PRESS RELEASE – June 24, 2019
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) and the Bomber Command Museum of Canada (BCMC), in partnership with the Swedish Coast and Sea Center (SCSC), are pleased and excited to announce the start of the underwater recovery of a WWII Royal Canadian Air Force Halifax bomber HR871 off the coast of Sweden. The first operations for the recovery will take place from July 1-7 south of Falsterbo, Sweden with recovery crews and vessels based at the Port of Trelleborg, Sweden.
The History of RCAF Halifax HR871
Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber HR871 was assigned new in 1943 to the elite Canadian RCAF 405 “Pathfinder” Squadron whose job was marking the Nazi targets in Germany for the main force bombers of RAF Bomber Command.
Halifax HR871 was badly damaged, losing two engines and having only marginal flight controls, on the Hamburg, Germany raid of Aug. 3, 1943. With little hope of returning to England the crew, led by pilot Flt. Sgt. John Phillips, diverted to neutral Sweden. All the crew of seven bailed out successfully just inland along the south coast of Sweden. (John Alwyn Phillips, the pilot, lives in the UK and is very keen on the recovery).
The bomber continued flying until it crashed into the Baltic Sea 15 kilometres off the Swedish coast and sank into 60 feet (20 metres) of brackish (slightly salty) water. Since that time it has been inundated and covered by sand although three engines and small portions of the aircraft are visible, which indicates her final resting place.
Our diving teams and a sonar vessel has already done intensive reconnaissance of the Halifax HR871 site in 2017 and 2018.
WHY RECOVER A HALIFAX BOMBER
The Halifax bomber was one of the top two bombers used by RAF Bomber Command in WW2.
During WWII the RCAF (Canadian Air Force) had 15 bomber squadrons in action in Bomber Command.
For the last (five months) of the war the RCAF was using mainly the Lancaster bomber.
BUT during 1941, 1942, 1943, and 1944, 48 months, the RCAF Canadians did NOT use this Lancaster bomber type. They used the HALIFAX bomber for those 48 months when some of the greatest air battles took place!
In fact, 70 percent of all bomber combat done by the Canadian RCAF was on the Halifax and therefore,70 percent of the 10,659 Canadians killed-in-action in bombers were killed in the HALIFAX type. So, which type of bomber is most symbolic to represent this huge sacrifice of Canadians!? Halifax 57 Rescue and SCSC know the answer and are determined, as a joint team, to save this historic Halifax.
Not only this, 405 Squadron is a truly international squadron, the nations and numbers of those courageous airmen (shown below) who were killed-in-action fighting together in this special squadron from 1941 -1945 are:
- RCAF Canadian airmen – 527
- RAF British airmen – 197
- RCAF American airmen – 22
- RAAF Australian airmen – 4
RCAF 405 Squadron suffered the greatest combat losses of any of our Canadian squadrons in the entire air force!
History of Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) – H57RC
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) is dedicated to preserving the Handley Page Halifax bomber aircraft and its international heritage earned during the critical and victorious bomber air combat operations of World War II.
Special Halifax HR871 crowdfund site https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/417498
The Halifax 57 Rescue group, led by Karl Kjarsgaard, was started in 1994 by Karl in Canada and Ian Foster of Scotland with the goal to save Halifax bomber aircraft while preserving the combat history and heritage of this famous heavy bomber of WW2.
Karl Kjarsgaard was the Canadian project manager to recover RAF Halifax NA337 from Norway in 1995 from 750 feet (240 meters) of water. It is now fully restored and displayed at the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ontario.
H57RC also recovered RCAF Halifax LW682 from 20 feet of mud in a Belgium swamp in 1997, to recover the three missing airmen entombed inside. These Canadian heroes were successfully found and returned to their families with a full military funeral and honours for their sacrifice.
H57RC has embarked on a world-wide quest to recover another Halifax example for the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta. We have already acquired 30% of another Halifax from a scrapyard on the island of Malta, south of Italy.
All the Halifax sections are being restored by Knox Tech. Inc., a rebuild shop in Ottawa, Ontario.
See our REBUILDSHOP here: https://www.facebook.com/Rebuildshop-1533756926866315/
Now we wish to recover Halifax HR871 with our Swedish partners, sharing our joint history and artifacts. We are excited to start recovery of this aircraft, our third Halifax.
