Newsletter – 1989 Spring and Summer

Engineer’s Predictions Correct Regarding Deterioration

Aircraft engineer Tim Mols, who spent some 10,000 helping to refurbish the Hamilton Lancaster, inspected our Bomber back in 1986. At that time he told NLS members it was just a matter of time until FM-159 would begin to show damage from 30 years of constant wind movement and Alta.. weather. In 1987 a small piece of sheet metal blew off one wing. In February of this year a wind storm tore the hinges out of the port elevator.

This damage makes it more than clear, that a museum to house the Lanc is needed very soon. Our valuable historic artifact is otherwise destined to deteriorate much more in the future. Only so much can be done to preserve it where it now sits, at the mercy of the wind. To date, funding for a museum has not been found. Other communities have received government funding, for projects no more worthy. It is indeed frustrating. Maybe our valid concerns would be recognized if all members wrote to our provincial premier supporting the “saving of the Lancaster!” The media tells us Alberta has $180 million in unused lottery funds. $2-3M would make our air-museum a reality. With highway #2 location the museum will be self sustaining as to its operation.

Regional Support Growing for NLS

NLS member Garth Hurl was handed a cheque for $2,000 by Claresholm Legion #41 spokesman Hugh Ashford.
The NLS cause is finding more and more support each year. In recent months we have received funds from several companies, organizations, as well as many individuals.

In addition we have received donations from other Royal Canadian Legions as follows:

  • RCL of Bowness #238;
  • RCL of High River #71;
  • RCL of Nobleford #257;
  • RCL of Banff #26;
  • RCL of Drumheller #22;
    (received to April 6/89)

This kind of regional support is very gratifying. It also helps to make it known, that saving the Lanc and promotion of a BCATP air museum is supported by people over a wide area of Alberta.THANK YOU TO THE LEGIONS.

Other people have donated many items and services to your Society. At the risk of missing some of you we would like to mention the following:

  • The NANTON PRINT SHOP, operated by Jerry and Violet Kautz, is long overdue for mention in this newsletter. They have donated time, photo lab work, materials and much needed advice on how to make this newsletter and our brochures better with each issue.
  • The NANTON TRUCK STOP carries our caps and pins at no charge, giving us all the proceeds which go to help fund NLS activities.
  • The NANTON NEWS has helped with promotion of NLS by reporting our activities, also with photographs for use in our newsletter.
  • The EAGLEVIEW POST, our regional newspaper, has also helped by giving NLS consistent publicity, reporting all the major happenings to do with the Bomber. They have also helped out with photos.
  • Our local radio station, CHRB, has given news coverage, promoting our activities and cause.
  • Mr. TOM FRANKISH, Foremost, AB, kindly gave us four (that’s correct 4 !) main wheels and tires for the Bomber! Having been stored inside they are in great shape. Tom also gave us two Lanc tail wheel forks.

A GRATEFUL THANK YOU to those listed above and to ALL donators.

The “Lanc” Dedicated to Alberta Bron Victoria Cross Recipient

The Society’s March 1989 meeting unanimously endorsed a motion which formally dedicated our Lancaster Bomber to the memory of Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC, DFC, COF,(and all who flew in World War II).

Ian Bazalgette was born at Calgary, AB, on October 19, 1918. His family later moved to Toronto and in 1927 emigrated to England. He received most of his education at The Downs, Wimbleton. When WW II broke out, he obtained a commission in the Royal Artillery. In 1941 he transferred to the Royal Air Force and was posted to No. 115 Squadron. In 1943 he was awarded the DFC for his actions in attacking such heavily defended targets as Berlin Essen, Duisber and Turin.

In April of 1044 he was sent to 638 Squadron. In August of that year, Bazalgette was to perform the most outstanding of heroic deeds, under terrible conditions of war.

The following are excerpts from the citation of his posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.

