Thirteen members from CFB Edmonton-based 408 Tactical Helicopter (TH) Squadron flew to Nanton, Alta, home of the Bomber Command Museum and the Lancaster FM159, to celebrate the Squadron’s 70th anniversary, the museum’s 25th anniversary and the unveiling of newly acquired Halifax Bomber parts.
It was a weekend filled with immense passion, amazing stories and the kindling of new friendships.
Local townspeople surrounded the little baseball diamond where we landed our two CH-146 Griffons. Two of the museum’s original curators, Dan Fox and Dave Birrell, were on hand. No time was wasted as we were taken for a quick tour of the grounds which included driving a former and newly restored 408 Squadron aircraft tow truck and taking an original 1944 vehicle for a drive around the stoically poised Lancaster.
After the unveiling of the Halifax Bomber parts recently acquired from Malta, the crowd gathered and celebrated alongside children of Second World War Lancaster pilots and crews as well as Second World War re-enactors dressed in original RCAF clothing.
That Friday evening came to a climax as two of the massive Merlin engines on the Lancaster were brought back to life, realizing a beautiful blue flame from the 12 huge exhaust ports.
After a community breakfast on Saturday, the crowd strolled through a number of static displays in the museum hanger, tried a Tiger Moth flight simulator and visited with the re-enactors, who had a traditional Second World War field set-up on display and in full use.
The main hangar was the central point for an afternoon of demonstrations, speeches and emotionally charged presentations which brought families together and had strangers become friends.
In the heat of the August sun, we moved outside for a remembrance ceremony. The scene became quite powerful, as we stood in front of the 60-foot long black granite memorial wall, which has etched into it the names of over 10,000 Canadians who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the span of the Bomber Command Era.
With emotion filling the hearts of the 13 members of 408 Squadron, it was time to go. With crowds watching, the Griffons took off, circled overhead to wave good bye – for now – and headed back to Edmonton.
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