Information

Bomb bay of the Avro Lancaster


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]


Alternate Wars

Written by Ryan Crierie on Friday, January 21, 2011 at 10:54 pm

For a brief time, paper studies were done concerning the use of reverse-lend-leased Avro Lancasters to carry the Atomic Bomb.

On paper it was theoretically possible from what I understand, due to the huge size of the Lancaster’s bomb bay. But when it was looked into in detail, it was not to be for several reasons.

1.) The flight crew could not access the bomb bay in flight on the Lancaster. This was required as a regular evolution both in training and the actual flight to arm the device via either inserting the powder charges and last half of the fissile material (Little Boy) or pulling the Arming Plugs (Fat Man).

2.) The Lancaster flew too slow and low to be survivable as a delivery platform for a non-parachute retarded atomic bomb. The B-29 was able to just barely get by due to the fact it flew much higher and faster than the Lancaster, and even then they had to do a violent corkscrew manouver to escape most of the blast wave’s force.

Why was parachute retardation not used?

There was very serious concern that the enemy would shoot at the bomb as it drifted to detonation altitude and dud it.

To guard against this, Fat Man had a 3/8″ thick steel case weighing 2,830 pounds.

Post-war when the nuclear inventory was not as sparse as it was during the early years, the armored casings went away, and parachute retardation became an acceptable tactic.

2 Comments on “The Avro Lancaster as A-Bomb Carrier”

Have long been intrigued by this idea, even more so after reading Leo Mckinstry’s ‘Lancaster’

On issue 1 in Paul Brickhill’s Dambusters, after a hangup of a bomb, I believe a 4000lb (and I believe the a/c piloted by Micky Martin), the Navigator managed to poke a ruler through the floor and ensure the bomb was released. Suggests that there was some form of limited access that could perhaps be extended? If it were to pull arming plugs is it not possible that in a situation (admittedly an odd one A bomb available and its use vital, Superfort unavailable) that required it, could a jury rig system not be set up? In my mind, this issue is the ‘not insurmountable’ one if required.

2. I’m sure you have more information than I on the Lancasters inability to avoid the blast (and indeed, the size of the blast) but what sort of distance is required here? How far away does the Lancaster need to be to survive the device initiation? How does this compare with the Grand Slam blast? This issue does seem to be the insurmountable one.

Though again, for sake of argument, if delivery was essential and delivery by Lancaster the only way, could Griffons rather than Merlin’s, and dramatically lightened aircraft not make a ‘Silverplate’ Lancaster?

The Lancaster Mk VI featured high altitude rated Merlin 85 engines and could achieve a service ceiling well above 30,000ft while carrying a 10,000lb bomb load, and 1/2 fuel. The Mk VI had a maximum speed of 317 mph with a 14000lb bomb load and a nearly full load of fuel. Max speed with 1/2 fuel and no bomb load was around 345 mph. The Mk VI would have had no problem carrying the bomb from a forward base at Okinawa or Iwo Jima, and surviving the resulting detonation. It might have been able to fly a shuttle mission from the Mariannas to Iwo Jima or Okinawa.


Contents

The origins of the Lancaster stem from a twin-engined bomber design submitted to meet Specification P.13/36, which was for a new generation of twin-engined medium bombers for "worldwide use", the engine specified as the Rolls-Royce Vulture. [6] The resulting aircraft was the Manchester, which, although a capable aircraft, was underpowered and troubled by the unreliability of the Vulture engine. Only 200 Manchesters were built, with the type withdrawn from service in 1942. [7]

Avro's chief designer, Roy Chadwick, was already working on an improved Manchester design using four of the more reliable, but less powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines on a larger wing. The aircraft was initially designated Avro Type 683 Manchester III, and later renamed the "Lancaster". The prototype aircraft BT308 was assembled by Avro's experimental flight department at Manchester's Ringway Airport. Test pilot H.A. "Bill" Thorn took the controls for its first flight at Ringway, on Thursday, 9 January 1941. The aircraft proved to be a great improvement on its predecessor, being "one of the few warplanes in history to be 'right' from the start." [8] Its initial three-finned tail layout, a result of the design being adapted from the Manchester I, was quickly changed on the second prototype DG595 and subsequent production aircraft, to the familiar twin-finned specification also used on the later Manchesters.

Some of the later orders for Manchesters were changed in favour of Lancasters the designs were very similar and both featured the same distinctive greenhouse cockpit, turret nose, and twin tail. The Lancaster discarded the stubby central third tail fin of the early Manchesters and used the wider span tailplane and larger elliptical twin fins from the later Manchester IA.

