Avro Lancaster KB882; Coming in From the Cold?

Avro Lancaster AR10 KB882 awaits her fate, while the city board decides which preservation proposal to accept. (photo via Benoit de Mulder)
Avro Lancaster AR10 KB882 awaits her fate, while the city board decides which preservation proposal to accept. (photo via Benoit de Mulder)
Avro Lancaster Mk.10P KB882 awaits her fate, while the city board decides which preservation proposal to accept. (photo via Benoit de Mulder)

Last year, there was a brief stir concerning the plight of a rare combat veteran Avro Lancaster on outdoor display at Madawaska Municipal Airport in the Canadian city of Edmunston, New Brunswick. The city has owned Lancaster Mk.10P KB882 since her RCAF retirement in 1964. The Lancaster’s condition has deteriorated significantly after decades sitting outdoors, and a time of reckoning has arrived. While a small band of dedicated volunteers has done their best to preserve and maintain the old bomber, they do not have the resources to ensure her long term survival without a massive infusion of cash and expertise to both get the aircraft indoors and carry out her restoration. The city which saved this precious artifact fifty years ago doesn’t appear to have the funds either, and now must determine what is best for KB882’s future, even if that means a painful decision to relinquish their ownership. WarbirdsNews has learned from our colleague, Benoit de Mulder who maintains the excellent aircraft manual website Avialogs.com, that Edmundston city council now has four proposals before them concerning KB882’s future. They will be releasing their decision within the next week or so, but given the facts already available, it seems very likely that KB882 will be moving to a new home in another city before too long. WarbirdsNews will of course be reporting on this decision when we learn the details, but in the meantime we thought you would enjoy Benoit de Mulder’s description of KB882’s remarkable history.

The storm clouds gather over KB882 as the Edmundston City Council decides her fate. (photo via Benoit de Mulder)
The storm clouds gather over KB882 as the Edmundston City Council decides her fate. (photo via Benoit de Mulder)

Benoit de Mulder:

KB882 (c/n 37183) was part of the first production batch of three hundred Lancaster Mk.X’s built in Canada by Victory Aircraft Ltd. at their factory in Malton, Ontario. She arrived in the United Kingdom on March 4th, 1945 initially as part of 32 Maintenance Unit before moving to 434 Squadron (RCAF). She then moved to 428 Squadron (RCAF) as part of the all-Canadian 6 Group in RAF Bomber Command. 428 Squadron were known as “Ghost Squadron” and flew from RAF Middleton St.George in Durham during KB882’s tenure. KB882 wore the squadron codes NA-R “R for Robert”

She flew her first mission with Ghost Squadron on the night of March 12th/13th; a raid against Dortmund, Germany. Overall, she participated in twelve missions; eight of them under the command of Flight Lieutenant W.L. Ross and his crew. What was unusual about this crew was that it consisted entirely of officers, with F/L Ross being on his second tour. The targets varied from cities to industrial sites, with five of the attacks occurring during daylight. KB882 aborted only one mission, an attack against Bremen, due bad weather. Flight Lieutenant R.D. Hay, the pilot, dropped his bombs in the North Sea.

KB882’s last mission was on April 25th, 1945. She flew to the German island of Wangerooge, on the approaches to the port of Hamburg. 428 Squadron personnel knew the war in Europe was almost over and they would soon be going home. They began flying back to Canada in early June, with KB882 departing on June 1st. F/L Ross made the flight with his crew and two passengers. They arrived in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on June 10th after several stops along the way.

The war was not over for the members of 428 Squadron and KB882 however. The RCAF selected 428 Squadron along with seven others to become part of Tiger Force, Britain’s planned bomber contingent which were to have joined the American bombing campaign against Japanese forces in the Pacific Theatre. After a month’s leave in Canada, 428 Squadron personnel returned to Yarmouth to begin their working up for the anticipated Japanese campaign. Training started in mid-July and had hardly gotten into full swing when the war ended following the nuclear missions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of 428 Squadron’s personnel were demobilized and returned to civilian life. KB882 entered a period of storage at RCAF Station Fort MacLeod in Alberta.

A shot of KB882 during her days as an arctic survey plane in the 1950s. (photo via Benoit de Mulder)
A shot of KB882 during her days as an arctic survey plane in the 1950s. (photo via Benoit de Mulder)

In 1950, the RCAF pulled KB882 from storage and returned her to flying condition. Fairey Aviation began modifying her into an Arctic Reconnaissance variant in July 1952, completing the work by December 1953. However, the aircraft did not immediately return to active service. Instead, KB882 went into reserve storage with No. 6 Repair Depot at RCAF Station Mountain View near Trenton, Ontario in January 1954, where she would remain for over two years. In June 1956, KB882 left storage and became a test-bed at the Central Experimental and Test Establishment (CEPE) at RCAF Station Rockcliffe, in Ottawa (the current home of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. At Rockliffe, KB882 took part in testing a night photography system. She was one of the very last Lancasters to retire from military service, standing down with the rest of the Canadian fleet in 1964. Soon after, Edmundson bought KB882 from the Canadian government for the princely sum of $1,500, and she’s been on display at Manawaska Municipal Airport ever since.

WarbirdsNews wishes to thank Benoit de Mulder very much for his contributions to this article. He maintains a fabulous collection of aircraft manuals of almost every conceivable type. They are available for digital download at very reasonable prices from his marvelous website Avialogs.com. Please click HERE to take a look… you won’t be disappointed! There’s also a Facebook presence too HERE.

