Newsletter – 1993 Spring and Summer

Chapter Restores Rear Gun Turret

by Larry Wright

In March 1992, the Society’s Calgary Chapter undertook the restoration of the Lancaster’s Frazer-Nash FN-121 rear gun turret.

At the outset of the project the crew of Richard Ambler, Bill Howe, Andrew Dale and Larry Wright had decided to return the turret to fully operational condition. The cupola, bullet feed, gun cradles, hydraulic rotation, gun controls, and electrical subassemblies, were first removed.

Each subassembly was then stripped down and prepared for cleaning. As boxes of parts rapidly grew, so did the seemingly endless journeys to a local hot tanking facility to remove paint, dirt and corrosion. Then it took several trips to the NLS shop for final cleaning by glass-beading. Finally each part was assessed as to its usefulness to the overall project.

It was with some concern that the crew began to eye the list of non usable items. However, an appeal to local companies soon resulted in pledges of hearings, hydraulic fittings, plexiglass, electric motors, and custom machined parts that were impossible to locate. Appeals were made across Canada and to Australia, England, Germany, and the United States.

The news was by no means all bad. The majority of parts on hand were assessed as “usable,” and in some cases duplicate items were found. By August ’92 reassembly had begun and by October the semblance of a turret once again began to appear. By Christmas the turret was again recognizable as such. As March neared major reconstruction was complete and painting began. The crew then turned their attention to preparing the electrical, hydraulic, and firing control systems.

As we go to press, all of the final systems are now installed and some fifteen months have passed since work began in the donated space at A-1 Fluid Power Ltd. in Clgary (owned by Bill Howe and partner). Final operational checks are now under way and the turret is scheduled to be officially unveiled for public display on Saturday, June 26/93.

The Society would like to extend a grateful THANK YOU to the following companies for donating facilities, and/or parts to this project; A-1 Fluid Power Ltd., Economy Cylinder Head, Universal Cadillac Plastic, Hypower Systems Inc., David Dal Inc., P.S.I. Fluid Power Ltd., Kristian Electric Ltd., Striepe Millwright Services, F&R Fabricating, Clagary Hose, and Independent Machinery.

On June 26, 1993 the restored rear turret will be officially unveiled.

July 17, 1993 Dams Raid Commemoration Day

We hope many of our members will plan on attending our Dambusters Commemoration Day on July 17. We will, of course, be honouring those involved in the heroic efforts by members of 617 Squadron, whose Lancasters carried the famed “Bouncing Bomb” and attacked the dams of the Ruhr Valley on the night of May 16/17, 1943.

We will have Ken Brown of Surrey, B.C., as our special guest for the day. Mr. Brown was a pilot on the Dambusters raid and was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for his actions on this historic operation.

The plans for the day include special displays and events at the musteum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and a performance by the King’s Own Calgary Regimental Band at 3 p.m.

Introductions of our special guests will take place at 3:55 p.m. and a flypast by a Canadian Armed Forces C-5 at 4:00 p.m.

Following the flypast, a banquet will be held in the Nanton Community Centre, adjacent to the museum. Cocktails will be served at 4:30 with music by the KOCR Band. Dinner will be served at 5:30. Following dinner Mr. Brown will speak about his experiences with 617 Squadron.

Tickets are now available to members at $20. We urge members to order their tickets early, as they will be made available to the public after June 1, 1993. Only 200 will be sold. Our previous events, The Ian Bazalgette Dedication in 1990 and our Official Opening last year were sold out and 350 tickets were available.

The Dams Raid (16/17 May, 1943)

With the hope of breaching three dams which were critical to transportation and power generation in the German industrial heartland of the Ruhr Valley, W/C Guy Gibson led the 19 Lancasters of 617 Squadron across the North Sea. At altitudes as low as fifty feet and observing strict radio silence they crossed over Holland and approached the dams of the Ruhr. Made clearly visible to the German defenders by the height-finding spotlights, Gibson made his run but the bomb exploded 75 yards short of the Mohne Dam. Now the gunners were fully alert and the second Lancaster was struck on both port engines and its starboard wing set afire. The bomb was released slightly late and bounced over the parapet. Moments later the bomber exploded. Two more Lancs made their runs as the defender’s continued their fire but the dam still stood.

As the fifth Lancaster approached, Gibson’s and a third bomber took up positions on either side and the three approached the dam together, their turrets pouring fire at the defending gun positions. The bomb was released precisely at the proper point, bounced four times, and rolled down the face of the dam to the proper depth. It exploded and the dam crumbled. The crews of the surviving Lancasters circled to watch the awesome spectacle as thousands of tons of water poured through the shattered dam into the valley below.

The Eder Dam was then attacked and breached. Despite precise attacks by 617’s Lancasters, the Sorpe Dam was not broken. It was determined later that its construction was somewhat different from the others and the weapons delivered could not have destroyed it.

The destruction of the dams caused widespead flooding and drastically interrupted Nazi industry and communications.

Lancaster Society Receives Honour

Your Society has received honorable mention in a provincial awards program. The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation annually recognizes individuals and organizations for outstanding achievements in the preservation of Alberta’s heritage.

The Society was recognized for its work in housing and protecting the Lancaster and other artifacts from WWII and the BCATP.

“The board was struck with the commitment of the Society to the preservation and interpretation of this great artifact” said Charlach R.D. Mackintosh, chairman of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation.

“We appreciate what you had to go through to find the necessary funding and the extensive volunteer hours on this project,” said Mackintosh in a letter to NLS president Dan Fox.

“Without the efforts of your group, there is little doubt that this resource would have been lost.”

Notice * Notice * Notice

The restored rear turret will be in the museum in May, 1993 as mentioned in the article in this newsletter.

On June 26, 1993 the Alberta Ex-Air Gunners Assoc. will be at the museum for the unveiling of the turret. A dinner will be organized by the Society for Association air gunners who attend this event.

Membership Funding Programs Continue

The Square Footer and Lifetime Membership funding program is continuing though the building is nearly complete. Funds thus generated will be directed towards displays honouring individuals of Bomber Command and the BCATP as well as for restoration of the Lancaster and other artifacts. Also it is already becoming apparent the building may need to be expanded in the near future, due to the numbers of artifacts that are accumulating.

A Concrete Floor

Your museum now has all concrete floors. Of course the small artifact and shop areas had concrete floors since we started using the new building last year. This was donated by Burnco Rock Products, Calgary, AB.

During the past winter months the 12,000 square foot main floor was poured in four different parts, with many moves of artifacts to make way for it.

This last floor resulted from a donation by Lafarge Building Products, Calgary, who supplied the cement (powder) and its subsidiary, High River Concrete, High River, AB, who supplied all the aggregate and delivered the concrete mix to the museum. Canbar Steel Fabrication donated some of the reinforcing rod. A Alberta Museums Assoc. grant helped fund finishing the floor.

Our Grateful THANKS to all.

Another Milestone

On March 25/93 the last portion of the main hangar floor was placed.

On hand to witness this was our good friend and supporter, Paul Hawkes, of Calgary, who was primarily responsible for the donation of concrete by Lafarge. Paul was an air gunner on Lancs etc., in WWII. Also on hand was Norm Nelson, area manager for Lafarge Building Products. Norm had coordinated the concrete hauling for placing by local contractor G&JD Construction.

The History of FM-159

Lancaster Mk X (serial No. FM-159) is a Canadian built aircraft, rolling off of the Victory Aircraft assembly line in early 1945. It was flown to England but was never assigned to a squadron and saw no action. After the end of the European War, FM-159 was flown back to Canada in preparation for service in the Pacific. These plans were cancelled after the dropping of the atomic bombs and the surrender of Japan.

