric and a proper propeller. This aircraft can be used in its present state as a static display with little work other than reassembly.

Recently acquired as well are a Cheetah engine (on loan from Calgary Aero Space Museum), a Ranger engine from a Cornell, a “Gibson Girl” radio, a Menasco Super Pirate engine from a Tiger Moth, a “bent” .50 calibre machine gun with a crash history, and many more items too numerous to mention.

With two complete aircraft now on hand along with enough “carcasses” to make up Anson, Cessna Crane and Bolingbroke displays, enough engines for a large display and thousands of other artifacts from WWII and the BCATP era, the museum already exists. All that is needed is a building to protect and display this part of our history and heritage.

Goverment Assistance Received

The society was pleased to be informed that we will be receiving a museum operating grant through the Alberta Department of Culture and Multiculturism. This coupled with moneys from a Culture and Recreation grant program are most appreciated and put to good use.

We were also happy to note that a photograph of our “Lancaster Pilot” display was featured in the Annual Report of the Alberta Museums Association. This was a project sponsored in part by the Museum Association, which is funded by lottery profits.

This assistance by our provincial government is most welcome.

Update on Dedication of the Lanc to VC Recipient Ian Bazalgette

Our spring newsletter announced the dedicating of the Lanc to the memory of Alberta-born, Victoria Cross recipient, Ian Bazalgette and all who flew in World War II.

Three surviving members of Squadron Leader Ian Bazalgette’s crew have been tracked down and contacted by the Society. They are wireless operator, Chuck Godfrey; flight engineer, George Turner; and rear gunner, Douglas Cameron. Along with the late Geoffrey Goddard, they were ordered to abandon the flaming Lancaster which Bazalgette attempted to land, in order to save his wounded bomb aimer and mid-upper gunner. The three survivors of this crew have responded to letters sent to them by the society and each have donated valuable information and memorabilia about Ian and the VC flight.

Some items received to date are: audiotapes describing the flight; photographs of the site where the Lancaster exploded; photos of the citizens of the French village of Senantes holding a memorial service; the text of an address made by the mayor of Senantes at this service; and further details regarding Squadron Leader Bazalgette and the ill-fated VC flight.

We have invited “Baz’s” crew members to visit the society and the Nanton Lancaster and there are indications that one or more are planning such a trip.

The society will continue to assemble information regarding Alberta’s WWII, VC recipient in order to create a future display in our museum. We also hope that our efforts to honour Squadron Leader Ian Bazalgette will not go unnoticed by our provincial government and that this may assist us in our efforts to preserve and restore an example of the aircraft he flew in helping to preserve our freedom. Our society believes the recognition of Bazalgette, Alberta’s only WWII recipient, is long overdue.

Mynarski Lancaster Over Nanton

What a great event! On the clear sunny morning of June 26, Canada’s only flying Lancaster flew over Nanton. The figure eight flypast came about because of the help given to Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWH) by our society.

In our society’s ongoing promotion of FM159 we exchanged its main undercarriage hydraulic cylinders, for use on VR-A, due to CWH having difficulty finding cylinders that could be made airworthy. NLS has since acquired two new replacement cylinders.

So a little piece of Nanton’s bomber is now part of every memorial flight made by the Mynarski Lanc. Other NLS trades with CWH have helped supply needed parts for the Nanton Lanc.

This flypast brought an estimated 1000+ visitors into town for this mid-morning event. One longtime Nanton resident said, after the historic flypast was over, “Never in Nanton’s history has any community event, that lasted less than 15 minutes, brought such large numbers of people into town from so many other communities and given such a thrill to all!” It was noted that people attended from such places as Calgary, Brooks, Lethbridge, Taber, Fort Macleod, Claresholm, Vulcan, Champion, High River and many other places. Also noted was the presence of several tourist from as far away as Ontario, Europe and the U.S.A.

The figure 8 flypast made every viewer think he or she had the best spot in town to see VR-A and for taking pictures. The students from the local public school, welcomed the memorial flypast by spelling out the words “HI VR-A” on the playground area, with their bodies.

The Nanton community extends its thanks to CWH and VR-A’s crew for letting our residents and visitors see first hand, Canada’s only flying Lancaster. The sound of four Merlin engines over this community will be remembered for a very long time.

The Day Before the VR-A Flypast

by Bob Evans

Your society organized a bus trip to Calgary on June 25th so that members and others could be on hand to see Lancaster VR-A arrive at the Calgary airport, for an overnight stay. Some 32 people were on board the Nanton community bus, with Jerry Kautz driving. Jerry donated his time. (Jerry and wife Violet own The Nanton Print Shop, which prints our newsletter).

We arrived on time but had to wait as the CWH Lanc was 3 hours late. The group filled in time by having lunch and then visiting the Calgary Aero Space Museum, which many in the group had not seen before. This made the trip even better.

Our bus was allowed out on the tarmac, due in part to our having helped CWH to get VR-A airworthy.

In spite of the wait, there were no complaints. Once VR-A arrived the reaction of everyone to the roar of the four Merlins and the sight of the great bird was expressed adequately by my 11 year old son with one word, “AWESOME”!

Our group was the first to be allowed to walk up to the Mynarski Lancaster! Then, several thousand other spectators were allowed in.

What a great thrill it was to see what nine years of effort had accomplished. A beautiful flying Lancaster! This was only a prelude to VR-A over Nanton the next day.

A Great Summer !!

The society has been trying for three years to convince the powers that be that the Lancaster bomber is a viable tourist attraction. This past season leaves no doubt whatever that this is so! 20,196 people visited the aircraft itself and 19,622 came into the small museum.

To have this many people stop in one short summer, promoted by a very limited budget, in our opinion, proves without any doubt that the Nanton Lancaster bomber and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, can and will attract many times those numbers, with a proper museum building.

Of course, credit for the good words heard about the tours can only go to the seven student tour guides, who were on duty every day during July and August. The six young ladies and one young man helped to inform those who stopped, about the bomber, the Avro Anson, WWII and in addition they gave out tourist information for the Nanton area and for southern Alberta.

Part of the agreement that NLS has with the town of Nanton is that the information building can house the BCATP museum, but NLS in turn looks after tourist information services.

We were lucky to have four of the 1988 tour guides reapply this year. One of them, Shannon Lind, was hired as supervisor and along with the other there “seasoned” veterans, they trained the three rookies. The 1989 “summer seven” did a fine job of promoting the bomber and museum.

During the summer a large number of WWII aircrew were among the visitors. In one two-day period in mid-July, no less than three extailgunners visited the Lancaster. One had completed 52 trips! The others had sat in the “suicide” seat for 32 and 41 trips! Many other aircrew with extended service signed our guest book.

Memberships and donation were up from 1988 by over 36%. Merchandise sales were only up by 11%, but this was due to our running out of caps, pins and larger T-shirts at the beginning of August. This in turn was due to a limited budget in the spring ordering. Next year we hope to be better stocked and with more variety.

Yes, it was an excellent summer and we look forward to doing even better in 1990.

A Visit from Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Personnel

On October 11th the NLS was honoured by a surprise visit from two of the key men in charge of the RAF, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. They were Warrant Officers Barry Sears and Bernie Childs, from the Coningsby Fighter Station in England. The Battle of Britain Flight consists of Britain’s only flying Lancaster, five Spitfires and two Hurricanes.

Barry is in charge of the Flight and of keeping its aircraft airworthy. Bernie is in charge of the airworthiness paper work for the fighter station’s F3 tornados, as well as doing this for Barry’s Flight, which is also based there.

They were in Alberta and the Nanton area to inspect Lanc parts belonging to Charles Church Spitfires Ltd. A representative of the late Charles Church had bargained for Lanc parts across the province, on a 1988 trip to Canada. (Church was killed in the crash of a Spitfire, this past July). These parts have been offered to the Memorial Flight.

Barry and Bernie attended the NLS monthly meeting that coincided with their visit. They also went up into FM159 and visited our museum. The society also hosted them for supper previous to the meeting. Both spoke at the meeting regarding their responsibilities and the Memorial Flight. They answered many questions from members present and were the highlight of the meeting.

