The Raising of Halifax Mark A VII NA337X

"by - Jeff Jeffery, D.F.C., President, Halifax Aircraft Association"

Karl Kjarsfarrd, our Vice-president and Project Manager, and I went to Norway in June 1995, to meet with Dag Ammerud and Gunnar Gundersen, the principles of Dacon Industry Inspeksjon A.S., the salvage company we had chosen. We spent many hours going over their presentation, as to how the aircraft would be raised. They were able to answer all our questions an concerns so we subsequently contracted them to do the job.

The actual operation started in August after Dacon had set their positioning anchors and located the work barge and winch over the aircraft. The first operation involved the lifting of the tail section.

When we had viewed the underwater video, we had difficulty identifying what we saw since only the rear turret was showing in the mud. It turns out that we had the rear turret, 2 tailplanes, and 17" of fuselage. This whole section broke off during the ditching and was some 30 metres from the main fuselage. One rudder was also located.

Dag Ammerud, sitting in the control room on the barge, operated the R.O.V. by remote control camera, a manipulator arm and gripping device. It was able to move through the water with thrusters and on the aircraft and lake bottom with driven tracks. After careful manipulation the tail section was secured by the gripping device. The tail section was raised on August 15th and was taken by truck to the Hias Water Treatment Plant. The manager of Hias had provided us with a work area and building space for the twelve man Air Command crew from 8 Wing, Trenton, to clean, dismantle and crate the aircraft for shipment to Trenton.

Karl arrived in Norway that day along with Jim Blondeau and crew of Manterex 11 Productions Inc., who were to professionally vide document out story.

The only survivor of the ditching was Thomas Weightman, the Rear Gunner. He came to Norway at this time to see the rear section and, hopefully, to be there for the raising of the main part of the aircraft. We had anticipated that the remains of the Flight Engineer might be located in the fuselage. Weightman wanted to be there for the interment ceremony planned at the gravesite of the other four crew members who died of exposure after the ditching. The Flight Engineer's sister and her husband also arrived from England for this occasion. Unfortunately, due to delays in the lift, they all had to return to England.

My wife Elaine and I arrived just after the tail section landed at Hias. When they searched the tail section they had found the Tail Gunner's (Thomas Weightman) Thermos bottle in the rear gun turret. Thomas was not aware of this until we were invited to dinner at the home of one of our Norwegian friends. After dinner, I suggested that he might like some coffee and handed him his Thermos bottle (misplaced for 50 years) - an emotional moment!

We now directed our thoughts and emotions to the lift of the aircraft itself.

Unfortunately, the lifting of the main part of the aircraft did not happen as planned. There were numerous delays due to weather. A lightning strike on the lake blew a transformer on the R.O.V. The R.O.V became entangled with the lifting cables and a second R.O.V. had to be brought in to release it. The lifting device could not be guided or pushed by the R.O.V. into the proper position between the engines and the fuselage on the first try. The arms of the lifting device were designed to fit the contours of the wing surface exactly and had to be positioned perfectly. Karl, a Captain with Canadian Airlines International, had to leave to go back to flying, Elaine and I stayed. After several days of trying a tug was brought in (this tug "Willie" was actually used on D-Day towing Mulberry Harbours to Normandy) and the lifting device was brought back to the surface from 740' below.

After some changes were made in the rigging, the lifting device was lowered into the water on Sunday, September 3rd. We had to leave Norway at this time and arrived back in Toronto on Monday. Tuesday night at midnight (6 a.m. Norway time) the phone rang. The message was "Jeffery, we have your Halifax!" It was safely in 50' of water after Dag and his crew had worked through the "night".

We had discussed the lift and just how Dag was going to free the 50,000 lb. Hally from the bed of the lake. It had been carefully calculated that 30,000 pounds of lift would be required to break the suction of the mud and lift the aircraft. The winch was set at 28,000 lbs. and held. Miraculously after 15 minutes there was a surge on the cable and the lift reduced to 26,000 lbs. The camera showed the aircraft was off the floor and safely in the lifting device. From then on it was just a matter of time to get it up and in a shallow bay near the work camp.

I kept in touch almost hourly from then on. As I mentioned, the plane was searched for the Flight Engineer's remains, sadly to no avail. His widow in England, who had remarried, was kept advised of the situation. (By the way, she gave us a very generous donation).

After the search, the aircraft was secured, that is, covered on both ends to prevent loss of artifacts. during the towing operation to the beach at Hias. A sled was placed under the fuselage and secured to the lifting device and to the aircraft.

I returned to Norway on Thursday night and saw the ominous silhouette of the fuselage, wings and engines below the barge. On Friday, the barge was towed by the tug to the shallow beach. On the beach was located a tank recovery vehicle supplied by the Norwegian Army. This vehicle had a large 70 ton winch on the rear deck. The cable from this winch was hooked to the barge winch cable and the barge winch pulled us towards the beach until the military vehicle winch cable could be attached to the sled under the aircraft.

As we moved towards the beach, first the wingtips appeared, the the balance weights for the ailerons, then the engine cowlings and the bent prop on the outer starboard engine. (It had been feathered and the other props tore off on the ditching.) Finally the fuselage and the upper surfaces of the wings appeared. When we had stopped to hook the beach winch to the sled, I went out on a work raft, I stood on the wing and looked into the cockpit (and put my arms around it and cried). What a wonderful sight! Throttles, pitch controls, gauges and all a little muddy and wet, but all there.

Unfortunately, the aircraft would not come up onto the beach because the sled had moved out of position. I had to leave Hias that night with the aircraft 50 yards from shore, but safe. I had urgent business in Toronto on Monday.

Kark had missed all this sine he had to leave before the main lifting took place because of his flying duties. Sadly, his father-in-law passed away after his return to Canada, but he did get back for one day to see the aircraft on the beach. The beaching operation was very dramatic. They tried to lift the aircraft with a 60 ton crane, to no avail. Dag hen brought in 2 big tracked shovels. They built a road to the plane and then Dag had them maneuvered into place with their shovel arms extended between the inner engines and the fuselage. Straps were used to secure the fuselage, wings and engines, and in unison the two shovels lifted the aircraft and then carried it to dry land. Success!

Halifax Bomber Mk A VII NA337X had landed!

It took the Air Command crew two weeks to clean, dismantle and crate the aircraft. It is to be airlifted (four C130 Hercules loads) to Trenton by the middle of December.