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

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ on Sooke Road

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

A decade into the 100-year blueprint for restoring the Bowker Creek watershed, Soren Henrich, director of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society, feels positive about the future of conservation and daylighting of the creek. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Ten years in, Greater Victoria’s 100-year Bowker Creek blueprint gets a boost

Victoria council passes several restoration recommendations

A resurfacing of the tennis court in Metchosin is being eyed for the community. However, funding opportunities still need to be solidified for the project. (Michelle Cabana/Black Press Media)
Renewed surface eyed for Metchosin tennis court

Funding source must first be solidified in order for project to happen

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

Most Read