The First Vintage Flying Wings of Canada at Calgary, Alberta – The Calgary Lancaster FM136

The First Vintage Flying Wings of Canada at Calgary, Alberta
Research by Clarence Simonsen

The Calgary Lancaster FM136

The preparation for the long ferry flights of the surplus P-51 fighter aircraft from RCAF storage areas in Western Canada, spurred Garrison into the idea of saving a World War Two Lancaster bomber aircraft. The words of Garrison tell the true story of finding and saving FM136 for Calgary.

Source: http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/photos_lanc/photos_fm136.html

“Before Milt Harradence and I began to ferry the Mustangs, we first visited the old RCAF Station Macleod facility, now used by Canadian Pacific Airlines Repair for storage and maintenance. We drove to Macleod on a Saturday afternoon 1960, my 23rd birthday. It is an emotional thing to visit an abandoned airfield that once was full of life, noise, and activity. Now, the silence was only broken by the constant whisper of the wind in the popular tress, the flapping of loose metal against a hangar wall and grass growing through breaks in the parking ramp, and abandoned runways. One segment of the hangar door system was open two feet and we squeezed into the area where our Mustangs were stored. Our Mustangs were nested beneath the large wings of Lancaster bombers, and a couple of Auster fuselages sat wingless against the back wall. Our Mustangs would be saved to fly another day but the B-25s and Lancaster Mk. Xs faced the final extinction, turned into cookware or aluminum siding for new homes.

It was this moment I decided to save a Lancaster Mk. X bomber and bring it to Calgary. Milt and I made the necessary arrangements for our P-51 aircraft maintenance crew to gain access to the Mustangs and we drove back to Calgary. I had been dealing with Margaret Bidgood at C.A.D.C for the Mustang project, so I phoned her to enquire about purchasing a Lancaster bomber from Macleod. She was enthused about the concept and said I could have my pick for $975.00. That was a lot of money in 1961 and I didn’t have the cash. I had an account at the Bank of Montreal on Center St. and 16th Ave. and recalled the manager had flown PBY Catalinas during the war. When he heard of the project he was enthusiastic and loaned me the money.”

Original crown Assets letter to purchase Lancaster FM-136 for $975.00,
dated 5 April 1961.

Original Bill of Sale for FM-136 to Lynn Garrison, 15 April 1961. Total cost $975.00 cash for Lancaster serial number 253-182649. This has been shortened from the original to save blank space.
The Calgary Lancaster FM-136 is now owned by Lynn Garrison but never registered in the name of the Air Museum of Canada, and never transferred to the City of Calgary.

Garrison had obtained one WWII Lancaster and now he had to move it to Calgary, which required cash plus hard work. The “Lancaster Memorial Trust Fund” was formed by Lynn to obtain the necessary cash and material needed to get his bomber to Calgary and build a suitable display area. The committee included a handful of Lynn’s close friends most being 403 Squadron members or ex-RCAF World War Two.
When the Lancaster was officially dedicated, the plaque contained dozens of names, listing people who had nothing to do with the project. Their names had been included by Don Patterson, for personal political reasons. Don was a S/L on Lancasters during the war. Don was the Lancaster Fund finance manager.

“I then started the Lancaster Memorial Fund, with Clarence Mack promoting it on his radio program. He had previously done this for the 5900 Locomotive Fund. For a dollar a person you got a membership card. However, over the term only $229.00 was raised. Ron Jenkins, the owner of a major market chain bearing his family name, had flown Lancasters in the war, as had Art Smith, DFC., M.P. for Calgary South. Both promised their support, however Ron Jenkins never attended any functions, donated no money, while other RCAF veterans declined the opportunity to become involved. Art Smith was a big help.