“On August 4, 1944, Squadron Leader Bazalgette was master bomber of a pathfinder squadron detailed to mark an important target at Trossy St. Maxim, France… Near the target the aircraft had both starboard engines knocked out by anti-aircraft guns and was on fire. The bomb-aimer was seriously wounded and then the deputy master bomber was shot down. With the success of the attack now depending on him, Bazalgette pressed on to the target, marking and bombing it accurately. With the aircraft nearly out of control, starboard wing on fire, a port engine out, the mid upper gunner unconscious from smoke and fumes, he ordered the rest of the crew to bail out. “He remained at the controls and attempted the almost impossible task of landing the crippled, blazing aircraft in a last effort to save the wounded bomb-aimer and helpless airgunner.”

“With superb skill and taking care to avoid a small French village nearby, he brought the aircraft down safely. Unfortunately it exploded after touching down and this gallant officer and his two comrades perished. His heroic sacrifice marked the climax of a distinguished career of operations against the enemy. He always chose the more dangerous and exacting roles and his courage and devotion to duty were beyond praise.”

Expanded Display Area for 1989

With the assistance of a grant from the Alberta Museums Assoc. and the co-operation of the Town of Nanton, the Society is significantly expanding its museum area in the Tourist Information Building adjacent to the aircraft. We hope to have the following new displays available for viewing on “Open Bomber Weekend” (May 14th and 15th).

  • (1) A completed Jacobs engine (restored by the NLS shop crew) along with photos and information as to our Avro Anson currently on display next to the Lancaster.
  • (2) Our Martin mid-upper gun turret with newly acquired perspex dome and two .50 cal. machine guns is being reassembled in our shop.
  • (3) A Bolingbroke (twin engined WW II bomber) cockpit section currently being restored by owner and NLS member Jon Spinks, together with photos and story regarding this aircraft.
  • (4) A Lancaster main wheel and tire that saw action in WW II. An information sheet and photos tell the story of this tire, how it came back to Canada after the war, what became of its aircraft, and how NLS came to acquire it.
  • (5) A display honouring those Canadians who won the Victoria Cross while serving on Lancasters during the war.
  • (6) A second video display with newly acquired Lancaster and WW II information.
  • (7) A Lancaster #2 fuel tank showing the self-sealing covering. Photos and written information will describe how bombers were attacked and shot down by enemy night fighters.
  • (8) A mannequin will demonstrate aircrew flight clothing.

We hope all our members will be able to visit the museum this summer to view these and other displays that are being prepared. We are working to make it better every year.

Oil Companies’ Donations Purchase Equipment for NLS Shop

NLS members, Garth Hurl, who works for Chevron Resources, and Fred Hollowell, employed by Shell Canada, were instrumental in having their employers give substantial grants to the Society’s shop. The result is a compressor and a glass bead blower combination which is certainly making the cleaning of the Lancaster turret and engine parts easier. Those volunteers who are currently dismantling the Jacobs and putting the mid upper turret back together have been behaving like kids with new toys.


Trade with Canadian Warplane Heritage Completed

The Nanton Lancaster Society enjoys working together with other aircraft museums to the mutual benefit of all. we have recently completed the transportation of parts involved in a major trade with Canadian Warplane Heritage of Mount Hope, Ontario.

This trade involved the NLS shipping undercarriage retract jacks (of which we have spares) to CWH for use on their flying Lancaster. In addition, we sent spare sets of ailerons and flaps. We have received two Lancaster mainwheels and tires which CWH had on their flying Lanc, as well as numerous other items.

However, visitors won’t see these tires on the Nanton Lanc until such time as it is in a covered museum. If we put them on the plane now they would deteriorate in the sun and be ruined just like the tires that are now on the aircraft. Our new tires will be safely stored away with numerous other items awaiting the building, and proper restoration of the Lancaster.

We again have Mullen Trucking of Aldersyde, AB, to thank for the transportation of these items. Mullen is the firm who gave major help a year ago with gathering up Anson carcasses with “Operation Annie.” THANK YOU-MULLEN TRUCKING.