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 Lancaster was initially powered by four wing-mounted Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engines with three-bladed airscrews. It had retractable main landing gear and fixed tail-wheel, with the hydraulically operated main landing gear raising rearwards into the inner engine nacelles. [9] Three Avro Lancaster B.Is of 44 Squadron, 1942The majority of Lancasters built during the war years were manufactured by Avro at their factory at Chadderton near Oldham, Lancashire, and test flown from Woodford Aerodrome in Cheshire. Other Lancasters were built by Metropolitan-Vickers (1,080, also tested at Woodford), and Armstrong Whitworth. The aircraft was also produced at the Austin Motor Company works in Longbridge, Birmingham, later in the Second World War and postwar by Vickers-Armstrongs at Chester as well as at the Vickers Armstrong factory, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham. Only 300 of the Lancaster B II fitted with Bristol Hercules engines were constructed this was a stopgap modification caused by a shortage of Merlin engines as fighter production was of higher priority. Many BIIs were lost after running out of fuel. [citation needed] The Lancaster B III had Packard Merlin engines but was otherwise identical to contemporary B Is, with 3,030 B IIIs built, almost all at Avro's Newton Heath factory. The B I and B III were built concurrently, and minor modifications were made to both marks as new batches were ordered. Examples of these modifications were the relocation of the pitot head from the nose to the side of the cockpit, and the change from de Havilland "needle blade" propellers to Hamilton Standard or Nash Kelvinator made "paddle blade" propellers. [10]

Of later variants, only the Canadian-built Lancaster B X, manufactured by Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario, was produced in significant numbers. A total of 430 of this type were built, earlier examples differing little from their British-built predecessors, except for using Packard-built Merlin engines and American-style instrumentation and electrics. Late-series models replaced the Frazer Nash mid-upper turret with a differently configured Martin turret, mounted slightly further forward for weight balance. A total of 7,377 Lancasters of all marks were built throughout the duration of the war, each at a 1943 cost of £45-50,000 (approximately £1.5 million-£1.67 million today).

[edit] Crew accommodation [ edit | edit source ]

[2][3]Profile of the forward section of a Lancaster, showing the FN5 turret, bomb aimer's perspex blister and the Merlin enginesStarting at the nose, the bomb aimer had two positions to man. His primary location was lying prone on the floor of the nose of the aircraft, with access to the bombsight controls facing forward, with the bombsight computer on his left and bomb release selectors on the right. He also used his view out of the large transparent perspex nose cupola to assist the navigator with map reading. To man the Frazer Nash FN5 nose turret, he stood up placing himself in position behind the triggers of the twin .303 in (7.7 mm) guns. The bomb aimer's position contained the nose emergency hatch in the floor at 22 inches by 26.5 inches (two inches narrower than the Halifax escape hatch) it was difficult to exit through while wearing a parachute. Compared with other contemporary aircraft, the Lancaster was not an easy aircraft to escape from in a Halifax, 25% of downed aircrew bailed out successfully, and in American bombers (albeit in daylight raids) it was as high as a 50% success rate while only 15% of the Lancaster crew were able to bail out. [11] Operational research experts (Freeman Dyson, amongst others) attempted unsuccessfully to have the escape hatch enlarged.

Moving back, on the roof of the bomb bay the pilot and flight engineer sat side by side under the expansive canopy, with the pilot sitting on the left on a raised portion of the floor (almost all British bombers, and most German bombers, had only a single pilot seat as opposed to American practice of carrying two pilots, or at least having controls for two pilots installed). The flight engineer sat on a collapsible seat (known as a "second dicky seat") to the pilot's right, with the fuel selectors and gauges on a panel behind him and to his right. The pilot and other crew members could use the panel above the cockpit as an auxiliary emergency exit while the mid-upper and tail gunner were expected to use the rear entrance door to leave the aircraft.

Behind these crew members, and behind a curtain fitted to allow him to use light to work, sat the navigator. His position faced to port with a chart table in front of him. An instrument panel showing the airspeed, altitude, and other information required for navigation was mounted on the side of the fuselage above the chart table.

The wireless operator's radios were mounted on the left-hand end of the chart table, facing the rear of the aircraft. Behind these and facing forwards the wireless operator sat on a seat at the front of the main spar. On his left was a window, and above him was the astrodome, used for visual signalling and by the navigator for celestial navigation.

Behind the wireless operator were the two spars for the wing, which created a major obstacle for crew members moving down the fuselage even on the ground. On reaching the end of the bomb bay the floor dropped down to the bottom of the fuselage, and the mid-upper gunner's turret was reached. His position allowed a 360° view over the top of the aircraft, with two .303 in (7.7 mm) M1919 Browning machine guns to protect the aircraft from above and to the side. The mid-upper gunner had perhaps the most uncomfortable position of all the crew, as he was seated on a rectangle of canvas that was slung beneath the turret and would stay in position throughout the flight.

