The War Birds (1939 - 1945)
From 1939 to 1945, Canada was once again involved in a major conflict – World War 2. Both the East and West coasts, as well as the Arctic regions, needed to be defended. The coast of British Columbia was vulnerable because of its lengthy shoreline. To help provide air cover, Royal Canadian Air Force bases were set up at Victoria (Patricia Bay), Vancouver (Sea Island), Tofino, Port Hardy, Prince Rupert along with many other communities in BC. Several former RCAF aircraft have been restored and are on display at the BC Aviation Museum.
Avro “Anson” Mark II
The “Anson” was built in huge numbers over an eighteen year period, served twenty five nations, and was finally withdrawn 36 years after the prototype first flew in 1935. The first two were airliners, but its early years were spent in combat roles. When out-classed it went on to an illustrious career as a trainer for pilots and aircrew for multi-engined combat aircraft, and returned to its original role as a communications aircraft.
The RCAF used 4,413 “Ansons” between 1940 and 1954, many of these being licence-built in Canada. This was the largest number of a single type in the history of the Air Force. Many were stationed at Patricia Bay during the war as part of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Many surplus aircraft saw civilian service after the war.
Our example is (mainly) a Mk II that was obtained from the Legion in Fort St. John, BC. It has been restored to represent a training aircraft with a paint scheme and markings representative of those that operated from Patricia Bay during the war. BC Heritage Trust provided funding to assist with the restoration.
Bristol “Bolingbroke” Mark IV
The name “Bolingbroke” was originally applied to the long-nosed version of the UK’s Bristol “Blenheim” light bomber, but was subsequently used to designate all Canadian licence-built aircraft of this type. The “Blenheim” was the fastest combat aircraft of its day, owing its origins to a mid-1930s executive aircraft! The British Air Ministry soon ordered a bomber version and it was produced in large numbers, including licence production of 676 by Fairchild at Longueil, Quebec. Unfortunately it was approaching obsolescence by the outbreak of the Second World War, but it continued to be widely deployed.
The Pacific Coast of Canada saw them used for patrol and training, and a number were based at Patricia Bay. Our “Bolingbroke” is actually parts of two, one of which was found in pieces on a farm on Salt Spring Island. The fuselage was not salvageable, so one was acquired in Manitoba. With the help of a “Go-BC Grant” volunteers restored the hybrid aircraft by 1996, and it was painted in the colours of #3 Operational Training Unit which had been based at Patricia Bay during the War.
North American Aviation “Harvard”
The “Harvard” was an important member of a family of trainers designed by North American Aviation. They were the best advanced trainers of their time, and served for decades. “Harvards” were the mainstay of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and were a familiar sight (and sound!) in Canadian skies. Noorduyn built 2,800 for the RAF and the RCAF during the War, and Canadian Car & Foundry built a further 550 post war for Canada and the US. The parent company built 13,685 very similar T-6 and SNJs. The family was widely used throughout the world, and the last retired in the 1990s.
Our example was totally rebuilt from a write-off which was donated by Victoria Air Maintenance. It includes parts of a Mark II, some from a Mark 4 and an AT-6 “Texan”. After a lengthy restoration it was rolled out on August 5, 2012.
The “Spitfire” is probably the best known combat aircraft of all time, and was definitely a war winner. This British classic first flew in March, 1936, and over 22,000 were produced, including its naval equivalent the “Seafire”. It saw continuous development throughout the War with 47 variants being produced, many bearing only a family resemblance to the Mark 1.
Our “Spitfire” is not full-sized. It is a 3/4 scale replica which was under construction by Bob Noren when he passed away at the age of 41. It was presented to the Museum in Bob’s memory, and was completed by members of the Maintenance Group of 443 Squadron, stationed at Patricia Bay. During the War this squadron flew “Spitfires” and the replica was completed in time to commemorate 443’s 50th Anniversary in May 1993. It is painted in squadron colours and sports “Invasion Stripes”. The Shearwater International Airshow Committee provided generous assistance.