Summer 1989 Program

After our successful program last year, we are looking forward to even more visitors in 1989. The museum and aircraft will be open for tours on weekends beginning with “Open Bomber Weekend” on May 14th and 15th, and then daily following July 1.

We hope to expand the format of the tours this summer, allowing visitors to enter the bomb-aimer’s compartment through the escape hatch, climb up into the cockpit, and through the fuselage to exit through the crew door. It is with some trepidation that the society is planning these expanded tours as damage to the aircraft is a real concern. However, we feel that the more visitors become aware of the aircraft, the better our chances are of eventually restoring the Lanc in a building where it may be properly preserved.

The extended tours and expanded museum displays will increase donations and membership sales as well as demonstrate even more the Lancaster’s potential as a tourism attraction.

Due to limited personnel and shift schedules, tours of the aircraft will take place from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. The museum and tourist building will be open, however, from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. This should help out both the early tourists who are needing information. Our museum will also get 12 hours exposure to the travelling public.

NLS Meets with Politicians and Goverment Officials

Your Society is pleased to have been able to establish a number of valuable contacts within the government of Alberta, both with politicians and senior government officials. Our project is becoming better known to both the Dept. of Culture (responsible for museums) and the Dept. of Tourism.

Your NLS executive recently met with Mr. David Milne of the Dept. of Tourism and in addition our museum proposal was presented to our newly elected MLA, Mr. Don Tannas. On April 6 we met with Mr. Eric Waterton, Provincial Museums Director. Eric toured the Lanc, our museum, the shop and was also shown one of our “stockpiles” of Anson, Crane, and other Lanc parts. We have also communicated with the office of the provincial premier.

The Society is stressing to these people the following points:

  • The aircraft is deteriorating and must be put in a building soon if it is to survive.
  • Existing government grant programs are impossible for us to use because we cannot do anything of lasting significance to the aircraft without a building. All programs to do with the buildings have to have matching funds. We do not have the large sums needed to build a museum building.
  • The continuing interest and support by members and tourist visitors proves the viability of a BCATP museum with the Lancaster as the centrepiece. The recent regional interest shown by such groups as Royal Canadian Legions, is indeed encouraging also.

Back in the Turret 40+ Years Later

Last November, the NLS was pleased to give a special tour, of the Lanc to Harold and Audrey Clark, of Nova Scotia. They were in Nanton visiting their daughter and son-in-law.

Harold spent some time in the early 1940’s, as a tailgunner in a Lancaster helping the win the war. He was quite interested in trying out that seat after 40 years. Like most of the former aircrew that have visited the Lanc, he expressed the view that the aircraft seemed somewhat smaller than he remembered.

Harold filled us in on how a tailgunner dressed and what it was like to get in and out of the small space. One item was of particular interest. This was regarding parachutes. Harold stated that a regulation chute could not be worn, but was placed just in the back of the aircraft, close to the turret. It was impossible to put on without exiting from the turret. His solution was a seat chute.

Regular tour timing and hazards do not permit access to turrets, etc. We do, however, try to accommodate ex-aircrew if possible.

Harold was in #433 Porcupine Squadron.

Link Trainer

The “Link” was used for training pilots for instrument flight in the classroom. It was invented during the 1930’s by American, Edwin A. Link. By 1934 he had 1000 employees producing his trainer. By 1937 he also had a factory in Canada. When the US entered the war, they took all Link’s US production. By war’s end it had developed into a very sophisticated time saving trainer, a far cry from Link’s first basement model.

We have the fuselage and base of a Link trainer on hand, thanks to the Western Development Museum in Moose Jaw, Sask. However it is missing many parts. Needed are its components, etc., etc. Anything at all would be welcome. If you have any information as to where we might come up with these items, please contact us.

Theh Bolingbroke (Blenheim)

The Bolingbroke was built in Canada by Fairchild, and was the Canadian version of the British Blenheim bomber. The distinctive nose, with its scalloped appearance was an attempt to increase the pilot’s view on takeoff and landing.

