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Celebrating Aviation History at Nanton

Story and photos by John Chalmers
CAHS Membership Secretary

Aviation history was celebrated at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta, on August 19 and 20. The weekend marked the 30th anniversary of the Museum, built and operated by the Nanton Lancaster Society of Alberta.

01 Lancaster

The Museum began with acquisition of its Lancaster bomber, FM159, saved from salvage at the Vulcan BCATP air base some 30 kilometres east. Towed across the prairie farmland to Nanton and displayed outside for many years, the bomber endured damage from vandals and weather until a museum was built as a home for the aircraft. It is now restored with all four Merlin engines running and is named for Lancaster pilot S/L Ian Bazalgette, the only Albertan to receive the Victoria Cross in the Second World War.

The Friday night program featured speakers from local and federal interests, representatives of three levels of government, and a presentation about the museum’s past, present and future. The evening ended with a night run-up of the Lancaster engines, always a spectacular show for an appreciative audience.

Saturday was dedicated to honouring the 75th anniversary of 419 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. A commemoration ceremony was held at the museum’s Bomber Command Memorial Wall which names over 10,600 airmen who lost their lives while serving with the RCAF in Bomber Command during the Second World War.

The ceremony concluded with the flypast exactly at 11 a.m. of two CT-155 Hawks of 419 Squadron based at Cold Lake, Alberta, home of 419 Squadron. Then a run-up of the Lancaster’s engines was dedicated to the Squadron for the occasion.

The afternoon program included a presentation by Dr. Stéphane Guevremont, Honorary Colonel of 419 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, RCAF. He described the history of the squadron, its performance and losses during the Second World War, and the importance of its first commanding officer, W/C John “Moose” Fulton, DSO, DFC, AFC.

Future plans for the museum call for expansion with construction of a new building and extensive paved parking area which will also be used as a taxi strip for the Lancaster, one of only four in the world that has four operating engines.

02 Rob Pedersen
Rob Pedersen, long-time volunteer, and chairman of the Nanton Lancaster Society which operates the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, introduced all participants in the celebration program. The lectern used by speakers was salvaged from a chapel of a Royal Air Force station of the wartime British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

03 Caroline Saunders
Calgary-based British Consul General for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Caroline Saunders, paid high tribute to the service of Canadians in Bomber Command during the Second World War, and to Canada’s support of the war effort in the production of aircraft.

04 Museum history
Museum board member and retired Air Canada captain, Karl Kjarsgaard, presented the story of the Bomber Command Museum in the Friday night program. In the background is the museum’s restored Bristol Blenheim bomber.

05 Lancaster at night
A spectacular conclusion to the Friday night program included a night run-up of all the Museum’s Lancaster engines.

06 Commemoration
Participants in the Saturday commemoration ceremony to honour 419 Squadron were, left to right, Rob Pedersen, chaplain Lloyd Northcott and 419 representatives Ram Homier and Eric Blakie.

07 Eric Blakie
At the commemoration ceremony for 419 Squadron, Eric Blakie spoke of the squadron’s work today. The Memorial Wall behind him names over 10,600 men who lost their lives while serving with Bomber Command. For the occasion, wreaths were laid and a poppy symbol was placed beside the names of 537 members who flew with 419 Squadron.

08 Stephane Guevremont
Stéphane Guevremont had his book about the 75th anniversary of the squadron published in time for the 419 reunion held in July at Kamloops BC, the city that adopted the squadron during the Second World War. Title of the 419-page book is Moosa Aswayita, the squadron’s motto: Beware of the Moose.

09 Hercules runup
A feature of special events at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada is a run-up of the museum’s 14-cylinder Hercules engine used on Halifax bombers. Running the engine is Karl Kjarsgaard, who is heading efforts now recovering a Halifax from Swedish waters for the museum to restore.

10 Fawn run up
In addition to the run-ups of the Lancaster Merlins and the Hercules engine, special events at Nanton include running the engine on the Museum’s Fleet Fawn.