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Southern Alberta museum raises parts from sea bed in quest to rebuild Halifax bomber



A team using a tugboat and divers spent three weeks this summer recovering parts at the bottom of the Baltic Sea

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Significant progress was made this summer on a southern Alberta museum’s ambitious project to house a Halifax bomber and become the only museum in the world to house two running Allied Second World War bombers.

A team using a tugboat and divers spent three weeks this summer recovering parts from a Halifax bomber at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, near the coast of Sweden, for Nanton’s Bomber Command Museum of Canada. Over three weeks this July and August, 544 kilograms of aluminum parts were brought up from the sea bed.

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The southern Alberta museum already boasts a running Avro Lancaster, a heavy bomber used by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, but other museums also have one, said Karl Kjarsgaard, who’s heading up the Nanton aviation museum’s efforts to have a complete and running Halifax bomber on display in the museum.

What will set the Nanton’s museum apart is the addition of a running Halifax to its running Lancaster.

“That will take us up a notch over and above anyone else in the world,” said Kjarsgaard.

Seventy per cent of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 43,000 combat trips during the Second World War were on a Halifax, and more than half of the almost 11,000 engraved names on the museum’s Bomber Command memorial, which honours airmen killed while serving with Bomber Command, pay tribute to airmen who were on a Halifax when they died, Kjarsgaard noted.

“It’s not just another airplane,” he said. “If you could only pick one airplane in the entire aviation history that had the most significance to Canada and the Royal Canadian Air Force, it would be the Halifax.”

But having spent roughly $15,000 on this summer’s recovery efforts, funds to continue gathering parts are now running low.

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“With charities, we must rely on the generosity and interest of the people, and a lot of the people who are continuing to donate are children and grandchildren of these Bomber Command veterans, especially the Halifax Bomber Command veterans,” he said.

A significant portion of Halifax parts has been obtained, but more parts are needed. Enough engine and propeller parts have been found, but more tail and fuselage parts are required.

Halifax status
Graphic shows parts for the Halifax rebuild that have been found (in green) and parts (in white) that are still needed. Supplied by Bomber Command Museum of Canada

In August, Kjarsgaard sent a crate of Halifax parts, including many wing pieces, from the recovery efforts to a shop in Trenton, Ont., where the museum’s Halifax is being built in sections.

It costs $1,000 to $2,000 per crate to fly crates back to Canada from Europe, and Kjarsgaard has three or four more crates to transport from Europe.

“I try to be as lean and mean as I can for expenses, but travelling around Europe to gather things is difficult and expensive,” he said.

Kjarsgaard estimated $40,000 to $50,000 per year is being spent recovering Halifax parts, but those parts are rare and are worth “10 times” that amount.

“We’re finding stuff that doesn’t exist (elsewhere), we’re saving it, it’s rare, and we live to horse trade and we like to barter, and we’re getting stuff at very low prices instead of top dollar,” he said.

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Halifax wing
A new 7.6-metre wing for the Halifax rebuild. Photo supplied by Bomber Command Museum of Canada

In his quest for parts, Kjarsgaard says another Halifax bomber has been found under water in Europe, but he declined to provide the exact location due to the sensitive nature of negotiating to obtain the rights to retrieve parts.

Kjarsgaard estimated the Halifax project would take another five to 10 years.

“But it will all depend on what we find,” he added.

To assemble and house the Halifax, the Nanton museum has plans for a major expansion of its main hanger.

“There’s no room in the main display hangar to assemble a Halifax,” he said.

The Bomber Command Museum is also fundraising for that project.

“We’re going to approach major foundations and corporations to sponsor the build of the hanger,” said Kjarsgaard, and the museum is also applying for Alberta and federal government grants.

Visit to donate to the Halifax project.

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