The Blenheim Mk.1 first flew in 1935, and at that time could fly faster than the RAF’s fastest fighter plane. It had a very blunt nose. Two years later the Blenheim IVs were introduced, with the longer nose to accommodate a navigator and a bomb-aimer. Previously one person combined these positions. It now had a crew of four.

A Blenheim IV made history when it made the first RAF sortie of WWII, by photographing the German fleet at Wilhelmshaven. These aircraft served mostly as bombers, but some were fitted with four .303 machine guns and used as night fighters. However, by 1941 the development of faster aircraft had made the Blenheim obsolete.

The RCAF used the Bolingbroke for antisubmarine reconnaissance, but only one ever found, attacked and damaged a sub. Most Canadian Bolingbrokes were used for training and target towing.

Lethbridge member Jon Spinks has been accumulating parts for eventual rebuilding of a Bolingbroke. Our museum display is part of his collection, on loan to NLS.

408 Squadron Helps Again

In the past six months or so, the Society has received extensive support from our friends at 408 Squadron in Edmonton. In November last year, Lt. Craig Bessler and officer cadet Richard Jasmin delivered an official 408 Squadron crest to us by helicopter. This will be placed on the Lancaster sometime this spring. On this same occasion, the mayor of Nanton, Mrs. Patty Du Bois, presented Lt. Bessler with a Nanton flag.

Also in the fall of 1988, they gave us a good deal on the last of their Lanc parts, for which some of our members travelled to CFB Edmonton to bring back.

In February 89, Captain Bessler (note that he has been promoted) was again in Nanton via Helicopter to deliver a replica machine gun. He was accompanied on this trip by Cpl. Louise Drummond.

The Society is having several replica guns made, by copying 408 Sqdrn’s. sample. These will be mounted in our Bomber’s present turrets and also in the rebuilt turret that will be on display in our expanded museum this summer. Again we have 408 Sqdrn. and Captain Bessler to thank for one more step in upgrading of the Lancaster.

The Contest !!!

Have you been leafing through this newsletter, looking for facts about the promised contest, the prize being a ride in a Mustang of WW II vintage? Well, here is the information you seek!

Your executive pondered several contest ideas and decided to keep it simple. All that you will require to be eligible will be to have a paid-up 1989 MEMBERSHIP. All those who have met this requirement by MONDAY, AUGUST 7th, will be eligible for the draw. All the names of paid up 1989 members will be placed in a drum and one name only will be drawn for the Mustang ride. THE DRAW TO TAKE PLACE AT 12 NOON, AT THE BOMBER.

Mr. Neil McClain, the Mustang owner, has agreed to fly the lucky winner on whatever date is mutually suitable for both himself and the winner. The NLS will make all the arrangements for the flight, but the winner must arrange for his/her transportation to and from their home, to Nanton.

Progress in the Shop

The shop crew, as mentioned in the last newsletter, has been busy nearly every Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon. Some new faces have been seen helping out!

The accessories for the Jacobs engine, that is in the museum, are cleaned, painted, ready to install. These are components that are unusable for a runable engine, however, they look like new on the exterior.

Another Jacobs, this time a runable one, is in the works. It is hoped that the parts of the two engines now being carefully dismantled, will have all the parts needed. What was learned with the display engine is now being put to good use.

The Martin turret, which your Society had hoped to have in the museum last season, now has the full attention of shop boss, Lenard Hoffarth. The new “toys” mentioned on page 8 are making parts cleanup for this project a snap. We hope to have the turret on display by June 30. In the mean-time, another nearly complete turret may be placed on temporary display.

Presently under serious discussion, is the possibility of construction of a shop building, using a lot supplied by the Town. We are investigating to see if there is a government grant that fits this category. Such a building would be an interim solution until a museum is in place. While this is of no help in protecting the Lancaster, it could facilitate parts storage and enable other renovation projects to get under way. Presently parts for Anson, Cessna Crane, the Lanc, etc., are stored in members farm yards, granaries and basements. Inventory taking is impossible. Our own shop building would be a step ahead.

