The real story behind the Lancaster in the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum – KW-K
Foreword by Pierre Lagacé
I have never met Clarence Simonsen in person only through the Internet. How we met is about something I had written in one of my blogs. That blog was about RCAF 128 (F) Squadron. 128 (F) Squadron is a little known squadron that was based at Torbay, Newfoundland during World War Two.
How I got to write that blog is a very long story about my journey into the past of Canadian aviation history.
This is what got Clarence all excited when he found my blog in 2014…
Clarence told me at that time that he had been searching all these years for information about 128 (F) Squadron. He had no real picture of a plane with an insignia…
This is all he had for preserving the past.
Since November 2014 Clarence and I have become unseparable…and have shared our passion for Canadian aviation history.
The real story behind the Lancaster in the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum – KW-K
Research by Clarence Simonsen with contribution by Pierre Lagacé
In 2006, I made letter contact with François G. Savard and soon learned this had turned into a French/English political fight, as the museum, now called the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, wanted to display a WWII veteran Lancaster, and Alouette Squadron had never flown the Canadian Lancaster on active operations during WWII.
F/O F.G. Savard J45004 had been the navigator for pilot F/Sgt. J. R. Beaudoin R194267, and flew on Halifax NP941 “W” on the last operation 25 April 1945. The French-Canadians had also inherited the RAF absurd system of WWII promotion and flight pay, which they objected to, wanting equal pay as a crew. The pilot was a Flight/Sgt. [NCO] and received 75 cents per day, while F/O Savard, an officer received two dollars per day.
On 14-15 May 1945, F/Sgt Beaudoin and navigator Savard ferried five Halifax bombers to the graveyards at Rawcliffe, at 20-minute flight from Tholthorpe, Yorkshire. The bombers were
KW-K [LW415], and KW-B [NR252], “Bang On.”
“Bang On” Halifax Mk. III, serial NR252, was ferried to Rawcliffe, Yorkshire, graveyard on 14 May 45, by F/Sgt. Beaudoin and navigator Savard. A few days later F/L Harold Lindsay took this image, however the nose art was not selected to be saved and it was scrapped a few weeks later.
Another 425 Halifax Mk. III, LV860, KW-U, was flown to Rawcliffe 8 June 45, and scrapped 16 June.
Little LULU, KW-U, serial MZ425 flew 16 operations with 425 squadron from 3 January 45 to 14 April 45.
Replaced by LV860 “Spook’N Droop” on 16 April 45, her career was short, having an accident on 19 April 45. Both 425 Halifax bombers ended up at Rawcliffe, with Lulu scrapped 30 May 1945.
F/Sgt Beaudoin and crew were now assigned a new Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X serial KB936, coded KW-G with nose art Gallopin’ “Gus.” This is the Lancaster they trained in for return flight to Canada.
Lancaster Mk. X serial KB936, coded KW-G
1 May 45, No. 425 received the first Lancaster Mk. X, and two days later they had reached fifteen bombers, all were deployed in flight training. On 1 June 45, nine crews had been fully trained for the trans-Atlantic flight, including F/Sgt. Beaudoin and crew. They were then informed they would be flying KB944, “King of the Air” to Canada and completed a test flight in their new bomber. 5 June 45, all fifteen Lancaster aircraft in No. 425 did a test flight in preparation for take-off to Canada, then due to bad weather the flight was cancelled.
The pilot side nose art on KB944
The starboard markings in French read – “The famous Alouettes Squadron is glad to be back to the country of riches and beauties.” [photo- François G. Savard]
On 13 June 45, the fifteen Lancaster bombers of No. 425 Squadron were lined up for an afternoon take-off but again the weather cancelled the departure. The following day at 18:00 hrs, the weather cleared and the fifteen Lancaster aircraft departed on the first leg of their journey to Canada.
They arrived at Debert, Nova Scotia, 16 June 45 as part of No. 633 [RCAF] Wing of Tiger Force and the crew went on 30 days leave. The war ended, Tiger Force was disbanded 5 September 45, and the nose art and Lancaster aircraft were flown to Pearce, Alberta, for long-term storage.
I do not have the correct number, but by my count approximately 288 Lancaster bombers returned to Canada and around 100 reappeared as postwar Lancaster Mk. Xs, in eight new designations. Not one of our famous veteran bombers were saved and all were unceremoniously scrapped by our Government authorities beginning in 1947.
