Nanton’s Bouncing Bomb

By John Chalmers
CAHS Membership Secretary

“We have the only Lancaster in the world equipped with a bouncing bomb!” says Dan Fox, vice-president of the Nanton Lancaster Society, which operates the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, at Nanton, Alberta.

01 Dan and bomb

Dan is referring to the museum’s replica bouncing bomb, or “Upkeep” as it was called, the type carried by Lancaster bombers of RAF 617 Squadron in the famous Dambusters raids of May 1943. The special bombs were spun backwards prior to dropping at very low level to bounce across the water when attacking dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley during the Second World War. (Chalmers photo)

02 Ben and bomb

Designed by museum volunteer and board member, Ben Schwartz, the bomb was built by Tecumseh Industries Ltd. in the nearby town of High River, Alberta. Ben is seen here putting the final touches to the bomb’s assembly. Weighing 960 pounds, the bomb was built for the museum’s commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Dambusters raid. Cost of the bomb was supported by Shere Fraser and her mother, Doris Fraser, the widow of bomb aimer F/S John Fraser. He flew with 617 Squadron in the Dambusters raid. His aircraft was shot down, but John was able to bail out and he was captured as a prisoner of war. (Chalmers photo)

On August 24-25 at the Bomber Command Museum, special events were held to honour the Canadians who flew with the RAF on the famous bombing raid. Of 133 air crew members who served in the Dambusters raid, 30 were Canadians. Of 53 airmen killed in action in the raid, 14 were Canadians in the RCAF.

03 Bomb mounted

With its bomb doors removed, the Lancaster carries the bomb in special mounts designed to swing out to drop the bomb. Electric motor used to spin the bomb with its pulley on one end is seen above the bomb. (Dave Birrell photo)

04 AJ M and re enactor

The museum’s Lancaster, FM159, known as the Bazalgette Lancaster, honours S/L Ian Bazalgette of Calgary, Alberta’s only recipient of the Victoria Cross in the Second World War. He received the award posthumously, as he was killed in action as a pilot of a Lancaster. During 2018, the museum’s Lancaster bears the markings of AJ-M, a Lancaster of 617 Squadron on which Canadians flew in “Operation Chastise” to attack the river dams. (Chalmers photo)

05 Museum audience

It was standing room only for hundreds in attendance to hear author Ted Barris speak about the Dambusters. In the weekend program, Ted launched his new book, Dam Busters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret Raid Against Nazi Germany. (Richard de Boer photo)

06 Lancaster visitors

Museum chief engineer, Greg Morrison, directs visitors into the Lancaster for a tour during the Dambuster weekend. With bomb doors removed from the Lancaster, the “Upkeep” bouncing bomb is in position. (Richard de Boer photo)

07 Daves new bookIn attendance over the weekend were 40 members of 15 families of RCAF air crew members who flew with 617 Squadron. Among them were members of the late Air Commodore Johnny Fauquier, who as a group captain served as commanding officer of 617 Squadron after the Dambusters raid. Fauquier flew at least 93 combat missions, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, received the Distinguished Service Order three times, and in 1974 became an original Member of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame. He is the subject of Johnny: Canada’s Greatest Bomber Pilot, the latest book by museum librarian, Dave Birrell, published by the museum as part of its recognition of the Dambusters.

“We had 14 members of Johnny Fauquier’s family in attendance. They came from Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto,” says Dave Birrell. “With our publication of the book, they were anxious to attend. We had more special guests and more attendees at our recognition of the Dambusters than at any of our previous events,” says Birrell.

08 Lancaster at night

A highlight of special events at the museum is always a daytime and night run-up of the Lancaster’s four Merlin V-12 engines. This year, just as was done 75 years ago, the mighty Lancaster had a unique bouncing bomb spinning beneath its belly. With the “Upkeep” bouncing bomb in place, the Lancaster of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada is readied for a night engine run, always a dramatic sight, bringing to mind the night bombing runs of Canadians during the Second World War. (Richard de Boer photo)