Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Fate of the Ruhr Express and other Canadian Lancasters

From Spencer Dunmore and William Carter, Reap the Whirlwind.  The Untold Story of 6 Group, Canada's Bomber Force of World War II.  (McClelland & Stewart, 1992).  The authors report that the first Canadian-built Lancaster, KB700, was to be christened on August 6, 1943, a huge PR event.  The country was told that, following the ceremony, the aircraft would be winging to Europe to do battle with the Hun.  (At the same time, 20,000 workers at three Montreal aircraft plants were on strike for better pay.)  When the crew climbed aboard to thunderous applause, it was to discover that none of the engine instruments worked.  The plane took off, but landed at Dorval, Quebec where it remained for more than a month while it was being properly fitted out.  On a test flight, one engine failed.  Finally, in September it crossed the Atlantic where it was met by the Canadian High Commissioner and a group of reporters.  Turns out the crew disliked the Ruhr Express name -- their own preference was for Bambi.  Due to continuing technical problems, the aircraft didn't actually complete a bombing sortie until late November 1943.  In early January 1945, returning from it's 49th mission, the plane ran out of runway.  Attempting to get it out of the way of other aircraft using the strip, one propeller hit a ditch digging machine that had been left there by civilian workers and the plane caught fire and burned.  Although the crew escaped unharmed, the aircraft was a total loss.  It was supposed to have been retired after one more mission and flown back to Canada.

Below, another Canadian-built Lancaster that got back to Canada, only to be scrapped.  Very sad indeed.

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