On August 1st 1943 the first Canadian built Lancaster rolled out of the doors of Bay 3 at the Victory plant in Malton
Ontario. The small town Northwest of Toronto on August 6th would see something new in its history and
in Canadian aviation history.
On the 6th. a large ceremony was held to show case the pride of the workers of Victory aircraft. Political, military
officials along with the plants management and workers took part. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation sent it's best
known newscaster, Lorne Greene (later to be known as Pa Cartwright on Bonanza) to let the rest of Canada and
the world know that Canada was doing it's part in the war effort in a big
The new Lancaster serial number KB700 would be better known as "Ruhr Express". Built with North American parts to
somewhat match the engines and instrumentation used on the British made Lancasters and given the designation as Mk.X.
She also sported something that her British built counterparts did
not possess, a bottom gun turret.
The Ruhr Express Heads to Britain
The man chosen to fly KB700 from Canada to action in Europe was S/L Reg Lane. Things did not go as planned. Maybe
in the rush to get KB700 shown and on the way to war things were missed. In any event KB700 needed attention by the time she
arrived in Montreal.
It would not be until September 15 1943 that she arrived in Britain. Where she received modifications including removal
of the belly gun. It would not be until after these were completed that "Ruhr Express" became LQ-Q with 405 Squadron, a Pathfinder
Squadron which S/L Lane now went on to command.
Ruhr Express Heads to 419 Squadron
As mentioned previously the Mk.X was built with North American supplied equipment. This made it necessary for the squadron to
which it was assigned to stock these type of parts.
All 419 Squadron Lancasters were the Mk.X type and it made sense for Moose Squadron to become KB700's new home
rather then stock 405 Squadron with two sets of spare types British and their North American counterparts.
Ruhr Express June 5th 1944 to Jan2 1945
June 5th 1944 is the first operation for KB700 I could find listed in the 419 ORB. KB700 had dual controls and was known to have been
used to train pilots on the Lancaster. How many of these flights I did not see listed. When or if the dual controls were removed later on I could not find out.
What has been mentioned was that the training flights, the operational flights and the Bond drive showing were taking
a toll on the aircraft. She still is recorded to have problems with mechanical issues which began back in Canada and caused the
work needed at Montreal.
There also seemed to be large spans of time between KB700 being assigned on the Battle Order compared with other
squadron aircraft. Whether there were training during this time or maintenance being done is not clear.
Ruhr Express Heads towards 50 Sorties
It had been hoped that Ruhr Express would complete 50 operations then return to Canada for a Bond drive.
That hope seemed far reaching, not many of 419 Lancaster bombers completed 50 operations.
Ruhr Express was seldom used by a one crew for more than two or three operations and at that seldom in a row. KB700
seemed to pasted around to different crews with the exception being the F/O Dix and F/L Warner crews. By my count Dix flew her
on 10 operations and Warner on 8 operations.(other source have different counts)
Ruhr Express's Loss
It would be F/L Warner's eighth op. with KB700. After completing her 49th op. and while landing back at Base
mechanical problems arose causing KB700 to skid off the runway. With his aircraft sticking out on to the runway and
blocking the rest of the Base's aircraft from landing Warner tried to move KB700.
While manoeuvring the Lancaster the wings hit a tractor like vehicle that should not have been there, The resulting
damage caused a fire which reached the remaining fuel in Ruhr Express's tanks. The crew thankfully all escaped injury
and KB700 became just a burned out shell.
There are similar accounts on what happened during that landing, but it is easy to imagine the mechanical faults that followed
KB700 had a major hand in the destruction.
A Tale of Two Wireless Operators and Ruhr Express
G. Smith Wireless Operator with the Dix crew, was mirrored by G. Smith Wireless Operator for the Waner crew.
Two Different men. Gordon B. Smith mentioned continually in the ORB as G.N. Smith, was posted to Pathfinder Squadron 405
where he received a DFM. The second G. Smith, shown as G.L. Smith completed his Tour of 32 sorties with Wagner and
was commissioned as a P/O by the end of this Tour.