In the fall of 1945, Lancaster FM-159 was flown to Fort Macleod, Alberta and placed in storage. In the early 1950s it became operational with RCAF Maritime Command at Greenwood, Nova Scotia. From 1954 to 1958 it flew as RX-159 with #407 Squadron at Comox, BC. In1959 it was flown to Vulcan, 35 km east of Nanton, where it was “struck off strength” in 1960.

After hearing that three Lancasters were to be destroyed at Vulcan, George White wrote to Crown Assets regarding obtaining an aircraft as a tourist attraction. Together with Howie Armstrong and Fred Garratt, Mr. White purchased FM-159 and had it towed across the grain fields to Nanton. After some theft and damage by vandals, it was placed on steel mountings and donated to the town.

Service clubs helped with its upkeep until the formation of the Nanton Lancaster Society in 1986. After consulting with aviation experts and the loss of an elevator during a windstorm, the Society began raising funds for a permanent home for FM-159 and on May 25, 1991, Lancaster FM-159 was rolled into the new museum.

The markings F2-T were unveiled at a ceremony where Lancaster FM-159 was dedicated to Sqd. Ldr. Ian Bazalgette who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross following an raid it 1944. The Ian Bazalgette Memorial Lancaster honors the only Alberta-born, Victoria Cross recipient of WWII, as well as all those who served with Bomber Command.

P/O Torger Taerum’s-DFC-Now In NLS Air Museum

The medals awarded to P/O Torger Taerum, navigator in the W/C Guy Gibson Lancaster that led the May 16/17, 1943, attack on the Ruhr Valley Dams, are now in our museum.

This display includes the DFC awarded to Torger for his part in the “Dams Raid” that knocked out a major portion of Nazi war production. The medals, plus photographs and memorabilia will be on display for the July 17 Dams Raid Commemoration Day at the museum.

The medals were presented to NLS President Dan Fox, by Helen Robertson and husband Cam, Milo, AB, on April 16/93. Helen is a second cousin of P/O Torger Taerum. (Torger was killed in action on a later raid over Germany in WWII.)

Helen spent considerable time and effort in finding the memorabilia that was presented to the NLS museum. She told members of the Society that after visiting the NLS museum and seeing what was being done to preserve Bomber Cammand and BCATP history, she was convinced this was the place for P/O Taerum’s medals, etc., to be exhibited.

The Society is honoured to accept these historic artifacts for display in the museum and wishes to THANK the Robertson and Taerum families for their generous addition to our collection and displays. We hope to have members of both families on hand May 16/93 to unveil the museum’s “Dams Raid” exhibit.

NLS Has A Bolingbroke Project Underway

Yes, our Boly project is now underway with the acquisition of a full length fuselage from Earl Bergmen of Erskine, Alberta, last fall. However, we need many items to proceed, such as a wing centre section, wings, Mercury engines, undercarraige, etc. Can any of you reading this help us with parts?

It is hoped that we will have the fuselage at the museum sometime in the spring. We thank Earl for his help.

Museum Building Financed Primarily by Corporate and Private Donations

Unlike some other museum projects in the province, tax money has played only a minor role in ours. Only 5% of the funding for our $475,000 building came through taxpayer supported government programs. Lottery fund supported programs provided a further 18%. The remaining 77% represents donations from individuals, corporations, Legions, and other veterans’ associations. The Society presently owes the Town of Nanton $36,000 of an interest-free, five-year loan.

Nanton Transport Helps

Nanton Transport owners, Lee and Claude Gaza, offered the sides of their truck as free advertizing space for the NLS Air Museum and the Nanton Golf Course. These two groups jointly funded the painting of the signs by local sign painter and artist Brenda McMasters.

Now every weekday this truck displays its flying Lancaster to the residents of Calgary and highway traffic coming and going from Nanton.

Our Society extends a Grateful THANKS to Nanton Transport for this “moving” signage!

Reg Lane Returns

RCAF Lt. General (Retrd) Reg Lane and RCN Lt. Cmdr. (Retrd) Allan T. Love (commanded the HMCS Magnificent) visited the museum on February 26/93.

