The Mynarski Lancaster Nose Art

Today Canada owns the largest collection of Lancaster Mk. X’s built by Victory Aircraft Ltd with a total of eight aircraft. Victory air completed 422 Lancaster bombers and eight civilian versions. In total some 350 Lancs went to England; 105 were shot down, 160 were flown back to Canada in 1945, with 288 seeing a second life with the RCAF, including many veterans that survived the war in England. The big surprise is the fact that not one original Canadian Lancaster Mk. X Nose Art painting is known to survive today.

The first Canadian Lancaster Mk. X  [more than one aircraft] operation took place on 27 April 1944, target – [German fighter airfield] Montzen, Belgium. No. 419 [Moose] Sqn. flew eight new Canadian Lancaster X’s and five Halifax bombers. This was the only time the squadron flew an operation with more than one type of aircraft, and the last Halifax [serial. JN954] lost by the squadron. [Pilot P/O Roderick Austin McIvor 24 years, flying his 22nd operation, crew all killed]

No. 419 [Moose] Squadron carried out the most bombing raids and flew the most sorties of all No. 6 [RCAF] group Lancaster Mk. X squadrons. These early Moose squadron Lancaster crews saw fierce combat action, set Canadian records and painted some of the best Lancaster Canadian Nose Art.

The Andrew Mynarski V.C. Lancaster records forever the story of the Lancaster KB726 and crew on the fateful night of 12/13 June 1944, but sadly the bomber carried no Nose Art to go with the history.

(In fact, part of Lancaster FM213 forever carries Canadian Nose Art history from Calgary, Alberta.)

Henry Marshall Jenkins grew up on a farm in the heart of Prince Edward Island potato country. As a teen he grew bored with the picking and sacking of the endless rows of spuds. For pure adventure Henry came up with an idea of placing a note in each sack of potatoes, asking the recipient to write back to him, telling of the place they lived. When a letter arrived from a western town named Calgary, Henry was hooked and saved to purchase a one-way train ticket west. In June 1909, Henry stepped from the train and just two months later formed a partnership with storeowner John Irwin with “Jenkins and Crowfoot” groceries opening at what today is the 9th Avenue and Calgary Zoo turn-off.

The hard working Henry married in 1911 and a new son was born on 8 July 1913, named Ronald Henry Jenkins. Ronnie grew up around the grocery store business, while attending Earl Grey and Western Canada High Schools.

In 1918, Henry Jenkins secured a dominion charter for a new sales concept called “Groceteria”. He bought the Canadian rights and privileges from the creator, Walter Monsen, proprietor of Seattle Groceterial. Henry brought to Calgary our nation’s first self-service grocery store.

In 1929, son Ronnie joined the family business, which consisted of seven stores, a bakery and a wholesale grocery branch.

15 October 1943, Flying Officer Ronnie Jenkins - #J36968.

(Photo copied courtesy of Mrs. Anele Jenkins)

In 1943, at age 29, Ron Jenkins left the family business to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, and became recruit LAC Jenkins R178132, reporting to No. 4 Initial Training School at Edmonton on 18 April.

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan reached the peak output in October 1943, when 5,157, aircrew graduated. One of these students authorized to wear a pilot, flying badge was Flying Officer Ronald Henry Jenkins J36968 of the RCAF. F/O Jenkins was posted overseas for further training and arrived with No. 434 [Bluenose] Squadron on 21 December 1944.

One British and two Canadian Lancaster bombers carried the code letters WL-O in Bluenose squadron during World War Two. The first Canadian built Lancaster [KB850] was delivered in 1944 after first serving with No. 419 [Moose] squadron. This bomber was lost flying with No. 434 squadron “B” flight on a operation to Zeitz, 17 January 1945. The next Lancaster to wear WL-O became a Mark I, built by Vickers-Armstrong, Chester, England, serial PA225. Ron Jenkins and crew flew this bomber on 3, 7, 9, 26 and 27 Feb. then again on 2, 7, 8, 10, 14 and 20 March 1945. On 2 April 1945, a new Canadian built Lancaster Mk X aircraft was air-tested by Ron Jenkins and crew :

Navigator -                               F/O Savage A.W.        J28963

Bomb Aim. -                            F/O Hines R. J.            J38296

Wireless Oper. -                       F/Sgt. Mc Lean N.       R165106

Engineer -                                 Sgt. Foss D. C.            R202282

Rear Gun-                                Sgt. Baird T. B.            R211863

Mid-Upper -                            F/Sgt. Moodie K.         R200478

Upon completion of the testing Wing Commander J.C. Mulvihill informed Jenkins the new bomber, serial KB895, would become his bomber with code WL-O. The crew now decided “their” bomber needed a name and Nose Art painting. At first they named her “Wee Lady Orchid” for each of the code letters, then later dropped the Wee and she became “Lady Orchid”. Pilot Jenkins painted the name in large white letters with a larger red capital L and O. The complete crew then shared in the painting of the Lady Godiva pin-up riding a bomb while holding two Calgary Western style six shooters.

Lady Orchid was painted fully nude and completed her first operation on 8 April 45 to the submarine pens at Hamburg, Germany. F/O Jenkins flew a total of fifteen operations in Lancaster aircraft, five in his Lady Orchid, last to Bremen on 22 April 1945. Under his pilot position he painted fifteen white bombs and one red bomb for one aborted operation.

On 7 June 45, No. 434 Squadron left Croft, England, for the transatlantic flight to Canada, and for this return, two red Maple Leafs, were painted on the upper torso of Lady Orchid. On 17 June, Lady Orchid and crew landed at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and 37 days leave.

Ground crew Fred Bendus in the cockpit of KB895, Croft, Yorkshire, England. Note – guns are still on aircraft [shadow] and Maple Leafs have been painted on Lady Orchid.

