Avro Lancaster, RIAT 2007 ©Nigel Key
9th January 1941.
The Avro Lancaster was designed by Avro's Chief designer Roy Chadwick around the 'failings' of the Avro Manchester which only had two 'Vulture' engines which were unreliable especially for the task of heavy bombing operations.
The Avro Lancaster, initially designated Avro 683 Manchester III, was designed with a larger wing to house four Rolls Royce Merlin engines giving the aircraft a top speed of 286mph.
The first prototype Lancaster was flown by H.A Thorn on 9th January 1941 and was a success although the three tail fins were changed to the familiar two on the second prototype.
The Lancaster was a 'modular' design with the wings and fuselage each being manufactured in five complete sub-assemblies. The main undercarriage was hydraulically retracted rearwards into the inboard engine nacelles with the rear tail wheel being fixed.
The Lancaster’s original bomb bay was 33ft long and capable of carrying 4,000lb bombs. Modified doors were added to the Mk Ib bomb bay which was 'bulged' allowing larger bombs to be carried, initially 8,000lb and then 12,000lb.
The majority of Lancaster’s were manufactured by Avro at Chadderton, others were built at Metropolitan-Vickers and Austin Motor Company Longbridge. Due to a shortage of Rolls Royce Merlin engines some 300 Lancaster BII's were fitted with Bristol Hercules engines and many were lost after running out of fuel.
7,366 were built during the war, more than any other British bomber. The seven man crew of the Lancaster were able to deliver around 14,000lbs of high explosive over the designated target at a range of around 1,660 miles.
The Avro Lancaster was produced from 1941, with 7,377 built.
4 x Rolls Royce Merlin 24 engines, producing 5120 hp.
Press play to hear the Lancaster
8 x Browning 0.303” machine guns
14,000 lb (6,350 kg) Bomb load
The Lancaster entered service with the RAF in early 1942, No.44 Squadron being the first to receive them.
156,000 sorties were flown by Lancaster’s and 608,600 tons of bombs were dropped between 1942 and 1945 with 3,249 Lancaster’s being lost in action with just 35 aircraft completing more than 100 sorties.
On 16-17 May 1943, Operation Chastise was carried out on German dams by No.617 Squadron, later known as the Dam Busters. Revolutionary Bouncing bombs, designed by Barnes Wallis, were used to breach the Möhne and Edersee dams causing catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley and surrounding villages. The Sorpe dam had only minor damage.
A total of three attacks on the Battleship Tirpitz were carried out during the latter half of 1944 by No.617 and No.9 Squadron. The Lancaster had modified bomb bay doors to accommodate 12,000 lb ‘Tallboy’ bombs which resulted in sinking the ship.
As a result of actions such as Operation Chastise and the sinking of Tirpitz, No.617 Squadron became the most famous of all Lancaster squadrons.
|Crew - 7|
|Length - 69ft 6in (21.18m)|
|Wingspan - 102ft 0in (31.09m)|
|Height - 20ft 0in (6.10m)|
|Empty Weight - 36,900lb (16,738kg)|
|Max. Weight - 70,000lb (31,751kg)|
|Max. Speed - 287 mph (462 km/h)|
|Range - 2,530 miles (4,072 km)|