There are only 17 Lancaster bombers left in the world. The iconic aircraft was credited with playing a significant part in defeating Nazi Germany. (Photo submitted)

BCAM slated to get one of last remaining Lancaster bombers

Approval seems certain despite emotional Torontonian appeals

There were a total of 7,377 Avro Lancaster bombers built during WWII but only two of the iconic heavy bombers remain airworthy and only 17 of the aircraft remain in complete form.

A total of 3,736 of the aircraft were lost during the war while performing bombing raids into Nazi Germany.

“When one considers that the crews knew the fatality rates of those missions and the horrors of the night flights and search lights…its remarkable. These men got into these aircraft knowing there was a good chance they wouldn’t be coming back,”said John Lewis, the president of the B.C. Aviation Museum (BCAM) in North Saanich.

“It’s one of the reasons we were so keen on getting one here. It’s an important part of not only aviation history, but of our collective history as a nation.”

Now, dependant upon the approval of Toronto City Council on July 23, one of the last surviving Lancasters may, in fact, be heading to the BCAM.

The plane in question, the Lancaster FM104, was one of 400 built in Canada and flown to Europe as part of the 248 Squadron in 1944. But FM104 never flew any bombing missions before the war’s end. It returned to Canada in 1945 and, for the next 20 years, it flew as part of the Maritime Air Command of the Royal Canadian Air Force, performing patrols and search and rescue functions.

When it was finally retired in 1965, the Royal Canadian Air Force Association purchased the plane and donated it to the City of Toronto as a memorial. It was placed upon a plinth in Coronation Park where it sat, exposed to the elements, up until 1999 when it was removed and displayed at the Canadian Air and Space Museum at Downsview Park.

It was later dismantled and for the past seven years has been stored, in pieces, at the Edenvale Aviation Heritage Foundation in Stayner, Ont.

Notwithstanding that the aircraft has effectively been removed from any sort of public access for the better part of a decade, and that the only initial offer made to take the aircraft was by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) in Hamilton, Ont., near Toronto, who proposed that it would be used as parts for the one airworthy Lancaster already in the museum’s collection, the offer from the BCAM to take and restore Lancaster FM104 to flying condition was met with outrage by some Torontonians.

“When the Economic Development Committee of Toronto City Council first met in April to review our request they were met with an emotional appeal from a group that had formed to keep the plane in Toronto,” explained Lewis.

Based on that appeal, they deferred their decision for three months while the alternative proposals were considered.”

Those alternative proposals came from a number of groups, but chief among them was #SaveLancasterFM104, a Toronto group that has since acknowledged that they do not have the resources needed for the restoration of the aircraft.

A revised proposal from the CWHM and one from the foundation in Stayner were similarly found to be less appropriate than the BCAM proposal.

“The whole thing is still up in the air (no pun intended) until Toronto City Council votes to ratify the recommendation of their Economic Development Committee who voted to approve the plane coming to the BCAM,” said Lewis.

They do not, as a rule, overturn the recommendations of their own committees, but until that vote is cast, we simply do not know for certain.”

Assuming that the move to the BCAM is approved, it would take several months to ship the component pieces of Lancaster FM104 to the Saanich Peninsula.

“We may ship it by road or by rail, but are still exploring our options. But regardless, we would hope to have much of it here in a few months and all of it by year’s end,” said Lewis.

Once in North Saanich, the real work of restoration would begin.

Lewis explained that none of the work would be done in a way that would compromise the end goal of having the Lancaster as an airworthy part of the BCAM collection.

“The work will be done by a collection of skilled volunteers and Victoria Air Maintenance. That’s the group that generously helped in restoring the last deHavilland Mosquito B.35. That’s another WWII plane, and the work that was done there was amazing.”

Even with the help of skilled professionals and volunteers, Lewis estimates that the full restoration of the Lancaster may take as long as 10 years.

“You have to do this carefully and with a view to seeing it airborne once again. That’s the real goal.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria woman to sell masks on wheels after garage stand shut down

Mama’s Masks stand accompanied Moss Street Market

Greater Victoria non-profit advocates for the use of psilocybin for terminal patients

North Saanich psychotherapist pushes for alternative treatment

Gathering marks 10 years since nearly 500 asylum-seekers landed off Victoria shore

The 492 people fleeing violence, war crimes and genocide in Sri Lanka were detained for months

One person in custody after hours-long Cook Street standoff with barricaded robbery suspects

Victoria police say 2300-block of Cook Street has reopened to drivers

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Captive fawn seized from Island home

Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 11

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read