(first posted September 13, 2014) For many people in Nazi dominated Europe, the distinctive silhouette of an Avro Lancaster against a moonlit sky (or in the beam of searchlights) in 1943 or 1944 was confirmation that they had not been forgotten by the free world; that there was hope of release from tyranny, and that freedom would come.
A number of CC readers will know the Lancaster, its history and significance, and probably also the huge Canadian contribution to its operation and manufacture. A special Canadian visitor to Britain this summer gives a good excuse to highlight one of Britain’s engineering greats, and one of freedom’s greatest and most recognisable symbols. For the first time in fifty years, Lancasters were flying in formation over England. Other than the individuals involved, there can be few more emotive images of Europe’s recent history.
The 1930s, at least in Europe, looks in hindsight like an unhappy decade–a slow and difficult recovery from the Great Depression, the rise of fascist totalitarianism in Italy, Germany and Spain, and unstable and ineffective governments in France and the UK. After the horrors of the Great War, there was a very clear and frightening prospect of more conflict getting closer as Hitler’s Germany sought to expand into the neighbouring states it viewed as lesser mortals, against feeble opposition and appeasement from the democracies. Whenever discussion turned to the ‘next war’, mass bombing of civilian populations was always highlighted as a certain and fearful prospect. There was much talk in the vein of the famous saying that ‘the bomber will always get through’ and of the futility of defensive preparations.
The German blitzkrieg did show the power of bombing, notably in Warsaw and Rotterdam–but that was against almost non-existent defences. When the Luftwaffe turned on Britain in autumn 1940, after the British Royal Air Force’s (the RAF) success in the Battle of Britain had ended German invasion plans, the results were mixed. A lot of people were killed and houses destroyed, but the dislocation of industry and demoralisation of the population didn’t happen in the way the doomsayers had predicted–the famous British ‘blitz spirit’ emerged instead–a determination not to be beaten but to resist and then fight back.
However, that was easier said than done. RAF bombers were the only means of attacking the Nazi empire after the land forces had been driven out of France at Dunkirk in May 1940, but with the exception of the newest of the fleet, the Vickers Wellington, the aircraft proved to be lamentably ineffective. Aircraft such as the Handley-Page Hampden and Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley proved to be too slow and vulnerable to pose a serious threat to German defenses (especially in daylight), and the navigation equipment and techniques were incapable of getting anything approaching an acceptable proportion of the small bombloads anywhere close to the target.
The RAF had anticipated that light and medium bombers such as these would not be enough as early as 1936, when British rearmament really began in earnest, and had sought proposals for heavy bombers. Avro (a contraction of A. V. Roe Ltd, later part of Hawker Siddeley, then of British Aerospace, and now BAE Systems) offered the Manchester–a two engine aircraft, capable of carrying 8,000lbs of bombs or 18 torpedoes in a superbly designed fuselage and bomb bay, which eventually entered service in early 1941. But it was woefully underpowered and unreliable–production was much slower than planned (only 200 out of 1,200 originally ordered were built), the Rolls-Royce Vulture engines were complex and the plane was unpopular with crews.
In response to the Manchester’s problems, Avro, led by Chief Engineer Roy Chadwick, began development of a four-engine version, based around the Manchester fuselage but with a greater wingspan, and powered by four of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines used by the Spitfire, Hurricane and Mosquito. The first prototype Lancaster flew in January 1941, the first production version in October, and the first squadron was operational by January 1942.
The Lancaster is a mid-wing cantilever monoplane with an oval all-metal fuselage. The wing was constructed in five main sections, the fuselage in five sections. All wing and fuselage sections were built separately and fitted with all the required equipment before final assembly. The tail unit had twin elliptical fins and rudders. The main landing gear was retractable and the tailwheel fixed, with the hydraulically-operated main landing gear raising rearwards into the inner engine nacelles.
The engine was always the Rolls-Royce Merlin–a 27 litre, V12 engine fitted with a two-speed supercharger and capable of around 1500hp–or the license-built American derivative Packard-Merlin, built by Packard, driving 13 ft diameter de Havilland Hydromatic three-bladed airscrews. Production of the Lancaster utilised more Merlins (surely the greatest piston engine ever?) than any other aircraft.
Eventually, across factories in Britain and Canada, 7,377 Lancasters were built, including many at the Longbridge works of Austin and at what is now the Jaguar plant at Castle Bromwich, both in Birmingham. This factory was originally run by the Nuffield Organization, until Lord Nuffield fell out with the UK’s Ministry of Supply. For UK production, the engines came from Rolls-Royce in Derby and Glasgow, or from Ford in Manchester.
By 1943, the Lancaster was the first choice bomber of RAF Bomber Command, and of the crews. Bomb capacity grew to 22,000lbs, with speed of up to 275mph and a range of over 1,500 miles. It was a powerful, rugged and reliable aircraft, easy to fly and capable of withstanding significant damage from anti-aircraft defences, and thus popular with its crews.
The Lancaster needed a crew of seven. Regardless of rank, the pilot was captain of the aircraft, supported by a flight engineer to manage the Merlins and a navigator and a radio operator. There were gunners in hydraulically operated gun turrets in the front blister, above the middle of the fuselage and the lonely ‘Tail End Charlie.” The front gunner doubled as bomb aimer, responsible for directing the pilot to the aiming point and releasing the bombload. Defensive armament was a total of eight Browning machine guns.
The popular image of RAF Bomber Command is of massed streams of bombers leaving eastern England at dusk, heading across the North Sea and bringing death and destruction to German cities before returning one by one in the dawn light. Hamburg, Dresden, Cologne, Berlin and many others were all bombed intensively by Lancasters flying from England. RAF Bomber Command’s Air Marshal Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris spoke of ‘Germany having sowed the seed at Warsaw, Rotterdam, London and Coventry; now they will reap the whirlwind’, which sounds callous now, but resonated in wartime Britain.
Key to the success of these raids was a massive improvement in bomb aiming techniques, and the development of navigational aids based around radar, and the sheer volume of aircraft used–Harris was fond of arranging 1,000 bomber raids, and Hamburg was bombed intensively, and practically destroyed, over a week in July 1943, by several hundred aircraft each night. Albert Speer is reported to have said that if this had been repeated on five more German cities, then Germany would have collapsed. By 1944-45, Germany’s defence against the Allied bombing offensive diverted over 1 million troops from the land war.