As might be expected, today Canada has the largest number of Canadian built Lancaster aircraft in the world at eight, and almost all were saved by pure luck. From this collection of eight, only two are in fact veterans that flew operations during WWII, KB839 at Greenwood, Nova Scotia, which today is painted as British built JB226, that flew with No. 405 Pathfinder Squadron. The other is KB882, which spent its postwar days out in the weather at Edmunston, New Brunswick.
As I speak, KB882 is being prepared for shipment to the National Air Force Museum at Trenton, Ontario, and to the persons responsible, a special thank you. This is our second most famous WWII veteran Lancaster and it will be restored to her postwar Area Reconnaissance [AR] configuration. At last, KB882 will be protected from the elements and displayed indoors for future generations to see. I just hope the persons in charge will not forget her WWII past and the operations she flew.
The other five Lancaster aircraft were all from the FM series and never flew operations, the oldest being FM104 which was assigned to No. 428 Squadron, and today is in storage in Toronto.
FM159 in Nanton is painted as a British built No. 635 Squadron, ND811, RAF bomber, FM212 in Windsor, postwar No. 405 Pathfinder Squadron, Manna, Netherlands, food drop. FM136 in Calgary is almost painted correctly to honor pilot Ron Jenkins, KB895, but still needs corrections, which I submitted to Anne Lindsay over a year ago.
The pride of the world is FM213 in the Canadian Warplane Heritage at Hamilton, which not only flies, but once a year it flies in true colors of other WWII RCAF Lancaster aircraft. Thanks to Warplane Heritage for painting their bomber correctly and educating future generations of new Canadians.
Now, forgotten in all this confusion is KB944 in our Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.
For the record, in 2006, and today, I fully support the painting of KB944 in her ‘ORIGINAL’ No. 425 [Alouette] May 1945 markings. We have eight Lancaster bombers in Canada, but not one displays history of 425 French-Canadian squadron, yet as crazy as it sounds, we have the one and only original Lancaster that contains part of their history during the last days of WWII.
This aircraft also contained nose art in both English and French, the true meaning of Canada, and the bomber was in fact the “King of the Air.”
The Canadian Aviation and Space Museum organization are very powerful and controlled by politicians and well paid bureaucrats. This is what they decided to do for our WWII RCAF veterans of No. 425 Alouette Squadron. They spent $350.00 to have a model made in England and displayed in the markings of KB944 “King of the Air.”
Is this the best they can do for our veteran RCAF French-Canadians?
Source Pierre Lagacé – 2012 images
I feel this is a disgrace to 425 veterans but what can I do, in Ottawa they are too powerful and create their own history. Then when you look up at the original Lancaster KB944, it is not painted correctly and it has been displayed that way for the past fifty years. OK, enough said, I needed action not words.
If our Canadian Aviation and Space Museum can’t repaint KB944 as she originally appeared in May 1945, with No. 425 [Alouette] Squadron, then please, paint her correctly as KB760 “P for Panic.” I have supplied the full history, with photos and it is all free. If you hire someone in Ottawa to conduct this research, it would cost $100,000 or more.
I have a motto – “It’s always much better to be divided on the Truth, then united in Error.”
This is dedicated to the original pilot J22971 F/O Jack A. Carter and his crew, who flew P for Panic the most operations during WWII and painted her markings.
No. 425 [Alouette] Squadron Lancaster Mk. X Bombers
425 squadron flew Wellington and Halifax bombers on tactical operations over Europe and tropicalized Wellington aircraft in North Africa. After the end of hostilities in Europe [8 May 1945] they were selected as part of “Tiger Force” and the war against Japan in the Pacific.
Beginning on 1 May 1945, the squadron was assigned its first Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X, and by the 15th of the month had taken on charge a mix of  new,  from 420 squadron, and  veteran Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X aircraft. Training in the new Lancaster for the return flights to Canada began at once, and during this period most of the new bombers received new French/Canadian nose art paintings. Three of the transferred Lancaster bombers from No. 429 Snowy Owl contained nose art and these paintings were not removed, which caused some problems when they returned to Canada. The French/Canadian artist was F/Sgt. Raymond St-Onge, the rear gunner in the Halifax crew of pilot F/L J. R. Laporte. He flew his first operation on 2 January 1945, in Halifax NA527 “A” and painted a number [eight] of the postwar Lancaster bombers which returned to Canada wearing his art.
KB894 KW-A New Alouette – Badge. [Raymond St-Onge]
KB916 KW-C from No. 420 [Snowy Owl] as PT-C.