Soon after I purchased Lancaster FM136, I approached Gordon Burke, an old family friend, and chief of the Canadian Pacific Airlines team in Macleod. He told me the undercarriage was too wide for the road and there was a bridge in-route to Calgary, which would block us. Gordon said his crew would volunteer to install the engines, and service the Lancaster, for a ferry flight to Calgary, if I could borrow the four engines from the RCAF. A special meeting with Doug Harkness, Minister of Defence, was arranged. Milt Harradence, Art Smith, and I met Harkness at the Palliser Hotel, where I made my pitch for the engines. He agreed to loan me four new Merlin powerplants, if I could supply an insurance policy for $89,000 covering their potential loss. Herb Spear, a 403 Mustang fighter pilot, was employed with Guardian Caledonian Insurance Company. He negotiated a policy for $89,000, with a premium of $2,400.00, which only had to be paid if we made a claim.
Tony Lansdown, another 403 fighter pilot, worked with Imperial Oil and he arranged for a donation of all fuel and lubricants for the flight to Calgary. Volunteers with Local 886 International Association of Machinists, prepared the Lancaster for the ferry flight to Calgary, installing the four new Merlin engines. Doug Holland was the Chief Test Pilot with Canadian Pacific Airlines and he would pilot my Lancaster to Calgary. Air Marshall Campbell, Chief of the RCAF Air Staff was the guest of honor along with Freddie McCall’s wife. For the flight Lancaster FM136 had received the civil registration CF-NJQ, and this allowed it to be flown to McCall Field,
When the big day arrived only a couple of hundred citizens stood waiting, while the Lancaster was parked on the grass strip near the terminal entrance. For some reason people believed they had the right to strip pieces off the aircraft. I had to hire a policeman to sit next to the bomber. A pedestal was required. My parents’ neighbor, Ron Graham, had his company begin the design and completed the job at no cost.
I wanted to paint the Lancaster for display. This is where I attempted to get 403 Squadron involved in the Lancaster Memorial Fund. This soon turned into a senior officer’s takeover attempt. Pressure was placed on me to relinquish control to Group Captains and Wing Commanders in the local reserve organization. W/C Gordon J. C. McLaws had taken over as Commanding Officer of 403 Squadron 8 September 1960. When I didn’t go along with the plan this resulted in a formal refusal to allow my Lancaster to be painted in the 403 hangar. Tensions were further increased when Defence Minister Doug Harkness ordered Wing Commander J. C. McLaws to make space, in his hangar, for the painting of Lancaster FM136. The painting took several weeks. McLaws had to walk under my Lancaster every time he needed to go to the bathroom, or get a cup of coffee. Needless to say, this caused certain frictions for me and 403 Squadron officers. The Lancaster painting was completed by a volunteer team from Canadian Pacific Airlines and finally appeared in a gorgeous new camouflage depicting an Royal Air Force Lancaster with code letters VN-N, which flew with No. 50 Squadron RAF during WWII. I selected this paint job because I had a photo of the wartime Lanc.”

Garrison image after the completed paint job

Lancaster Mk. I, serial R5689 was one of 200 built by Avro Manchester and delivered to the RAF between February and July 1942. This was a much photographed bomber which Lynn Garrison picked for the painting of FM136. It had no connections to the City of Calgary or Canadians in the RCAF. She was one of 48 bombers on a mine laying operation 18/19 September 1942. On landing at Thurlby, Lincolnshire, the aircraft crashed and was destroyed.
On 11 April 1962, Lancaster FM136 was lifted into position by three large cranes, supervised by ex-Lancaster pilot Red Whittit, of Dominion Bridge, Calgary.

Image from Lynn Garrison – 11 April 1962

This was followed on 14 April 1962, by an impressive dedication ceremony officiated by Air Marshal Hugh Campbell of the RCAF. Lynn Garrison purchased the display plaque and ex-Lancaster pilot Don Patterson selected the wording which reads as follows –

Dedicated to all personnel who served and trained
in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
The most important centre of this Plan was Calgary,
and this area saw nearly 30,000 men and women trained from 1941-45.
From here personnel went to all theatres of combat throughout the word.
Dedicated by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Hugh Campbell, CBE, CD,
April 14, 1962.

Don Patterson wanted Lynn Garrison to sign over ownership of the Lancaster to Calgary Mayor Jack Leslie, but that suggestion was declined.

