La Maisonart John Wiseman
"Hell Razor", Giclée Édition 300s/n (cat # 138), $345. to order
The Saga of ‘THE HELL RAZOR’,
Lancaster no. KB885
KB885 was one of 430 Lancaster Mk X bombers built in Canada during WWII. The government-expropriated Victory Aircraft Plant in Malton, Ontario took charge of the enormous task of producing Lancasters, Hurricanes, Lysanders and other aircraft for the war effort. The plant employed 9,521 workers, one quarter of which were women.
Canadian built Lancasters were distributed among RAF and RCAF squadrons of No. 6 Bomb group. Canada ultimately contributed 13 squadrons as part of WWII Bomber Command.
Lancaster KB885 was ferried to England and first delivered to RCAF Squadron 434, The Blue Nose Squadron. It was while serving there that the Lancaster likely received its ‘Hell Razor’ nose art, the bat-like creature wielding machine gun and bombs, along with the blue propeller nacelles. In April, 1945, ‘Hell Razor’ was re-assigned to No. 420 Snowy Owl Squadron, also of the RCAF, stationed at Tholthorpe, England. Here the bomber acquired the Snowy owl symbol on its tail fins.
Following the end of hostilities in Europe, KB885 was flown back to Canada where it eventually ended up with 82 other Lancasters at Pearce, Alberta. Like many others, this Lancaster was sold off by the government as surplus. An enterprising businessman named C. R. ‘Charlie’ Parker purchased the ‘Lanc’ and had it towed to his ‘Bomber Garage’ on Highway 2 just outside Red Deer where the Bomber became a local attraction. In 1954, ‘Charlie’ Parker sold his business to Walter Mielke, who in turn was approached by an Oregon Company that wanted to purchase the airplane in order to convert it into a water-bomber. A purchase price of $6000 was arranged and a further $14,000 invested to re-engine and restore the aircraft.
Plans went ahead while a make-shift runway was prepared in a neighboring field. When the time for departure arrived on a January day in 1957, pilot – mechanic E. Robinson was running up the engines and making pre-flight preparations.
The moment of rebirth for the old Lanc’ was to be short lived however as a fire broke out in the nose section of the plane. Before the fire was under control, irreparable damage was done. The remains of ‘Hell Razor’ were eventually sold off for scrap, an ignominious ending after so much had been invested to save the plane.