From the Log of Lanc 159
by Bert Clark
Just after midnight on the morning of February 19, 1956, my crew and I took off from RCAF Comox, B.C. Our destination was Ocean Station Papa (a Met ship stationed 300 miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island).
After climbing over the mountains I let down to 1500 ft. and set heading. Not only was it dark but we were also in solid cloud (situation normal). About 200 miles out #4 engine (stb. outer) suddenly exploded and burned with a great shower of flames and sparks. Co-pilot F/O Erickson feathered the propeller and activated the fire extinguisher which in short order put out the fire. The Radio Officer informed Operations of what had happened and in order to return to base the normal route I began our climb to 10,000 ft. to get over the mountains into Comox. There was absolutely no problem. I’m sure we could have done it on two engines. The Lanc is a superb aircraft.
While climbing to altitude, the Radio Officer received a message from Operations suggesting that we return by descending and flying around the south end of the island instead of returning over “the top.” I instructed him to inform Ops that all was well and we would maintain course.
At this point the flight became one of the more memorable in my 22 years as an RCAF pilot. Everything was quite normal. It was a dirty black rainy foggy night and communications were difficult. I received another message from Ops which directed me to return via the low level circuit around the island.
So I let down to 1,000 ft. and headed south. Moments later we lost all communications, Loran and ADF! As far as navigation went, we were blind. The Navigator gave me a course to clear the island and F/O Erickson kept up a continuous SOS on R.T. Response came from Nea Bay (US Search & Rescue) who suggested they send out an aircraft with all lights flashing to guide us. They were airborne in 15 minutes and we then had someone to talk to. They stayed at 1,000 ft. and we went to 300ft. Suddenly we saw the lights of Vancouver, which meant we were in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. In a few moments the ADF came back on and communications suddenly were re-established with Comox. With a ceiling still only 400 ft, I did a GCA approach.
In retrospect, maybe the incident was not really all that important. Perhaps the real story is the incredible Lancaster. In this story it was 159. She performed superbly!
After 5:20 hours of flight I parked on the tarmac and cut the engines. We all sat for several minutes and said nothing. I’m sure we were all thanking the old girl for bringing us safely home.
I know the Nanton Lancaster Society will take good care of her!
July 25, 1992 Grand Opening Of The New Museum
Attention all members! The grand opening of your new museum building will be Saturday, July 25, 1992. Phase I is complete and we invite all of you to celebrate this milestone in our Society’s ongoing preservation activities.
A complete day of activities is planned which we hope will do justice to the efforts and contributions of all involved in the development of the museum.
Lt. Gen. (Ret’d) Reg Lane; Mr. Lane was the first C/O of 405 Sqd., the Canadian Pathfinder Sqd., after volunteering for a third tour with Bomber Command. He had a distinguished wartime career as a pilot and C/O and was chosen to fly the first Canadian built Lancaster from Malton to Europe. His postwar career culminated in his being appointed as Deputy Commander of NORAD. Reg Lane is an excellent and sought after speaker and we are honoured to have him participate in our grand opening.
Lt. Col. “Duke” Warren DFC; Duke was born in Nanton and had a distinguished career as a WWII Spitfire pilot and an F-86 Sabre pilot in Korea. he participated in our 1990 Dedication ceremonies and will be the master of ceremonies at the opening.
Lt. Dan Robinson; Lt. Robinson will lead the formation of four Tudor jets to culminate the flying portion of the afternoon ceremonies. Dan was educated in Nanton and is the grandson of one of the Nanton citizens responsible for saving our Lancaster from being scrapped in 1960. His parents and grand parents live in Nanton.
A pancake breakfast will begin the morning’s activities which will feature r/c model airplane flying and static displays.
The afternoon will include ultra light aircraft, a military band, tributes to our individual aircrew, Legion, corporate supporters, and the official opening which will involve Alberta’s Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Don Sparrow. As well the plaques which honour our supporters will be unveiled. A flypast of military and vintage aircraft will culminate the afternoon events.