To the rear of the turret was the side crew door, on the starboard side of the fuselage. This was the main entrance to the aircraft, and also could be used as an emergency exit. Right at the tail-end of the fuselage, over the spars for the tailplane, the rear gunner sat in his exposed position in the tail turret, which was entered through a small hatch in the rear of the fuselage. Depending on the size of the rear gunner, the area was so cramped that the gunner would often hang his parachute on a hook inside the fuselage, near the turret doors. Neither the mid-upper nor the rear gunner's position was heated, and the gunners had to wear electrically heated suits to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Many rear gunners insisted on having the centre section of perspex removed from the turret to improve visibility. The transparencies were difficult to see through at night, particularly when trying to keep watch for enemy night fighters that appeared without notice astern and below the aircraft when getting into position to open fire.

[edit] Armament [ edit | edit source ]

[edit] Defensive armament [ edit | edit source ]

[4][5]Surviving Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster B 1 PA474 28 showing off the Frazer-Nash hydraulically operated gun turrets used in the nose, mid-upper and tail positions as seen on most Lancasters. A small number of early model Lancasters also had a belly turret, however problems with sighting and tracking targets resulted in its early removal.The Avro Lancaster was initially equipped with four Nash & Thomson Frazer Nash hydraulically operated turrets mounted in the nose, tail, mid-upper and underside. The original tail turret was equipped with four 0.303 inch (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns and all other turrets with two such machine guns. [12] [13]

Only the FN-5A [12] nose turret which was similar to the FN-5 used on the preceding Avro Manchester, the Vickers Wellington and the Short Stirling remained unchanged during the life of the design, excepting instances where it was removed entirely.

The ventral (underside) FN-64 turret quickly proved to be dead weight, being both difficult to sight because it relied on a periscope which limited the gunner's view to a 20 degree arc, [12] and too slow to keep a target within its sights. [note 1] Aside from early B Is and the prototype B IIs, the FN-64 was almost never used. When the Luftwaffe began using Schräge Musik to make attacks from below in the winter of 1943/1944, modifications were made, including downward observation blisters mounted behind the bomb aimer's blister [14] and official [15] and unofficial mounts for .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns or even 20 mm cannon, firing through the ventral holes of the removed FN-64. The fitting of these guns was hampered as the same ventral position was used for mounting the H2S blister, which limited installations to those aircraft fitted with bulged bomb bays which interfered with the H2S. [12]

The mid-upper (dorsal or top turret) was an FN-50 [12] [13] on early examples and the very similar FN-150 with improved sights and controls [12] on later examples. On all but the earliest examples this turret was surrounded by a coaming which provided a track for a cam operated interruptor device which prevented the gunner from shooting the tail of his own aircraft. [12] The Mk.VII and late Mk.X Lancasters used the heavier electrically controlled Martin 250 CE 23A turret equipped with two .50 inch machine guns [12] which was mounted further forward to preserve the aircraft's longitudinal balance, and because it had an internal mechanism to prevent firing on the aircraft itself, it did not require a coaming. [note 2] [12] Other experimental turrets were tried out, including the FN-79 and the Boulton-Paul Type H barbette system. [12]

The tail turret was the most important defensive position and carried the heaviest armament. Despite this, the turrets used, starting with the FN-20, were never entirely satisfactory and numerous designs were tried. The FN-20 was replaced by the very similar FN-120 which used an improved gyroscopic gun sight. [12] Gunners using both the FN-20 and 120 removed perspex and armour from the turret to improve visibility, but trials by the RAF showed that a Mosquito night fighter was still able to get within a very short distance of the tail gunner without being spotted, confirming what the Luftwaffe had already realised. The Rose turret attempted to improve on the FN turrets by being completely open to the rear (improving visibility and allowing easier emergency egress) and by being fitted with two .50 inch machine guns and was installed in a small number of Lancasters but never became common. [12] The answer however was not better visibility - it was with radar. The FN-121 was the Automatic Gun Laying Turret (AGLT) - an FN-120 fitted with Village Inn gun-laying radar. [12] Aircraft fitted with Village Inn were used as bait, flying behind the main formations to confront the night fighters that followed the formations and took down the stragglers. This significantly reduced operational losses and examples of the final turret used would also use gun laying radar. Prior to the end of the war, Lancasters built in the UK standardized on the FN-82 fitted with two .50 inch machine guns and fitted with gun-laying radar as production allowed, which was also used on early models of the Avro Lincoln. The downside with gun laying radar, and all radar and radio transmitting systems, is that attacking forces can pick up the transmissions and use them to vector onto the target.

