Tail gunner to be reunited with missing medals as reconstruction of Halifax begins in Nanton
A veteran of more than 30 missions flown over Europe in a Halifax bomber, Second World War tail gunner Hank Jackson will soon retrieve the medals he lost a half century ago at a location that will house a restored Halifax.
“I wasn’t a hero,” the 95-year-old told CTV Calgary. “I mean there were so many good guys that didn’t come back.”
“We accepted the medals on behalf of those guys that didn’t come home.”
The medals include a Flying Cross. Jackson last spied the accolade more than five decades ago.
A ceremony will take place Saturday at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, located in Nanton. The event is scheduled to include the starting of the engine of the museum’s Lancaster.
While the Lancaster looms large outside of the museum, the vast majority of the 10,000 Canadian Airmen who died in combat were flying in Halifax bombers not Lancasters.
“After the war, when the Canadians said ‘Let’s go home with our bomber squadrons’, they brought home all the Lancasters but they left behind the Halifaxs that had 70, 80 or 90 missions under their belt,” explained Karl Kjarsgaard. “They left the airframes behind in England and the British cut them up after the Canadians left.”
At present, there are only three known Halifax bombers in existence, two in England and one in Trenton, Alberta, but volunteers at the Bomber Command Museum hope to add to the ranks and create a working tribute to the ‘Bomber Boys’.
A discarded Royal Canadian Air Force Halifax has been located in a sea off the coast of Sweden and divers brought parts of the aircraft to the surface.
"The first time I saw it was incredible," recalled Jan Christensen, a member of the Swedish Coast and Sea Centre, during his visit to Nanton. "That's the first airplane wreck I've seen. I've dived a lot of wrecks, that's my specialty, but this plane was something special."
A portion of the Halifax has made its way to Nanton but it remains in pieces.
“Nanton, Alberta will soon have a starter kit for a Halifax bomber to go beside their Lancaster,” said Karlsgaard. “We’re gonna have a ton of fun putting this Halifax back together.”
Karslgaard says, to date, roughly $25,000 has been spent on the project, not including sweat equity, and nearly $30,000 in services has been donated by groups in Sweden. He estimates it will take another $50,000 to restore the Halifax and the volunteer group has turned to crowd sourcing, Support the Recovery of a RCAF Halifax Bomber, to raise the funds.
“We’re determined to get together all we need so we can bolt together another Halifax for our buddies like Hank Jackson.”
With files from CTV's Kevin Green