The schedule for the day is as follows:
- 8:00 to 10:00 – Pancake Breafast
- 9:00 – Museum opens
- 10:00 – R/C model airplanes
- 12:00 – Special displays at the museum open
- 14:00 – Military band
- 14:30 – Official Opening
- 15:30 – Flypast
- 17:30 – Cocktails
- 18:30 – Banquet
- 20:00 – Dance
Grand Opening day seems to be shaping up into an event that will rival our dedication day in 1990. Cost of the evening banquet and dance will be $25 per person.
Through this newsletter we are giving advance notice of the event to NLS members. Please let us know as soon as posible if you wish to attend as we will be opening sales to the public. We expect demand to be great for a limited number of tickets.
The Vulcan Blackboard
On May 22, 1992 we will be moving a BCATP Operations blackboard, with the names of the last class to graduate at #19 SPTS (Vulcan) still chalked on it to our museum.
This artifact was generously donated by Bill Thornhill, of Thornhill Ranching Supplies, who owns the wartime hanger at the old BCATP training base.
This artifact is illustrated in the book “Aerodrome of Democracy” by F.J. Hatch (pg. 195). Whili it is not is as good shape as it was when photographed for Hatch’s book, most of the names are still legible. This fragile piece of history is just one more part of the BCATP to be preserved in the Nanton Air Museum to date.
Recent contacts with the Calgary Glenbow Museum have resulted in ttremendous help in preserving and moving the blackboard. Their team of preservation personnel have visited the site, analysed it and will be on hand to help on moving day to prepare thi board for moving. Our thanks to all Glonbow presonnel for their help!
We will report fully on the move in the fall newsletter.
1992 Contest – Fly With Charley Money
For the second year in a row our friend Charley Money has donated a ride in his Harvard to the winner of this year’s “Flying Contest.” so remember te get those memberships in for 1992, as we will be drawing a name from a list of members who have a paid-up membership as of July 25, 1992 at 11:00 a.m. THANKS to Charley for his great support!
Lots of Square Feet Still For Sale
We have been very pleased with the support received from members through the purchase of Lifetime Memberships and Square Footer Club Memberships. Details regarding these membership options appear on page 3.
As of May 11,1992 437 groups and individuals have chosen one of these options and have made contributions of $100 or more. This does now include the very substantial corporate donations made directly to the building.
We have members in all 10 provinces and 20 of the United States. As well, the countries of New Zealand, Blazil, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Belgium are represented.
Several “Square Footers” have upgraded their memberships to “Lifetime.” The broadly based, continuing support from several hundred members has been most encouraging and is responsible for the development of the museum.
The plaques which will honour our Square-Foot and Lifetime members have been made and will soon be on display in the museum. Many make reference to Squadron numbers and decorations. Others are inscribed in memory of individuals. this information, together with various towns, cities, provinces, etc., make an inpressive testimonial to the level of support for the Society’s goals.
Limited Edition Print Sales Support Society
Sale of the John Rutherford painting “Morning Test Fliht” are helping to finance museum development. the painting depicts a flight mde by Ian Bazalgette VC an his ccrew prior to the Vicoria Cross flight on August 4, 1944. the aircraft’s markings (FT-T) are clearly visible and , of course, those are now on the Ian Bazalgette Memorial Lancaster on display in the museum.
Prints sell for $65 (including GST) plus $10 for postage and handling. A summary of the Victoria Cross flight is included. All profits go to the Society and prints may be ordered by mail or purchased at the museum.
by Dan Fox (NLS President)
At the annual meeting of the Society, Bob Evans was appointed the first curator of The Nanton Lancaster Air Museum. Bob was a founding member of the Society and has worked tirelessly toward its success in numerous capacities. Bob will be responsible for dealings with other museums and the management and development of collections.
Now that our museum is finally established in the new building, we are most interested in donations of additional artifacts for display and preservation.
If you know of any artifacts, large or small, anywhere, in which you feel the museum might be interested, please call Bob at the museum. It is hoped that an answering machine will be on line before long, so that messages may be left. Once this is in place, all messages will be answered as soon as possible.
