Avro Lancaster World War II Heavy Bomber Pictures and Video

East Kirkby and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster in the UK

Design

Roy Chadwick designed the Lancaster based upon the twin engined Manchester bomber - which was an operational failure due to using engines that did not produce enough power for the weight of the aircraft. The Lancaster was born by increasing the length of the fuselage, widening the wings to handle another two engines, but most importantly the Lancaster used Rolls-Royce Merlin engines as the power plant.

Also BIII was built in the UK, not Canada.Regards. 

It was the B II (B2) that had radial engines, Bristol Hercules, in case there was a shortage of Merlins. There wasn't in the end but 300 were built.

The BIII had American Packard built Merlins and the aircraft built in the UK. Lancaster BIII built in Canada by the Victory Aircraft Company (later to become Avro Canada) were designated Mk X. There were 430 of these Canadian built Lancasters. So Canadian is Mk X (B X) not a B XX, but there was a Canadain built B XX mosquito. the other that saw service were the B VI and B VII. the B IV became the basis of the Lincoln.  (Thanks to J Gates from the UK for this and also J.W. Chadwick).

East Kirkby Lancaster III NX611

British Avro Lancaster Heavy Bomber at East Kirby, UK.Avro Lancaster This British Avro Lancaster III, a/c NX611, 'Just Jane', is not allowed to fly in the UK. It is, however, allowed to taxi around the airport. You can pay to ride in it for the 20 minutes that the pilot drives it around the hardstand twice each day every Wednesday and Saturday. I opted to take pictures of it while it was taxing around rather than get inside. It was the last time for that day so I never had the opportunity to get inside before ending my holiday in the UK. The price to get on board while it taxis around is £185 as of spring 2003.

Avro Lancaster head-on view while running on the ground.East Kirkby Lancaster Mk III with all 4 engines running in a head-on view. My film Nikon captured image gives a good view of the Avro Lancaster Mk III in a head-on view as the engines are being run. I used my digital Nikon video mode and captured the sound and look of it in a MPEG 30 second clip of the East Kirkby Lancaster Mk III as it taxied back to the hanger.

British Avro Lancaster Mk III Heavy Bomber at East Kirby Aviation Museum in 2004British Lancaster III Bomber In 2004 I went (again) over to the UK and went to as many museums as I could get to in three weeks. The Lancaster was again booked well in advance for the taxi rides around the apron so I again missed out on getting inside it on the Saturday I was there.

The Lancaster could fly with up to 22,000 lbs worth of bombs on some special models. Usually they carried 14,000 lbs of bombs. Flying at night they usually flew between 16 and 21,000 feet. The lower the altitude the more bombs they could carry by not having to use up more fuel (weight) to climb to a higher altitude.

Myself, Tom Philo, and my wife at East Kirby Aviation Museum in the United Kingdom, July 2004We spent the whole afternoon at East Kirkby. Talking with ex RAF crew members, having lunch (great food and the best prices too!), and of course listening to the Lancaster (all the videos are Apple QuickTime® MOV files and are 4 to 18 megs in size) as it started the engines, taxied, then back to the apron after the taxi run.

In the Imperial War Museum in London they have the front half of a Lancaster so you can see into the Inside a Lancaster looking into the cockpit.Lancaster Cockpit. One of the people I met here at East Kirkby flew 35 missions as a radio operatorRadio reat W/T inside a Lancaster in the IWM London..

 

Lancaster Bomb Load-out

Lancaster Bomb Loads

Lancaster bomb bay doors opened showing its cavernous loading area.The lancaster had an enormous bomb bay and it was not sectioned off like US bombers so it could carry really large bombs.

Lancaster Mark II: 14-1000, 28-500, 14-500, 1-4000, 1-8000, 1-12,000

Lancaster B Mark II: 14-1000, 28-500, 28-250, 14-500, 14-250

Lancaster Mark I Special: Blockbuster, Dam Buster, Grand Slam, Cookie, Tall Boy, 28-500, 14-1000, 14-500, 140-250.

