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.
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.
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.