KB962 KW-D New
KB917 KW-E from No. 420 [Snowy Owl] as PT-E Nose Art – “Easy Does It!” [possibly Raymond St-Onge]
KB926 KW-F New
KB936 KW-G New
KB915 KW-H Veteran No. 419 [Moose] squadron as VR-H, Nose Art – “Happy Hoolican”.
KB934 KW-I New
KB944 KW-K New Nose Art photo – “King of the Air” – in Ottawa today.
KB876 KW-L New Nose Art photo – “Lucky Lady”. [Raymond St-Onge]
KB930 KW-N New Nose Art -“The Nightmare”, then Nite Mare. [Raymond St-Onge]
KB932 KW-O from No. 420 [Snowy Owl] – Nose Art – “Oozy Oscar”. Raymond St-Onge]
KB918 KW-P from No. 420 [Snowy Owl] as PT-P, Nose Art photo – “Owl Be Seeing Ya”.
KB912 KW-Q New
KB903 KW-R New Nose Art – Rabbit’s Stew. [Raymond St-Onge]
KB931 KW-S New Nose Art – “Samson”. [Raymond St-Onge]
KB924 KW-T New Nose Art – “T for Tarzan”. [Raymond St-Onge]
KB875 KW-U Veteran served with No. 419 [Moose] Squadron as VR-Z Nose Art – “I’ll Get By”.
KB954 KW-V New
KB899 KW-X Veteran no. 428 [Ghost] Squadron as NA-V
KB894, KW-A for Alouette, painted by Raymond St-Onge. Richard Koval image taken at Debert, N.S.
KB917, PT-E, No. 420 [Snowy Owl] becomes KW-E, with same nose art “Easy does It!”.
Ex-No. 419 [Moose] Squadron Lancaster KB915, with new 425 nose art -“Happy Hoolican” as KW-H, May 1945.
The most famous [unknown] nose art in Canada. This new Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB944, KW-K, “King of the Air” May 1945. This 425 squadron bomber remains in the Ottawa collection painted incorrectly for the past 65 years. The only nose art I have found in 50 years that shows French and English and the true meaning of what all Canadians fought for in WWII.
Photo from Col. [retired] Savard No. 425 Squadron who flew this KB944 to Canada. French lettering on starboard side.
Letter from Paul Bourdages asking to repaint the Lancaster (Collection Jacques Morin)
KB932, KW-O for “Oozy Oscar.”
New Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB876, pilot Al Davies and his “Lucky Lady.” Getting ready for the flight to Canada.
French/Canadian ground crew and their markings of flying Alouette on tail of KB876, “Lucky Lady” May 1945. Some birds appeared in red and others as white.
Lucky Lady” was from the April 1945 issue of Esquire, Alberto Varga pin-up lady.
New Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB930, and the original nose art painted in England by Raymond St-Onge. “The Nightmare” which came from a Walt Disney design for No. 122 Squadron in Pat Bay, B.C. The Lancaster was repainted and the nose art was altered to read “The Nite Mare” with more color blue added.
Color photo Richard Koval at Debert, Nova Scotia, June 45.
When Lancaster KB930 arrived at Debert, Nova Scotia, 15 June 45, the original nose art had been altered by No. 425 squadron artist Raymond St-Onge and read – “Nite Mare.”
Veteran Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB918, PT-P, No. 420 [Snowy Owl] Squadron was not changed, just became KW-P, “Owl Be Seeing Ya” flying owl with bomb while looking at target
This color image from Richard Koval was taken at Debert, Nova Scotia, 15 June 1945, KB903, KW-R for “Rabbit’s Stew” Artist confirmed as rear gunner Raymond St-Onge.
This exchanging of Lancaster bombers with No. 420 caused errors to be made and PT-R [KB909] was confused with KW-R KB903.
1952, major overhaul begins at Malton and modification of KB903 to Mk.10 AR.
KB924, KW-T Tarzan, artist Raymond St-Onge.
The first image of Samson being created in England by St-Onge.
Color final image KB931 taken at Debert, Nova Scotia, 15 June 1945. Richard Koval. Artist Raymond St-Onge.
This is veteran Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB875 which first flew combat with No. 419 [Moose] Squadron as VR-Z, then became KW-U with 425 squadron in May 1945. The nose art is the pilot’s wife with name “I’ll Get By” but it is not known which squadron painted her. Possibly painted by Raymond St-Onge.
These are just of few of many pictures from John Rawbon’s collection. They were shared by his son Phillip on a Facebook page. They complement this research well.