Barry also confirmed that it was indeed pertinent the Lancaster be placed in a building. Both men spoke of aircraft in the UK that were totally ruined by the time efforts were made to preserve them properly, indoors.

Thanks, Barry and Bernie, for dropping in on us! We wish you continued success with your Flight.

Calgary Aero Space -Parts Storage

Our friends at the Calgary Aero Space Museum Association (ASMA) have run out of space for their extra Anson and Crane frames, cowlings, etc. As your editor’s acreage already has a stockpile of Anson carcasses, etc., it was agreed that they could park their “goodies” there as well.

Three loads later we now have a lot of spare parts on hand. The NLS has an agreement with ASMA that reads “these parts go to your (NLS) care, storage and use in the spirit of exchange. That is, these parts are exchanged for some future consideration should a need arise (for the Aero Space Museum) and if your society is in a position to respond to that need.”

This means only that if in the future the ASMA needs something from this storage, NLS will return it, provided the particular parts have not been used in an NLS project. In the latter case, the part (or parts) will be considered owned by NLS. It may also happen that we will acquire duplicate artifacts in the future, that we can give in return.

As both our organizations are trying to preserve a part of our aviation heritage, we anticipate a continued, mutually friendly and helpful relationship.

THANKS go out to the CALGARY AERO SPACE personnel, for their display loans and other help.

The Contest Winner -Ride Postponed

Yes, the draw was made for the ride in a two-place P-51 Mustang. Clifford Dickenson of Vancouver, B.C., was the winner. His name was drawn on August 7th at the bomber. All members’ names were written on slips of paper and placed in our draw “barrel.”

We regret, however, that the ride has not yet taken place. The delay has come about due to a leaky valve in the Merlin engine of Neil McClain’s Mustang. While this problem has now been cured, it has not been convenient for either Dickenson or McClain to get together for the ride. THis is now scheduled for sometime next spring.

Clifford Dickenson is a former WWII Lancaster bombaimer, with extensive wartime service. He was quite enthusiastic about the P-51 ride when first contacted. We certainly hope that the ride can be finalized in the spring of 1990.

Thanks to Artifact Donators

This list is only partial and we apologize to those whose names have not been mentioned here. All donations are gratefully received. A GRATEFUL THANKKS TO ALL DONATORS.

  • John and Barbara Mallandaine of Bowser, BC.: a “Gibson Girl” Radio, a “bent” .50 cal. machine gun, Etc. A story about the gun is to come.
  • Bill Christofferson, of Blackie, Alberta: WWII survival pack, first aid kit, Pilot’s Notes for Halifax II & VII, an RAF school notebook etc.
  • Irwin Few, Edmonton, Alberta: two TA-12 radio transmitters. Capt. Bessler, 408 Squadron delivered them.
  • Lew Rabone, Calgary, Alberta bombing target photos.
  • Elmer Sleeman, High River, Alberta: two Anson tires. Delivered by Dwain Nelson of High River.
  • Master Cpl. Bob Johnson, of 408 Squadron: a model of a DH Mosquito.
  • Jeff Thompson, Calgary, Alberta: More shop tools, and is making two replica .303 guns.
  • Richard deBoer, Calgary Alberta, for the box of bolts and other “goodies”.
  • Jon Spinks for the Boly exhibit.
  • Ernie and Agnes Oakman of Saskatchewan for adding tremendously to our collection with the Cornell!
  • A.E. Cormack, RAF Museum, Hendon, UK: for sending gun turret manuals.
  • Derek Runciman: for the Dowty, liveline hydraulic pump for Mk. IV and V Anson.

Lancaster Bits and Pieces

Literally, the above heading is for real! Just a few days before this newsletter went to print, we completed an agreement with the Canadian Forces Base at Shilo, Manitoba, regarding a Lanc cabin section on their gunnery range! (we have pictures of it.)

It’s not pretty, as it has been used as a weapons target! But it does have most of the formers intact. We have members with sheet metal skills who could eventually reskin it, for a “hands-on” museum display.

Our Lanc will eventually become off limits to the general public when we start to restore it to wartime configuration. At that time we would like to see some sort of replacement that the public can go right into.

