Museum director to receive Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers
Bomber Command Museum Director and Halifax 57 Rescue project manager, Karl Kjarsgaard is set to receive the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.
According to Stephanie Milligan Program Manager for the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers, the Sovereign’s Medal is administered by the Office of the Governor General, is part of the Canadian Honours System, and celebrates exceptional volunteer achievements in a wide range of fields.
According to the website: "The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers recognizes the exceptional volunteer achievements of Canadians from across the country in a wide range of fields.
As an official Canadian honour, the Medal for Volunteers incorporates and replaces the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, created in 1995, by thenGovernor General the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc. The Medal builds on the legacy and spirit of the Caring Canadian Award by honouring the dedication and commitment of volunteers."
“It's a pat on the back,” Kjarsgaard said. “It's a recognition of course, but I take it this award as a team award because there's so many keen people here working on various aircraft.”
Kjarsgaard was born and raised in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and went to high school in White Rock, B.C. before going to flying college in the early 70s.
“When I was growing up from 1951 onwards, all these Air Force airplanes were flying overhead, so it was almost like I was imprinted with the aircraft and flying,” Kjarsgaard said. “Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a pilot, but I couldn't get into the military because they were downsizing. So, uh, I went to a civilian flying college instead.”
After graduating from flight school, Kjarsgaard was a bush pilot up in Yellowknife for two years and was then hired on by Canadian Pacific Airlines. Canadian Pacific Airlines later merged into Air Canada, which is where Kjarsgaard spent 37 years working as a licensed pilot.
After retiring in 2005, Kjarsgaard retired from Air Canada and moved to Nanton because he had heard of the Nanton Lancaster's Society and wanted to be a part of museum.
“They have a good reputation,” Kjarsgaard said. “Their collection was building, and they were progressive minded and just a good bunch of hard workers. The more I compared them with other museums, I decided I liked them.”
Kjarsgaard has been involved with museums since 1994 and started out when he assisted with the recovery of an intact Halifax bomber from a lake in Norway. That plane was brought to the National Air Force Museum in Canada, which is Trenton, Ontario, and rebuilt. Kjarsgaard also helped with another recovery in 1997 when a crashed Halifax bomber was rescued from Belgium with the purpose of recovering the body of missing Canadian airmen. The bodies, Kjarsgaard said, were successfully recovered and returned to their families.
“10,500 Canadian airmen were killed in bombers and 70% of our bomber combat was done on the Halifax bombers,” Kjarsgaard said. “It’s great we have a Lancaster in our museum, but if you knew that 70% of our airmen who were killed in combat or Canadian boys were killed in Halifax bombers, what airplane would you like to see added to the collection?”
Kjarsgaard says that his goal is to restore a Halifax bomber and that goal is shared by the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton. Though the aircraft is currently in pieces, the eventual goal is to put it all together and have it on display at the museum.
“Most of the instructors that taught me how to fly my private license were combat pilots in World War Two,” Kjarsgaard said. “They kind of imprinted me with fascinating stories about what happened and that kind of stimulated me to research the history. That's how I got started on digging into the history and got inspired to engage in the work that I do now.”
Kjarsgaard says that he was nominated for the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers because the Legion Branch in Nanton was allowed to give a nominee from volunteers within Nanton. The other two nominees have already been awarded their medals and Kjarsgaard is waiting to hear how he will be presented with his award.
“The Halifax just happens to be my specialty, but there's a Lancaster team and we're all working hard, to make this be a wonderful memorial museum for all the guys that were killed in combat,” Kjarsgaard said. “For that reason, I take this medal as a team award and I do it on behalf of all of our dedicated people here at the museum.”
Kjarsgaard considers his work with Halifax Bombers a career because it's so important to Canadian history. His personal view is that the Halifax bomber is a national symbol to Canada and because of that, he has a charity called Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) that is raising money to retrieve a Halifax Bomber from the Baltic Sea. Kjarsgaard invites anyone who wants to contribute to the charity to visit: https://fundrazr.com/417498?ref=ab_7BK RktKmI8y7BKRktKmI8y
“I think of these recoveries as accomplishments and I want to keep doing this as long as I can,” Kjarsgaard said. “It's an honorable calling, it's a good goal, and these guys here at Nanton are a very talented and unique team.”
Karl Kjarsgaard stands with the Halifax parts recovered in Malta for the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton.