Postal Service




Wartime Christmas card from Gander

by R.G. Pelley

card front

card inside

This is a Christmas card from about 1942-45. It was probably an official card rather than something that could be bought at the base shopping facility because the name was printed in the card in the same characters as the main text.

Notice that the Lancaster on the cover of the Christmas card had the identification number “VN-N”.  In the Royal Air Force and Commonwealth countries, the first two letters identified the Squadron which flew the airplane while the last number identified the aircraft itself. We wanted to discover more about this airplane, hoping in particular to find out why it had been selected for the cover of a Christmas card representing Gander. The manufacturer's serial number of the airplane was R5689.  It was one of 200 originally ordered as 'Manchesters' (a 2-engine airplane) from the AVRoe factories in Manchester England but was finally  built as a 4-engine Lancaster, model B1. These were delivered  during the period February to July 1942 with Merlin 20 engines (as on the famous Spitfire fighter).

Lancaster R5689 (VN-N) was sent to 50 Squadron of the RAF on 22 June 1942. It took part in many key operations, bombing places such as  Saarbrucken, Dussldorf, Le Havre, Essen and Wilhelmshaven.  On its last run, it left Swinderby, England, at 19h15 on 18 September 1942 on a mine-laying operation. It crash landed at Thurlby, Lincolnshire, when both port engines conked out as the airplane was coming in to land. One of the seven member British, Australian and Canadian crew who lost his life was Sgt JR Gibbons of the RCAF, a fellow from the area of Brantford, Ont.

We don't know if VN-N was used for the cover because of Sgt Gibbons. But that appears unlikely because he didn't seem to have any personal connection with Gander. The Lancaster itself was not one of those built in Canada and ferried overseas. However, for some reason, this particular aircraft comes up often in research on Lancasters, both in actual wartime photos, in sketches and in post war paintings. In one online chat group, some thought that VN-N was the most photographed Lancaster of WWII !

(A special thank you to Robert (Bob) Evans, Volunteer Curator at the Nanton Lancaster Air Museum in Nanton Alberta for his help on this.)

This ad en dum added by Mike Mcanany, a one time Gander resident

Flying in a Lancaster

The aircraft you are about to fly in is the Canadian Warplane Heritage Mynarski Memorial Lancaster, one of only two of the type left flying in the world ... and the ONLY one the public has access to. The other one is still considered ON STRENGTH with the Royal Air Force and flies as the centrepiece of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Now ... imagine 1000 of these flying by night into a blacked-out hostile Occupied Europe from Britain, flown and crewed by men under 25 yrs of age for the most part. Imagine their courage ... and their fears. 
Imagine what would be going through your mind, if one of them was your young son ... 
We often speak of The Fallen as heroes. I believe anyone who went, no matter how large or small their role, earned the title and our enduring gratitude. Because they did, we will never have to do as they did, on that scale, ever again. They truly were the Greatest Generation. 

This video is all the more enjoyable due the correct balance of actual sound and suitable background music. A job well done.

 Sit back and enjoy the flight.


 researched by R G Pelley


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