The shop now has several very specialized engine tools made by Mr. Jeff Thompson of Calgary.

Retiring President’s Words

Having had the privilege of being president through these formative years, I would like to review with you the accomplishments of the Society since its inception.

NLS grew from a fledgling born in the spring of 1986, out of community concern for the Bomber. It has since become a full grown, dynamic organization, composed of enthusiastic regional volunteers and some 700 members throughout Canada, the U.S.A. Britain, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

Even from the initial cleanup of the Lanc for its first “Open Bomber Day” we have surged ahead. Looking back, our first mandate was to care for the Lanc, but early on, the idea of an air museum with the Bomber as centerpiece became another prime goal. This initiated the gathering up of remnants of other BCATP aircraft for eventual rebuilding. In 1987 parts for Ansons, Cranes, and Lancs began to accumulate.

Our first “Open Bomber Day” brought hundreds to visit the aircraft. We began also to have working relations with other groups who were trying to save the remaining aircraft of WWII. This has helped NLS to find many of the needed parts for the Lanc, as well as technical knowledge.

1988 saw our largest one day field trip to date. “Operation Annie,” moved eight Anson carcasses to Nanton from the far reaches of southwest Alberta. Some of our members also travelled to the Western Development Museum at Moose Jaw, Sask., to bring back Anson parts, a Link Trainer fuselage and Cessna Crane parts.

The 1988 summer program confirmed our belief that the Lancaster and an air museum are viable tourist attractions. This program, open only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. attracted nearly 15,000 people.

In the coming year it looks like even greater things will be happening, with the planned activities noted in this newsletter.

My visit to CWH, Hamilton, as NLS representative, to the inaugural flight of their Lancaster last fall, was a highlite for me personally. CWH’s success confirms that our aim to refurbish FM159, is indeed possible.

We have just received word that the Hamilton Lancaster is tentatively scheduled to fly over Nanton on June 26th! The whole town will be looking forward to this event. I wish we had a runway, wouldn’t it be great to see two Lancs side by side again! This flying Lanc will be visiting many places across Canada and the U.S. this summer.

Your new president, Dan Fox brings to NLS a younger person’s energies that will without doubt make NLS an even more viable organization. I still plan to be an active member of the Society in other ways and look forward to the Society’s success in the coming year and beyond.

George White

Editorial Notes

On March 30, 1989, NLS members Dan Fox, Dave Birrell and myself had the pleasure of attending the dinner meeting of the Calgary Air Crew / YOW Association. We were there primarily to see if their members would be interested in sponsoring audio recorders for our present museum displays. Later when the meeting was over, we left slightly overwhelmed after being in the company of men whose experiences would make the best of fiction pale by comparison. These are the men who overcame the tyranny of the Third Reich so that we might be free. Although they would deny it to a man, they are of the same mold as Robert H. Gray, Ian Bazalgette and others, who are the recognized heroes of that past historic record.

During lunch your editor sat next to a man who had been a POW for five years! He had gone to England prior to the war and joined the RAF where he trained to be a fighter pilot. Just after the fall of France to the Nazis, he found himself piloting, not a fighter plane, but a twin engined Blenheim bomber. With just four and a half hours flight time in this aircraft type, he was sent on an operation to find and bomb the many small airfields that the Germans were building in France. On this, his first sortie, he and his crew found such a target, bombing it without being shot at, until he was climbing out of a dive and into wallowing, more or less level flight. A forced landing was made when it was decided that return to England was impossible. He and his crew all walked away from the crash landing and spent the next five years as prisoners of war.

I’m sure that all of this group could relate a similar story.

A guest also related his experience of being shot down over France. He had escaped capture and found the French Underground which helped him across France and into Spain. After being interned there a few months (they didn’t believe he was a Canadian) he was taken to Gibraltar and then to England.

We left the meeting confident that our goal of an air museum of the memorabilia of WWII and the BCATP is indeed worthwhile. Our recent dedication fo the Lanc to Ian Bazalgette and all those who participated in the WWII aviation effort is most fitting.