There is also an excellent Facebook page on KB882 which you can find HERE.

17 Comments

  1. I’m sure you folks are aware of the Lancaster in NANTON, Alberta. It was very well preserved, and wiith a great museum constructed adjacent to the aircraft. Maybe those folks may have some spare parts to help with this new verteran’s recovery and maybe even would like to have some twins in their display. Thanks for the information. Vern Smith

  2. I have been under this airplane in the last few years. I have stopped at this airport for fuel before. Heavy corrosion is eating the plane pieces. I think its proximity to the highway and salt are the culprit. It would be a daunting if not impossible task to restore.

    BTW my dad worked at Victory Aircraft during the war in Malton and would have worked on this aircraft.

  3. The photo in your article entitled “A shot of KB882 during her days as an arctic survey plane in the 1950s. (photo via Benoit de Mulder)” is not correctly identified.
    This is a photograph taken on july 14th, 1964 above the city of Edmundston, NB. This was taken on the day it arrived in Edmundston 50 years ago. That was her last flight…

  4. Imagine if she could ever fly again…… she could (like Vera) come over here and land once again at Ex RAF Middleton St.George – or Teesside Airport as it has now become! We can only dream………

    • It would be great if she could be brought back to Middleton St George (Durham Tees Valley Airport). As a memorial to all the Canadians who flew from here.

      • Teeside Airport is on land that was originally my mother’s family farm. She met my father who was with the 419 ‘Moose’ Squadron stationed at Middleton St.George as a Rigger. I would be great to see this plane and VR-A together again flying over the country side. I live in Brantford so we occasionally get to hear the roar of those Rolls Royce Merlins go overhead. You can only imagine a whole squadron taking off fully loaded and fueled bound for Germany.

  5. Some more info on this A/C and its sister ships at 408 Sqn Rockcliffe. 882, 976 were the two other 10 P “Lancs ” ,and 3 “AR” types 120,122,and 212 were also on sqn inventory. I think the “AR” types had MN in front of the A/C # on tail and fuselage.I was a young “rigger” an a unit trained “crewman” on these birds until the summer of 62 at which time some of us were deployed to RCAF stn Uplands on the T-33 ‘s the Sqn would aquire,and two years later the entire Sqn moved to CJATC Rivers Manitoba.In Rivers the Sqn had T-33,Dakotas,Beechcraft,and C-119 Packet( flying boxcars ) Another chapter….I spent 9 years w/the Sqn,and 3 bases..Rockliffe,Uplands, Rivers Manitoba,and the Squadron holds a special place in my memories..408 Sqn put Canada on the map..Literally… thanks for the pictures and writeup,and take care of the Old Girl 882

    • I too worked on those aircrafts as engine technician from 1961 until they retired in 1964, then went to Rivers until 1966 and transfered back to Rockcliffe. She should be in the Aviation Museum in Rockcliffe where she belongs.

  6. OOps..I think the 3 – 10 P Lancs were 120,122,and 212. and the A R Lancs were 839,882,and 976…. I mixed up the types and Tail #s …My Apologies I missed putting in A/C 839 in the writeup.

  7. Thanks Brian – great time spent on 408 Sqn. Posted to Comox 1963 before 408 went to Rivers. Terrible A/C to work on as a Rigger – remember we had to lug around many different tools BSF – BSW. What a sight to see(video) both Lanks flying in England this past summer.

  8. Time for this extremely valuable aircraft to go to the Canadian Warplane Heritage museum at amount Hope airport as there are only two Lancs flying in the world. How about it you parsimonious poltroons in Ottawa? Can you forego a few of your unnecessary jaunts abroad and send this aircraft where it belongs?
    Cheers,
    John R.Wright

  9. I have seen this aircraft years ago, and the one at Calgary and the one at Nanton. All of these aircraft were static displays outside. The Calgary Lanc is under restoration and the Nanton Lanc is inside. The Edmunston Lanc should also be inside, even if unfortunately has to be moved. These aircraft are part of our history. Maybe install another aircraft at Edmunston if the Lanc is moved.

  10. I’m a Volunteer Tour Guide at Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario where we are the custodians of VR-A, FM-213, one of the two flying Lancs left. Actually Victory Aircraft in Malton built 422 Lancaster bombers and 8 Lancastrians, a horrid hybrid bomber/airliner. It’s vital that KB882 be saved since she actually served in Europe on bombing missions. An interesting note: “Ghost” was the name given to 428 Squadron early in the history of 6 Group because so many of its aircraft failed to return. It would not be a bad idea to preserve her in her post war livery since none of the other Lanc 10MR’s are.

    • Thanks for the note John… CWH does an amazing job, and is an extraordinary organization. You’re really privileged to be able to volunteer there. It would be nice to see KB882 preserved in her post-war configuration, despite her war record. She is the last representative of that important variant, and it would be sad not to lose that story. It would be a unique selling point for any museum as well, but sadly I doubt there are many museums that will see that aspect.

  11. So glad steps are being taken to save her, poor old girl, I would hazard that the first step to move her will be the most hazardous ? how will that old airframe stand up to being dismantled after the ravages of time?
    Most aircraft museums will have workshops and the U.K. BBMF up at R.A.F. Conningsby do manufacture many parts themselves or have contacts in foundries and metalwork shops who can make them, so contact those who will be more than willing to help save a sister ,

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