A Woman's Voice

SUMMER VISITOR– September 13, 2010 by Gil Frontain

Posted in WORDS OF WISDOM ~ A MAN'S VOICE by doloresayotte on September 13, 2010
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A Man’s Voice

The August skies over Calgary were graced with the sight and sounds of a summer visitor, a WW2 Avro Lancaster Heavy Bomber.  This vintage aircraft from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope (Hamilton) Ontario stayed for a weeklong visit at the local Aero Museum with tours for the public and flights over and around the city for a select few passengers.

This was one of the highlights of the summer for those with memories of WW2 and especially for those with a relative or friend who actually flew bombing missions on Lancasters. Thousands of Calgarians and out-of-town visitors came to the Museum to see this aircraft and experience its awesome presence as a powerful war machine. 

For an extra fee, visitors were allowed to board the plane and experience the cramped space which housed a crew of seven consisting of a pilot, navigator, flight engineer, wireless operator, nose gunner/bomb aimer, middle turret gunner and tail gunner.

This aircraft is one of only two Lancasters in existence still air worthy and at 65 years of age, has a limited time remaining in its flight capability. Over 7300 Lancasters were built-in WW2, 430 of these in Canada. Its four powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines gave it capacity for a bomb load of 22,000 pounds. Its flight range allowed it to fly sorties from England as far as Berlin, Germany and Milan, Italy and beyond, plus many other places in occupied Europe.

From the outbreak of war in 1939 to the Normandy invasion in 1944, the Lancasters and other bombers were the only means of attacking the Nazi and Fascist enemy which had invaded and occupied most of Western Europe. Without this offensive, there is little doubt that Hitler’s Germany would have invaded and conquered England and changed the course of world history for the worse. Thus the Lancaster is a powerful symbol of the defeat of Nazi tyranny.

Thousands of heroic young men risked their lives daily as crews in “Bomber Command”, and many thousands were killed or wounded or taken prisoner. For every 100 crew members in Bomber Command, only 24 survived the war. Over 7000 bombers in Bomber Command were shot down or otherwise lost with their crews, so the price paid was extremely high.

While visiting the Minarsky Lancaster, named after Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarsky VC, of Winnipeg who was killed at age 27 trying to rescue a trapped crew member in a flaming Lancaster, we spoke with several people whose relatives had flown on Lancasters. The memory of the Lancaster’s role is still quite current and vivid for many people. 

Hearing this powerful aircraft start its engines, rev them up, taxi to the runway for take off and then make a noisy fly pass over the Museum evoked memories of this unique sound from my boyhood days in WW2 Halifax where Lancasters were a common sight during and after the war.  I closed my eyes and imagined the sound of 1000 bombers flying over German cities laden with their deadly payloads and the indescribable horror this sound must have instilled in the hearts of the enemy.

War is a terrible waste of material and human life and a horrible means of inflicting pain and suffering to its victims and perpetrators. Displays of such vintage aircraft as the Lancaster are not meant to glorify war but rather to remind us of the heroic sacrifices of those who fought to defend our precious freedom.  May we never forget them and may we never stop praying for world peace.

Thanks Gil for sharing your summer story and also your distant memories of your boyhood days in Halifax.  Also, thanks for reminding us about the devastation and futility of war.

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3 Responses to 'SUMMER VISITOR– September 13, 2010 by Gil Frontain'

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  1. Shirley Sarafinchan said,

    Good Morning Gil,

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story and pictures of the WW2 Avro Lancaster Heavy Bomber. What an amazing story not only of success but you describe so vividly how events might not have turned out so successfully for our free world if it wasn’t for the valor and heroic messures taken by thousands of soldiers flying these heavy bombers so far from home. I cannot imagine our beautiful world at war as it was during WW2 so I will continue to pray for peace and thank God every day for the freedom we experience. Keep writing Gil, I enjoy reading your articles on Dolores’ site and look forward to future surprises from you!

  2. Lorraine Gauthier said,

    That is quite the article Gil!!! It is amazing how you describe it so vividly I can almost hear and see what it was like. War touches many lives and for those who sacrifice their lives it really is beyond comprehension. Those were the good old days and like today they were NOT without pain! Thanks for sharing a great story!

    • Gil Frontain said,

      Thanks Lorraine for your comments. Yes we are blessed to live in a peaceful conntry thanks in good measure by those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. It is always a pleasure for me to tell about their heroism, and rewarding for me that people, like you Lorraine, appreciate them.

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