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[vintage-and-warbirds] Reliving Bomber Command 70 years later

Forwarded message -  From: "Jeff Rankin-Lowe 

Reliving Bomber Command 70 years later

Mark McNeil
Hamilton Spectator

July 13, 2015

It's been a long time between Lancaster flights for Don McTaggart.

Seventy years ago, he was the rear gunner on the last mission of VR-X,
known as "X-TERMINATOR", a Lancaster aircraft that aviation history
buffs argue was the greatest of the Canadian-built bombers, surviving
an incredible 84 missions.

And Saturday he got to relive the flight experience, taking a ride on
VR-A, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Lancaster known as
"Vera", that was decorated for the day to look like the bomber he flew
in so many years before.

It was all a big surprise for the 90-year-old Belleville resident —
who worked in poultry processing in civilian life — when he arrived
Saturday morning. He had been invited by the museum to attend
Lancaster Day, a commemoration of the museum's famed bomber, one of
only two in the world still flying, but he had no idea that he would
have the chance to take to the skies.

"They surprised me all right. My daughter knew but they didn't tell
me," he said.

Of the flight, he said, "it was very nostalgic." Noisy, like he
remembered, but a fair bit more comfortable.

When he flew on the April 25, 1945 bombing mission to the Island of
Wangerooge in the North Sea, he was shoehorned into the rear turret of
the aircraft, where he was assigned to stay the entire time.

The flight on the weekend was in relative luxury. He could move
around, got to sit in the main body of the aircraft, and could
pleasantly look at the scenery through a porthole for the hour-long
flight that went to Niagara Falls and Toronto.

And, more importantly, there was no one trying to shoot the plane down
on the more recent flight.

"It's a great honour for me to be here today," he told the crowd. "I
never expected to live this long."

But even after all those years, his memories of the mission are vivid.
He got into active service late in the war and took part in only three
missions, the last of which was on X-TERMINATOR and now he is the only
person still living from that crew.

"We took quite a bit of flak," he remembered. "There was one plane
shot down by flak and there were six planes that went down from

Fortunately, his plane returned safely and did not suffer damage. At
that point in the war, the Nazis did not have an effective air force
that could threaten bombing missions from the air — although Allied
aircraft had to contend with anti-aircraft fire from the ground.

A total of 430 Avro Lancasters were built in Canada by Victory
Aircraft Limited at Malton, including the X-TERMINATOR and the
Lancaster owned by the Warplane Heritage.

Shortly after the war, the X-TERMINATOR found its way back to Canada
and was scrapped, much to the chagrin of aviation historians who felt
that it should have been kept for posterity.

"A lot of people feel they should have kept aircraft, but I guess they
didn't have the foresight at that time," says McTaggart.