Library & Archives Canada, “Nothing to Chance…”

As a visitor to the CFPU website, I wanted to introduce you to a few of the many, dedicated individuals employed at Library & Archives Canada (LAC), that work day in, and day out, to facilitate our search for accessing priceless archival material, so that we as Canadians, may learn more about our past.

I was fortunate to have had the unique opportunity to aid Mr. Gregory Kopchuk, in his research of two recently published volumes; “Nothing To Chance: Chronicles of 429 Bisons During World War II“, which relied heavily on the efforts of staff at Library Archives Canada.

Nothing To Chance: Chronicles Of 429 Bisons During World War II, volumes I, II

Above cover pages courtesy Gregory Kopchuk.

“On 21 / 22 June 1943, 705 planes left England. Carried out before the moon period, the mission took place in good visibility and the ground markers dropped by Oboe Mosquitos and the Pathfinder Force contributed greatly to the accuracy and on target hits that night. That mission on Krefeld was supported by the 429 Squadron and, sadly that night, amongst the 44 aircraft lost, one was Wellington HX519.

More young Canadians were killed in Bomber Command than almost anywhere Canada has served, more than Passchendaele or Vimy. In Bomber Command, we lost 9,910 brave men and the tragic loss of one, John Kopchuk, has launched a monumental effort by his nephew to help us see the past for one of Canada’s most prestigious squadrons of World War II.

This book is the product of the effort, tenacity, and drive of one man, Gregory Kopchuk, whose uncle was killed that night when a German night fighter attacked shortly after 0100 hours as the squadron was return­ing to base...”

Foreword excerpt from Nothing To Chance: Chronicles Of 429 Bisons During World War II, volume I , written by John W. Kerr, Jr., (used with permission of the author, Gregory

LAC Consultation Services

Soon after retiring in 2018, I began working as an independent researcher on a large project initiated by Gregory Kopchuk, who sought out WWII era information, and imagery, surrounding the 429 RCAF Sqn/6 RCAF Group/Bomber Command.

I began my initial research by requesting, and copying textual documents held at LAC’s Ottawa location at 395 Wellington Avenue. One of the first staff members I came across was France Vachon, a LAC Reproduction Clerk, who helped me start the copying process for many of the textual files I had recalled for the 429 project. Although I knew and recognized many of the faces at LAC, this was the first time I was back at LAC as a member of the general public.

Working behind the scenes were a small army of dedicated individuals, who would greet researchers looking to access material they had ordered, and to direct, advise, and ensure a positive experience during their visit.

To learn more about LAC services to the public, please consult the following links, covering topics such as obtaining a User Card, ordering LAC material, the use of LAC material, and other helpful guides like, how to find a freelance researcher, (like myself!), in locating, copying, and generally lending a hand to those not familiar with the process.

France Vachon – Consultation and Reproduction Clerk, Public Services Branch, Library & Archives Canada. Photo © Dale Gervais.

LAC Digilab

As well as textual documents, Library & Archives Canada houses over 30 million photographic images, including prints, negatives, slides and digital photos.

Vital to copying many of the images used in the 429 Squadron project was Project Manager, Karine Gélinas, who supervises LAC’s Digilab. The DigiLab is equipped with photographic film scanners to accommodate the diverse media at various resolutions. It was also at the Digilab that I had volunteered to finish copying all 110 Army Numerical Albums that were all made available via LAC’s online website.

"The newly established DigiLab at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa is a hands-on facility for users to digitize and contextualize LAC collections of value to their study, work and communities. All of the material digitized through the DigiLab will be made available online for general public access."

Karine Gélinas – Project Manager, and Chloé Bourbonnais, Digital Imaging Specialist, DigiLab, Public Services Branch, Library & Archives Canada. Photo © Dale Gervais.

Former LAC Film Conservator/Archivist, Dale Gervais scans a negative using a film scanner at LAC’s Digilab. (Photo courtesy Karine Gélinas, used with permission).

LAC Reference Services

Navigating through LAC’s vast archival collection wouldn’t be possible without the help of LAC’s Reference Services staff, like Senior Archivist, Rebecca Murray, who was invaluable in locating material relevant to the 429 Squadron project. Such was the case in locating some of the RCAF Operational Record Books (ORB’s). These turned out to be a challenge to access and copy due to their irregular proportions (31″ x 25″), forcing me to develop a copying method to suspend a medium format digital camera over the album (see image below). Rebecca, and many of the other LAC staff were a vital component in making this setup possible. Appointments with reference archivists and librarians are available in person, by telephone, or by videoconferencing.

Rebecca Murray – Senior Archivist, Reference Services, Public Services Branch,
Library & Archives Canada. Photo © Dale Gervais.

LAC Special Collections

When the search for unique archival material relevant to the 429 Squadron project proved a physical challenge, like the ORB’s, the staff in the Special Collections department were on hand to ensure the safe and effective handling of all the archival material within the Preservation collection, including rare book or fragile published material. Giving me a hand were (see image below, left to right), Special Collections staff, Marie Julie Hyppolite, Annabelle Schattmann, and Lynn Lafontaine. In many situations I had to rely on these staff members to aid me in moving the large volumes of material in such a way as to allow them to be safely copied, and returned to the vaults.

Marie Julie Hyppolite – Consultation Officer, Public Services Branch / Annabelle Schattmann – Consultation and Reference Officer, Public Services Branch / Lynn Lafontaine – Consultation and Reference Officer, Public Services Branch, Library & Archives Canada. Photo © Dale Gervais.

Former LAC Film Conservator/Archivist, Dale Gervais takes a digital image of a page from a 427/429 Operational Record Book in LAC’s Special Collections department at 395 Wellington in Ottawa. (Photo courtesy Karine Gélinas, used with permission).

Without the help and guidance by ALL of the Library & Archives staff, such as those featured above, publications such as Gregory Kopchuk’s, “Nothing To Chance: Chronicles Of 429 Bisons During World War II“, simply would not be complete. Additional staff credit goes to;

Christine-Elizabeth Blais

Alexandra-Maude Daley-Proulx

Alexandra Clemence

Alexander Comber

Jean Matheson (now retired)

Satya Miller

Jesse Moolman

Alison Pier

Also, shoutout to the vault retrieval crew, drivers, and the rest of the staff that are always on hand in the office(s) and behind the scenes, to take on all of our many questions. Please: if you wish to add your name to the list please let me know..


For purchasing information, or to learn more about Mr. Kopchuk’s book, “Nothing To Chance: Chronicles of 429 Bisons During World War II“, please access the links, or use the QR code below to order a copy of the books.

Interview with Greg Kopchuk on WW2TV;

To learn more about Library & Archives Canada, please visit these links;

LAC – Who we are;

Requesting LAC material;

Using Collection Search;

Learn about the different ways you can send LAC your questions;

Ordering LAC material;

© Dale Gervais 2022

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About me

Dale Gervais has been actively researching and documenting the history of the Canadian Film & Photo Unit since 2006. Dale recently retired in September, 2018, after over 36 years with Library & Archives Canada. Dale now works as an independent researcher, with experience in audio visual holdings, video production and more recently doing Archival textual document searches, and photographic scanning.


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