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Avro Lancaster - front view

Avro Lancaster - front view


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Lancaster: A Bombing Legend, Nick Radell and Mike Vines. This is a fantastic pictorial tribute to the Avro Lancaster, filled with beautiful colour pictures of the few surviving Lancaster bombers, on the ground and in flight. [see more]


World War Photos

WAAF Steers 4000 lb Cookie under Bomb Bay of RAF Lancaster 1943 Wing Commander Guy Gibson, John Searby and Peter Ward-Hunt Mechanics work on the port engines of a Lancaster of No. 207 Squadron RAF 8000 lb Blockbuster Bomb, 1943
Rear gunner of a Lancaster of No. 44 Squadron RAF Testing the tyre pressure of Lancaster R5540 of No. 44 Squadron Conversion Flight at Waddington Wireless operator F/O Stewart with TR1154-55 set Mechanics work on the port engines
Squadron Leader Ronnie Churcher February 1944 Bomber with turret knocked off by a bomb Rose Turret with two U.S. light-barrel M2 Browning .50-calibre (12.7 mm) Rose Turret with 2x M2 Browning heavy machine guns
Lancaster raid on Jumbhorn 19 March 1945 Fraser Nash FN-20 tail turret Lancaster R5868 PO-S of No. 467 Squadron RAAF 2 Lancaster R5868 PO-S of No. 467 Squadron RAAF
Lancaster Mk I R5727 Lancaster R5733 Lancaster R5733 2 Lancaster R5740 KM-O of No. 44 Squadron RAF at Waddington 29 September 1942
Lancaster Prototype BT308 at Ringway January 1941 Lancaster R5620 of No. 83 Squadron RAF, Scampton 25 June 1942 Lancaster R5666 KM-F of No. 44 Squadron RAF October 1942 Lancaster PP867 KM-W of No. 44 Squadron RAF 1945
Lancaster Prototype BT308 Lancaster of Pathfinder Force lit by target Indicators Bomber pilot S/Ldr Churcher of No. 619 Squadron, 14 February 1944 Lancaster ready for its next night mission, 16 February 1944
Lancaster NN696 57 Squadron RAF Lancaster PD217 EM-Z Damaged in collision over Stuttgart 12-13 September 1944, East Kirkby Lancaster PD235 UL-N of No. 576 Squadron RAF Lancaster III ND648 Tiger Force Receiver Aircraft
Lancaster NG126 SR-B of No. 101 Squadron RAF during daylight raid on Duisburg 16th October 1944 Lancaster ND709 After 100th operation at Downham Market Lancaster NG287 of No. 550 Squadron RAF Lancaster ME844 LS-C in flight
Lancaster ME844 LS-W of No. 15 Squadron RAF Lancaster Mk II DS689 of No. 426 Squadron RCAF Lancaster low flying near Waddington February 1942, Lancaster ME536 AL-Q of No. 429 Squadron RCAF and others of 100, 12 and 106 Sqs at Pomagliano in 1945
Lancaster ME649 460 Sqn RAAF 1944 Lancaster LM583 at RAF Waddington Lancaster loaded for food drop to Holland Lancaster KM-W of No. 44 Squadron RAF
Lancaster Mk II LL669 of No. 514 Squadron RAF crashed at Leiston 17 March 1944 Lancaster LM257 HA-P of No. 218 Squadron RAF Lancaster JB456 with Bristol B.17 turret Lancaster JB456
Damaged Lancaster KM-J of No. 44 Squadron RAF damage after Peenemunde raid, 18 August 1943 Lancaster III with saddle tank for Far East missions Lancaster Mk I L7552 EK-C of No. 1656 HCU Lancaster III PG-S of No. 619 Squadron RAF
Lancaster Mk III LM321 PH-H of No. 12 Squadron RAF 1943 Lancaster III PB509 OJ-C of No. 149 Squadron RAF No. 619 Squadron RAF , 14 February 1944 Lancaster flown by F/O W. Harris 9 Squadron RAF over Trossy St Maximin 1944
Lancaster I VN-N in flight Lancaster Mk II in flight Lancaster ED932 AJ-G 2 Lancaster ED932 AJ-G 3
W/Cdr Hopcroft with crew and Lancaster ED989 “Frederick II” Lancaster ED588 VN-G of no. 50 Squadron RAF at Skellingthorpe Lancaster ED611 “Uncle Joe” of No. 463 Squadron RAAF Lancaster ED860 QR-N after 100th operation 30 June 1944
Lancaster named Dumbo Lancaster DV236 SR-G of No. 101 Squadron RAF take off from Ludford Magna Lancaster DV305 BQ-O of No. 550 Squadron RAF after Berlin Raid 30 January 1944 Crew with Lancaster B I R5868 May 1944
Lancaster dropping Tallboy 19 June 1944 Lancaster DS604 of No. 61 Squadron RAF Lancaster B I R5868 2 Lancaster B I R5868 PO-S of No. 467 Squadron RAAF
Lancaster B I R5868 PO-S of No. 467 Squadron RAAF 3 Lancaster B I R5868 PO-S of No. 467 Squadron RAAF 4 Lancaster R5540 KM-O of No. 44 Squadron RAF Lancaster R5540 KM-O of No. 44 Squadron RAF 3
Lancaster R5540 of No. 44 Squadron RAF Bomb aimer in his position in the nose Lancaster bomber 2 Lancaster bomber 3
Lancaster bomber 4 Lancaster BI W4113 1661 HCU Lancaster bomber Lancaster Barbara Mary
Lancaster being bombed up Lancaster armourers 50 Sqn Lancaster B1 Special with Grand Slam 617 Sqn Lancaster 619 Sqn feb44
Lancaster 619 Sqn Navigator feb44 2 Lancaster 57 Sqn Scampton 0443 Lancaster 5 Group 220344 Frankfurt raid Lancaster 617 3feb45
Lancaster 550 Sqn take off for 100th op 4nov44 Lancaster 57 Sqn East Kirkby Lancaster of No. 115 Squadron RAF with tail shot off by two FW190s over Cologne 28 June 1943 Lancaster 431 Sqn RCAF Croft 1945
Lancaster fuselages Lancasters Woodford Lancaster of No. 106 Squadron RAF at Metheringham 1944 Lancaster ZN-S of No. 106 Squadron RAF at Syerston May 1943
Lancaster of No. 617 Squadron RAF over target Lancasters over Hanau 18/19 March 1945 Lancasters of No. 44 Squadron RAF in flight Lancasters of No. 50 Squadron RAF in flight
Lancasters of No. 50 Squadron RAF in flight, color photo Canadian Lancaster KB783 with bulged bombay and Glenn Martin dorsal turret Guy Gibson Lancaster Mk I “ADMIRAL PRUNE” of No.106 Squadron. Avro Manchester L7434 in background 1942 HM Queen Elizabeth inspecting flight and ground crews on a visit to Warboys, a station of No 8 Pathfinder Group Lancaster of No 156 Squadron
George VI inspects ground crewmen lined up beneath the nose of Lancaster ED989 DX-F Frederick III Canadian Lancaster KB783 Lancaster of No. 419 Squadron RCAF Woodhall Spa Grand Slam bomb dump of 617 Squadron RAF March 1945
75 Squadron Lancasters ready to take off “Margareth” -1000th completed “Lanc” at the Metro-Vick factory

History

Avro Lancaster – a heavy four-engine British World War II bomber plane, built at the A.V.Roe (Avro) factory, used since 1942. Next to the Handley Page Halifax aircraft, the Lancaster was the primary heavy bomber of the Royal Air Force during World War II. The Lancaster is considered to be the most successful British heavy bomber. A total of 7377 Avro Lancaster-type aircraft were manufactured.

