Karl Kjarsgaard, Halifax bomber expert, receives honours

Left to Right: Daniel Fox, the Honourable Lois E. Mitchell, Beverly Nelson & Karl Kjarsgaard. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor General of Alberta and BCMC.

31 October 2019 | Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Earlier today inside the McDougall Centre in Calgary Karl W. Kjarsgaard, an officer of Bomber Command Museum of Canada (BCMC) and Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada), was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers/Médaille du souverain pour les bénévoles, which is a Canadian decoration intended to honour individuals who have made significant contributions within their community. He was notably joined by BCMC colleagues Daniel Fox and Beverly Nelson, who were also recipients.

The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers is reserved for someone whose voluntary leadership and associated activities provide extraordinary assistance to individuals, groups or community organisations. Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Her Honour, the Honourable Lois E. Mitchell, CM, AOE, LLD, officiated at the 31 October 2019 ceremony.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In performing this duty she was representing Her Majesty The Queen and the Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency The Right Honourable Julie Payette CC, CMM, COM, CQ, CD. The latter is the viceregal representative of Queen Elizabeth II in Ottawa.

Karl Kjarsgaard was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and in 1965 relocated to White Rock, British Columbia. He graduated from high school in 1969. In 1971 Karl completed an Associate Degree programme (thereby earning Pilot Commercial, Instrument and Multi-Engine ratings) at Selkirk College of Aviation Technology in Castlegar, British Columbia. Mr. Kjarsgaard was afterward employed from 1972 to 1973 with regional airline Air West and Arctic charter operator Wardair, for which he piloted Bristol Freighters and de Havilland Twin Otters.

Air Canada Captain Karl W. Kjarsgaard in 2011. Source: Karl Kjarsgaard.

In 1974 Karl Kjarsgaard was hired by Canadian Pacific Airlines and eventually flew with Canadian Airlines and Air Canada. During his tenure Karl was frequently assigned to transatlantic routes. Mr. Kjarsgaard retired from commercial aviation in February 2011 as a rated Boeing 767 Captain, having logged in excess of 20,000 hours of flight time.

S/L A.J. Laing.

During his early flying years Karl undertook Private pilot license instruction from famed Battle of Britain pilot Squadron Leader A.J.A. Laing and pursued a twin-engine rating under the instruction of Avro Lancaster Dambuster Raid pilot Squadron Leader Ken Brown, CGM.

S/L Ken Brown.

As a supplement, Mr. Kjarsgaard received 11 hours of dual and cross-country instruction in two-seat Supermarine Spitfire Tr.9 (a modified Mk. IXe that has been assigned the registration TE308) in Colorado and North American Mustangs elsewhere.

For many years Karl Kjarsgaard has been a serious Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command historian and a project manager for several underwater recoveries of Handley Page Halifaxes.

Handley Page Halifaxes. Photo: Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada).

In 1995 Mr. Kjarsgaard was instrumental in recovering submerged RAF Halifax NA337 in Norway. Karl was also a principal participant in the recovery of RCAF Halifax LW682 and the aeroplane’s missing aircrew from a swamp in Belgium during 1997.

At the 2019 Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame Banquet Karl Kjarsgaard and former Tuskegee Airman Lieutenant-Colonel James Harvey discuss their respective experiences while flying North American Mustangs. Photo: John T. Stemple/Military Aviation Chronicles.

In June 2012 Mr. Kjarsgaard served as the Canadian representative for the Bomber Command Memorial which was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II at Green Park in London, England. Karl is now Director of the charitable Bomber Command Museum of Canada. He is additionally the Project Manager/Director of the affiliated charity Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada).

Karl Kjarsgaard addressing Virginia War Memorial attendees. Source: Virginia War Memorial via BCMC.

To date Mr. Kjarsgaard has represented BCMC during ceremonies that recognize the service and sacrifices of RCAF-Americans at the Virginia War Memorial, Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) Post 144 in Clearwater, Florida, Winter Haven Regional Airport and Colorado Aviation Historical Society‘s Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame. He continues to conduct related research and compile associated records. Notably, Karl provided statistics and invaluable support for the drafting of H.R. 1553 and H.R. 980, which is a Congressional Gold Medal bills that were introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio. This legislation in part recognises the service of RCAF-Americans.

Karl speaking about RCAF-Floridians at  RCL Post 144. 11 January 2016 photo by Ian Darling.

Presently, Mr. Kjarsgaard is heading a multinational team comprised of historians, aircraft archaeologists and underwater divers who are excavating a submerged Halifax (HR871) off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea and planning for operations related to LW170 in Irish waters.

Karl Kjarsgaard aboard MV River Thames in Sweden. 2019 photo courtesy of Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) & Airplane Hunters.

Mr. Kjarsgaard is a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association/de l’Aviation royale Canadienne and The Royal Canadian Legion/La Légion royale Canadienne. Additionally, he is a Life Member of the International Bomber Command Centre, an Honorary Lifetime Member of No. 425, No. 426 and No. 432 Squadron associations, and a Lifetime Member of both the Bomber Command Association of England and Air Gunners Association.

Prior to receiving the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers, Karl Kjarsgaard was awarded a Special Order of Merit from the Air Force Association of Canada in 1997 and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in October 2012. The father of three sons, Karl resides in Nanton, Alberta.

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Editor’s Note: Military Aviation Chronicles congratulates Karl Kjarsgaard on receiving the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers and salutes him for his  invaluable endeavours and contributions to military aviation history.