Some items of interest are:
- Any Lancaster parts
- Merlin engines and parts
- Any make of aircraft engine
- Airspeed Oxford remains
- DH Tiger Moth and/or parts
- Preserved Anson parts
- Cessna Crane and/or parts
- Cornell wings, engines, parts
- Westland Lysander/or parts
- B-25, B-26, P-40, Hurricane Spitfire
- Douglas DC-3 and/or parts
Any aircraft from the WWII era or previous. A CF-100 or other for outside display. Virtually anything to do with aircraft, such as instruments, radios, flight gear, masuals for engines, radions, and airframes.
NLS can give tax receipts for donations if donor desires. Your help in collecting artifacts for the museum would be very much appreciated.
New Museum Building Now Open
Although numerous small projects remain to be completed, the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum opened to the public on the Victoria Day long weekend.
Painting was the priority for our volunteers in March and early April. A major moving weekend in late April involved fiteen volunteers and the use of Magwood Motor’s forklift. All the display cabinets, engines, paintings, and other displays were moved from the old tourist information building and placed in previously planned spots in the new building. Several artifacts which have been in storage were moved to the museum as well. the move was a “maximum effort” but by Sunday afternoon everything was in place.
Since that date the effort has been directed towards the finalization of displays, placing pictures on the walls, and positioning artifacts and interpretive information in display cabinets.
Much remains to be done and there are numerous possibilities for future development mut the naton lancaster Air Museum is now open. We invite all our members and the public to enjoy what we have to offer and to learn more of the contributions made by Bomber Command to the WWII efort. Also artifacts from the British Commonwealth Air training Plan are exhibited to tell the story of that temendous wartime undertaking that trained some 130,000 aircrew from throughout the British Commonwealth.
Calgary Chapter Completes “Operation Crystal Palace”
Just as 1991 was closing out and after eighteen months of planning and waiting our long awaited spare parts arrived from England.
On December 17, 1991 RAF C-103 Hercules transport based at RAF Lyneham arrived at Calgary airport. On board were three mid-upper turret domes (purchased from Mr. Brian Perry) and the majority of Lanc flight instruments the Society needs to complete our second pilot’s instrument panel. These had been obtained for us by UK member and old friend Jon Spinks.
Also on board were complete sets of the WWII navigational aids, GEE, G-H, a Rebecca unit, several key parts of an H2S radar set, a T1 bombsight, and an F24 camera. These items had been obtained in a trade with Mr. Bernard Salter. The Society agreed to give the cockpit section of Lancaster FM118 (obtained from CFB Shilo, manitoba, in 1989) to Mr. Salter in exchange for the above items.
We wish to extend our thanks to the United Kingdom Mobile Air Movement Sqd. RAF, whose help made transportation of these artificts possible. A thank-you also goes to Lawrence Custom Brokers for their advice on importing.
Operation Crystal Palace is now complete except that we are awaiting an empty RAF Hercules to transport FM118’s cockpit section to England for bernard Salter.
Ernie Oakman 1910 – 1991
The Society lost a supporter and friend on Octorber 22, 1991.
Ernie Oakman, left us suddenly without having visited the Nanton Lancaster or museum.
Yet he had generously donated Fleet Fawn #264, Cornel #14424,
four different aircraft engines, and many many smaller artifacts and parts.
In tribute to Ernie, we have herewith printed his story, as told by his son Larry.
Ernest Oakman was born March 24, 1910, at Melfort, Sask. His family moved to Stewart Valley, Sask., in 1918, where he was to spend the rest of his life.
As a boy he was fascinated by airplanes and when one flew over he would watch until it disappeared. On Christmas his sister received a humming top. The first hime he heard it, he rushed outside without coat or boots only to return moments later with a sheepish look saying, “I thought it was an airplane!” He built and flew models in his spare time while yearning to actually be in the air humself.
In 1931 Ernie was able to do some flying in Swift Current, Sask., so had some air time when in1932 two “barn-storming” pilots came to his hometown to give joy rides. They asked for a volunteer to make a parachute jump – of course Ernie was their man! the parchute lines became entagled when he jumped, but Ernie was able to spin his body untill they straightened out and he made a seccessful landing. He was never bothered by the possible consequences, it was just one more thing he wanted to do.