The project was created from the development of the twin-engine heavy bomber Avro Manchester. Since the Rolls-Royce Vulture engines used in Manchester proved to be unreliable and underdeveloped, the aircraft was not fully successful and only 200 were built and withdrawn from combat use in 1942. Avro’s chief constructor, Roy Chadwick, then adapted the existing project to use four well known and proven Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The result was the Avro type 683 four-engine bomber, initially named Manchester Mk. III and later Lancaster. The first flight of the prototype took place on 9 January 1941, the first serial bomber was built in October 1941.
The Lancaster bombers were built at Avro, Metropolitan-Vickers, Armstrong Whitworth, Vickers Armstrong and Victoria Aircraft (in Canada) in four very similar main serial versions: Mk. I, II, III and X, the most numerous of which were Mk. I and Mk. III. All bombing versions were preceded by the letter “B”, e.g. B. Mk. I, but it is often omitted. All versions except Mk. II were powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. In total, by 2 February 1946, 7377 Lancasters were built.

One of the Lancaster’s advantages was a large bomb bay in the hull, 10.05 m long. The maximum load capacity of normal bomb versions was 6356 kg of bombs in various configurations. Initially, the heaviest bomb carried was the 1818 kg bomb. The Lancaster versions with a specially deepened bomb bay were carrying a heavy bomb of 3632 kg or a Tallboy bomb of 5448 kg. They were used to attack particularly important point targets. In 1945 a special version B was created. Mk. I (Special), with a cut-out bomb bay floor and removed part of the equipment, was designed to carry the heaviest bomb of World War II, Grand Slam, weighing 9979 kg. Another special version of the Lancaster, B. Mk. III (Special), was adapted in 1943 to carry Wallis’ bouncing bombs, designed to destroy dams in the Ruhr. The Lancaster had very good radio equipment, later the planes also had H2S radar for ground observation to facilitate targeting.

Variants:

Mk. I (B.Mk I) – basic version, powered by 1280 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines, and further production of Merlin 22, final Merlin 24. In 1943, H2S radar started to be installed. A total of 3425 units of this version were produced.
Mk. I (Special) – a special version was created in 1945 from rebuilding copies of version B. Mk. I, adapted to carry superheavy Grand Slam bombs weighing 9979 kg (22 000 pounds). They had an extended bomb bay, had no doors and were reinforced with floor stringers so that the plane could carry the bomb. Despite these modifications, the bomb was still protruding from the bomb bay and the plane looked as if it was carrying a torpedo. They were equipped with tuned Merlin 24 engines with propellers with blades bent like sabres and reinforced undercarriage. In order to reduce the aircraft’s own weight, the nose and dorsal turrets were removed, and the tail armament was reduced from 4 to 2 7.7 mm Brownings. The take-off weight with the Grand Slam bomb was 33,112 kg, the range was 2655 km and the maximum ceiling was 5180 m. From March to May 1945, 41 Grand Slam bombs were dropped. They were dropped between March and May 1945. 33 of these versions were made.
PR. I – version designed for photographic reconnaissance. All defensive weapons including turrets were removed, which resulted in the reconstruction of the nose of the machine. The cameras were installed in the bomb compartment. During the war it was used in No. 82 and 541 squadrons , and after the war in 683 in the Middle East.
Mk. I (FE) – a long-range version, designed for fighting in the Far East in tropical conditions. It was based on the last series of Mk. I versions. They had a nose turret FN5 and a tail turret FN82 with 2 12.7 mm MG. In addition, radio equipment, radar and an additional fuel tank of 400 gallons was installed in the bomb chamber. The upper surfaces of the machine were painted white and the bottom black. It did not take part in combat.
Mk. II – powered by air-cooled radial engines Bristol Hercules VI (power 1277 kW) – the first 27 pieces, and the others by version XVI (power 1270 kW). It was created due to shortages in the supply of RR Merlin engines. The prototype of this version was launched on 26 November 1941. 300 units were produced, since March 1942, at the Armstrong Whitworth plant, out of the 1000 units ordered. The first examples did not differ from the Mk. I version, but then modifications started. The curved door of the bombing compartment was mounted, which allowed to take the bomb load increased to 3628 kg, but still had a lower bomb load than the Mk. I version. Instead of the H2S radar, the G-H navigation and targeting device was started to be mounted, allowing for bombing in conditions of limited visibility. In place of the H2S radar on the bottom of the hull, the FN64 lower turret was mounted. The FN20 tail turret was replaced by the FN120, with a lighter design and a better target sight. Flame dampers were also installed on the engine exhaust pipes. This version had similar performance to Mk. I, with a better climb up to 5486 m, and above it, worse. Additionally, it had a lower ceiling than the Mk. I. version.
Mk. III – powered by American license engines Packard Merlin 28, Merlin 38 or Merlin 224 (3039 units).
Mk. III (Special) – modified in 1943 B. Mk. III from the 617th Squadron of the so-called “Dambusters” created to destroy dams. They carried transversely mounted, rotating left-handed bouncing bombs. For this purpose, the door of the bomb bay and additionally the dorsal turret were removed. A special device was installed to transmit the rotating motion of the bombs, even before their drop. In addition, lamps were installed in the bombing bay and under the nose to measure the height of flight above the surface. In this way 21 machines were rebuilt. During the action, in which finally 19 bombers took part, on 16/17 May 1943 three dams were destroyed, losing eight machines. After the action, the machines were rebuilt back to normal bombers.
A.S.R. III – a special version, for sea rescue. A radar was mounted on it and a boat was placed in the bombing bay to be dropped to the survivors. On these machines, the defence equipment was usually removed completely and additional observation windows were added to the hull.
Mk. VI – 9 Mk. III rebuilt in 1943, with Packard Merlin 85 engines. These engines had two-speed supercharger, which improved the ceiling and performance at high altitudes. They also removed the turret in the machine’s nose, mostly. They were used in 635 Sqn to mark the bomb drop area for bomber formations.
Mk. VII – 180 Mk. I planes rebuilt in 1945 with different weapons. On the back of the fuselage a Martin 250CE turret with 2 km 12.7 mm was mounted and moved further back, and in the tail a FN82 turret with 2 km 12.7 mm.
Mk. X (B. Mk. X) – a version built in Canada, with Packard Merlin 38 engines and then 224, with modified cabin equipment and modified electrical installation. On the last units turrets were mounted as in Mk. VII version. 430 units were built.
Mk. XPP – Mk. X rebuilt for passenger and mail planes. The turrets were removed, and an additional fuel tank (2 pieces) in the bombing compartment.

The Avro Lancaster planes were characterized by very good flying characteristics. Even the weaker versions of Mk. I and Mk. III were able, after a single engine failure, to reach the target with bombs and happily return to base. The forces on the rudders were small, the response to the steering was fast, the pilot was not exhausting, the stability was flawless, the visibility from the cabin was good. With the same power as the Handley Page Halifax, they carried a larger load of bombs, and reached a higher flight level. These features led Arthur Harris, RAF Bomber Command commander Arthur Harris, to refuse the use of this machine (e.g. towing transport gliders) other than for bombing strategic targets in Germany.
The Lancaster bombers joined the RAF in December 1941. New aircraft were the first to be equipped with the No. 44 Squadron RAF at Waddington. The four Lancaster planes were there on Christmas Eve 1941. On March 3, 1942, the Lancaster from this squadron carried out a mission in which he mined the German shipping lane near Heligoland. According to British doctrine, Lancaster was primarily a night bomber. The first combat flight of the 2 Lancasters was carried out on the night of April 17, 1942 during an air raid on Essen. They were then used en masse in successive RAF night raids on German cities and industrial facilities.

