A few weeks ago, I had the honour of attending the official unveiling and dedication ceremony of the World War 2 Halifax bomber NA337. I say "the" because this aircraft is the only Halifax known in ex...
A few weeks ago, I had the honour of attending the official unveiling and dedication ceremony of the World War 2 Halifax bomber NA337. I say “the” because this aircraft is the only Halifax known in existence. Its story began over 50 years ago. It was the early hours of Apr. 24 1945 and the NA337 had just dropped supplies to the Norwegian resistance. As she was heading back to England, German anti-aircraft guns ripped a hole through its wing. The pilot managed to set down the mighty aircraft on a Norwegian Lake but the landing was hard and five of the six crew members perished in the icy cold water. Fifty years, $10 million and countless hours of sweat later, have brought this bomber to its final resting place, the RCAF Memorial Museum located in Trenton, Ont.
Although he doesn’t talk about it much, my father served this country as a navigator aboard a similar Halifax bomber. With over 30 missions under his belt, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (among others) and is the last surviving member of his crew. As such, he has been a long time member of the museum and one of the privileged few to receive an invitation.
On the day of the ceremony we entered the museum and were directed to the few remaining seats towards the rear. As we walked down the aisle, I commented on the number of military guests in attendance. They must have been high up the ladder since most were leaning slightly from the weight of their decorations. The actual ceremony lasted a few hours but it seemed to fly by in minutes. Listening to the speeches made me appreciate what these veterans went through. I keep asking myself if I’d do the same. Would I go to war as an 18 year old just out of high school? Sadly, I don’t have an answer.
The moment we had all been waiting for arrived. With the sound effects of the four screaming engines pumping through the PA system, the curtain was lifted. I swear I had to catch my breath. The plane is absolutely stunning. As I watched my dad’s face light up I quickly grabbed my spiffy new digital camera. What a moment to catch forever. Too bad nobody told me memory sticks fill up and need to be cleared from time to time in order to take pictures.
It really doesn’t matter – the picture of my dad standing in front of that magnificent aircraft is embedded in my mind forever.
– Rob Wilkins is the publisher of Truck News and he can be reached at 416-510-5123.