Perhaps the key to the Lancaster gaining the place it has in public awareness and memory was its role in many of the most famous and daring bombing raids of the war, where the premium was on precision and accuracy, rather than volume, creating the modern science of precision bombing, including the famous Dambusters raid of May 1943; the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord in November 1944; and the precision bombing of railway viaducts and V-bomber sites across France and Germany in 1944-45.
In these precision bombing actions, the Lancaster will always be associated with the innovative British aeronautical engineer Sir Barnes Wallis. Wallis came up with the famous “bouncing bomb”–essentially a barrel of high explosive spinning backwards on a transverse axis under the aircraft, which was dropped on to the surface of the dams from sixty feet at a speed of 240mph, at a precisely prescribed distance from the dam. The bomb then bounced on the water, like a skimming stone, and sank down against the dam wall, where a depth charge triggered the explosive and cracked the dam wall open.
To achieve this, nineteen aircraft left RAF Scampton, near Lincoln in eastern England, and flew at altitudes of less than 100ft to the Mohne, Eder, Sorpe and Ennerpe dams in Germany’s industrial Ruhr region, at night. The Mohne and Eder dams were breached, and significant industrial capacity destroyed or damaged. Eight Lancasters and their crews were lost.
The recovery work diverted previous German resources from the eastern front and the Atlantic coast defensive wall, and brought a stronger focus on Germany defending rather than attacking. By 1943, 1000 Luftwaffe aircraft, 30000 artillery pieces and a third of German munitions production were dedicated to defensive tasks against the bombers, and one million men were kept back from the eastern front to defend against and rebuild after bombing.
To sink the Tirpitz, Wallis designed the “Tallboy,” a 12,000lb bomb, which was designed to create a destructive wave through the ground rather than explode on or above the ground. A group of 32 Lancasters from RAF Lossiemouth in northern Scotland, staging through northern Russia, dropped 29 tallboys on the Tirpitz, causing the ship to capsize and subsequently explode.
The Tallboy, and the later 22,000lb ‘Grand Slam’ bomb, was also used for the raids on the V2 flying bomb launch sites across northern Europe, including Peenemunde on the Baltic coast; on U-boat pens and dockyards on the Atlantic coast; canals in France, Germany and Holland; railway viaducts and tunnels across occupied Europe; and ultimately on Hitler’s Berchtesgaden, in April 1945.
Lancasters were heavily used in Operation Overlord (D-Day) in 1944, including being used to mimic an invasion fleet off the northern French coast, east of the landing beaches, as a diversionary tactic.
In April 1945, over 3,000 Lancasters were utilised in Operation Manna, in which food was dropped to the starving people of Holland, with the acquiescence of the occupying German forces. A total of over 6,500 tons of food was dropped in a period of about a week, and Lancasters also participated in the Berlin Airlift.
Lancasters were also allocated to key roles in the expected invasion of Japan, known as Operation Downfall, with plans to operate them from Okinawa.
Worldwide, only two Lancasters remain in airworthy condition. The RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) flagship, serial PA474, was built in May 1945, in Chester, England at the factory that now produces the wings for all the Airbus aircraft including the A380, and was preserved at the end of her service in 1964. She is a regular performer at airshows and state occasions across Britain and frequently, Holland, Belgium and France, always drawing a crowd.
Several years ago, PA474 displayed at RAF Leuchars near St Andrews in Scotland, followed immediately by the next great Avro bomber, the nuclear capable delta jet Vulcan XH558, taking off. You could call it the sound of freedom, and who cares if ears were ringing for minutes afterwards.. The crowd was awed by the shape of the Vulcan, but the Lancaster was the one everybody had come to see.
The other flying Lancaster is FM213, a Canadian-built Mark X now in the safe hands of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario. She was built by Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario, near today’s Toronto Pearson International Airport in July 1945, and served with the RCAF until 1963. In August and September, she made what will be probably be her last ever trip to Britain to perform at displays across the country with PA474, drawing larger crowds than anyone expected.
She landed at RAF Coningsby, the Lincolnshire home of the BBMF, on 8 August amidst some of the worst summer rain in England for many years. Remnants of Hurricane Bertha swept across the country, sadly forcing the cancellation of a tandem landing with PA474 and a welcome to Britain flypast by the Red Arrows (the RAF’s aerobatic display team; not surprisingly, the best one in the world).
The sight and sound of two Lancasters flying in formation, for the first time in over fifty years, is quite something and not something that will leave many British people unmoved. But perhaps the highlight of the tour was the sight of both aircraft, with XH558 (now the only flying Avro Vulcan) passing over the historic City of Lincoln and its 14th century cathedral. That city that was at the centre of ‘Bomber County’ – there were 27 RAF bomber bases in Lincolnshire, which is no bigger than Delaware! PA474 now flies with the coat of arms of the City of Lincoln in recognition of this historic link.
As this is being written the tour is still ongoing, dates stretch through to the end of September, covering Prestwick in the west of Scotland, to Lincolnshire in eastern England and the Channel Islands. The show dates are here. You can track her flights here www.lancasterbomberale.co.uk/tracker, while enjoying a nice glass of Lancaster bomber ale. Yes, in Britain, we really have a popular real ale that appears to celebrate bombing, and the Lancaster even gets a namecheck on the side of one of our fastest trains. This may seem odd, surprising, even tasteless or offensive.
But genuinely, the beer, the naming of trains, the appearances at state occasions and the clear public affection for the Lancaster (and the Spitfire and Hurricane) isn’t about glorifying war or hating Germans–it’s about the recognition of the bravery, dedication and all too often the sacrifice of those who defeated Fascism, and made possible the peaceful Europe we know today.
We must remember and recognise the sacrifice made by so many in Europe, the UK, and from outside Europe as well, for the freedom of future generations–hence the BBMF slogan ‘Lest We Forget’. That is why Rolls-Royce have this stained glass window in the jet engine factory in Derby.
Lincoln Cathedral was an easily recognisable landmark for crews returning from raids and as such took on much importance to the crews. The station badge of nearby RAF Waddington, one of the larger stations, depicts Lincoln Cathedral rising through the clouds, which returning bomber crews used to help find their way back to Waddington’s runways.
People living in Lincoln during the war still recall very clearly the noise as aircraft gathered into formations around the city as dusk fell, as they returned in the early hours and of the occasional loud explosions from the nearby bases, as bombloads exploded prematurely or in takeoff and landing accidents. Appropriately, the Cathedral until recently had the only memorial in the United Kingdom dedicated to the members of Bomber Command lost and killed in action.