The famous and unusual action was to damage the dams in the Ruhr with Wallis’ bombs on May 19, 1943, by 617 Squadron. Another well-known action of the “Lanc” was the sinking of the German battleship “Tirpitz” with Tallboy bombs. The Lancaster planes carried out 156,000 combat operations during World War II, during which they dropped 608,612 tons of bombs. 3249 planes were lost in action, only 35 planes managed to complete more than 100 successful combat opera


Avro Lancaster - front view - History

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Avro Lancaster 'S Sugar'
Replica Cockpit

COCKPIT TOURS UNAVAILABLE

Aircraft history

Sugar is the nickname of Avro Lancaster PO-S R5868, one of only 35 Lancasters which completed over 100 sorties during World War II. Built in 1942 by Metropolitan-Vickers at Trafford Park and assembled at Woodford, Sugar took part in many daring raids including the bombing of German coastal defences on D-Day. The aircraft was the first to bring home British POWs and also participated in Operation Manna (when allied aircraft dropped food parcels over Europe).

The front fuselage of Sugar, which is on display at the Museum, is an accurate replica of a Lancaster bomber. It was built by Martin Willoughby and all of the equipment contained within is genuine Lancaster instrumentation, which has been painstakingly collected over many years. Martin's father, Ted Willoughby, looked after Sugar during the war as a ground engineer and painted the Hermann Göring quote ' No enemy plane will fly over Reich territory ' as the aircraft approached its 100th mission.

Martin built the replica in memory of his father and to commemorate the 55,573 airmen who were killed whilst serving in Bomber Command. We are very grateful to Martin for loaning this exhibit to the Museum. It is on display in the main hall and is open to the public for cockpit tours.


Avro Lancaster - front view - History

By Michael D. Hull

Wing Commander Guy P. Gibson of Royal Air Force Bomber Command was handed the most challenging assignment of his six-year career in the spring of 1943.

After winning the Distinguished Service Order with bar and the Distinguished Flying Cross by the age of 24, the chunky, modest son of an Indian Forest Service official took command of a unit newly formed for “special duties,” No. 617 Squadron. It was destined to gain a unique niche in the history of military aviation.
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At the sprawling Scampton Airfield near the city of Lincoln in northeastern England that spring, Gibson oversaw the intense preparation of 700 handpicked pilots, bombardiers, navigators, and gunners for a daring and unprecedented operation—a low-level precision raid by four-engine Avro Lancaster heavy bombers. It was code named Operation Chastise.

Gibson, characterized as an officer who “exerted his authority without apparent effort,“ told the crews, “You’re here to do a special job, you’re here as a crack squadron, you’re here to carry out a raid on Germany, which, I am told, will have startling results. Some say it may even cut short the duration of the war…. All I can tell you is that you will have to practice low flying all day and night until you know how to do it with your eyes shut.”

The targets, kept secret during the squadron’s training, were the Mohne, Eder, and Sorpe dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley. Since before the start of World War II, Air Ministry planners believed that the destruction of the dams, which stored water vital for production, would cripple Nazi Germany’s economy. The untried weapons chosen for the operation were spherical, five-foot-long bombs (actually mines) that contained five tons of Torpex high explosive.

Developed by Dr. Barnes N. Wallis, an engineering genius who had invented the geodetic aircraft design, the bombs were to be dropped from a height of only 60 feet, skip across the surface of the water, roll down the faces of the dams, and explode underwater. Widespread flooding and damage would result.

After several failures, the “bouncing bomb” had been successfully tested off the southern coast of England. The weapon was so cumbersome that the Lancaster had to be modified to hold it, protruding below the bomb bay. Dual spotlights were also fitted to No. 617 Squadron’s bombers. The big, robust Lancaster was the only aircraft suited for the unique operation.

“The Most Precise Bombing Attack Ever Delivered”

All was made ready for the mission by Sunday, May 16, 1943, and the weather was excellent. That night, 18 Lancasters took off from Scampton, formed up, and thundered at low level across the North Sea and the Dutch coast. Two planes were shot down by German antiaircraft fire, and two had to return to base, one with flak damage and the other after hitting the sea. Another bomber went down when its pilot was blinded by searchlights.

The remaining Lancasters flew on in moonlight through increasing enemy flak and small-arms fire to the Ruhr dams. Gibson dropped the first bomb on the Mohne dam and scored a direct hit. The second plane was hit by flak and crashed, but the third and fourth made successful runs. The dam still held. But the fifth bomber’s run did the trick.

As the Lancasters climbed away, Gibson reported, the top of the dam simply “rolled over and the water, looking like stirred porridge in the moonlight,” cascaded into the valley below.

The Eder dam was well hidden in a valley and difficult to approach. One of the Lancasters dropped its bomb too late, which exploded on the parapet and took the plane with it. After several abortive runs, two more bombers laid their ordnance accurately and breached the dam with spectacular results. The squadron’s remaining bomb damaged the Sorpe dam but failed to cause a breach.

Eight bombers were lost in the operation, and 54 crewmen lost their lives. The cost was high, but the raid gave a major boost to Allied morale. Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest medal for valor, and 33 other members of the squadron were also decorated.

The devastation and widespread flooding inflicted by the raid killed 1,300 civilians, left thousands homeless, damaged 50 bridges, and briefly halted production in the Ruhr. But, because only two of the dams had been breached, the impact was less severe than planned. The dams were repaired by October 1943.

The operation, nevertheless, was remembered as the most celebrated Allied bomber mission of the war. The official Bomber Command history called it “the most precise bombing attack ever delivered and a feat of arms which has never been excelled.”

Developing the “Lanc” Heavy Bomber

The Avro Lancaster was a remarkable plane. From 1942 onward it was the primary British bomber in the Allied aerial offensive against Germany. Sturdy, versatile, and ideally suited for mass production, it had the RAF’s lowest heavy bomber loss rate and was used extensively in high- and low-level day and night raids. Its payload exceeded that of the U.S. Army Air Forces’ Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator, and it could carry the heaviest bombs, from 4,000-pounders up to the 12,000-ton “Tallboy” and the 22,000-ton “Grand Slam.”

Wing Commander Guy Gibson, leader of No. 617 Squadron which executed the daring Dambuster Raid, climbs aboard his Lancaster bomber. This photo was taken in May 1943, and Gibson received the Victoria Cross for his role in the raid. Gibson was killed when his plane was shot down returning from a bombing mission on September 19, 1944.

Many experts termed the “Lanc” the most effective bomber of the war. Aviation historian Owen Thetford called it “perhaps the most famous and certainly the most successful heavy bomber used by the Royal Air Force in the Second World War.” Historian William Green said that a great plane must have “a touch of genius which transcends the good” and “the luck to be in the right place at the right time.” He added, “It must have above-average flying qualities: reliability, ruggedness, fighting ability, and skilled crews. All these things the Lancaster had in good measure.”

Yet the bomber was conceived almost by accident, developed as a result of the failure of its predecessor, the twin-engine Avro Manchester. The Lancaster story began in 1936, when the standard RAF night bomber was the ungainly, soon obsolete Handley Page Heyford, a twin-engine biplane, and when Bomber Command possessed only one squadron of Hendon monoplane bombers. The Air Ministry drew up specifications for a twin-engine heavy bomber that September, and Sir Edwin A.V. Roe, an aircraft design pioneer, proposed a design that was powered by two “new and unorthodox” Vulture liquid-cooled engines.

Named the Manchester, it made its maiden flight from Manchester Ringway Airfield in July 1939, became operational in November 1940, and first saw action on February 24-25, 1941, when it flew a night raid against the French port of Brest. Replacing the twin-engine Handley Page Hampden, the Manchester carried a heavy payload, mounted eight machine guns, and had a maximum range of 1,630 miles, yet it was “one of the RAF’s great disappointments,” said Thetford. Its engine proved unreliable, and it racked up the highest loss rate of all RAF bombers in the war, so it was removed from combat service in June 1942.

