Never Say Die by George Cousins

The Avro Lancaster was born during WW2 as a heavy long range night bomber, capable of carrying a huge bomb load. After the war, a number of these workhorses were part of 408 Photo Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, based at Ottawa, Ontario. When I was posted to the squadron, it was engaged in a photo-survey of all of Canada,working with Geodetic Survey of Canada, a government agency.The end result being maps of unprecedented accuracy.
My years with the squadron were spent in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Canada. Flying very long hours to take advantage of the summer sunlight (almost 24-hours in most places),the Lancasters frequently had to have engines changed.In this photo, taken on the runway at Whitehorse, Yukon Territory,Canada in 1955, one of the outboard engines is being replaced while we were experiencing some poor weather, with mist and fog shrouding the mountains and a heavy overcast. This sort of weather was rare in the summer, but it did give some of us a day off, and also allowed maintenance of the planes to catch up. This plane was probably built around 1943, with a very short life expectancy, yet it and it’s mates were still doing yeoman service in 1955. As the title says, “never say die” to a Lancaster!

August 1955, Exakta Varex 35mm SLR, 50mm.Biotar lens, Kodachrome ASA 10 film.


  • Mike Oxley
    Mike Oxleyover 5 years ago

    Absolutely marvellous shot and write up, George! Thanks for sharing this!

  • Glad you liked it Mike, brings back a lot of memories.Wouldn’t have missed those years for anything!

    – George Cousins

  • Phil Woodman
    Phil Woodmanover 5 years ago

    George, last time we were in Whitehorse they had a real DC3 as a weather vane at the airport.

  • Hi Phil…really? Do you have a photo of it? I’d love to see it. Haven’t been back to Whitehorse since 1956. I flew out of there many times on a DC3, it was our supply plane for the places where it was possible to land with wheels.

    – George Cousins

  • Stan Wojtaszek
    Stan Wojtaszekover 5 years ago

    So, where’d you take the pics from, the nose or the bomb bay?
    Nice pic. I like these old guys better than the slick new jets.

  • Hi Stan..the Lancs we had were originally configured to hold the “earthquake bombs” , and the bomb bay was converted into another big fuel tank. They could fly almost 24 hours steady. Near as I remember, the cameras were set up where the bombsights used to be, which was in the nose pointing down. Inside was a CRT display that showed pulses from two ground based stations. The plane started over one station and flew “lines” between it and the next one, and an operator had to manually keep the pulses lined up on the scope, while a 35mm. camera took pictures of mechanical counters that were synchronized with the movement of the pulses on the screen. There were many ground stations in operation at one time, set up in huge triangles and the planes flew lines between all of the sets of stations. My job was keeping them all operational. Later on, the miles of pictures of the ground were matched to the distance from the ground stations as told by the pictures of the counters. This was all done on desk calculators, long before anyone had a computer as we know it. Hope this makes a bit of!
    They were an amazing plane,rivets used to fall out by the handful at times but to my knowledge there was never an accident with any of them during the whole project. They flew so high the tail used to hang while the props tried to claw for more air. Got better as they burned off!

    – George Cousins

  • Dohmnuill
    Dohmnuillover 5 years ago

    Great photo, and a fascinating description of your work, George. What a pity more were not kept.

    (My interest? )

  • Many thanks Dohmnuill, and glad you liked the photo and story. A condensed version, but hope it made sense:) I have just read the entire site ( A wonderful tribute to those men and their plane, and to those who have kept their memory alive. I flew with a lot of wartime veterans and a few of them were willing to talk about the war, though most of them weren’t, and for that I could always respect their silence.

    – George Cousins

  • Spencer Trickett
    Spencer Trickettover 5 years ago

    Wonderful historic image. Teriffic aeroplane. Thanks George.

  • Thanks Spencer, glad you liked it. As near as I could find out,that one was 12 years old when I flew in her. I think I did know how many hours were on the airframe at the time but the memory chip fails me! But it was a long,long way past expectations!

    – George Cousins

  • David McMahon
    David McMahonover 5 years ago

    Great story, George. I have a passion for aviation, especially aircraft of that era. They figure prominently in my third novel, too. By the way, I know Whitehorse very well, and the Yukon in general. Yes, the DC-3 is still there.

  • Hello David, a pleasure to meet you. Just read a lot about you ref. Google, and you’ve had an amazing run of features on RB in such a short time.Congratulations indeed! I’m glad you liked the photo and sketchy story. There was a lot more to it than what I wrote, but that was way too much for here. Did you live in the Yukon as part of your career? The DC3 must have gone up long after I left. Can’t imagine using it for that if it was still able to get off the!

    – George Cousins

  • panda65
    panda65over 5 years ago

    Wonderful slice of history in more ways than one – ASA 10! Great shot and write-up, I found it really interesting.

  • Thanks panda, ASA10 was terribly slow but the colour rendition was very good. We also used Aero Ektachrome but it was designed for aerial shots and had too much of a bluish cast to everything on the ground. I switched to regular Ektachrome when it became available.

    – George Cousins

  • Woodie
    Woodieover 5 years ago

    Excellent story and photo gragh,
    In 1955 I was flying, as ground crew, in Lincolns, (mk4 lancs) doing Radar Recce over Germany. We stopped the H2S scanner and did sideways radar plots. Used a 35mm camera on the H2S display.
    Cheers Neil

  • Hi Woodie, glad you liked it. Thanks for the info, that’s a new one on me, I don’t think we were using that technique in the RCAF, at least not in 408 Sqdn. The ground stations were more of a doppler type,coded Shoran (Short Range Navigation) similar to the LORAN stations that were used across the Arctic during the war but much smaller and less power. I was also ground crew but did a lot of flying, mostly in DC3 Dakotas and Canso flying boats, as I had to keep all the ground stations operational and they were in pretty inaccessible places.The Canso was my main taxicab!

    – George Cousins

  • Woodie
    Woodieover 5 years ago

    I think we also used Decca Navigator for keeping in line.(At least in the UK)
    Cheers Neil

  • George Cousins
    George Cousinsover 5 years ago

    Probably so. I heard about that device and a couple of years later I was working on anti-submarine stuff and the aircraft had it. I didn’t work on it but had a friend from the UK who was over here and was the tech. rep. I was the radar!
    Best regards, George

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