And the three Avro bombers’ flight on 21 August marked not just the Canadian visit, but also a ceremony to start construction work on Lincolnshire’s own monument to the men of Bomber Command, which will provide a lasting memorial and also a museum, funded by public donations. The shape of the building–to be called the Chadwick Centre–is based on a Lancaster’s profile, and the memorial spire will be 102 feet high (the wingspan of the Lancaster) and 16 feet wide at the base (the cord of aircraft’s wing) while the names of all of the airmen who left Lincolnshire bomber bases and did not return will be engraved on steel walls (details here).
The men who served in Bomber Command are also remembered by a memorial in Hyde Park, London, formally opened last year, funded entirely by public donations. A bit late maybe, but truly heartfelt by so many. All RAF Bomber crews in WW2 were volunteers–over 125,000 served, not just from Britain but from Canada (thirty percent of those serving were Canadian), Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and, of course, the occupied countries of Europe–men from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Norway, the Low Countries and France all formed dedicated squadrons.
Over 55,000 were killed (25,611 of whom had flown from Lincolnshire, which had a population of perhaps 500,000 in 1944) and another 20,000 injured or captured – a percentage loss (44 percent and over percent, including those injured) far greater than any other Allied force. We owe them a lot, and they certainly have all my respect, and I hope they have yours, too.
‘Bomber’ Harris, Commander of the UK’s RAF Bomber Command from February 1942 and who masterminded the RAF’s bombing strategy, may have been overstating it when he wrote, to chief designer Roy Chadwick at Avro, “I would say this to those who placed that shining sword in our hands: Without your genius and efforts we could not have prevailed, for I believe that the Lancaster was the greatest single factor in winning the war.” But the Lancaster was the most significant aircraft of the war, by a long margin.
And don’t they look great at 70, especially if you consider the aircraft was designed for an average operational life of 19 flights?
I wouldn’t say freedom.
The Strategic bombing campaign of Germany was subject to analysis after the war and was found severly wanting.
Germany managed to increase production right up to late 1944.
Bomber Harris Tactic of area bombing was flawed.
He had to be ordered against his will to release the bombers for tactical missions during D-Day.And this was successful.He believed bombers couldn’t do themission.
And he was against precision bombing favouring instead terror bombing.
He was proved wrong when the Allies used precision strikes against the German synthetic fuel plants which had a dramatic effect on Germany.
Still what more can you expect of Bomber Harris who created a tactic of “prescription bombing” over Iraq in 1922.
Catchy Title that isn’t it?
If , I dunno. Certain colonials don’t agree with Imperial policy..Drop bombs on them.
A loathsome character.
To put it politely, you’re full of it.
Let’s start by keeping in mind that, for a short period of time (June 1940-June 1941) England was all that stood between civilization and one of the most abject horrors of the previous century. And they did it alone when the rest of the world expected them to fold within weeks. And, by all rights, they should have folded.
Yeah, Harris’ tactics were flawed – in retrospect. Nice, cheap, safe retrospect. At the time, they were the best tactics available to stop a madman. At a time when there was damned little available to keep the fight going. And, I’ll admit, I don’t exactly feel a whole lot of sympathy for the Germans at that time. There was this slight matter that they started the war in that area.
But it’s seventy years later, and Nazism is so synonymous for evil that the swastika will never again be used (and it had a lot of benign uses before the 1930’s – the tiles on the floor around the altar of my family church have them). So we can piously nitpick away at a person and a strategy that was all there was to fight back for awhile.
Sure, we’ll never use it again. It’s been proven to not be the best idea, and there’s a lot more effective way of waging war – when necessary. But it did work, for awhile.
I wonder how many residents of France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Czechoslovakia and Poland, who’d been forced to sew the Star of David on their coats, were complaining about what an idiot this Harris guy was?
Whatever Germany got, 1941-1945, they brought on themselves. Period. And compared to what they dished out, they got off easy.
A quibble: It wasn’t England that stood alone, it was the whole bloody British Empire. The Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis, Indians, and representatives of all the other places in the Empire/Commonwealth made significant contributions to the war effort, even as early as 1940. And let’s not forget the Scots, Welsh and Irish, who the English have always relied on to do a substantial portion of the fighting for them. Lastly, let’s also not forget the Poles and Czechs who made up a significant part of fighter command’s resources during the Battle of Britain.
This is not to diminish what the English did, but they certainly didn’t do it alone – and they couldn’t have done it alone. The UK and Commonwealth of 1940 was a much different and much bigger entity than the one of 2014.
It can also be argued that the UK had a specific policy designed to keep the number of English deaths to a minimum. There may be some truth in this, since the Empire death toll was roughly half what it was in the Great War.
Area bombing was really the only method they had, since prior to the introuction of H2S in late 1943, Gee and Oboe nav aids were not accurate enough to hit a specific target.
Speer claimed that bombing cut German production by 30% and the US Strategic Bombing Survey said about 10%. Since German industry was so under-utilised even in 1943, it is difficult to asses the damage caused by the strategic bombing campaign.
Hind sight really is the best sight. You got to have no ideal what total war is all about–killing the enemy. Everything attemped by the Allies during the war has been studied to death but at the time they were doing what they could to end the war. I live in Hamilton and see VRA almost every weekend flying over my house and I never forget the brave young men who flew in those planes and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom—there is also a graveyard nearby with the graves of men who died training to fly these planes–men from all over the Commonwealth who never made it back home.
“Hind sight really is the best sight.”
I’ll go with “most accurate” rather than “best”.
As a historical re-enactor, I do have a huge peeve with the insistence of shoving modern attitudes on historical personages, and then judging their actions accordingly. One will never understand any period of history unless one can understand AND ACCEPT whatever the mode of thought was at that time. No matter how repugnant said belief will be.
Next Saturday, I will be back at Henricus Plantation for Publik Days no doubt handling all those tourist questions about why the English were so absolutely deliberately vile and murderous towards the Native Americans. And try to get it through those bonehead’s skulls that they weren’t. And that those poor, suffering Native Americans came damned close to driving the English back into the sea in 1622. And that those English, in their time, were just as moral and christian and good as any American today.
Times, expectations, and behaviors change. And what we believe today is not necessarily the absolute truth. Fifty to one hundred years from now, we’ll be the evil, nasty, moral Neanderthals.
By that way, I just realized I forgot to mention my original intent on posting. Thank you very much for a wonderful article, and some terrific videos. Western Civilization owes Winston Churchill and the British people so damned much . . . .
Harris used Chemical weapons in Iraq in 1922.
And delayed fuse bombs..Designed to kill more people.
He is no hero of mine.
And to say that I’m using hindsight.
That is just plain null and void.,
He used terror tactics in 1922 which was BEFORE ww2.
He should have been canned from the services.
You really don’t get it do you.
Oh PARDON ME! The British did what they had to do! It was war! It was survival!
War is HELL! It doesn’t matter which side you speak of! BAD THINGS were happening wherever you looked! Being ‘squeaky clean’ in war is never going to happen.. at least the British did not systematically murder child non-combatants with cyanide or sew them together to make ‘twins’ to see how long they would survive
So, Perfect is the enemy of good enough.
And the world is “good enough” as it is.
Yes the Dambusters raid was led by Guy Gibson a Kiwi the entire empire was involved yet again
It was a mixed blessing. The hearts of the citizens of the occupied Belgrade, then Yugoslavia, would have been with the passing allied airplanes on their way to bomb Romania’s rich oilfieds which run the German war machine, but certainly not when they bombed Belgrade in the spring of 1944 killing thousands of civilians and very few Germans.
Roger, you have topped yourself. The picture of the Lancaster flying over the dam gave me chills.
With WWII being my favorite era of history to study, there is so much you have tapped into and prompted from my brain. My grandfather was stationed in Southern England for a good portion of the war – he was an airplane mechanic. He has talked about being in London nightclubs during bombings, preparing for D-Day, and the assorted unpleasantness associated with war.
There were so many contributions by so many it is hard to comprehend. However, in my mind the European theatre during WWII came down to being an air war as much as it was a ground war. The Lancaster has a plane I knew very little about but I certainly recognized the shape.
Thank you for this fine read on an early Saturday morning.
“…WWII came down to being an air war as much as it was a ground war…”
Richard Overy would disagree with you there. The Blitz didn’t work for the Germans.
And I don’t think a similar blitz by the Allies worked on the Germans.
Agreed, the concept of “the bomber will always get through” didn’t work. Until you added effective escort fighters.
The German blitz didn’t work in 1940. The Allied blitz was failing just as badly thru 1943. The last two years of the war, it worked. P-51’s, P-47’s cut the bomber losses to well below what was unacceptable. German industrial production WAS hurt – badly. And essential troops WERE tied up defending the homeland. Look at all those films on the History Channel (on the rare day they’re showing history, not some reality show) and tell me those Germany wasn’t hurt.
It can be argued that the bombing campaign damaged the Allied war economy more than that of Germany. The US Strategic Bombing Survey was not at all flattering in its post – war report, which stated the only real damage done to the German economy was to the synthetic oil industry.
It has also been argued that the large air fleets deprived both the British and American armies sufficient manpower.
thank you for the kind words.
If you’re awed by the Lancasters and the dam, go to http://www.raf.mod.uk/bbmf/news/index.cfm?storyid=29250E9D-5056-A318-A861958C0A76C57F&rss=true to read of plans for both Lancasters to fly over the Derwent Dam on Sunday.
My uncle was a RCAF gunner on Lancasters during the War, stationed in Bournemouth. Came back a different man, according to my Dad. Bomber Harris and the others may have been flawed, but that’s easy to say today. We were facing an existential threat, and the men who fought for King and Country, along with their American cousins, might not have been perfect but their resolve led to victory and freedom.
BTW, the whole Avro story is quite interesting, as the company ended up being one of those Canadian industrial-policy might-have-beens (in this case building an innovative fighter jet in the late 50s) that created a political crisis in Canada at the time.
Canada threw away an early opportunity in the postwar jet airliner market with the excellent Avro C102 in the early ’50s; even Howard Hughes & the Pentagon were interested, but Ottawa bureaucrats wanted nothing to interfere with CF100 production. This has to be one the shortest-sighted industrial policy decisions ever.
Just the same, remember that Bombardier is a big player in the commuter-jet market today, along with Embraer in Brazil.
High altitude interceptors were being cancelled all over the world in the era, for example the TSR-2 in the UK and the YF12A in the USA. The Arrow was indeed an interceptor and had a very limited range and weapons load. ICBM’s kind of made them obsolete. That said, canceling the Arrow left Canada with a real hodgepodge of designs, such as hand-me-down CF-101 Voodo’s and CF-104 Starfighters, which were atrocious multi-role aircraft. We didn’t have a top rate aircraft until the CF-18 in the mid-80’s.
Their loss, our gain: NASA recruited many of Avro’s brilliant staff, like Jim Chamberlain, who played a critical part in the space-race. As usual however, we only heard about expat Germans, not those quiet Canadians.
The F-106 had a long life with the US Nat’l Guard in its original interceptor role. But the F-104’s international popularity never made sense to me; it was designed for speed/climb & little else. It was successful as a surrogate trainer for the X-15, which should give one an idea.
The real, complete irony about the Apollo Program was the Head Engineer was a German, Werhner von Braun, and the Project Manager was Walter Dornberger, a German army Major General of artillery. Both were heavily implicated in the deaths of slave labourers at Camp Dora, but they were brought to America, interrogated for everything they knew (they both sang like canaries) and were then set loose with US citizenship. Too bad about all the naughty stuff, eh? It was the cold war, and they knew nothing, nothing! Dornberger’s great humanitarian act (at the behest of Speer) was the feed the slaves a bit more so they wouldn’t die so quickly. But que sara, sara, it was the cold war!
Jim Chamberlain took the complete Arrow team, lock, stock and hockey stick to work for NASA. There were 32 of them and they were all brilliant engineers. Without them, NASA would have waited a lot longer to get the moon,
This whole process is so quintessentially American. The mainstays in NASA were not American, or at least many of them. This shows America’s incredible ability to bring in the best from all over the world. It’s still going on, too, because in the realm of pure science, and especially applicational sciences, US tech is the best on the planet because it attracts the best in the world with good pay and great living conditions compared to most places.
There’s nothing to add exept thank you roger for a fantastic wright up .
Ditto that. Wonderful article about a significant aircraft. I had the opportunity to walk through one (most likely the Canadian Lanc) at an air show a few years back, and now knowing only three survive in airworthy condition, am glad I took time to do so.
Funny how an Empire (some would say the Empire after WWI), with a blood-soaked exploitative and manipulative history spanning the previous few centuries, describes its desperate attempts at self-preservation as a fight for “freedom!” All the more ironic, as they were the cowards that, with France, sold Czechoslovakia out to Hitler in the first place, emboldening him, and earning “peace for our time”—which meant maintaining a tenuous grip over ill-gotten colonial possessions for a few more years. We fight for “freedom,” but only when our necks are in the noose, eh?