But Roe’s design team, headed by brilliant Roy Chadwick, still believed that, with improvements, the Manchester could become an effective bomber. So, four 1,460-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin engines were installed on the basic airframe, and the Lancaster was born. Piloted by Captain H.A. “Sam” Brown, the prototype made its maiden flight on January 9, 1941, from Woodford, Northamptonshire. It tested successfully, assembly line work was started immediately, and the first production bomber flew on October 31, 1941. Wing Commander Roderick Learoyd’s No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron at Waddington, Lincolnshire, received a welcome Christmas present that December 24 when three of the first operational Lancasters arrived to replace its obsolete Hampdens.

The massive, mid-wing Lancaster had a twin tail and four characteristic power turrets (nose, tail, dorsal, and ventral), all mounting twin .303-caliber machine guns except the tail position, which had four .303s. The ventral turret was soon removed. A spacious bomb bay enabled the plane to accommodate a minimum 14,000-ton payload, outperforming such other Bomber Command “heavies” as the Short Stirling and the workhorse Handley Page Halifax.

Water pours through the breach in the Eder Dam on the day following the Dambuster Raid. Air crews of RAF No. 617 Squadron completed the perilous mission aboard their Lancaster heavy bombers.

Manned by a crew of seven, the Lancaster was comparatively easy to fly, maintain, and repair. It had a maximum speed of 287 miles an hour, a range of 1,660 miles, and a ceiling of 24,500 feet. Most of the aircraft were fitted with an H2S radar “can,” protruding beneath the after fuselage. A few mounted .50-caliber machine guns, some had bulged bay doors in order to carry the Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs, and others were powered by Packard-built Merlin or Bristol Hercules radial engines.

Unlike most combat planes built in large numbers, the Lancaster was little changed during the war. Major design modifications proved unnecessary. A total of 7,377 of the bombers were eventually produced, including 430 built in Canada. The Lancaster became the dominant aircraft of RAF Bomber Command and the mainstay of its regular night raids over Nazi-occupied Europe and Germany. By January 1942, there were 256 Lancasters out of 882 heavies in Bomber Command, and a year later there were 652 Lancasters out of 1,093 bombers. The “Lanc” was loved by its crews.

First Air Raid by Lancasters

The first Lancaster operation carried out was on March 3, 1942, when four bombers of No. 44 Squadron laid mines in Heligoland Bight, off northwestern Germany. They took off from Waddington at 6:15 pm and returned safely five hours later. Seven days later, on the 10th, Lancasters made their first night raid. Two from No. 44 Squadron joined a 126-strong bomber force in a mission to the Krupp munitions center in Essen. Each of the Lancasters carried 5,000 pounds of incendiaries.

That month, 54 planes were delivered to the first three Lancaster squadrons. More rolled off the assembly lines, and further bombardment groups were formed, beginning a grueling three-year series of raids to the heart of the Third Reich as the spearhead of Bomber Command. The RAF’s night raids were complemented increasingly by the daylight missions of U.S. Eighth Air Force B-17 and B-24 bomber groups, and Germany was being bombed around the clock. Although the British had abandoned daytime sorties as being too costly,

The Lancaster played a significant role in the repatriation of British prisoners of war after World War II ended. In this photo a group of former POWs walk toward the Lancaster that will carry them home to Britain.

Two months later, Lancasters made headlines taking part in one of the most famous air operations of the war, the first of Air Marshal Harris’s 1,000-bomber raids.

Almost 900 bombers, including 73 Lancasters, reached Cologne on the night of May 30-31, 1942, and dropped 1,500 tons of bombs, two thirds of them incendiaries. Six hundred acres of the historic Rhine city were burned and leveled, and a month’s worth of production destroyed. The raid was a victory for the RAF, but it was also a showpiece that could not be easily replicated. Nevertheless, the mission dramatically exhibited the power and potential of Bomber Command, lifted British morale, encouraged the hard-pressed Russians, and impressed the Americans.

Through the summer and autumn of 1942, Lancasters were increasingly deployed in Bomber Command operations, with occasional detachments for coastal patrol and antishipping duties. On July 17, a Lancaster from No. 61 Squadron sank a U-boat. Besides minelaying sorties and attacks on Hamburg, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Duisburg, and Munich in the latter months of the year, the RAF heavies headed for targets in Italy, focusing on Turin, Milan, and Genoa.

The year 1943 began with a number of smaller raids, but on the night of January 16-17, Bomber Command visited Berlin for the first time in more than a year with 190 Lancasters and 11 Halifaxes. Only one Lancaster of No. 61 Squadron was lost. The raid was repeated the following night, however, with 170 Lancasters and 17 Halifaxes, and 22 bombers failed to return.

The Lancaster carried a heavier payload than either the American B-17 Flying Fortress or B-24
Liberator. This Lancaster of No. 467 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, is being loaded with bombs prior to a mission.

The bombers were given a higher level of accuracy, meanwhile, through such extensive scientific developments as the “Gee” radio-beam navigation system, the “Oboe” blind-bombing device, ground-scanning radar, and “Window,” strips of aluminum foil dropped in quantity to cause confusion on enemy radar sets. A major boon to Bomber Command operations was the Pathfinder Force, set up in August 1942 and headed by forceful Group Captain Donald Bennett.

Punishing Raids and the Bombing of Berlin

Through the late summer and closing months of 1943, meanwhile, Bomber Command launched a series of punishing raids on enemy targets. On the night of August 17-18, the missile production site at Peenemunde on the Baltic coast was hit by 595 bombers, including 324 Lancasters, causing the Germans’ V-2 rocket program to be put back at least three months. Dusseldorf, Cologne, Mannheim, and other cities were hammered again, and the German capital came in for special punishment at the end of the year.

A campaign known as the Battle of Berlin opened on the night of November 18-19, 1943, when an all-Lancaster force of 440 planes, supplemented by four Mosquitoes, attacked the city. British losses soon mounted. Cloud cover grounded enemy fighters, but intense flak downed nine Lancasters. A simultaneous raid on Mannheim by Halifaxes, Stirlings, and 24 Lancasters resulted in the loss of 23 bombers, including two Lancasters. Another 28 of the Avro bombers went down during a mission on November 26-27, and 14 more crashed in England because of bad weather.

A Berlin mission on December 16-17 was even more costly. Twenty-five Lancasters were lost during the attack, and 29 were destroyed on return to their bases. From November 18, 1943, to March 31, 1944, Berlin was assaulted 16 times by Bomber Command. Lancasters flew a total of 156,308 sorties during the war, dropping 608,612 tons of high-explosive bombs and 51,513,106 incendiaries. Aircraft losses in operational and training crashes totaled 3,349.

Sitting in the confines of the Fraser Nash FN50 machine gun turret, a crewman prepares his twin guns for action. The Lancaster was well armed but still vulnerable to German antiaircraft fire and marauding fighters.

Operation Thunderclap: The Firebombing of Dresden

The Lancaster squadrons were kept busy before and after the Allied armies landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. They attacked enemy coastal batteries and other key targets behind the beaches, demolished a key railway tunnel at Saumur, extensively damaged U-boat and E-boat pens and river bridges in Le Havre, raided V-1 rocket launching sites, and bombed the German port of Stettin, causing heavy damage and sinking five ships. By August 1944, the RAF’s Lancaster force was at peak strength with 42 operational squadrons, including four Canadian, two Australian, and one Polish.

As the Allied armies hammered their way toward the River Rhine frontier in the early months of 1945, the Lancaster force’s 56 squadrons flew both day and night raids in and outside Germany. Rail lines, tunnels, and viaducts received special attention with the Bielefeld viaduct demolished on March 14 in the first operational use of the 22,000-pound Grand Slam bomb. The Lancasters also blasted coastal batteries in the Frisian Islands.

