Clive Sparks, Bob Brown, Gary Powe, Russ Cozens and Duncan Stuart, here standing at the very nose of the Avro Lancaster FM 104, are among the volunteers restoring the iconic plane. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Clive Sparks, Bob Brown, Gary Powe, Russ Cozens and Duncan Stuart, here standing at the very nose of the Avro Lancaster FM 104, are among the volunteers restoring the iconic plane. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

North Saanich’s B.C. Aviation Museum helps preserve physical legacy of Second World War

Museum volunteers are currently restoring iconic Avro Lancester

When Grant Hopkins touches a piece of the four-engined Avro Lancaster with the serial number FM104 currently undergoing renovations at North Saanich’s B.C. Aviation Museum, he is not just touching an iconic machine.

His fingers are also grabbing a tip of personal and Canadian history. Hopkins’ dad served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War as a motor transport driver, driving fuel trucks and other vehicles, while attached to various squadrons.

Following the invasion of Nazi-occupied western Europe, Hopkins’ father served with flying units supplying aerial ground support to troops advancing in Belgium and Germany. But before that, Hopkins’ father served with various bomber squadrons, including a squadron that flew Lancasters, perhaps the most familiar English-designed bomber during the war.

RELATED: Ambitious B.C. Aviation Museum need $10M to get iconic Lancaster back in the air

As coordinator of the plane’s restoration, Hopkins is now overseeing a project that connects him in tactile, personal manner to his father and so much more. “You have that attachment to the history through your own personal touch of the artifacts at the museum,” he said. “That is a very important thing. It is very important to me.”

He is not the only one. Many volunteers at the museum have a personal connection to family members who served in the Second World War, even First World War. As such, they are carriers and transmitters of history, as the number of surviving veterans from the Second World War dwindles toward the number of living survivors from the First World War, namely zero.

The disappearance of this living legacy accordingly grants the work of the museum generally and the restoration of the Avro Lancaster (its major parts currently spread across different parts of the museum) specifically even more salience and urgency.

“The aircraft itself becomes a monument,” said Hopkins. “It represents the history and it will last on long after the people had served on it and are working on it now.”

RELATED: B.C. Aviation Museum starts challenging restoration of Lancaster Bomber

Mass-produced during the war with more than 7,300 planes rolling off production lines, the museum’s Lancaster is one of 17 that remain across the world after arriving in the fall of 2018 from Toronto, where it had been on display at the Canadian Air and Space Museum at Downsview Park since 1999.

One of 400 Lancasters manufactured in Canada during the war, it arrived in the United Kingdom in 1944, but never saw action during the war, serving in a reserve unit.

It returned to Canada in 1945 and spent the two next decades as part of the Maritime Air Command of the Royal Canadian Air Force, performing patrols and search and rescue functions.

Purchased by the Royal Canadian Air Force Association in 1965 and donated to the City of Toronto, it rested on a upon a plinth in Coronation Park, where it sat exposed to the elements until its 1999 move to the Canadian Air and Space Museum.

The restoration currently underway could take anywhere between 10 and 15 years at an estimated cost of $10 million with the long-term goal of making the plane air-worthy again, said Hopkins.

“Whether we can get to that in the future is uncertain because of many factors, ” he said, adding later that the restoration will be to industry standards. “So we are not doing anything that would have to be undone later should the time come when somebody wants to fly it.”

RELATED: BCAM slated to get one of last remaining Lancaster bombers

Regardless of this question, the plane along with other items in the museum represent the physical legacy of Canada’s military history, a memorial to the people who manufactured Avros and the people who flew them, said Hopkins. “Also, it records and commemorates its Cold War service into the 1960s,” he added.

The restoration work is in “its very early stages,” said Hopkins. “COVID-19 has certainly kicked our volunteer program quite hard and we are really just ramping back up again as best we can under the conditions. A lot of our volunteers there are in the high-risk group.”

The main focus lies on investigating the different parts and pieces of the plane to determine its overall condition, he said. “We have been tearing down some of the engines to determine their condition (to see) whether they will be usable in the future to make them runable.”

A lot of work remains ahead, but Hopkins leaves no doubt it will be worthwhile.

Members of the public can visit the B.C. Aviation Museum, 1910 Norsman Rd., Thursdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will also be open to the public on Remembrance Day with admission by donation with visitors encouraged to bring a donation to the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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

Just Posted

The old home at 785 Island Rd. is coming down as the developer was unable to find a feasible business case to save it. (Black Press Media File Photo)
With no takers to move old Oak Bay home, teardown begins

‘We tried a last hurrah,’ developer says

Leah Davis, store manager at Oscar & Libby’s in downtown Victoria, sets out stock at their Fort Street location. The pandemic has changed the way this retailer and others do business, says owner Teri Hustins. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Pandemic alters holiday business strategies for Victoria merchants

Many independent merchants count on holiday shopping to get them through quiet periods

Goldstream Food Bank vice-president Walter Dubeau is happy to help others by volunteering at the food bank’s Christmas hamper program. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
Goldstream Food Bank Christmas Hamper program in full swing

Gratitude evident as hamper helpers happily give back

The Vancouver Island Crisis Society has seen a five per cent rise in call volumes compared to this time last year. (Black Press Media file photo)
Winter blues a concern for Vancouver Islanders during COVID-19 Christmas season

Statistics show British Columbians anticipate worsening mental health

Jason Soukochoff is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, say Victoria police. (Courtesy VicPD)
Victoria police seek man with violent criminal history against elderly

Jason Soukochoff wanted on Canada-wide warrant for parole violations

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

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

(AP Photo/Haven Daley)
POLL: Do you think the current COVID-19 restrictions should continue beyond Dec. 7?

One week into the new restrictions to curtail the spread of the… Continue reading

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
B.C. woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Surrey’s Deb Antifaev

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

An excavator was stolen from a rural property south of Nanaimo this month, say police. (Photos submitted)
Excavator stolen from property south of Nanaimo

Bobcat Mini believed to have been stolen between Nov. 12-14, say RCMP

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Most Read