Monday, April 09, 2012

Recovered bomber: 'There's Canadian blood in that aluminum'

OTTAWA — After a half century rusting at the bottom of a Belgian swamp, Canadian Halifax bomber LW682 will shine again, but this time atop the Bomber Command memorial in London.

Aluminum from the vintage warplane will be formed into sheets and used to make the memorial's roof.

A uniquely Canadian contribution to the grand new memorial — the largest built in London in 200 years — the edifice's history-soaked roof holds special meaning for Karl Kjarsgaard.

"There's Canadian blood in that aluminum," he said. "We know that wreckage contains (the crew's) essence."

A director of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada — located near his home in Nanton, Alta., 98 kilometres south of Calgary — Kjarsgaard has made it his personal mission to recover and restore downed Halifax bombers wherever they may be.

Shot down over Nazi-occupied Belgium in May of 1944, Halifax LW682 crashed into a swamp. All eight crewman — seven Canadians and one Briton — perished. Five bodies were recovered and buried by German troops while the remaining three were lost to the bog when the plane sank.

In 1997, with a grant from Heritage Canada, Kjarsgaard led a group called Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) to Belgium to recover the bomber. After draining the swamp and digging down almost eight metres, they struck pay dirt.

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