Volume 20, Number 117, October/November 2017
WINNER OF THE 2017 LEST WE FORGET - THE DARYN TSUJI/SHARRON ARKSEY PRIZE Never Forget. Make It Fly. by Sally Wylie
Being part of the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster restoration crew gave me the opportunity to hear the stories of men who flew the Lancaster in WWII or had relatives whose father, uncle, brother flew with them. Occasionally there were stories of women who flew the Lancaster as ferry pilots, or worked at the AV Roe Toronto assembly line where they were made in Canada.
But one of the most memorable stories took place one hot summer day during the Hamilton International Air Show. On the Thursday prior to the show, the WWII bomber was tugged out to the static line of the show where people could see the restoration process to date. The engines had yet to be installed, but people could see the fire walls from which the four engines would be hung. They could peek into the side door and look up and down the inside fuselage. The wings were on so it was more than just a shiny metal tube. It was starting to look like the famous bomber it was.
The air show was an auspicious venue to fund raise as thousands of aviation enthusiasts came to the air show. On either side of the plane volunteers sold hats, cups and other Lancaster memorabilia. In front was a money box for those who didn’t want to buy but were willing to donate to the restoration. While the interested milled around, we told them of the progress, parts needed and where the money would be spent,
That summer day the humidity was as high as the temperature, and I was surprised to see an elderly gentleman wearing a full suit and tie plus an overcoat. His shoes were shiny, and he looked quite the tidy person. He stood staring up at the plane. After awhile I walked around the table to ask how he had come to be interested in this aircraft. He said in halting English with a thick German accent, “Zis plane. Kill my town, my house, my family.” He said it with no emotion while continuing to stare ahead.
As I struggled for words, he reached into his suit jacket and with shaking hands, pulled out a very thin, worn brown wallet. It looked like moths would fly out, but instead, out came the only money in that wallet - a $10 bill. He walked over to the money box, and stuffed it in. Then he turned to me and said, “Never forget. Make it fly. Don’t forget.” I thanked him, and then he walked away.
We made it fly. The Lancaster’s first official flight was September 24,1988. The Mynarski Memorial Lancaster Bomber Mk.X is still flying out of the Canadian Warplane Heritage hangars in Mt. Hope, Ontario. We haven’t forgotten.