I suggest you take a look at the British (and French) state of readiness prior to 1938 – thanks to an incredibly ill-advised revulsion to a state of nation readiness after WWI, both countries were caught absolutely flat-footed when Hitler started serious rearmament. Yeah, Chamberlain will always go down in my eyes as one of the biggest foreign policy idiots of the twentieth century; but even he realized he had little to nothing to back himself at Munich – all the weapons being used in 1941 were still on the drawing boards in 1938.
If anything, the British and the French should have shut up an let Hitler try to take the Sudetenland by force. I really believe he’d have found the Czechs a much tougher nut to crack than the Poles were a year later.
And, as to being a “blood-soaked exploitative” empire, I suggest you do some digging into the history of the Spanish, French, Belgian, etc. empires. If anything, the British have always impressed me as being rather civilized and polite compared to their competitors. Their behavior post-WWII in breaking up the empire shows that rather well. Especially compared to the French and Belgians.
That’s right, this is 2014. Any nation that ever had an empire (guess that includes the US) should be slagged for having the temerity to do so.
^This. Nobody was forcing them to fight Hitler for the Czechs. I usually liken pre-WWII Czechoslovakia to a porcupine/hedgehog—a lion can kill it with effort, but with severe injuries, and the looming prospect of a septic death. Czechoslovakia was extremely well-outfitted for a defensive war, and it is hearsay that Germans developed their offensive hardware after testing them on the (peacefully “acquired”) Czechoslovakian defences. Even if Hitler had managed to win Czechoslovakia after a fight (which is likely), it would have severely weakened him, and made him an attractive target for Stalin.
As for the British Empire’s reputation vis-a-vis the Belgian, French, etc., they were every bit as racist, exploitative and genocidal as the others. I don’t know how you got the impression of their being more “civilised” than the French, for example. “New Britain” only came into the picture after domestic political upheaval, and the rise to political power of labour movements, forces and individuals that actually did believe in freedom for all. British Imperialists were as bad as any of them.
Evidently, compared to the WWII Nazi Germans, and Imperial Japanese, the Evil Empire seemed less evil, if such a thing is possible. This is the real reason why most colonials willingly supported the Allied war effort (unlike WWI). Even in India, which had a strong element of German/Japan collaborators/admirers, pro-Axis politicians found themselves rapidly marginalised once the horror of the Axis genocide broke.
This is not a “slagging” of the British people (or USAmericans. or French), any more than a condemnation of Nazi-inspired politics and warfare is a slagging of the German people. It is important to keep perspective. Of course there were fine, upstanding
citizenssubjects in the British Empire, as there were also fine, upstanding German citizens who suffered and bade their time under the Nazi regime—none of this implies that the genocidaires weren’t there. A fight for Imperial self-preservation is not the same as a fight for Freedom.
This is the standard view of Chamberlain, but recently declassified documents show that Chamberlain was buying time for new generations of aircraft (especially the Hurricane and Spitfire) to come on line, as well as the air defense system, which was brilliantly effective during the Battle of Britain. The real issue at Munich was France, whose domestic political scene was atrocious during the 1930’s.
Syke, at the time of Munich, and entire new generation of new British weapons was not only on the drawing board, but actually coming into service This included the Spitfire, Hurricane, Blenheim, Beaufort, the Bren gun and thr 2 lb antitank gun. The Chain Home radar system was just being set up, too. So while the UK was not prepared for war in 1938, they knew it was coming and the first big budget increases for rearmament started in 1935, only about 18 months after Hitler took power.
Have a read of Guderian’s post war memoir. He claimed that Germany was totally unprepared for for a war in Czeckoslovakia and that they would have withdrawn had anyone opposed them.
I’ve been following some of the same sources you have, and am well up on British preparedness pre-1939. I think there’s a lot of truth to the current view on Chamberlain, but on the other hand if he’d have had enough guts to bluff a little . . . . . . Or at least been willing to let the Czech’s take a chance, which they would have willingly done.
The problem was the British only had about 10 battle ready divisions, the decision to concentrate on strategic bombing having been already made. In addition, the Royal Navy was a large and costly enterprise. Those ten divisions would have to transit France and then what? It would be blocked by Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Don’t think Hitler didn’t know that. Any counter offensive to help the Czechs would have taken the British right through the Reich and they certainly didn’t have the stomach for it.
The lack of will to fight is what actually caused the French defeat in 1940.
If this is the response we get for a write-up of the Lancaster, please, nobody write up a B-29. Differing times and differing attitudes make it silly to judge the morality of war by today’s standards. And it’s overshadowing a truly great article. Clearly you put a lot of work and thought into this, and it shows. Thanks very much for posting this.
+1 on a great write-up. This made my day.
I had the pleasure of seeing the Canadian Lanc fly alongside “Fifi”, the last flying B29, when it visited for the Hamilton airshow.
I used to see our Lancaster fly over 2 or 3 times a year when I lived in Burlington. The sound of those four Merlins is unmistakable, and I would always scan the sky to look for it when I heard them. To see and hear the two Lancs together must be awesome, especially joined by the Vulcan bomber. I’ve read that 2015 will be the last flying season for the Vulcan. The engines have reached the end of their rated design life, and there are no replacements available.
Hoping for the safe return of our VeRA at the end of its visit.
Yeah, better that writeup is not done. Hint: LeMay was right.
One of the wisest things LeMay ever did was to release some B-29s for Operation Starvation (q.v.), one of the most effective uses of air power in history that almost completely shut down Japanese littoral shipping, yet one of the least publicized because neither the Navy nor the Air Force stood much to gain. Mine warfare isn’t sexy & doesn’t get huge budgets.
Also not well known is what happened to Allied aircrew shot down over Japan. If they were lucky, they got lynched by civilians.
An excellent tribute to a wonderful aircraft and the men who flew them. By coincidence just last week I was in Canberra and went to the Australian War Memorial and had a look at G for George, the most famous Lancaster flown by one of the many Australian squadrons in bomber command. Old G flew 90 missions over Germany. it was retired in 1944 and brought back to Australia and has been on display ever since.
G was flown by 460 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, which was part of the RAF bomber command for the duration of the war. 460 suffered terrible casualties, as demonstrated by this quote:
“The RAAF’s most distinguished heavy bomber unit, 460SQN, alone lost 1018 aircrew that, in effect, the entire squadron was wiped out five times over”.
When you consider a squadron consists of 12 aircraft, each with a crew of 7, makes you realise how many were shot down……making G’s ninety mission run all the more amazing.
Thanks again for the story!
Excellent write-up on one of the most recognisable British industrial landmarks of WWII! Questionable politics of the War itself aside, this is one fine machine indeed! It must have been a joy to hear the four screaming Merlins in real life. Thank you for posting this, Roger.
Thanks Roger for a great article about a great machine.
Having been born during the war I remember well the attitudes and beliefs following it. Having lived some since I am pretty aware of the effects of propaganda in forming those attitudes. I can tell you that it took very little propaganda to render the leaders of the Axis powers into the monsters they became in our minds. Unvarnished revelation of the truth would have done that without propaganda of any sort.
If you subject history to a cold analysis there is more than enough blame to go around. If you look at history through the filter of 70 years you are quite foolish in assigning blame. 1922 was a scant 4 years after the world used chemical weapons.
I can look at the roles leading to WW2 and assign the roles of Chamberlin (feckless deluded leadership) and Hitler (bloodthirsty aggression) to certain leaders today. Failure to learn may lead to repetition. Other roles are available in spades. I would rather not go there. I would prefer to view this as an excellent article on an excellent machine. Syke, I apparently arrived late. I appreciate your comments and think much of the attitude changes are generational and idealogical.
Roger, this story was excellent and appreciated. If you have any insight into the role of submarines in the British area of the war I would like to read it. I visited that era British boat while still in active service and am open to learn more. As a submariner my focus was always on the Pacific. We lost 52 boats in the war and I think only 2 were in the Atlantic theater. It is easy to forgot we had allies because we shouldered the majority of the loss of subs. Again, excellent story.
Lee, the British Submarine force was the elite of the Royal Navy, a real legacy of the best of the RN had to offer. They ruled the Mediterranean and in doing so kept the Italian fleet either in port or sinking it (that was Fleet Air Arm). Rommel was starved for supplies the whole campaign mainly because RN subs were getting at least 70% of his loads, and the RAF a good 10-15% on top of that. The Kriegsmarine didn’t dare sail in the Mediterranean after 1942 because of the RN subs.
Great write up to drink my morning coffee to. Thanks, Roger. It’s because of brave men and machines such as the Lancaster that we have the freedom’s we enjoy today. I very well may not be here today if it was not for the brave men fighting in Europe in WW2. The Lancasters and their crews efforts increased the chances for survival for my Dad’s time in Europe during WW2. I would rather respect the men and machines, along with their efforts, then armchair quarterback with 20/20 hindsight. Thanks again for the well written historical.
Same goes for me. My father was a bombardier in B-17s – vary lucky to survive. If the Lancasters had not been taking it to the Germans in early 1943 when he did his missions who knows what would have happened.
Wonderful article. Hope we get more from you.
One subject that needs more comment is the courage of the crews. It had to be terrifying to fly night missions where danger could come unseen and without warning. Of course that is why so much war is fought by teenage boys who do not have the judgement to know real fear!
Thanx for a well written article and the video links too .
Thanks for posting this, it was a great article. I’ve seen the Canadian one fly several time over the years, the sound is unmistakeable once you’ve heard it. Given that there are only 2 flyable examples in the world I guess I’m lucky to have seen it. While it is large aircraft, seen up close it’s remarkable how tight the space inside was.
The man who owned the orchard next to the house I grew up in had flown one of these over Germany in the war. I don’t recall how I found that out but with the innocence of boyhood I asked him about it, and he told me a little about it. I do recall him telling me that he was far more worried about a mid air collision at night than being shot down. He also mentioned that he was too young to legally buy a drink at the time!
Great article, and fabulous photos. Being a good Hamilton boy I see the CWH Lancaster fly several times a year. At work we had the Flight Tracker on Vera as she was crossing the Atlantic with our fingers crossed.
My Mother has different memories of Lancasters. As a girl in the Netherlands she would hear the Lancs go over at night, it must have been quite a sound to hear them clawing away at the air under full load. Hours later she would hear them return.
We remain grateful to the Allied troops who liberated the Netherlands, my Grandfather was involved in activities that would have gotten him killed had he been discovered.
Canadians always get a good welcome in the Netherlands–My wife and I were in Washington DC sightseeing when we met a Dutch couple. They assumed we were American but when they found out we were Canadian they were very happy to spend the day with us. The Dutch Royals were guests of Canada during the war and still send tulip bulbs to Ottawa in appreciation.
Ten years ago, fellow hikers on Vancouver Island gave me a ride back to Victoria. The small RV was driven by their father who had been a Lancaster pilot. At 80 years plus, he was as smooth and steady a driver as anyone on the road.
Great article/photos about a great plane as I am Warbird fan having restored one myself. Good thing this wasn’t about another great plane i.e. the B-29 Enola Gay. I’m sure there would have been one person critical of that also.
“The engine was always the Rolls-Royce Merlin–a 27 litre, V12 engine fitted with a two-speed supercharger and capable of around 1500hp–or the license-built American derivative Packard-Merlin, built by Packard, driving 13 ft diameter de Havilland Hydromatic three-bladed airscrews”
Not always, look for the Lancaster B Mk. II which used the Bristol Hercules VI or XVI 14 cylinder radial engine.
That’s true-and like the way the US Navy dumped inferior equipment onto the Marines, the British gave those Hercules powered Lancs to Canadians
It usually was inferior (Midway’s Buffaloes and Vindicators come to mind) until the Marines got the Corsairs first in the Solomons campaign. The USN didn’t really embrace the F4U until Iwo Jima.
Yes – I was about to mention the MK II powered by radial engines, too.
These were produced because of the bottleneck or limitations on RR Merlin engine production at the time, or to be a 2nd source. My understanding that the Bristol-powered Lancs were more robust and could take more battle damage (as an air-cooled engine) but they had a lower operating ceiling.
This post reminds me of one my favorites pilot stories, from the 50s-60s:
A British Airways pilot is preparing to land at Frankfurt airport and is being berated by the German air traffic controller for some minor transgression of procedures.
“Haven’t you done a Frankfurt approach before?” the German yells over the radio.
“Yes,” comes the reply, “But it was 1944, and I wasn’t trying to land.”
Thanks Roger for another great read.Dad was a mechanic in the last year of the war and worked on Lancasters in Operation Manna.Later towards the end of his RAF service he worked on the Lancaster’s development the Lincoln which was too late to see action
The Avro Lincoln was used in combat during the Malayan insurgency. Britain got good use from the Merlin, which was more efficient in cruise than American radials. The postwar Canadair Northstar also used it, which gave it better performance than the stock DC-4, at the cost of much worse noise. And of course one had the cooling system to worry about.
Thanks I didn’t know it saw action Dad remembered seeing them being delivered shortly after the war ended.
I recall as an eleven year old looking up and seeing the last Lancaster in service with the French Air Force based in New Caledonia flying overhead Auckland City..
..it was on it’s last flight
Later, I would go along to MOTAT and watch as they started the two inboard engines.. when they were at temperature the throttles were eased open just enough to “fly” the tailplane assembly which lifted off the ground to give the Lancaster it’s level flying attitude..on the ground! 🙂
…it was an amazing thrilling spectacle to be so close to those Merlin engines under load, albeit light load.. unforgettable .. 🙂
That last flight by the way was ’63 or ’64 when i was at intermediate school, sorry i cannot be sure which of those two years it was after such a long time..
The French government gifted the aircraft to New Zealand as a gesture of goodwill at a time when they were nuking the hell out of South Pacific atolls in our backyard so to speak
The Northstar was infamous for being the loudest aircraft ever known to humanity, up to the 707 anyway. I vividly remember my aunt telling about how an RCAF Northstar took her, her two young boys and Granny from CFB Rockliffe to Lahr, Baden-Baden. The military ones were not pressurised and were freezing. They could only fly at 20,000 feet or less, so hit every squall or storm. The plane stopped in Gander, Shannon and Lahr. It had taken 22 hours.
Granny always said the reason she went hard of hearing was the Northstar.
I enjoyed the post very much; found it to be very well presented and factually informative.
wow, some hot-rod 😉 this piece was long and complete so not much for me to add, but yea, Americans dont often know that before the 8th AF and the B17 stuff we saw in movies the RAF was fighting the Bomber command war, and continued with US, B17 doing the daylight and RAF doing the night, they beat the germans out the door with a solid 4 motor and went to town on the difference, carry more load per plane per night than a Dornier, they hit the Flot homeland a lot before Americans ramped up for it, they hit Bremen and Hamburg, navy stuff at Kiel and Wilhelmshaven, sub bunkers, the great industrial Essen/Dusseldorf complex region, just everything, kept up the British side thru 1941 and all that,on and on,this plane was their Fortress and Liberator….
but just to make a topic add, can we get a couple cars in here? 😉 a bus used for dispersal of pilots and crews from shacks to planes on the field (RAF at Linton)… and how bout a ‘tea lorry’ on the field for some thirsty lads eh?
tea caddy lorry,
That’s a Lockheed Hudson in the photo, the patrol-bomber variant of the Model 14 designed by Kelly Johnson, the type flown by Chamberlain to Munich, & around the world by Howard Hughes.
This article was a beautifully written and illustrated tribute to one of the crucial aircraft of Second World War. I have read a considerable amount about the Lancaster and other WWII aircraft and still learned a great deal, including about the tiny number of survivors.
A sobering detail that I learned about the Lancaster that did not appear in the article, which you probably already know but could not find a place in the narrative to include, is that the survival rate of its crew members was very low, because it was difficult to bail out of. Research after the war found that if a B-17 Flying Fortress’ crew had to bail out, the majority would survive, because it was relatively spacious inside and the hatches were easy to reach. The Lancaster, on the other hand, was tight inside, as you mentioned, and it also had fewer hatches. As a result, airmen had a harder time reaching the hatches, and when they did, they had to wait behind each other to bail out — crucial seconds that cost lives, such that usually the majority of a Lancaster’s crew did not survive when they had to bail out. I cannot imagine the horror of being caught in an out of control airplane while trying desperately to bail out, and it was part of the often terrible experience of serving in these WWII bombers.
a good point – I can think of few places I’d fear more than being in a burning plane full of explosives
I live in Toronto and once and a while I get to hear the four Merlins singing their song above Toronto. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum flies their Lancaster regularly and I am always grateful for a flyover. There is nothing like hearing four Merlins overhead.
Thanks for an excellent writeup of an aircraft that, to many of my generation (myself included) wasn’t well known. Great photos too!
I see our Lancaster as well as the other planes from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum fly over my house on a regular basis. I always stop what I’m doing to have a look. The most memorable flyover was a few years ago when sitting on the beach at 50 Point. A dark spot came into view out over the lake and grew steadily larger. The Lancaster was flying low over the water and throttled up into a climb as it approached land. I’m sure it was much higher than it appeared but what a sound.
No mention of Guy Gibson the KIWI who led the Dambuster squadron, great write up Roger the survival rate for Lancasters was not doubt helped by them being greatly overpowered to carry that huge bombload empty a Lanc could fly on one engine which helped a lot of bomber crews of crippled aircraft make it nearly home before bailing out, if there was a quarter of the plane left it would fly.
Tragically, Lancs were hard to bail out of because of tight clearances; Fortress crews had a higher survival rate when shot down. The Liberator was described as an “accident producer” in an AAF report; because it was an unforgiving design, it had a higher accident rate even in training & was given less risky targets to keep losses in proportion.
But the Lanc was an awesome bomb truck; its bay was much larger than the Fortress & even the Liberator. The Fortress was 6 yrs older & had a different original role.
My father was a very young second pilot in the Liberator. He never said a good word about that aircraft though, although he was vocal enough about the aircraft that he DID enjoy flying..
He liked flying civilian light twin aircraft in the post war years, particularly the early Cessna 336 due to the relative power to weight and the contra-rotating thrust line for neutral handling..
Another super aircraft was the Cessna 310 Riley Rocket, again with contra-rotating props. This was the fastest civilian light twin piston-engined passenger aircraft of the time with a genuine 300 mph cruise at altitude, and a sea-level climb rate exceeding 3,000 feet per minute. (Curiously, the 1953 Cessna 310 with the upright vertical stabilizer had a frontal tricycle undercarriage appearance VERY reminiscent of the mid-1940’s Messerschmidt ME 262) ..one always wondered if there was an ‘Operation Paperclip’ overtone somewhere along the line in that Wichita Kansas engineering design room.. mm ??)
Comments anyone.. ? 🙂
Don’t know about Paperclip on this point; sometimes designers arrive at the same ideas independently. But no doubt, the Schwalbe had huge influence on postwar development. BTW, Collings Foundation has a reconstruction (approved by Messerschmitt) one can fly in.
I have the greatest respect for Liberator crews. Despite its flaws, its payload & range were too good for planners to ignore, & played a vital role in closing the Atlantic Gap. It was also the preferred heavy bomber type in the Southwest Pacific. We have an example here in Tucson.
The DH Mosquito made the most logistical sense: about the same combat bomb-load as the Fortress with only 2 men instead of 7 or 10, & difficult to intercept. It fulfilled the German Schnellbomber concept perfectly. After WW2, the DH Hornet was its successor model.