HALIFAX HR871 Project – Our Partners
The Bomber Command Museum of Canada (BCMC) is one of the top aviation museums in Canada, dedicated to the RCAF and the Candian airmen and aircraft of Bomber Command. This memorial museum has one of only four running Lancasters in the whole world and has the only national Memorial Wall with the engraved names of the 10,659 Canadian airmen killed-in-action in Bomber Command.
See the BCMC and Halifax Project here:
Their goal, during a massive museum expansion plan over the next three years, is to acquire a Halifax bomber for their aircraft collection and restore the Halifax as a tribute to the bomber most used by the RCAF in WW II.
The Halifax is the rarest type of RCAF Canadian bombers because all of the 1,230 RCAF Halifaxes were NOT sent back to Canada. They were all were scrapped in England after the war! This museum has formed an official partnership with H57RC and our Swedish colleagues SCSC to help reach this goal of saving HR871, the only RCAF Halifax left out of the 1,230!
Swedish Coast and Sea Center led by President Erik Skog and Chief Diver and SCSC project leader Jan Christensen is the operational group for the actual recovery of the Halifax from Baltic Sea waters.
The vision of SCSC, to achieve ecologically sustainable oceans and coasts while saving history in their Swedish waters, is an important dual purpose mission. This mission includes conserving and preserving history like the Canadian Halifax bomber discovered during their scientific explorations. They will be our manpower and on-site recovery expertise while working with the Halifax 57 Rescue experts.
See the SCSC website here: http://www.coastandseacenter.se/
“RIVER THAMES” – our Recovery and Salvage vessel
Our exciting new addition to the recovery team is the “River Thames” a refurbished UK tug boat we will use as our floating and operational headquarters for all recovery work. River Thames was a working tugboat for many years in the UK that was bought, rebuilt, and is now being DONATED by our new team member and historian, marine engineer Gustav Frederiksen, with the vessel based out Svendborg, Denmark.
The River Thames is a fully outfitted recovery vessel with all tools and workshop facilities, as well as our main diving platform, to be a fully self-contained salvage vessel for saving our Halifax.
Halifax HR871 – Project Funding
Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) – H57RC has been a national charity in Canada for over 10 years and has gained a large following of veterans, history minded members, and RCAF historians who believe in our quest to go worldwide to recover and save Halifaxes. They all know now that we will recover HR871 and thousands of dollars have poured into H57RC after our initial appeal for donations.
H57RC has a special crowdfund on the internet for all international donations and this special funding site is https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/417498 The response has been great and more funding is coming in all the time from the UK, USA, Europe, Australia, and Canada. All reports from Halifax 57 Rescue are listed here and are called “UPDATES”.
The Bomber Command Museum of Canada has also agreed to help with support for the Halifax project.
So with the direct donations to the charity at the FUNDRAZR site we have gathered enough funding for the first part of the recovery project this summer. The total funding needed for the Halifax HR871 recovery is estimated to be close to ($110,000. CDN). We are hopeful to continue the fundraising while the first phase of the recovery begins and when we go into the second phase. Our concern now is that we have a shortfall of funds for the costly first phase, the actual recovery to land and we also have need of a contingency fund.
Our team moves forward on the project in good faith knowing we can be efficient and thrifty while saving our Halifax history. Just as so many of our young airmen went forth in Halifaxes on important missions and succeeded, so will we emulate our heroes and complete our mission this summer!
Our recovery record speaks for itself. Canada and the world, support us now!
References – videos – photos for the Halifax HR871 Project
1. Underwater recovery photos and videos – Youtube
2. Wartime photos and videos of Halifax bombers and crews of 405 Pathfinder Squadron and other RCAF Halifax aircraft
3. Technical diagrams of the Halifax bomber in colour
4. Letters of support from National Defence Minister Jason Kenney in Canada
5. Articles on the recoveries of Halifax bombers HR871, NA337 in Norway, and Halifax LW682 in Belgium http://www.vintagewings.ca/VintageNews/Stories/tabid/116/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/567/Resurrection.aspx
6. Contact Karl Kjarsgaard – Project Manager
Home 001-403-646-2535 // Mobile and text 001-403-603-8592 email: [email protected]
Jan Christensen – SCSC Project leader – Contact [email protected] Phone +46(0)720-803042
Erik Skog – SCSC President – Contact [email protected] Phone +46(0)706-370421