During the winter of 1933-34, Ernie spent countless hours constructing a wooden glider. In the spring he assmbled it out in the farm yard to make sure that everything fit properly, prior to covering the wings. While it was sitting in the yard, the bull got out of its corral and proceeded to totally demolish the glider! That ended all plans of flying for several years.
Ernie would have joined the Air frfoce for WWII, but with a wife and a young family along with his parents’ farm to look after, he made his contribution by producing food.
In 1946 he took flying lessons in Swift Current, learning to fly in a Piper Cub and a Cessna 170. After earning his wings, he bought three war surplus PT-26’s (Cornells) from which he made one flyable. Ernie flew this imachine for countless hours, nono of which were ever entered in his official log book, as it was illegal to fly war surplus aircraft.
Ernie loved to do stalls, spins, etc. Once he was seen to spin down into the deep valley where the Swift Current Creek empties into the South Saskatchewan River. When he recovered, the aircraft was well below the horizon. When the episode was mentioned, Ernie always claimed that he knew exactly where he was at all times.
In the winter the Cornell was put on skis and Ernie would put his brother in the back cockpit with a rifrle and they would fly the coulees, hunting coyotes. Once they landed to pick up a coyote and the tail ski broke. Ernie hiked to a nearby farm, borrowed a small metal shovel which he wired on in place of the broken ski. However, hunting ended when his brother, firing at a coyote, narrowly missed the propeller. Ernie promptly flew home and that was the last of the hunting!
In 1953 Ernie parked the Cornell as he felt it was no longer safe to fly and actually allowed his licence to lapse. meanwhile he had purchased a Fleet Finch which he now assembled. Occasionally he started the etngine and taxied around the farm yard. Instead of putting gas in the wing tank he mounted a two gallon tank on the side of the fuselage. One evening while taxiing, (?) complete with helmet and gogglges, he applied too much throttle and became airborne! The wind in the open cockpit kept turning the helmet and covering his eyes. The instant responses of the biplane made it difficult to control with one hand while holding the helmet straight with the other. He knew he couldn’t stay airborne for long with the limited amount of fuel, so after a wide circuit he managed to land the plane safely. Shortly after that the Fleet was dismantled, stored and he never flew it again.
In 1965 Ernie renewed his licence again and purchased an Aeronca Champ. He joined the sask. Flying farmers (SFF) and he and Agnes attended many SFF fly-ins in the next few years.
In the early 1970s, Ernie began to have trouble with high blood pressure, lost his pilot’s licence and then sold the Champ. he was grounded again. Following open heart surery in 1977, he was going to try to renew his licence, but never did. Instead, he continued to salvage WWII aircaft that he had noted in farm yards in his flying days. At one point he found the remains of a Hurricane which eventually went to Washington state. He located two Lysanders which he sold to the RCAF. One of these was restored and is now in the War Museum in Ottawa. A third Lysander went to Harry Whereatt of Assiniboia, Sask. Harry also onded up with Ernie’s Fleet 7s, one of which he restored. Ernie got the other (364) back on a trade for another Hurricane.
Ernie was extremely pleased that the Nanton Museum was interested in his remaining Fleet and Cornell. He was looking forward to seeing them in the museum and restored, but unfortunaately did not live long enough to see that. His family is very grateful to the Nanton Lancaster Society for the recognition given to him at their museum.
Where are the Bombers
George E. Surbey (ex-Nave., #103 sqd.) of Lethbridge, AB sent us the following poem by Audrey Grealy.
We hope you like it, as we did.
Where are the bombers, the Lances on the runway.
Snub nosed and roaring and blackfaced and dour.
Full up with aircrew and window and ammo.
And dirty grey cookies to drop on the Ruhr.
Where are the pilots, the navs and airgunners.
Wops and bombaimers and flight engineers.
Lads who were bank clerks and milkmen and teachers.
Carpenters, lawyers and grocers and peers.