Blast & Demolition:

1. 1X 8000lb HE plus 6X 500lb HE bombs

2. 14X 1000lb HE

Blast, demolition, & fire

3. 1X 4000lv HE plus 3X 1000lb HE plus up to 6 SBC's (small bomb containers) each holding either 236X 4lb or 24X 30lb incendiaries

4. 1X 4000lb HE plus up to 12 SBCs

Maximum incendiary

5. 14 SBCs

Deployed Tactical targets

6. 1X 4000lb HE plus up to 18, 500lb HE

Low-level attacks

7. 6X 1000lb HE with delayed action fuses

Hardened targets, naval installations, ships

8. 6X 2000lb armor piercing with short delay fuses

Mine laying

9. Up to 6X 1500lb or 1850lb mines

I have another reference with a 4000lb "Cookie", 3X 1000lb bombs, 24X 250lb bombs, and 6 SBCs.

To give an example of a typical raid-- in this case to Friedrichshafen, here was a typical bomb load for the flights:

Leader plus in 2 Lanc IIIs - 1 4000lb and 7X 500lb bombs

97 Sqn Pathfinders-- 2 Lanc III -- 3Xred markers, 3Xgreen markers, 16Xwhite flares, 2X 500lb bombs, 2 red markers, 2 green markers, 32 white flares, and 2 500lb bombs

A following group of 32 Lanc IIIs with a 4000lb and 7X 500lb bombs

A Lanc fitted with a Mk XIV bombsight with 14X 500 lb bombs

Lanc III not fitted with above sight-- full incendiary load

The Men Who Breached the Dams

The most famous squadron that flew Lancasters was 617 Squadron out of Scampton: "The Dam Busters." They are the ones who did the low level attack against the dams in Germany at night of 16/17 May 1943. Wing Commander Guy Gibson lead the attack. (Almost seems that the squadron number was derived from the date of the attack.) The Mohne and Eder dams were successfully breached but two other dams, Sorpe and Schwelme, withstood the attack, though the Sorpe was damaged. Eight aircraft and 53 crew were killed during the raid and three became POWs.

Dambusters Inn Free House pub in Scampton.
Dambusters Inn Free House in Scampton, UK.
The walls are filled with photos of 617 Squadron.

The Hal Wallis designed Dam Buster hydrostatic depth charge bouncing bomb
The Barnes Wallis "bouncing" bomb. It was actually a
depth charge with a hydrostatic trigger to go off
at a certain depth (50' I believe) and crack the
dam causing it to fail.
It had the codename "Upkeep".

They also sank the Tirpitz in Norway and other special targets using modified Lancasters to carry the specialized bombs: Tall Boys (12,000 lb),and Grand Slams (22,000 lb), as well as the Wallis "bouncing" ball which was used on the dam raid. The Wallis bomb was really more like an overgrown 55 gallon drum in design which skipped over the water after being released with a backward spin to it at 40' above the water.


The Dambusters;published in 2002.

On the page about the 8th AF combat losses I have the bomb loads of the B-17 Flying Fortress.

Lancaster B Mk I Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

There is a Lancaster capable of flying in the UK, it is part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and Spitfire at dispersalRAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and Spitfire. I went by their aerodrome at RAF Coningsby before going to East Kirkby on the off chance that it was there, and it was, so I got pictures of it on the ground, as it took off, and then as it make two circuits over the airfield.

It is a Avro Lancaster B Mark I. Squadron call sign of QR and aircraft call sign M, PA474. This is how you get the "G for George" call sign being mentioned in the movie "The Dam Busters." Aircraft "G" happened to be Wing Commander Guy Gibson's aircraft. The British, when talking on the R/T in order to avoid reception confusion, used phonetics and code words to ensure that people would indeed know which a/c was talking. Thus "G for George" was spoken over the radio to ensure everyone listening knew which aircraft was talking on the R/T.

Avro Lancaster with engines running about to fly to an airshow in the UK. July, 2004.British Avro Lancaster taxis out from the hanger. Since it is the only Lancaster capable of flying in the UK it is very much in demand at airshows. With all four Merlin engines running it makes for a very pretty sound.

I was also able to capture it on my Nikon's video mode. Avro Lancaster taxi is a Quicktime MOV file (as are the others). I had to take the video through the chain link fence so the pan is not the normal one you get when using a tripod.