On the night of February 13-14, less than three months before the German surrender, Lancasters played a leading role in Operation Thunderclap, one of the most successful and controversial combat missions of the war. Led by nine Mosquito pathfinders and flying in two waves, 796 bombers unloaded 2,700 tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on Dresden, the medieval capital of Saxony and an important manufacturing center and communications hub. Fanned by strong winds, a firestorm devastated large areas of the city before 300 U.S. Eighth Air Force B-17s arrived to disrupt recovery efforts on February 14-15 and March 2. The total death toll was estimated at between 30,000 and 60,000.

Ration Runs and Operation Exodus

In the final weeks before the German surrender was signed on May 7, 1945, the versatile Lancasters embarked on missions of a different kind, laden with food instead of bombs. During Operation Manna in April-May, bombers from Nos. 1, 3, and 8 Groups flew 2,835 sorties to drop 6,684 tons of rations to the starving people of western Holland. Large areas were still under German control, but the local Wehrmacht commander agreed to a truce and no action was taken against the British planes. The Americans joined the operation, with 400 B-17 runs dropping 800 tons of food in the first three days of May. Lancasters later took part in another humanitarian effort, Operation Exodus, during which Nos. 1, 5, 6, and 8 Groups flew home 74,178 British prisoners of war.

After the war, Lancasters succeeded B-24 Liberators in reconnaissance duties for RAF Coastal Command. Built by Armstrong Whitworth, the last Lancaster was delivered to the RAF in February 1946. Lancasters served in the RAF until December 1953 and were officially withdrawn in a ceremony at St. Mawgan, Cornwall, on October 15, 1956.

The City of Lincoln, Avro Lancaster B I PA474, has been operated by the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight since 1973. The vintage bomber’s paint scheme is regularly changed to represent those of famous Lancasters from World War II.

The bombers continued to serve in Canada and Argentina, and with the French Navy and the Egyptian, Swedish, and Soviet Air Forces. The Lancaster’s proud heritage is kept alive at annual air shows by the meticulously preserved City of Lincoln, showpiece of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Comments

Very good article…but Lancasters used in line Merlin Engines
Cheers
Son of WW2 fighter pilot

they did experiment with the Hercules radials but they didn’t go into production. Merlins were in very high demand across many different airframe types and were frequently in short supply.

Excellent review of the Lancaster, but the bomb payload quoted of 12,000 tons for the “Tallboy” and 22,000 tons for “Grand Slam” are very ambitious!! The word “tons” needs to be replaced by “pounds”………


8 Heaviest Payload Of Any Allied WWII Aircraft

A key requirement for any heavy bomber, the Lancaster carried a wider variety of munitions in greater quantities and payloads than other allied aircraft of WWII. With an overall unobstructed length of 33 feet allowing payloads of up to 14,000lbs in early production variants.

Over the Lancasters production and operational life, a need for heavier and more specialized munitions increased the aircraft's maximum take-off weight, payloads, as a result, increasing to 22,000lbs, the heaviest of any allied aircraft during WWII.


A living Bomber Command Tribute

Beautifully maintained, Avro Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’ is one of the best loved historic aircraft in Britain and a fitting ‘living’ tribute to the wartime personnel of Bomber Command

On the night of 17th April 1945, the Avro Lancasters of RAF No.57 Squadron were being prepared for their latest bombing raid deep into what remained of a devastated Third Reich and as everyone went about their duties at East Kirkby airfield, little did they know that the war in Europe would be over in just a matter of days. As crews tried their best to take their minds off the impending mission, their aircraft were being prepared for action by an army of ground trades, fuelled up and armed in a routine which had been perfected during five long years of war. Unfortunately, even these preparations for operations were extremely hazardous and on that evening, the normal sounds associated with a busy Bomber Command airfield were shattered by a huge explosion.

The bombs needed for the mission had been collected from the off-site bomb store and just before they were to be winched into the bomb bay of each Lancaster, they had to be fused by armorers, an operation which was intended to make the operation as safe as possible for all concerned. Unfortunately, on this occasion, something went wrong. As one of the armed 1,000lb bombs was being winched into position aboard a No.57 Squadron Lancaster’s bomb bay, it slipped its wire and fell to the ground, causing a huge explosion. The blast caused a chain reaction of explosions which had everyone running for cover and during the ensuing melee, four men would tragically lose their lives, with a further 17 suffering injury. In addition to the human casualties, six Lancaster bombers were destroyed and a further 14 damaged, in what would prove to be an extremely dark day in the history of RAF East Kirkby. The incident illustrated just how dangerous a place a wartime airfield was, whilst at the same time highlighting the invaluable work done by ground crews an associated trades during the Second World War.

Lancaster office. It is difficult to imagine how the young men of Bomber Command could fly these complex machines over great distances at night and under fire night after night during WWII

Following the end of the Second World War, activities at RAF East Kirkby gradually wound down and by 1964, it was deemed surplus to requirements and sold off by the government, quickly reverting back to farmland. Still owned by a farming family, the site retains its original control tower and many of the outbuildings constructed during the airfields wartime service and when viewed from the air, it is still possible to make out sections of the original runway and perimeter tracks. Significantly, the former East Kirkby airfield is now home to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre and is home to a fantastic collection of wartime artefacts and memorabilia, with the evocative centrepiece being Avro Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’, an aircraft which is maintained to an extremely high standard and in ground running condition.

Now a major visitor attraction in the region, a trip to the museum at East Kirkby is like stepping back into the 1940s and can be an emotional experience for anyone, especially if they have family links to Bomber Command operations during the Second World War. With all this taking place on the site of a preserved WWII RAF bomber station, can there possibly be a finer place to see an Avro Lancaster anywhere in the UK?

The museum itself was established by two local farming brothers who were determined to preserve the site as a memorial to the men of RAF Bomber Command and specifically as a tribute to their eldest brother Christopher Whitton Panton, who was shot down during a bombing raid over Nuremberg in the early hours of 31st March 1944. He was serving as flight engineer on a Handley Page Halifax B.III of No.433 Squadron (RCAF), operating out of Skipton-on-Swale in North Yorkshire for this raid, when it is believed his aircraft shot down by a marauding Messerschmitt Bf 110 Nightfighter. Five of the crew, including Chris Panton, tragically lost their lives on that night, with the remaining two being taken prisoner by the Germans.

Beautifully preserved, the original wartime buildings at the former RAF East Kirkby provide the backdrop to a truly memorable experience, when visiting the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre

Purchased by the Panton Brothers in 1983, Avro Lancaster B Mk.VII NX611 ‘Just Jane’was originally intended as a rather impressive personal aviation memorial to the memory of their older brother, but as time went on, it would become the focal point for something much more public. When they bought the aircraft, it was serving as Gate Guardian at RAF Scampton, however, as the existing arrangement required that it must serve ten years in this role, it would be a further four years before it could be moved to its new home at East Kirkby. This gave the brothers ample time to construct a hangar on the site of an original wartime T2 hangar and continue the renovation of the existing airfield buildings. As East Kirkby was a former Lancaster base, it seemed somehow fitting that NX611 would be forming the centrepiece of their unique tribute.

Following its arrival, work to reassemble and renovate their impressive acquisition began immediately and it did not take long before the brothers decided that this should not simply be a static aircraft memorial. Pleased with what they had achieved so far, they were now determined that the former East Kirkby airfield would once again reverberate to the sound of Merlin engines and as the renovation work progressed, they had yet another idea. What if they were to allow members of the public to view their magnificent aircraft and to experience the historic surroundings of this genuine former Bomber Command airfield? With this as their ultimate aim, the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre opened its doors for the first time in 1988 and since that date, has attracted huge numbers of visitors to this quiet corner of Bomber County, to sample a memorable aviation experience which has many people coming back year after year.