Photo – Harry Mosher – June 1945, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The first Lancaster is No. 434, WL-E “Hairy Chop” KB824, next is “Lady Orchid” KB895, and the third is No. 431 [Iroquois] SE=P, “Piddling Pete”, KB773.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the second bomb on Nagasaki ended World War Two, resulting in the disbanding of “Tiger Force” on 5 September 45.

The Canadian Government had no requirements for a large bomber force, so orders were given to place hundreds of Lancaster bombers into long-term storage. The veteran KB series Lancaster aircraft [many with Nose Art] were ordered to Western Canada, with stop over in Toronto, and RCAF Station Gimli, Manitoba, for fuel. On 8 September 45, eighty-three Lancaster aircraft arrived at Pearce, Alberta, the final stop until they were ferried to their respective storage depots in Alberta. In the next six months they were placed into long-term storage from Penhold [North] to Medicine Hat [South].

Ray Wise photo of KB895 at Pearce, Alberta, 10 September 1945.

Lady Orchid [KB895] remained in service with No. 2 Air Command from 11 September 45 to 22 January 1947. Struck off charge by the RCAF the aircraft was flown to Pearce, Alberta, by F/L H. Buocher and turned over to War Assets.

On 12 April 1947, Ron Jenkins arranged for War Assets to reserve his old bomber for him, which he purchased for two hundred and thirty dollars. Ron then ordered each station point in the bomber removed, which he mailed to each of his old crewmembers. Ron removed and kept the cockpit and pilot seat for his rumpus room. The bomber was then returned to War Assets who re-sold the Lancaster to a local Penhold farmer who had ideas to turn it into a machine shop, tool shed. By 1952 the Lancaster had been raised up onto three cement columns, but the farmer had lost interest in his project.
That should have been the end of Lady Orchid but the Russian Cold War and the “Found Brothers” would change Canadian history forever.

In 1947 the Canadian Government decided to sell off many of the Lancaster bombers stored in Alberta. Each bomber sold just below the $400 range. Mr. Albert Hoving, a High River farmer purchased 44 complete bombers from Crown War assets.  He intended to melt the bombers and sell the aluminum for pots and pans.

In 1950 the Canadian Government needed the old Lancaster bombers for anti-submarine maritime patrol, as the Cold War was coming to the East coast of Canada. The company, “Found Brothers” Aviation of Malton, Ontario, were attempting to get their single engine bush plane into production and needed cash. When they heard the Government wanted to buy back the bombers they left for Alberta and scouted out the aircraft purchased by local farmers. In total, the Found Brothers purchased fifty World War Two Lancaster bombers at a price of $1000 each. The Found Brothers had also looked at the Lancaster [KB895] Lady Orchid at Penhold, but found it in too poor a condition to purchase for re-sale to the Government. By 1950, 70 Lancaster Mk X aircraft had been modified by A.V. Roe Canada Ltd, for post-war service in the RCAF.

In the next two years, design work began on the Canadian C-102 Jetliner, and full production began on the CF-100 Canadian fighter jet. Due to lack of space and manpower, a number of Lancaster X conversions were now sub-contracted to de Havilland Aircraft of Canada. On 28 August 1950, FM213 and nine other bombers were dismantled and taken by road to the Downsview, Ontario plant. When the conversion work was completed, FM213 was flight tested in January 1952, then assigned to No. 405 Squadron at Greenwood, Nova Scotia.

On 24 January the modified Lancaster was flown to Trenton, Ontario by a partial crew when no regular ferry crew was available. On landing, the crew stalled the bomber over the runway, lost control, ground-looped and then the starboard undercarriage collapsed.  The centre-section was damaged so badly the RCAF feared it was a complete write-off. When the inspection team checked the Lancaster they reported repairs could be made but a complete centre-section would have to be found. There were no other centre-sections in Canada according to RCAF records but Bud Found recalled the farmer in Penhold, Alberta. A phone call was made and the farmer was willing to sell Lady Orchid [KB895].

The largest railway flat-car in Canada was sent from New Brunswick to Penhold, Alberta, in order to carry the centre-section to Downsview. The new section was inserted into the mid-section of FM213 in July 1953, and test flown by Bob Fowler on 26 August. The rest is history as FM213 went on to fly ten years with No. 107 Composite Unit at Torby, Newfoundland, and today flies as KB726, VR-A, known to all as the Mynarski Lancaster.

The center-section of “Lady Orchid” heads to the Penhold train station, spring of 1953.
Well-known Calgary businessman, Ron Jenkins passed away in Holy Cross hospital on 30 April 1976, age 62 years. The original instrument panel, pilot seat, and log book from KB895 were donated to the Aero Space Museum of Calgary. Today the instrument panel has been restored and placed into the Calgary Lancaster FM136. For ten years the author has attempted to have the Calgary Lancaster painted in the markings of Ron Jenkins. The answer is still – NO.
On a Saturday afternoon, in the early summer of 27 June 1989, The Mynarski Lancaster has arrived at Calgary, Alberta. As the sound of the Merlins bring the bomber closer, Mr. Nose Art could only think of how Ron Jenkins' centre-section from “Lady Orchid” had come home. Mr. Nose Art - title page painting.

 

The Mr. Nose Art painting completed for the Aero Space Museum of Calgary, [1997] shows KB 895, “Lady Orchid” in one of two corkscrew dives to escape German night-fighters. Replica Nose Art of how Lady Orchid [topless] flew in World War Two.  This panel was donated to the Aero Space Museum of Calgary for a display on Lancaster KB895 and Calgary pilot Ron Jenkins. Painted on original bomb bay door skin from Lancaster KB994.