Avro Lancaster tail turret showing the four rifle caliber machine guns used in defenseTail turret of a British Avro Lancaster bomber. The Lancaster, though a great bomb carrying heavy bomber, was weak in defense. They had a chin turret, Avro Lancaster Mid-Uppder turret with two machine guns.mid upper turret with machine guns on the Avro Lancaster and a tail turret. Originally the tail had two rifle caliber (.303 British caliber) machine guns, other versions were up gunned to 4 rifle caliber or two 20 mm cannons. The cannons had a shorter range and was of dubious value even though they were a more powerful shell and caused more damage per hit than a bullet. The rate of fire of a cannon is significantly lower than a machine gun and around 400 yards less in range on average.

Shooting Down Lancasters

To avoid the tail gun the German night fighters would fly up under the Lancs, set up a climb slightly to get an angle to hit between the fuselage and the #2 engine, and fire away. The Lancaster rear gunner could not depress his guns enough to engage the enemy fighter directly below. A specialized variant of Ju 88s and Bf 110s used up angled guns to accomplish the same task. "Organ Music" was the nickname sometimes given to it. Schrage Muzak (jazz music, literally 'slanting music') was the German name and literal translation. Many fuel tanks are on a Lancaster and between #2 engine and the fuselage a large tank existed and was the easiest one to get to burn. (Lancs used up fuel in the outboard tanks first, thus, the center tanks always had fuel in them. This burning ability is also true for American B-24 Liberators.)

Movie Clips of A Lancaster in Flight

A picture of the Battle of Britain Memorial flight Battle of Britian memorial flight Lancaster flying over their base. July 2004Lancaster in the air. Here is a MOV clip of the four engined Lancaster bomber taking off from the aerodrome recorded at the same time. Note that the ground is perfectly exposed but once the camera points up the plane is washed out. No exposure changes were done during the video sequence (done by my wife as I took still images) since I had fixed the shutter and F stop on manual when it was at taxi after getting a proper exposure reading. Video and film images were equally affected by the overcast scattering light everywhere resulting in very low contrast pictures.

I then took the Nikon 5700 and did a few more MOV videos of the including this one of the Avro Lancaster as it did a flyby of the aerodrome with the gear up.

The underside of an Avro Lancaster at East Kirby showing the rounded wing tips and engine nacells.The broad expanse of a Lancaster bomber wing If an engine caught on fire there was a fire resistant barrier behind each engine on the firewall but it lasted only 30 seconds - then it was doomed since directly behind any engine there were fuel tanks.

 

Radial Engined Version

The Lancaster III flew with radial engines, not the Merlins of the B1/B2/B2(Spec)/BXX. Any aircraft at the time that was a mark xx(20) or above was built in Canada, so was equivalent to the B1/2 in the UK.

Losses

In one night raid in March 30/31 of 1944 to Nuremberg 96 bombers (64 Lancasters,32 Halifaxes were shot down - plus another 6 a/c "written off" after returning to England. )

Read the book by Martin Middlebrook "The Nuremberg Raid" to understand this how this raid became the best night ever for the German Natchjager Ju-88 and Bf-110 units.

The most American bombers shot down in a single daylight raid was 68.

Over 57,000 members of British Bomber Command were killed during the war (includes those killed while training ~7000.)

A Bomber Command Raid in July 1944

"The crew were all killed on their 28th operational mission to bomb the German V1 flying-bomb storage depot at St Leu D'Esserant, just north west of Paris. Their unit, 106 Squadron, had been part of a large force which had attacked the site just two nights before, but with limited results. Because of the damage and casualty rate these flying bombs, or "doodle bugs", were exacting on the British population, their destruction was regarded as a high priority. Consequently, a force of more than 200 aircraft was dispatched on the night of July 7th/8th, 1944, to finish the job. The force was attacked by 130 German night-fighter aircraft. Of 16 aircraft put up by 106 Squadron, only 11 returned."

Research Credits & Reference Sites

Thanks to TTFN CI Smith, 1312 Sqn RAF, for e-mailing me some corrections.

A UK based web site about the RAF and Bomber Command in Lincolnshire