IPMS/USA Reviews

Perhaps the best four-engined bomber of WWII, the Avro Lancaster has earned its place in history as well as in the hearts of the English people. It was instantly recognized that this was no normal aircraft and the time between design, prototype and production was minimized. However, the Lancaster was competing with the Spitfire and Mosquito for the Rolls Royce Merlin engines it needed and it was feared that a shortage might develop. Instead of shifting Merlin production to the Lancaster, it was decided to develop another version of the aircraft, the Mark II of this kit, using Bristol Hercules radial engines instead. The adaptation was easily made, but performance slipped. The Mk II climbed faster and the radial Hercules engines could absorb more punishment and still run, but the over all ceiling of the aircraft was reduced and the Hercules consumed more fuel, so range and/or bomb load fell as well. The Mk IIs were given to squadrons that were using Wellingtons and Hamptons since these also being radial engined, it was thought the maintenance transition would be easier and the Canadians. In the end, with the U.S.' entrance into the war, Packard started to license produce the Merlin, which ended the shortage and as soon as enough Mk IIIs, which were Lancasters with the Packard Merlin engines, were available, the Mk II was largely phased out of "Ops" and relegated to other duties.

The Kit

The kit has 239 pieces on five light grey and one clear sprue. This is a very detailed kit, so many of the parts are quite small and delicate. There is no flash, only very light mold seams and no punch out marks in highly visible places. The panel lines are engraved, perhaps a tiny bit too heavily, but with several coats of finish, they look fine. There is molded-in detail in the wheel and flap wells as well as the interior of the fuselage and the model can be built with normal or bulged bomb bay doors. An H2S bombing radar dome is provided, but there is no mention of this in the instructions. As there are several other clear parts that are not used, this is probably because the clear spru is common to all Airfix Lancaster models. A twenty-two page instruction booklet guides you through assembly with clear illustrations and international symbols and there is a glossy two sided full color painting guide for the two sets of markings provided on the decal sheet, which includes stenciling, instrument faces for the cockpit, radio operator's and engineer's areas as well as a set of maps for the navigator's table. The plastic is what has become typical for the new Airfix kits being light bluish grey, somewhat soft and easy to cut and sand.

The Build

First off let me say that this is very well engineered kit and the overall fit is excellent. This holds true for small parts and large, which means you must be careful in what you cut/sand off a part when cleaning things up. Check the fit of all parts before you trim or sand them to make sure the fit stays tight. As a corollary to this, make sure all the interior parts are in correct alignment and fit snuggly against the fuselage wall. If not, you will have problems getting the two halves to join properly as tolerances are very close. If you can't get the fuselage halves together without a gap, you either did something wrong or didn't do something you should have.

Interior

There is quite a bit in here and quite a bit is visible under the greenhouse type canopy. Everything fits well, but assemble it in the order directed so it all goes together correctly. Make note of painting instructions so you do not have to paint around parts. You make your first choice of aircraft at this stage by either including or not including the ventral turret mount, so make sure you know what aircraft you're doing. Also you'll need to open up holes/slots for a stand, if your going to do that (See Landing Gear below). I needed a little putty on the bottom to align the halves with no 'step', but that might have been as much operator error as anything else.

Landing Gear Bays

This is a pretty elaborate set up. It all attaches to the wing spars, as it did in real life, and is quite detailed. Again, make sure of your alignment so when you add the top and bottom wing halves it all goes together.

Wings

A somewhat unique assembly sequence has you attach the top wing half to the spars/landing gear bays and then you add the bottom half. Fit on mine was so fine that no putty was needed at the wing root at all.

Tail planes

These have a half lap joint that makes alignment almost guaranteed. However, on mine the fit was so tight that I needed to file down the tabs so that the elevators would completely fit into the slots in the fuselage. Also, care is needed so you get the right part on the right side. There is a small "dent" in the left part into which fits the tail wheel. That should face down. If you get it reversed, you'll need to modify the tail wheel part for it to fit and it will not be as sturdy.

Engine nacelles

As these are in right/left halves, some clean up in necessary, as it is with the upper and lower air intakes. The fit to the wing is very good, but needed a tiny bit of putty here and there.

Landing Gear

These are done just as they are in the real aircraft, mounted to the spar via an access panel on the top of the wing behind the engine. These panels were the worse fitting parts in the kit. They took some putty to close gaps around them and fair them into the nacelles. But even at this, they still fit pretty well. You can do the model gear down, gear up or either way with a stand. If you choose to go with the stand, you'll need to buy one, as it's not supplied. Airfix now sells stands separately.

Flaps

You have a choice of up or down. The interior of the flaps and upper wing are nicely detailed, so having them open looks good. There is a separate part for the rear of the engine nacelle as it folded into the forward part when the flaps were down.

Bomb Bay

You have your choice of regular or 'bulged' bomb bay doors, depending on the aircraft you are modeling and doors posed open or closed. Unlike other kits, there are not separate parts for closed or open doors. As I did mine open, I can't speak to the fit if they are done closed. The only advanced planning needed is that if you use the bulged doors, you need to add the fairing and retainer for the ventral turret way back when you're assembling the fuselage. The bomb bay is very detailed, but can't be finished because you do not get a bomb load so you don't know what bomb shackles to put where. You can add them later, so that's not a complete tragedy, but you need to buy Airfix's Bomber Resupply set (Cat. # A05330) to arm this kite. (Hmmm, separate buy for a stand, separate buy for the armament. I sense a trend.)

Gun Turrets

Unfortunately, the dorsal and rear turrets are split vertically, which means a seam on clear plastic, so much care is called for in assembly. In addition, the nose and rear turrets have cowlings around them that have to either be assembled literally at the same time in the case of the rear turret or after as in the nose. You can't do them in advance to ease painting the turrets won't go in with them in place.

Canopy

This is a large, greenhouse type thing. The side panels are separate as you can do it with or without the teardrop bulges on the sides. However, none of the aircraft in this kit have them, so they must be used on the B.I or Dambusters release. But, again, it's clear on clear, so be careful while assembling it

Engines

The weakest parts of the kit, detail-wise, are the engines. They are not much better than ones out of old Airfix kits. This is somewhat ameliorated by the fact that they are buried under the cowlings, which are quite well done. They are left and right halves, so will need some cleaning up, but have nice cowl flap detail on them.

Decals

These are thin, pretty tough and responded well to setting solutions. Care is needed, however, with all the lines on the wings as the raised panel lines can cause silvering if you don't get them to snuggle down completely. Location of some can be a bit dicey as the full color guide makes it difficult to see panel lines to use as guides.

Painting

This is a big plane in 1/72 scale and you use a lot of black paint. In around all the nooks and crannies, it took me a full hour to lay it all down. The full color guldes are excellent. One tiny nit is that they show a circular clear part just behind the bombers nose position on the bottom. This would be the seachlight that was installed in front of the bomb bay to focus with one at the rear at 60 feet altitude. This was for the Dambusters type 464 Lancasters and would not have appeared on the Mk IIs. On the kit part, it's a raised circular panel line, so can just be painted over. One major suggestion here is to get Eduard's flexible masks for this kit (product code CX372). They make masking all the turrets, cockpit greenhouse and all those little windows on the sides so much easier. Heck, in my case, possible. I would not have been able to do it without them. They are well worth the money.

Summary

This is an excellently engineered kit that fits very well. However, it is a big kit and has many parts that need to go in "just so". It's not a kit for beginners, but the normal IPMS member shouldn't have any problem with it. It builds up into an impressive representation of the real thing and in the hands of a really good aircraft modeler (Which I'm not. As evidence, you'll see schmutzes, decal wrinkles, etc. in the photos. Those are operator error, not the fault of the kit.), it could be spectacular.

Many thanks to IPMS/USA and Airfix American for providing me the opportunity to build and review this kit.


