Monday, September 24, 2012

The End of Snowy Owl Squadron

Larry Milberry.  Aviation in Canada.  Toronto:  McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 1979.
Following VE day, eight RCAF bomber squadrons consisting of 165 Lancasters were send back to Canada to assist in the war against Japan.  After they arrived home, Japan capitulated before they could be assigned to their new task.  Number 420 (Snowy Owl) Sqdn had its aircraft struck of strength, and their final trip was from Debert, Nova Scotia to Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Larry Milberry relates:

"On September 24 the squadron took off for the final leg of its trip.  Destination was Pearce, Alberta, from where the Lancasters were to be sold off or destroyed.  This leg has been described by one participant as 'how World War II came to the Prairies.'  Once out of Winnipeg, the gaggle of Lancasters set about terrorizing the countryside between there and Pearce.  Aircraft, even as big as they were, flew under telegraph wires; one, flew so low it over a farm, it collided with a barnyard duck.  Another pilot buzzed a train and recalls his last impression as seeing the startled look of disbelief on the engineer's face as he pulled down his blind!"

On arrival at their final destination, the planes were sold for scrap, although some were also burned on site.  Trainers were offered in flyable condition.  $800 would buy you a Cornell or a Crane.  For $900 you could walk away with a Harvard.  Anson V's sold for  $5000, and a Canso (PBY Catalina to Americans) commanded $25,000.

Milberry continues:

"Since this aircraft disposal process was shortlived, it didn't receive too much publicity.  Some articles appeared decrying the colossal waste.  One Winnipeg Free Press article was headlined, 'Aircraft Are Suffering Post-War Let-Down Too,' and read in part, 'Where blue-clad mechanics and armourers used to swarm around her on the tarmac servicing and bombing up for the next flight, now chickens roost on her tailplane, cows scratch their backs on her rudder and the farmer's dog lies out of the sun beneath her wings.
     'It's getting to be almost a common sight now--one that would have caused a minor sensation a few years back--to see one of these big yellow bombing trainers taking up space between the barn and the farmhouse.'
     'Barnyard bombers' were well worth the fifty dollars asking price.  To begin with, a farmer could count on recouping his investment by simply draining gas and antifreeze from his plane.  Tires were just fine for a farm wagon.  A tailwheel fit the wheelbarrow.  For years to come the carcass would be a veritable hardware store of nuts and bolts, piping and wiring.  In the meantime it made a suitable chicken coop for storage shed.  One farmer converted the nose of his Anson into a snowmobile.  Bit Waco gliders were hauled away just for their packing cases.  The actual gliders were probably put to the torch."

1 comment:

Graham Clayton said...

It is sad to see that photo when you realise that there are only two airworthy Avro Lancasters flying today.