Geordies and Cockneys and Wiltshire moonrakers.
Little dark men from the valleys of Wales.
Manxmen, Devonians, Midlanders, Scouses.
Jocks from the highlands and Tykes from the Dales.
Where are the Aussies, the sports and the cobblers.
Talking of cricket and sheilas and grog.
Flying their Lancs over Hamburg and Stettin.
And back to the Linclnshire winter-time bog.
Where are the fliers from Canada’s prairies.
From cities and forests to win.
Thumbing their noses at Goering’s Luftwaffe.
And busily dropping their bombs on Berlin.
Where are the Poles with their gaiety and sadness.
All with unpronounceable names.
Silently, ruthlessly flying in vengeance.
Remembering their homes and their country in flames.
Where are the Kiwis who left all the sunshine.
For bleak windy airfields and fenland and dyke.
Playing wild mess games like high cockalorum.
And knocking the hell out of Hitler’s Third Reich.
The Lancs are no more, they are part of a legend.
But memory stays bright in the hearts of men.
Who flew them through flak and hellfire.
And managed to land them in England again.
The men who were lucky to see victory.
The men who went home to their jobs and their wives.
The men who can tell their grandchildren with pride.
Of the bomber which helped save millions of lives.
The President’s Column
Well, it’s finally happened! We’re moved into our new building and the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum is now a reality. The south “wing” was completed in time for the ’92 tourist season by a dedicated group of volunteers and tremendous support from local businesses.
A lot of people (including my wife) are wondering why those crazies in the Lanc Society would want to spend all their spare time working to preserve old airplanes. After massaging sore muscles from lifting heavy items like aircraft engines, etc., I’ve begun to wonder myself. However, I think I’ve found the answer in a recent book by John McQuarrie entitled “till We Meet Again,” a picture tribute to the men and machines used by the RCAF in WWII. He states in his introduction, – “Éwars have another side. Just as they bring out the worst in us, so too do they bring out our best.” That comes into focus when we experience these wonderful artifacts of an era now in history, exuding courage, strength, selflessness, patriotism,. Seeing, hearing, touching and being touched by these proud historic aircraft is just the tonic we need in these complex times, to help show us who we really are!
Fortunately there are a number of organizations and individuals dedcated to preserving (and flying) these time machines.
If our Society succeeds in only passing on to upcoming generations the importance of capturing the spirit and essence of those times, then we have been successful. These items are a port of all our goals. To make sure that succeeding generations know of the part played by our artifacts and of the men and women who used them to ensure freedom. To this we remain dedicated.
Curator / Editor’s Words
At the annual meeting in April I was somewhat stunned by President Dan Fox’s motion, that I be nominated to be first curator of the new museum. Herewith I would like to thank the members for this honor and I will try to fill this position to the best of my ability. Nothing has changed really, all your executive, including curator, are volunteers, still “pressing on regardless.”
I am an ex-Saskatchewan farmer, retired, and a Nanton resident for 1 years. I held a private pilots license for 20 years. I have a general knowledge of all the artifacts in the museum at present. With my being a lifelong aviation enthusiast, it was a natural that I would end up as one of the persons dedicated to preserving Lanc FM159 and our other vintage aircraft.
Enough of that. I do have some ideas which need to be expressed herewith, which pertain to how our future restoration actions need to be undertaken. I have been concerned for some time that we have not really sat down and spelled out how the restoration process will be governed. however, the time to set some basic guidelines is now here.
David Maude, curator of the B.C. Aviation Museum at Sidney, B.C., expressed explicitly, in one of his curator’s notes last year, a fundamental guideline for restoration saying, “As a museum, it is our responsibility to restore as accurately as possible. Perhaps the last two words say the story: AS POSSIBLE. I am of the opinion that if it is at all possible to do it right, then do it right. If the wing of an aircraft was made of spruce, don’t use fir. If it was covered with cotton, don’t use synthetic fabrics. If it had leather upholstery, don’t use nogahide.”
I hope the Nanton Lancaster Society will adopt this same type of thinking and stick with it. Let’s do it slow and right.