The pedestal was designed and constructed by a family friend and neighbour of Garrison, Ron Graham owner of the Hurst Construction Company.
The Calgary airport had officially been christened “McCall Field” in honor of WWI Calgary pilot Fred McCall. In 1966, the City of Calgary could not afford the rising cost of running McCall Field and it was sold to the Federal Government for $2 million. The Lancaster bomber now became the main entrance to the new Calgary terminal and name “Calgary International Airport.”
In 1964, Lynn Garrison held a dinner for the members of the “Lancaster Memorial Fund” at Hy’s Steakhouse on 4th Avenue, S.W. in Calgary. This was the best steak house in North America featuring Alberta triple “A” beef. Thirty-nine members signed the cover of the Air Museum of Canada magazine. Ron Jenkins and Art Smith did not attend the event.

Black and white image to clearly shows some of the signatures – Garrison collection.

Original signed cover from Lynn Garrison.
The hot, humid, climate of Haiti caused stained areas.

These pages from Lynn Garrison collection contain much more information on the related Lancaster events, names, and construction costs.
At age 24, Lynn Garrison had purchased and preserved Lancaster FM136 plus collected a very good selection of vintage WWII aircraft. In March 1964, Lynn purchased his second Lancaster KB976 for $1,500.00. The cash was raised by a No. 403 Squadron pilot, Brian B. McKay and a note in that sum was held to cover the purchase. Garrison was also responsible for the funding and initiated the first Calgary International Air show in July 1964. Defence Minister Paul Hellyer was the guest of honour. Garrison wanted to fly Lancaster KB976 at the air show and contacted Dick Beatty of the DOT in Edmonton, asking for permission to fly the bomber. He was informed he would require more than flight permit. A complete certification of airworthiness inspection was required. This was impossible, so Lynn suggested one last flight by the RCAF might be authorized. MP Art Smith ask his friend Paul Hellyer if this could have arranged and the minister replied it was no problem. The full story is contained in other websites and should be read in full to appreciate the complex problems encountered to get KB976 into the air.

The night before the 4 July Air Show Garrison slipped and broke his ankle. Ralph Langeman and others carried Lynn to a car and off to the Calgary General Hospital emergency room. A rubber bandage was wound around the broken ankle and Lynn went home. On the morning of the air show, the crew lifted Lynn into the rear Lancaster door and he crawled to the cockpit. Ralph Langeman sat in the co-pilot seat, Brian B. McKay stood behind the pilot holding a VHF radio set over Lynn’s head. Joe McGoldrick crawled into the nose section and Jimmy Hamilton took over the flight engineer’s position. This signed print from Lynn Garrison captures the classic occasion he piloted Lancaster KB976 over Lancaster FM136. Lynn purchased, saved, and owned both WWII bombers.

Garrison organized a second Calgary air show in 1965 and he managed to get an RAF Vulcan bomber and Valiant refueling aircraft from England. Shell Oil sponsored the famous legless RAF ace Douglas Bader as his guest of honour. The show was gaining a widespread reputation. In 1966, Calgary City Hall and political infighting caused the air show to transferred to Red Deer, and the future breakup of the Air Museum of Canada was beginning. This has been explained by Lynn Garrison in his book.