A living Bomber Command Tribute

Beautifully maintained, Avro Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’ is one of the best loved historic aircraft in Britain and a fitting ‘living’ tribute to the wartime personnel of Bomber Command

On the night of 17th April 1945, the Avro Lancasters of RAF No.57 Squadron were being prepared for their latest bombing raid deep into what remained of a devastated Third Reich and as everyone went about their duties at East Kirkby airfield, little did they know that the war in Europe would be over in just a matter of days. As crews tried their best to take their minds off the impending mission, their aircraft were being prepared for action by an army of ground trades, fuelled up and armed in a routine which had been perfected during five long years of war. Unfortunately, even these preparations for operations were extremely hazardous and on that evening, the normal sounds associated with a busy Bomber Command airfield were shattered by a huge explosion.

The bombs needed for the mission had been collected from the off-site bomb store and just before they were to be winched into the bomb bay of each Lancaster, they had to be fused by armorers, an operation which was intended to make the operation as safe as possible for all concerned. Unfortunately, on this occasion, something went wrong. As one of the armed 1,000lb bombs was being winched into position aboard a No.57 Squadron Lancaster’s bomb bay, it slipped its wire and fell to the ground, causing a huge explosion. The blast caused a chain reaction of explosions which had everyone running for cover and during the ensuing melee, four men would tragically lose their lives, with a further 17 suffering injury. In addition to the human casualties, six Lancaster bombers were destroyed and a further 14 damaged, in what would prove to be an extremely dark day in the history of RAF East Kirkby. The incident illustrated just how dangerous a place a wartime airfield was, whilst at the same time highlighting the invaluable work done by ground crews an associated trades during the Second World War.

Lancaster office. It is difficult to imagine how the young men of Bomber Command could fly these complex machines over great distances at night and under fire night after night during WWII

Following the end of the Second World War, activities at RAF East Kirkby gradually wound down and by 1964, it was deemed surplus to requirements and sold off by the government, quickly reverting back to farmland. Still owned by a farming family, the site retains its original control tower and many of the outbuildings constructed during the airfields wartime service and when viewed from the air, it is still possible to make out sections of the original runway and perimeter tracks. Significantly, the former East Kirkby airfield is now home to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre and is home to a fantastic collection of wartime artefacts and memorabilia, with the evocative centrepiece being Avro Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’, an aircraft which is maintained to an extremely high standard and in ground running condition.

Now a major visitor attraction in the region, a trip to the museum at East Kirkby is like stepping back into the 1940s and can be an emotional experience for anyone, especially if they have family links to Bomber Command operations during the Second World War. With all this taking place on the site of a preserved WWII RAF bomber station, can there possibly be a finer place to see an Avro Lancaster anywhere in the UK?

The museum itself was established by two local farming brothers who were determined to preserve the site as a memorial to the men of RAF Bomber Command and specifically as a tribute to their eldest brother Christopher Whitton Panton, who was shot down during a bombing raid over Nuremberg in the early hours of 31st March 1944. He was serving as flight engineer on a Handley Page Halifax B.III of No.433 Squadron (RCAF), operating out of Skipton-on-Swale in North Yorkshire for this raid, when it is believed his aircraft shot down by a marauding Messerschmitt Bf 110 Nightfighter. Five of the crew, including Chris Panton, tragically lost their lives on that night, with the remaining two being taken prisoner by the Germans.

Beautifully preserved, the original wartime buildings at the former RAF East Kirkby provide the backdrop to a truly memorable experience, when visiting the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre

Purchased by the Panton Brothers in 1983, Avro Lancaster B Mk.VII NX611 ‘Just Jane’was originally intended as a rather impressive personal aviation memorial to the memory of their older brother, but as time went on, it would become the focal point for something much more public. When they bought the aircraft, it was serving as Gate Guardian at RAF Scampton, however, as the existing arrangement required that it must serve ten years in this role, it would be a further four years before it could be moved to its new home at East Kirkby. This gave the brothers ample time to construct a hangar on the site of an original wartime T2 hangar and continue the renovation of the existing airfield buildings. As East Kirkby was a former Lancaster base, it seemed somehow fitting that NX611 would be forming the centrepiece of their unique tribute.

Following its arrival, work to reassemble and renovate their impressive acquisition began immediately and it did not take long before the brothers decided that this should not simply be a static aircraft memorial. Pleased with what they had achieved so far, they were now determined that the former East Kirkby airfield would once again reverberate to the sound of Merlin engines and as the renovation work progressed, they had yet another idea. What if they were to allow members of the public to view their magnificent aircraft and to experience the historic surroundings of this genuine former Bomber Command airfield? With this as their ultimate aim, the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre opened its doors for the first time in 1988 and since that date, has attracted huge numbers of visitors to this quiet corner of Bomber County, to sample a memorable aviation experience which has many people coming back year after year.


Built in 1945, this is the most complete Lancaster X in existence, remaining very close to its wartime condition. It was delivered overseas to No. 425 Alouette Squadron RCAF in May 1945, but arrived too late to take part in bombing operations and was placed in long-term storage the same year.

In 1952, it served with No. 404 Maritime Patrol Squadron RCAF in Greenwood, Nova Scotia for a short period of time. The RCAF restored the aircraft in 1964, applying the nose art and squadron markings of an aircraft from No. 428 Squadron, RCAF. The tiny bombs painted on the port side of the nose indicate the number of sorties the aircraft made. The Lancaster was placed in the RCAF's historic aircraft collection in 1964, and was transferred to the Museum, along with the rest of the collection, later that year.


AVRO FC – The Lancaster Club

What is British pride? It means different things to different people and I am sure my personal opinions differ to your own. Obviously in recent weeks we have had the EU Referendum, which allowed people to bang on about British values, regardless of which side they voted. We’ve also had Euro 2016 and while it’s fair to say England disappointed, Wales and Northern Ireland did the side proud. Coming up next is the Olympics, the first one since that glorious summer when the nation was brought together back in 2012.

For me, when I think about being British I think about famous films such as Four Lions (maybe not) and The Dam Busters more specifically the music. Of course, the main attraction throughout the film is the fleet of Lancaster Bombers. The majority of these were designed and built in the Chadderton area of Oldham by AVRO from 1939 onwards.

So, with the pre-season schedule underway I thought it would be a nice idea to head down to AVRO FC to see if I could find any links to the area’s proud past. Prior to World War II, the majority of AVRO’s work was based down the road in Newton Heath. With more of a demand for planes to help with the war effort, AVRO moved the majority of their production further out of Manchester towards Chadderton.

In 1936, Failsworth Lodge (the building now used as the clubhouse at AVRO) was purchased by Sir Roy Dobson, manager at AV Roe’s. A football team for the workers was founded but it wasn’t until 1950 that the Lodge was opened up fully to the employees of AVRO and the club moved here. It was at this time the Lodge was renamed The Lancaster Club after the famous plane the workers once built.

Having done my research (from the little information available online, thanks to Manchopper for rescuing us all) I had a feeling this would be one of the more obscure and ‘tinpot’ grounds I would be visiting this year. As far as I was aware there were no stands and the pitch was just about railed off, but it was still somehow a Manchester Premier Division ground and as any groundhopper will tell you, a tick is a tick. Although some of the sadder ones – the ones who lick the turnstiles and only watch a match if there’s a programme – may only have this as a bracketed tick as we don’t think it was played on the first team pitch. Crisis.

The plan for this groundhop adventure was formulated a couple of days beforehand when I was at West Didsbury & Chorlton v Bamber Bridge with Zach and Rob Clarke. We had had a cultural day visiting the People’s History Museum, shopping for posters and other decorative gear for our student rooms in Afflecks before hotfooting it down to the trendy suburb of Chorlton. I even bumped into my cousin on the way to the match, so I felt like one of those inbred types who bumps into family members while out doing the weekly shop.

