No. 6 RCAF Bomber Group Celebrated

Story and photos by
John Chalmers, CAHS Membership Secretary

In the town of Nanton, Alberta, on the weekend of August 18 and 19, the Bomber Command Museum of Canada (BCMC) marked the 75th Anniversary of the formation of No. 6 (RCAF) Bomber Group of RAF Bomber Command, established in 1942 during the Second World War. Flying Wellington, Halifax and Lancaster bombers, No. 6 Group flew 39,584 operational sorties and suffered the lowest loss rate of all Bomber Groups at 2.0 per cent. For more info about 6 Group, click here.

Known also as the Canadian Bomber Group, operating from Yorkshire, England, and starting with twin-engine Wellington bombers, 6 Group grew to 14 heavy bomber squadrons flying four-engine Halifax and Lancaster aircraft. In the first presentation of the formal program, museum secretary Karl Kjarsgaard spoke of the great contribution of Canadians in the attacks of 2,000 bombers on Duisburg in 1944, when 501 RCAF bombers contributed to the effort. See

The “Salute to 6 Group RCAF” began on the Friday evening with a meet and greet social event that concluded with a spectacular night run-up of the museum’s Lancaster bomber.

Saturday presentations included speakers, tributes, live music and all displays on view, including the restoration of a Mosquito fighter bomber through the efforts of the Calgary Mosquito Society. Also under restoration at the museum are an Avro Anson and a Cessna Crane. Saturday, morning and afternoon engine run-ups were done of the Lancaster, a Fleet Fawn trainer, and a Bristol Hercules engine, the type used on Halifax bombers.

The annual August weekend special event is one of the biggest of the year for the Museum, which has over a dozen special events from April to November. See

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Nanton Lancaster Society president Rob Pedersen is seen with a new display panel of squadron badges of No. 6 (RCAF) Bomber Group, including the No. 6 Group badge. Rob served as announcer and chairman for the program events. In the background is the museum’s restored Bristol Blenheim twin-engine bomber.

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Karl Kjarsgaard gave an illustrated presentation about the role and importance of Canadians serving with the Royal Air Force and in forming their own No. 6 (RCAF) Bomber Group during the Second World War, with a battle record second to none.

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Dan Fox, vice-president of the Society, spoke about the Fraser-Nash rear gun turret of a Lancaster and the risks to men who operated it. At right is reenactor Matt Heinz, who entered the fuselage section on display to demonstrate gun operation.

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During operation of the rear gun turret on a section of Lancaster fuselage, not only does the turret turn, but the four guns pivot up and down. Installation in the gun muzzles of LED lights synchronized with sound effects makes for a very convincing demonstration when the guns are fired.

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This year’s big August weekend celebrations featured performances by the RCAF 4 Wing Brass Band Quintet from Cold Lake, Alberta, base. Left to right are: Amanda Carter (French horn); Todd Farrell (trumpet); Doug Sirant (tuba); Bandmaster Jeremy Duggleby (trombone); Zennon Szabo (trumpet).

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Two new display panels provided details of RCAF squadrons in No. 6 Bomber Group and illustrated Wellington Z1604, the first aircraft to take off as part of an RCAF 6 Group operation.

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Three RCAF veterans from Vernon BC were in attendance at Nanton. At left and centre are flight engineer Duke Dawe, and engine technician Gordon Redman, post-war airmen. At right is 96-year old wartime navigator F/L Joe Monteyne, DFC, who flew in both “Operation Hurricane” massive bombing raids within 16 hours on Duisburg, Germany, October 14-15, 1944.

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The Friday night run-up of all four Merlin V-12 engines of the museum’s Lancaster, FM159, is a spectacle worth seeing. Always on hand for such events is the “crash crew” – members of the Nanton Volunteer Fire Department. The aircraft is named for Lancaster pilot S/L Ian Bazalgette, killed in action and the only Albertan to receive the Victoria Cross in the Second World War.

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Naming over 10,600 Canadians lost during the Second World War while serving with Bomber Command, the memorial at the museum is illuminated at night. Additional names which had been previously unknown were unveiled at weekend ceremonies. An RCAF CF-100 Canuck is mounted next to the memorial.

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Major Bill March, Historian for RCAF Heritage and History, spoke at the Bomber Command Memorial, paying tribute to the RCAF members who flew and fell in the Second World War, and praising the service still given today by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

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CAHS member and author, Shirlee Smith Matheson of Calgary, displayed her several books as one of the writers at the commemorative weekend.

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Calgary’s Anne Gafiuk, a CAHS member and author, was present with her books published by the Nanton Lancaster Society, including her newest, scheduled for release in November.

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Wartime navigator F/L Joe Monteyne laid a wreath at Canada’s Bomber Command Memorial in memory of RCAF air crew lost during the Second World War.

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Honorary Colonel Paul Storwick brought greetings from 4 Wing Cold Lake.

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Retired Lieutenant Colonel and author David Bashow was the featured speaker on the Saturday afternoon program. He spoke about the development of RCAF 6 Bomber Group and its great contribution to victory in the Second World War. Bashow serves as Editor-in-Chief for the Canadian Military Journal, published by the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence.

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Special events at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada always bring a large crowd, shown here listening to the presentation by David Bashow, who in 2016 published an updated edition of his latest book, All The Fine Young Eagles, about Canadian fighter pilots in the Second World War.

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The loud and powerful Halifax bomber's Hercules 14-cylinder radial engine with its shortened propeller impresses the onlookers. At rear of the engine is BCMC director Derek Squire, a member of the engine crew. At right is Karl Kjarsgaard, who is heading up efforts to recover a Halifax from Swedish waters to be placed at the museum. See:

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Seated in the cockpit of the museum’s airworthy Fleet Fawn biplane trainer is BCMC director Charles Logie during the run of the aircraft’s five cylinder radial engine.

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Adding colour to the events of the weekend program were reenactors in wartime RCAF uniforms, flying gear and parachutes. Left to right are Frederick Carsted, Adrian Kerschbaun and Matt Heinz.

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Prior to the morning and afternoon run-ups of the Lancaster’s four engines, the 4 Wing Brass Quintet from the Cold Lake base provided music for the appreciative crowd.

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Nanton, Alberta, does much more than preserve and celebrate aviation history at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada. It is known also for its antique stores and is one of the few towns left on the prairies that has kept and preserved its grain elevators. The big orange elevator is also the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre, a popular site for visitors during its annual Nanton Celebrates History day.

Until October 31, to see a six minute video of the 4 Wing Brass Band Quintet and the engine start-ups described above, click here.