The events from 1967 until 1973, have been destroyed, lost or just forgotten by the ‘unknown’ group who sold the fifty-plus aircraft in the original Lynn Garrison collection. Many still fly today in museums around the world. His Hurricane G-HURI flies with the Battle of Britain Flight in the UK. His Spitfire AR614 flies in Paul Allen’s collection in Seattle, Both of these aircraft were sold by Peter D. Norman. At the time of this article, [April 2017] Lynn Garrison is working on a new book which details all his stolen collection of aircraft, and the people involved.
On 23 July 1973, the City of Calgary becomes the official new owners of the assets of the defunct “Air Museum of Canada” (Actually the Air Museum of Canada never had any assets.) Recently retired Calgary International Airport Manager Bill Watts takes over the daily operations of the homeless museum. The City of Calgary places the seven aircraft [outside] at the Planetarium property for safe keeping and give Bill Watts an office plus pay his wages as a museum manager.
In the summer of 1975, the “Aero Space Museum Association of Calgary” is registered as a non-profit, charitable, organization and pilot Roy Staniland becomes the founding President. In March 1979, I became a 30-year card carrying member of the Aero Space Museum Association of Calgary. The monthly meetings were held at the downtown Planetarium basement, where we drank coffee, and hoped ‘our’ future plans would at least include a building to house the aircraft and artifacts.
The Calgary motto should have read – “On a Broken Wing and a Prayer.” My first contact with our new founding President Roy Staniland was during one of these evening meetings in the Planetarium. President Roy Staniland was the finest person I have had the pleasure of meeting, and working under in Calgary.
At the time, [1979] he was Manager of the Helicopter Branch of Petro Canada and in the third year of recovering a rare Barkley-Grow bush plane which crashed into a lake in Quebec. Only eleven of these aircraft were constructed [1938-39] and today three remain in Alberta, the prototype, serial #1 in the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Westaskiwin. Barkley-Grow CF-BQM was number 8, constructed by the B-G Corporation of Detroit, Michigan, in 1939. It flew for several Canadian companies in the far north and was flown by pilot Roy Staniland on many occasions. In 1976, Roy Staniland purchased this aircraft which was submerged in a lake in Quebec. In the following two summers Art Bell, Jim Dick, and Roy worked on the aircraft and by the spring of 1979 it received certification for a one-way flight to Calgary, Alberta.

Image from Kathleen Staniland, Quebec, April 1979, Roy [left] and Jim Dick.

In May 1979, pilot Art Bell, co-pilot Roy Staniland and maintenance chief Jim Dick lake hopped B-G T8P-1 across Canada from Quebec to Chestermere Lake, just East of Calgary. The Cross-Canada flight took two days with 17 hours, 45 minutes’ flight time. The aircraft was then trucked to Calgary International Airport where it would be converted from floats to wheels in the repair hangar of Petro Canada Helicopters. Roy always welcomed me to his office, and if he was not busy, it was coffee and plane talk. His newly arrived float-plane B-G was parked on airport property, however due to security you could not walk over and take a photo. During a visit in July 1979, I mention I would love a photo. In a flash we were both in a Petro Canada vehicle driving across the Calgary airport to his ‘baby.’

Due to the simple fact the Aero Space Association of Calgary had no building or restoration area in May 1979, this rare aircraft had to be restored in the Government of Canada helicopter hangar. Some of this restoration work, converting from floats to wheels, was unknowingly donated by the Canadian taxpayer, which saved a very rare aircraft for all of Canada. No money was ever received from the City of Calgary for this rare aircraft and most of the cost came from President Roy Staniland. Roy arranged for full Canadian Government protection of his aircraft before he donated it to the Aero Space Museum of Calgary. Today Barkley-Grow #8 is registered and declared a Canadian National Treasure, protected for life, unlike the Lynn Garrison collection which was stolen and sold for profit.