Reg Lane had a very distinguished career in the RCAF including being the pilot who flew the first Canadian-built Lancaster, KB-700 to England.

He was the guest speaker at last summer’s Grand Opening of our museum. He had a very tight schedule at that time, so did not get a very good look at the museum then.

On this visit he had more time and did a complete “inspection,” pronouncing the museum as “coming along great.”

President Dan Fox was on hand along with Curator Bob Evans and members Steve Sears, Ken Mathews, and our own ex-Lanc pilot Joe English. After the two visitors had completed the museum tour, the whole group lunched at the “Village Smithy Tea House,” where the owner remembered Reg Lane.

The Society was pleased to get better acquainted with Reg and to meet Allan Love. Allan may have feld a little out of place in an air museum, but we tried to make him feel at home by showing him the only naval display in the museum, a large framed photo of the Crovette HMCS Victoriaville and a shell casing for a 4-inch gun, from the Corvette HMCS Peterborough. Reg and Allan, you are welcome anytime!. Please come again.

Shop Now Complete

With the help of a “New Horizons” grant from the federal government and significant corporate donations from Willow Creek Plumbing and Heating, Wittich Electric, High Country Overhead Doors, G&JD Const., Equal Doors and Painting by the Calgary Venture Scouts our 2,000 square foot restorations shop is now operational.

The development includes a coffee/meeting room and washroom facilities including a shower.

Our Seniors Wing, shop foreman, Merrill Honeyman, and mony other members are looking forward to working on the Lancaster, other aircraft and artifacts. All members are welcome to get involved in any aspect of the Society’s work.

Plaque Options For Square-Footer & Lifetime Members

The Society now has the names of approximately 500 Square Footer and Lifetime members engraved on plaques and on display in the museum. Many members who had wartime service in the Air Force have their decorations (DFC, DSO, etc.) and squadron numbers following their names.

As well, many donators are requesting that the plaques be engraved in memory of another individual. We are quite flexible with inscriptions and herewith are some typical examples:

John Smith DFC 789 Sqd
Vancouver, British Columbia

In Memory of P/O James Brown
DSO 678 Sqd
Joe and Mary Smith
Regina, Saskatchewan

Please note the above typeface was used only in these example insciptions.
If you purchase a Square Footer or Lifetime membership, please include any spacial requests you may have regarding the inscription on you plaque.

Museum Visitors

Since last fall the museum has had a large number of visitors. Volunteers kept the muesum open on weekends and we also had visitors by appointment.

Dave Celements’ Air cadet group were at the museum on April 3/93. Dave was the winner of a ride in a Harvard in the NLS contest in 1991.

Irv Hundeby and his brother Ted, made a special trip to visit us on March 2nd, driving all the way from Elbow, Saskatchewan. They stayed overnight in Nanton, looked through the museum the next day and returned home. Erv was with 426 and 408 squadrons during WWII. He donated a book which told of his wartime experiences. Our thanks to Erv for adding to the archival library.

In mid April, Bill Lowther paid us another call to see the new concrete floor. Bill is a member of the Greater Vancouver Branch of The Aircrew Assoc. (GVAA). He was an RCAF navigator in WWII flying in Wellington and Halifax bombers.

Bill is profiled with other WWII aircrew in the book, “Critical Moments,” published by the GVAA.

Donators to the museum

Herewith is a list of corporations and others who have donated artifacts or towards the museum building improvements.

Brian Leadbeater – many artifacts
Lafarge Building Products – concrete
High River Concrete – concrete
Cam & Helen Robertson – artifacts
Canbar Steel Fabricators – rebar
High Country Overhead Door door
Earl Bergman – Bolingbroke

Honourary President Margaret Dove Helps NLS

Over the last few years our Honorary President, Margaret Dove, has sent us letters of encouragement, framed prints and audio tapes. Margaret is the daughter of Roy Chadwick, who designed many aircraft over the years. The Lancaster was likely his crowning achievement.