The Mosquito really shows British ingenuity at it’s best.Aluminium in short supply?Let’s make it from wood.It won’t need defensive armament if it’s faster than the enemy’s fighters.A successful fighter,nightfighter,bomber and reconnaisance aircraft.We even did a reverse lend lease and sent some to America.Also one of the best looking warplanes ever built
The Liberator was infamously hard to fly, because the limits of non-powered controls had been reached. Most crews flew them on autopilot as much as possible. Hard turns after bombing runs took both pilots reefing with all their bodily strength.
The Mosquito was so quintessentially British and it wasn’t even a response to an Air Ministry spec, it was completely the brainchild of Geoffrey DeHaviland, one of the most brilliant aero-engineers in history. He reasoned that there would be plenty of excess production capacity in furniture factories and wood working shops, especially piano builders. There was no need to train workers and the Mosquito was in the air in less than a year. The Air Ministry immediately made a big order. DeHaviland himself flew the aircraft for the display.
It was so fast it didn’t need guns and it was impossible for the German 109’s and 190’s to intercept the Mosquito. The fighter and night fighter versions were armed to the teeth and prowled German airfields by day and night.
I love the ingenuity of the British. Yet another example was Hobart’s “Funnies,” which greatly helped in Normandy, and the Sherman Firefly with 17lb gun, which was the only Allied tank that could take on the Panther and Tiger.
A very nice article on the Lancaster and those photographs of one flying next to a Vulcan are fantastic. Back in 1970 I was in the Air Force and stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB; there was an open house at the base for the public and an RAF Vulcan flew in from I believe Offut AFB where the RAF had a wing stationed. The Vulcan put on a fantastic aerial performance for the public; for its size it was incredibly maneuverable.
Of course this discussion would be remiss if nobody failed to mention the civilian derivative of the AVRO Lancaster: The Avro 691 Lancastrian. This was a plan that was used for mail transport and as passenger transport till the 1960’s. These planes were used by VIPs and prized for its long range.
The most famous of the Avro 691 Lancastrian planes was the Star Dust which went missing in the Andes in 1947.
Thanks for a great writeup Roger!
I love these plane writeups that tie the history. I love WWII history and all the great machines that played key roles.
I hope to see similar write ups of other planes. Would be awesome.
Why are there so few of these planes left?
Or of the B29s and the like?
There were a lot made. Did they get scrapped?
I love the third picture in black with the propellers on.
All the pictures were great.
After the war the RAF (and most other air forces) cut back on aircraft.many perfectly good planes were scrapped(I’ve seen a photo of lend lease Hellcats being pushed over the side of an aircraft carrier as it would have cost the Royal Navy more to return them!)Most WW2 aircraft were piston engined and jets soon replaced them,they rapidly became obsolete.Nobody thought to preserve obsolete warplanes back then.
And who would preserve them all? There were tens of thousands!
Also, with the first jet fighters & bombers entering service, many of the aircraft were obsolete.
There should have been more preserved though. There are many aircraft types
that are ‘extinct’
Some are comming back though. For decades there were no Handley Page
Halifaxes in existance. Now we can enjoy 3 airframes.
And compliments on a great article too.
And the Lancaster gave us this, one of the greatest opening sequences in cinema history:
Interesting article Roger, and beautifully illustrated! I wonder how cramped the Lancaster was compared to a B-52? I’ve actually seen in one of those at the air museum in Darwin, NT and there is not a lot of room in those either.
The poor Vulcan! Unlike the Lancaster, it only flew one combat mission, and that fighting against some tawdry little South American junta!
What a lot of inconsequential bull shit. Just say “Thank you.”
This story would not be complete without mention of the Lancasters that were secretly prepped for dropping ‘Little Boy’ on Hiroshima in the event that the B29 wouldn’t be ready in time. Apparently the B29 was designed with its’ payload carried in two bomb-bays either side of the main wing spar, and converting it to carry one large bomb involved lengthy re-design and testing.
The attack on Japan would have been more dangerous in the Lanc because of its’ lower speed and ceiling height, but it could carry the load without problems. There were even Lancasters converted as in-flight refuelling tankers. More on youtube.
6 years later, I was out for a motorcycle ride yesterday and saw Vera heading into Hamilton with gear down. She’s been out quite a bit this year.
Forgot to mention that for some in the Netherlands the Lancaster was the shape of relief food drops
Hi Doug, that was part of my thinking in the post title
Yeah, I meant that I hadn’t mentioned it in my previous comment. I saw the photo attached here for the first time on a display the RAF museum. The whole thing was very moving, but too late for my great grandfather who died 4-April.
I can remember standing under a Lancaster at Biggin Hill airfield in the late 50s or early 60s, thinking that it was much smaller than I expected.
I read this back when still just a wee Lurker here. It’s a superb piece. Has the full Carr Mark of Quality*tm, (as sometimes approved by the House of Paws).
Or, in this case, drafted by the Paws of Big Paws! 🙂
Enough, the pair of you!
Now behave, or I’ll stop the car.
Another excellent article Roger. I remember seeing the famous ‘Haynes’ restoration/repair books whilst browsing in bookstores and some of them stocked a restoration manual on this fine aircraft. I thought it must be a joke; who has one of these stored at home awaiting repair?
Now, from your article; I believe the manuals must have been a back-handed salute to the Lancaster bomber. John Haynes must have had a wicked sense of humour. And a patriot no doubt.
These guys do!
At the time propaganda was rife, London had been blitzed and many other cities bombed. The thirst was for revenge. No one cared whether the right targets were being hit so long as Germans were being killed, the more the better. That’s the unfortunate reality of war.
History has been written by the victors. Perhaps with our 20/20 hindsight, some appreciation of the amazing German aircraft would be timely, and some fellow feeling for the Luftwaffe bomber crews who were sent to their deaths in droves against Hurricanes and Spitfires.
Nearly all the military people I have met who have seen action think that war is awful, and not a good way to solve disagreements. By all means remember the dead but don’t glorify the battle. When I was growing up remembrance Sunday was a sad day, full of tears, not jingoism.
I can only imagine the glory of hearing a Lancaster in flight. I’m lucky enough to live near Ardmore in Auckland, where Avspecs,(who restore Mosquitos to airworthy condition) is based, and when they finished their first one it underwent quite a bit of testing. Since then I’ve always said “what’s better than one Merlin? Two Merlins!”
I can only imagine the sound of 4 pushing those big props!
There is one at MOTAT of course, but not flying.