A piece of the Lancaster bomber flown in the Second World War by Calgary-born Ian Bazalgette, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, has been donated to the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alta.
Bazalgette, who enlisted in the Royal Artillery in 1939 and transferred to the Royal Air Force in 1941, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1943 for his “great courage and determination in the face of the enemy.” In 1944, on a mission to mark V-1 rocket storage caves in France for bombers, his Lancaster was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire; both starboard engines were knocked out, the starboard wing was on fire and two crew members were wounded. Near the village of Senantes he ordered able crew to bail out, then found a field and landed the flaming aircraft, which immediately exploded, killing Bazalgette and the wounded crewmen.
Most of the wreckage was confiscated by the Germans, but a nine-year old French boy salvaged a two-metre piece of wing and hid it in a barn. He donated it to the Nanton museum, located 90 kilometres south of Calgary, in time for Remembrance Day 2011.
The museum had already reconstructed an Avro Lancaster FM 159 and painted it in the colours and markings of Bazalgette’s craft. Two of Bazalgette’s crew who parachuted to safety were on hand for the unveiling in 1990 at the museum, then named the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum.
Bazalgette’s Victoria Cross Citation notes “His heroic sacrifice marked the climax of a long career of operations against the enemy. He always chose the more dangerous and exacting roles. His courage and devotion to duty were beyond praise.”