While at West Didsbury we could hear Beyonce performing at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. I somehow came to the conclusion that our upcoming trip to AVRO wouldn’t hold such glitz and glamour was I right? Of course I was, but we didn’t head to a working mans club in Failsworth to indulge ourselves. We did it purely for the tick… and because Dianne Oxberry clearly stated on the weather that it wouldn’t be raining. As always – as much as I hate to say this – my favourite weather woman let us down. It rained intermittently throughout the day and we feared the worst as we plodded around a flooded Manchester thinking about the evening ahead.

I met up with West Didsbury & Chorlton secretary Rob McKay in the Arndale (Rob Clarke couldn’t be bothered making the journey from Sheffield, and who could blame him?) It took him a few minutes to arrive at our meeting point and I had never been so glad to see my friend as he rescued me from being hassled by a plethora of people selling things or begging for charities. I nearly punched the woman from Sky who asked me four times if I wanted a free bag of popcorn she even asked me if I was watching my figure when I declined. I just didn’t fancy popcorn! I was off to watch AVRO v Maine Road, not Finding Dory! It was all pretty stressful, so off we went for a drink at Wetherspoons on Deansgate.

As we sat there supping Krombacher and coffee respectively (I’ve become a bit of a coffee man over the last few weeks) we waited for Zach to arrive from Bolton. He had been releasing his inner student at an informal meeting with Mayor of Manchester candidate Andy Burnham. It has been great witnessing the development of one of our countries future politicians in recent years, although I think even Zach will admit he may be even a too bit theatrical for the chamber.

Rob was all for catching the train to Moston when we decided to start heading out of the city centre towards the match. This option hadn’t crossed my mind and my plan of jumping on the Metrolink to Failsworth hadn’t crossed his. I won the non-existent battle and was labelled ‘a very clever boy’ which provided the daily inflation that my ego requires.

Services to Failsworth from Manchester Victoria were very frequent as it is served by the Oldham and Rochdale line which was quite busy due to the rush hour. Admittedly, as we headed out of the centre we came across pockets of the city that I had never heard of after all, East Manchester is a completely different world for somebody from West Manchester.

Found after Newton Heath & Moston (the station closest to FC United’s Broadhurst Park), Failsworth was relatively quiet when we arrived. Exiting the station, there were a few locals stood outside the Bricklayers Arms drinking pints of mild outside in the rain. Mills – the few that are still remaining – loomed over the red brick terraces which were broken at regular intervals with chippies and more pubs unfortunately the majority ceased trading many years ago.

The chippy close to the station provided us with a quick respite from the deluge that was hanging over the town. We assumed there wouldn’t be any food at the ground so delved into the underworld that is associated with chippies in suburban Manchester. You can travel from town to neighboring town and find completely different menus which I always find astounding. I played it safe in this establishment, a scollop barm with red sauce. Basically just a blob of carbohydrate that geed me up for the monotonous trudge down the dual carriageway towards the ground.

We only passed one other human being on our travels a scruffy type returning from a day at school, perhaps he’d been in detention? The Lamb Inn was our choice for a pre-match drink and it could be seen on the other side of the road, resplendent in it’s white colour which added a bit of cleanliness to the area. Ignore the bullet shot through the front window of the establishment and the 1970’s style decor and you can enjoy a pint of Boddington’s amongst a range of families who were yet to return from the school run. Not much attention was paid to the notice behind the bar saying all children must vacate the premises by 19:00.

I was beginning to frown upon Failsworth, when I received a message from my mum who was on holiday in Majorca. She informed me that my Great Grandmother is from Failsworth and she even married in a church close to where I was drinking. It seems wherever I head in Greater Manchester I seem to find some sort of link I was never aware of.

With around ten minutes to go until kick off we finished off our drinks in The Lamb Inn and headed over the road to the Lancaster Club, home to AVRO FC. The ground is found just off Broadway, the same road that Chadderton play on albeit a few miles further north. The large car park was pretty full and a mesh fencing at the end of it allowed us sight of the pitch where the match was about to kick off.

I quickly came to the conclusion that this was the most basic ground I had ever been to but it didn’t bother me. Stood underneath some trees, three metres behind the goal, dodging all of the dog excrement that was dotted around us I felt quite at home. The other 8 people who were in attendance alongside us had all brought umbrellas meaning they could remain on the only bit of hard standing close to the car park.

Maine Road are two divisions above their Manchester League opponents. Many of their players were away on holiday or partying somewhere as the majority of them are college and university students. That’s the thing with Maine Road you never know which players are going to line up against you but you know it will be a tight contest and you’ll be run ragged for 90 minutes.

This match was no different as the range of young trialists, keen to impress the Maine Road management team allowed AVRO very little time on the ball all evening. It was the Sky Blues who took a 2-0 lead into the half-time interval mainly thanks to their pacy striker who could do well in the NWCFL this season if he carries on.

We knew the interval wouldn’t be a long one so we quickly headed off into the Lancaster Club in search of beer. The grand Edwardian manor really was a bit of an odd venue for a non-league clubhouse, that big that we managed to lose Rob. It became like a scene out of the Chuckle Brothers as Zach and I opened numerous doors and ventured down a few corridors to find our missing companion before he eventually emerged. By this stage we had disturbed a couple of the regulars who were now chasing after us, enquiring why we were taking photographs and what we were up to. I resisted temptation to say I was from the TV Licensing Company, demanding them to pay an on the spot fine.

The overall impression I got was that we weren’t welcome and the club aren’t used to groundhopping types. It says everybody is welcome, but every door still says members only. Perhaps this is why there were only two people in the bar watching the Euro 2016 match that was on? It’s a shame really, as the decor inside is beautiful and the building is huge.

Back to the match and for the majority of the second half we stood leaning on the metal railings next to the hard standing. It offered a restricted view of play, as the shrubbery to our left cut off the wing and corner flag up the far end. Every time there was a throw in or corner up in that area of the pitch it seemed as if the player was literally kicking the ball out of a bush.

Maine Road continued to play fast football, trying to knock a long ball to the attackers at every given opportunity. AVRO were still fighting back with some stern challenges in midfield and pulled a consolation goal back after the visitors had taken the scoreline to 4-0.

The game became a bit boring towards the end and as soon as the final whistle sounded we made the walk back to Failsworth metrolink station. A couple of local scallies in tracksuits decided to cross the track, as apparently it was quicker than walking underneath the bridge. I sat there feeling relieved that they didn’t get squashed as I assumed I would have then missed the 21:45 train back to Atherton.

In the end, I missed my train by 30 seconds anyway. The next service was in 70 minutes time, such is the frequency of Northern Rail trains to the major conurbations of Greater Manchester. As I headed off into the night with Rob for a pint to pass the time, my Dad offered to pick me up from Bolton which saved me from heading to some pretentious hipster bar in the Northern Quarter where I would most likely make new friends and end up partying until the early hours.

I finished the evening by feeding a drunken girl in our carriage some chips she seemed interested in Zach and I but we declined her advances as she’s from Clitheroe and we all know that they knocked Colls out of the Lancashire Cup last year.

So, what were my overall thoughts on AVRO? As I stated very early on, it was purely a tick. There was very little excitement in the town of Failsworth or at the club itself. I could never see myself spending a Saturday afternoon here even if every other match was postponed I think I would rather lie in bed or do the big shop with my mum.



Comments:

  1. Salhdene

    MOOD IS JUST UNDERSTANDING IN THE DIRECT SENSE OF THE WORD

  2. Balin

    This phrase is necessary just by the way

  3. Coleman

    You are not right. I can prove it. Write in PM.

  4. Mavrick

    undeniably impressive!

  5. Waed

    I join. It was and with me.

  6. Toryn

    You are absolutely right. There is something in this and an excellent idea, I agree with you.



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