Lancaster bomber VeRA touring as Lady Orchid

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Image courtesy of Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

Image: Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

21 June 2016 | Mount Hope, Ontario. Certainly one of the most iconic of heavy bomber from the Second World War, Avro Lancasters still thrill audiences with the powerful and distinctive roar of their four Merlin powerplants. One cannot forget the sight of these remarkable aeroplanes, and the public reception of “Lady Orchid” (VeRA in partial Lancaster FM213 livery) has been exceptional to date.

1945 image: Bomber Command Museum of Canada.

1945 image: Bomber Command Museum of Canada.

Canada’s airworthy machine is FM213, which is also known as VeRA, KB726, or the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster. This summer she is honouring the story of Lancaster FM213. The fact is that FM213 is in fact a hybrid, a donor recipient if you will, because she flies with a centre section obtained from KB895 – the actual Lady Orchid.

From 18 June 2016 to 5 September 2016 VeRA will be sporting the nose art of a Victory Aircraft Limited Lancaster Mk X, serial KB-895. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum notes that, “The temporary markings will only be applied to the port side of the aircraft as the usual VR-A, KB726 markings will remain on the starboard side.”

1949 Lady Godiva statue by Sir William Reid Dick in Coventry England.

1949 Lady Godiva statue by Sir William Reid Dick in Coventry England.

Lancaster KB895 was initially named Wee Lady Orchid after each of the “WL-O” code letters. Soon the crew deleted the word “Wee” and the beloved Lanc then became Lady Orchid, and the saga of Lady Godiva was adopted and modified by KB895’s aircrew as a basis for the fuselage art.

Godiva, who held the title Countess of Mercia, was purportedly an English noblewoman who, according to legend, rode nude through the streets of Coventry, England, atop a horse.

Royal Canadian Air Force pilot Ronald Henry Jenkins and his mates placed Western-style six-shooters in Lady Orchid‘s hands. The revolvers were in effect a visual reference to Jenkins’ Calgary, Alberta, ties and the city’s cowboy legacy.

Recreation of the origib]nal lady Orchid image. Bomber Command Museum of Canada.

Recreation of the original Lady Orchid image.
Bomber Command Museum of Canada.

Notably, Lady Orchid was mounted upon a bomb rather than a steed. Jenkins painted the name in large white letters with a larger red L and O. The other crewmen also participated with the artwork.

Lady Orchid completed her first operation on 8 April 1945 and attacked the Kriegsmarine (Nazi Germany’s navy) U-Boat (submarine) pens at Hamburg, Germany.

Lady Orchid at Pearce, Alberta.
Image: Bomber Command Museum of Canada

With the conflict in Europe at an end, on 7 June 1945 No. 434 Squadron left Croft, England, for the transatlantic flight home to Canada. Prior to this return, red maple leafs were painted over the figure’s fully exposed breasts. It is this version being featured over the next few months.

Interested readers should obtain a copy of the May 2016 issue of Flightlines from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum as the publication contains a detailed articled about VeRA and Lady Orchid.

A flight schedule is accessible by clicking on this link. The facility may be contacted by telephoning 905-679-4183 or via e-mail at the following address: museum@warplane.com

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The author (John Stemple) thanks the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and Bomber Command Museum of Canada for their assistance and cooperation.

Sources and Suggested Readings

“A Tale of two Lancasters.” Flightlines. May 2016. Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

Flight Officer Ron Jenkins & “Lady Orchid”

http://www.rcaf434squadron.com/lady-orchid/

Lady Godiva

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Lady-Godiva

Lady Godiva

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Godiva

Lady Orchid

http://www.warplane.com/lady-orchid.aspx

Lady Orchid – Summer 2016 Only

http://www.warplane.com/upcoming-events/event-details.aspx?eventId=70

Ron Jenkins, Lady Orchid, and Lancaster FM-213

http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/s,ronjenkins.html