While under restoration the Barkley-Grow was first displayed to the Calgary public in the Government of Canada hangar for Petro Canada Helicopters. I took this photo in 1984 and the Aero Space Museum of Calgary will not receive a home until the following year. I had the pleasure to sit in Roy Staniland’s home, drink coffee, and watch his 35 mm slide presentation of how he located and recovered this aircraft for Calgary and Canada. Today this is the only restored to flying condition B-G in the world, thanks to Roy. In 1985, Barkley-Grow T8P-1 was moved to the Aero Space Museum building and the remaining restoration was completed by a Canadian Federal Government Job Training Grant Program. Today this rare aircraft is one of a kind and the very first aircraft saved in the post Lynn Garrison era.
I feel the period between 1986 to 1991 became a major time of change for the Aero Space Museum of Calgary, and these decisions, good and bad, still effect the museum today, twenty-plus years later. A new management has taken hold but some of the old ‘powerful’ directors still linger in the background. The name has been changed to “The Hangar Flight Museum” under Executive Director Anne Lindsay, and I wish her well. In April 2016, Anne gave me a tour of the old 1940 RAF Drill Hall, and informed me the City of Calgary had just spent one million dollars, to upgrade the WWII building and make it fire proof.
Roy Staniland was the driving force to get a home for the new Aero Space Museum and the collection of aircraft including his rare Barkley Grow. Built in 1940, [the same year the museum was built] it left the B-G factory with pilot Lee Britnell at the controls, purchased by MacKenzie Air Service in Edmonton, Alberta. It flew for Pacific Western Airlines, Canadian Pacific Airlines, Sioux Narrows Airways, Parson Airways, Northland Wild Rice Ltd., Northern Airlines and last Associated Airways. Roy not only saved this aircraft, he had been the pilot of “his baby” for a number of years. Thanks to his position with Petro Canada Helicopters, Roy was able to secure a Canadian Government Job Development Training Program Grant to complete the restoration of his B-G aircraft. This Federal grant money not only saved the Calgary taxpayer restoration fees, it saved, and restored to flying condition, a most valuable part of Western aviation history for all of Canada. Today, it sits alone with very little history, but I do hope that will change under the new directors.
Now that the Aero Space Museum had a place to call home [1985], another big question remained, who in fact legally owned the Lancaster bomber FM136? When Lynn Garrison departed for California in the fall of 1966, the WWII bomber was situated at the main entrance to McCall Field, property owned by the City of Calgary. In that same year, the City of Calgary could no longer afford to run the fast growing airport and it was sold to Transport Canada for two million dollars. The Government of Canada began planning for a new airport which opened in November 1977. The WWII memorial bomber was now left unprotected in the old airport industrial area, and vandals soon moved in to steal, destroy, and damage the once proud aircraft. Large sections of glass in the cockpit area were broken and the original instrument panel gauges was stolen, or damaged beyond repair. The pigeons soon found a new home and by 1986, some sections in the bomber contained four inches of pigeon droppings.

At last the City of Calgary put up a security fence, but refused to spend taxpayer money on a bomber they did not own, and ownership was still a legal question to be decided later in a court of law. President Roy Staniland and a group of RCAF WWII veterans from the Aero Space Museum of Calgary stepped forward and decided to save the aircraft, as they believed it still came under their protection. The broken glass was replaced, the inside cleaned of pigeon droppings, and a complete repainting was undertaken thanks to public donations, most received from the owner of Jack Carter Chev Olds in Calgary. The Lancaster paint now appeared in new squadron code letters [NA] and the aircraft single code letter [P], the same as the Lancaster in the National Aeronautical Collection museum at ex-RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario. I had seen the Ottawa Lancaster during my first visit in 1977, yet it contained no information on the WWII crew or its combat history. What came next was a total surprise.

Calgary FM136 in 1986, being painted as KB760, No. 428 [Ghost] Squadron code NA-P for “Panic.”

The image of KB944 painted as KB760 NA-P for “Panic” in Ottawa, 1967.

In the fall of 1986, I met ex-F/O Arthur John Edward Carter and my first question was –
“Why have we painted Calgary Lancaster FM136 in the markings of No. 428 [Ghost] squadron NA-P [P for Panic] KB760?”
His quick answer was very simple –
“That was my Lancaster, which I flew seventeen times, after I joined No. 428 Ghost Squadron in July 1943.”
That would lead to extensive research and the fact both ‘our’ Canadian built Lancaster aircraft [Ottawa and Calgary] were painted incorrectly.

End of Part One

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5 thoughts on “The First Vintage Flying Wings of Canada at Calgary, Alberta – The Calgary Lancaster FM136

  1. GP Cox

    It’s amazing what determination in the right people can accomplish, eh?!! Great history here, Pierre.
    [Psst – have you heard, Mustang Koji is getting married in June!]

    Like

    Reply

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