Your editor and secretary treasurer, have been the main promoters of acquiring this hulk! We’ve endured great peals of laughter from some members, when trying to convince a meeting to go ahead with this project. John Dozeman still rolls on the floor when the subject comes up! He has admitted, however, that maybe, just maybe, it’s a good idea! (John is the fellow who works on Jacob’s engines with a carpenter’s “claw” hammer!) Editors always get the last word John!!

Press Time Update

NLS now owns another Lanc! Due to the efforts of CFM Shilo personnel, ALL THE PIECES of FM118 are now ready to be trucked to Nanton. MANY THANKS go to Capt. White and Major LaRocque at Shilo.

The President’s Corner

Since taking over the duties of this office from the capable hands of George White, there has been a blurr of activity. Our society has been extremely busy with a variety of things, including meetings, tourist programs and the acquiring of more World War II aircraft, etc. Everyone has had to become a “jack-of-all-trades” to keep up. When one is afflicted with the vintage aircraft “bug,” you discover talents that you never thought you possessed!

NLS had a very successful summer program. With the help of seven student tour guides, mor than 20,000 visitors toured the Lanc.>Most of these visitors also saw the expanded museum, with its Lanc fuel tank; tire with a wartime story; the Bazalgette VC display; the Bolingbroke display and others. There were many comments about the excellent displays we have in such a small space.

An outstanding event of this past summer was the June 26, CWH Lancaster flypast. Seeing that “old gal” fly over our own Lanc, brought tears to quite a few eyes and a lump in many a throat, including my own. This flypast has given added impetus to our own efforts.

Our friends from 408 Squadron in Edmonton always provide a thrill when they drop in with one of their helicopters. They were here again during the summer, delivering Lanc parts, etc. Our sincere thanks to Captain Bessler and his crew for their continued support!

The shop is being used again after being dormant most of the summer due to everybody’s hectic holiday plans. The rebuilding of the Martin mid-upper gun turret is now nearing completion. It should be finished by the first of December and will be part of next year’s museum display.

As reported elsewhere in this newsletter, we have acquired many “new” artifacts. The flying trip to Saskatchewan to view the Cornell was a thrill, especially landing there in winds gusting to 45 knots!

We now have some aircraft engineering and maintenance students from SAIT, who are interested in helping us with restoration. This could have very beneficial possibilities for all concerned.

Our biggest thrust right now is the drive to get a building to house and protect the Lanc and our other valuable BCATP artifacts. Every day the bomber stays outside adds more damage, so we are proposing a “bare bones” building to get things started toward this goal. Your help with the funding of this structure is vital to the project’s success. Please help us get this venture “off the ground”!

Dan Fox

Editorial Comments

As noted elsewhere in this newsletter, your executive has changed its direction regarding a museum building. it had become fairly evident that funding for the original building proposal was not going to come about soon enough.

After last winter’s storm, in which the port elevator was torn off, it was more than evident that the first priority is to get our valuable Lanc under cover as soon as possible.

This decision has resulted in renewed efforts to find funding, allocate a site for the smaller building and to involve you, the membership, in this new activity.

It should, however, be mentioned that the original, 19,000 sq. ft. building, has not been given up, but merely put in mothballs for the present. We are more than ever convinced that we have the site and the artifacts to eventually create a first class air museum. Preservation of our museum’s valuable central artifact, the Lancaster Bomber, along with a smaller museum is but the first stage in obtaining this.

This summer, the “mini” museum and the Bomber tours, again proved that we do indeed have a major tourist attraction. As of October 9th (Thanksgiving weekend) we had exceeded 20,000 visitors in the two full months (every day) and other weekends open! This represents an increase of nearly 40 percent over 1988! I predict that 1990 visitor numbers will be up again, due to our continuing promotions and word of mouth, by previous visitors.

Some changes have been made to the printed version of this newsletter due to feedback from you, our members. The names of the current executive and “ye” editor are now found in the newsletter.

Some members have indicated that they save our newsletters and object to having to cut out the membership form. Please feel free to renew by sending renewal information on a sheet of paper.