Margaret Dove recently sent the Society a package with copies of dozens of photos and papers relating to her father and in particular to the Dams Raid, which took place 50 years ago on May 16/17, 1943. we are in debt forever to Mrs. Dove for her tremendous additions to our displays in the museum.

The Society sends a heartfelt THANK YOU to Margaret Dove for her continuing support!

Anson Restoration

by Rob Pedersen

The Anson Restoration project is moving along. As you may already know the frame has now been sandblasted and primed. As soon as the new museum floor is finished, the Anson will be moved into place where it will remain during its restoration.

Plans are under way to begin cutting and fitting formers, floors and cabin fittings. All of the instrument, control and electrical panels, plus the seats, have been removed and are being prepared for refinishing.

We have received a new nose section and tail plane spars. These were constructed some time ago by the Calgary Aero Space Museum (CASM), under a government educational grant. When they made these components for their own Anson project, they made a set for NLS, and stored them until now. These additions will greatly assist us in our restoration efforts.

We extend our sincere thanks to George Rynning and the CASM, for their words of wisdom and guidance in helping us create our restoration plan.

If anyone would like to help with our Mk.II Anson restoration, please contact Rob.

“On The Road Again”

by Rob Pedersen

The traveling display is preparing for yet another busy season. Shows planned for this year include the Clagary Leisure Show, the Okotoks Aviation Show, The Red Deer International Airshow and the Lethbridge Airshow. It will be good to shake out all of the old cobwebs and see our old friends again.

In keeping with past trends we are planning a very interesting display for this year and would welcome hearing from people interested in participating in this year’s shows.

If you are interested in helping out, (you do not need to live in Nanton to help,) please contact Rob Pedersen.

From the Desk of the President

I’m excited! Not just because another tourist season is upon us, but for several other reasons. When I walk into the museum, I see the corner where our “Dambuster” display will soon be situated. Then, stepping under the wings of the Lanc, I’m walking on new concrete all the way to the newly completed shop wing. There, under the new heater and lights, sit the tools and machines required for aircraft restoration work.

My mind races ahead to late June, when a group of air gunners will “test” the newly restored rear turret. On to July 17, when we honor the 0th anniversary of the “Dams Raid” by 617 Squadron. A CF-5 will blast through town in the flypast to be held that day. A couple of trips to airships demonstrating our mid-upper turret to hundreds of new friends, and the summer will be nearly over.

What other developments this season has in store, I have no idea. That is one of the most exciting aspects of belonging to this Society – you never know what might happen next, but usually it’s a pleasant experience!

You can have that “little boy” excitement too – just get involved in the NLS as a volunteer or support us in any way you deem appropriate. There’s no sense that just a few of us have all the fun!

Dan Fox

Curator / Editor’s Words

Our 1992 fall newsletter predicted many changes would happen over the winter months. All these things did occur, although not exactly as the newsletter predicted.

It took until March for the last of the concrete to be placed for the main “hangar” floor. the new shop is just now about to go into operation. But, everything looks just great! The concrete main floor (donated by Lafarge) has given the museum that “finally finished” look.

We expect the new shop and its expanded tool inventory to generate a lot of activity with our “New Horizons” Senior’s Wing members helping with restoration and making things to complement the museum, such as signs, cabinets and display facilities.

As curator I foresee many of the stored artifacts being repaired and made ready as additional displays this summer. We anticipate that a large silhouette of a Lancaster will be maxi in the shop and applied to the museum’s front to help balance the lettering.

Our Anson restoration should advance also due to the new shop facilities. Fuselage formers will likely be among the first items produced for this project.

This summer will also see the addition of a Bolingbroke fuselage to the museum, which adds one more restoration project to our agenda. (The Bolingbroke is the Canadian version of the British Blenheim Bomber). This project needs wings, centre section, engines, and undercarriage, etc. Any member who knows where there might be parts to facilitate this restoration is asked to contact us, so we might make arrangements to obtain the needed pieces.

As editor, it is pleasing to see we are gradually increasing our membership. Do come visit us!