Later in the war, Freeman Dyson made a case for removing all the Lancaster's defensive armament, arguing it would reduce the loss rate by increasing the Lancaster's speed by up to 50 mph (assuming the bomb load was not increased at the same time), and thus make it harder to shoot down. This became even more important when Dyson and Mike O'Loughlin concluded that some of the German night fighters were using Schräge Musik upward firing guns as the Lancaster had no ventral gun turret to defend itself, although any self defence would have to be dependent on the crew realising they were being attacked from underneath. [16] Dyson thought the modification would be worth it even if the loss rate was exactly the same as before on the grounds of saving the lives of the two air gunners from each downed plane. The case for speed over defensive armament was supported by the de Havilland Mosquito whose loss rates were far lower than the Lancaster's. As an example, during the Battle of Berlin (18 November 1943 to 30 March 1944) the average loss rate of the heavy bombers (overwhelmingly Lancasters) was 5.1%, whereas for Mosquitoes it was 0.5% [17] , though since a speed optimised Lancaster would still be up to 50mph slower than a Mosquito it wouldn`t have been expected to equal the latter aircraft`s loss rates.

[edit] Bombs [ edit | edit source ]

[6][7]Avro Lancaster bomb bayAn important feature of the Lancaster was its unobstructed, 33 ft (10.05 m) long, bomb bay. At first, the heaviest bomb carried was the 4,000 lb (1,820 kg) high capacity HC "Cookie". [18] Bulged doors were added to 30% of B Is to allow the aircraft to carry 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) and later 12,000 lb (5,450 kg) "Cookies". The Lancaster also carried a variety of smaller weapons, including the Small Bomb Container (SBC) which held 236 4 lb or 24 30 lb incendiary and explosive incendiary bomblets 500 lb and 1,000 lb General Purpose High Explosive (GP/HE) bombs (these came in a variety of designs) 1,850 lb parachute deployed magnetic or acoustic mines, or 2,000 lb armour piercing (AP) bombs 250 lb Semi-Armour-Piercing (SAP) bombs, used up to 1942 against submarines post 1942: 250 lb or 500 lb anti-submarine depth charges.

In 1943 617 Squadron was created to carry out Operation Chastise, the raid against the Ruhr dams. This unit was equipped with B.III (Specials), officially designated the "Type 464 (Provisioning)", modified to carry the 9,250 pound (4,196 kg) "Upkeep" bouncing bomb (which was referred to as a mine). [19] The bomb bay doors were removed and the ends of the bomb bay were covered with fairings. "Upkeep" was suspended on pivoted, vee-shaped struts which sprang apart when the bomb-release button was pressed. A drive belt and pulley to rotate the bomb at 500 rpm was mounted on the starboard strut and driven by a hydraulic motor housed in the forward fairing. The mid-upper turret was removed and a more bulbous bomb aimer's blister was fitted this later becoming standard on all Lancasters, while the bombsight was replaced by a simple aiming device. [20] Two Aldis lights were fitted in the rear bomb bay fairing the optimum height for dropping "Upkeep" was 60 ft and, when shone on the relatively smooth waters of the dam's reservoirs, the light beams converged into a single spot when the Lancaster was flying at the correct height. [21] Upkeep bouncing bomb in position in the bomb bay of Guy Gibson's Lancaster - serial ED932, code 'AJ-G'.Towards the end of the war, attacking special and hardened targets, other variants of B I Specials were modified to carry the 21 ft (6.4 m) long 12,000 lb (5,450 kg) "Tallboy" or 25.5 ft (7.77 m) long 22,000 lb (9,980 kg) "Grand Slam" "earthquake" bombs: to carry the "Grand Slam" extensive modifications to the aircraft were required. The modifications included removal of the mid-upper turret and the removal of two guns from the rear turret removal of the cockpit armour plating (the pilot's seatback) and installation of Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk 24 Engines which had better take-off performance. The bomb bay doors were removed and the rear end of the bomb bay cut away to clear the tail of the bomb. Later the nose turret was also removed to further improve performance. The undercarriage was strengthened and stronger mainwheels, later used by the Avro Lincoln, were fitted. [4] [22]

Specific bomb loads were standardized and given code names by Bomber Command: [23] Lancaster B I dropping 4 lb incendiaries followed by a 4,000 lb "cookie" and finishing up with 30 lb incendiaries[8][9]Two Tallboy bombs displayed under the nose of a standard Lancaster at RAF Scampton.

Codename Type of raid or target Bomb load
"Arson" incendiary area bombing 14 SBC, each with 236 x 4 lb Incendiary and Explosive Incendiary bomblets.
"Abnormal" factories, railway yards, dockyards 14 x 1,000 lb GP/HE bombs using both impact and long delay (up to 144 hours) fuses.
"Cookie"—or—"Plumduff" Blast, demolition and fire 1 x 4,000 lb impact-fused HC bomb. 3 x 1,000 lb GP/HE bombs, and up to 6 SBCs with incendiary bomblets.
"Gardening" Mining of ports, canals, rivers and seaways 6 x 1,850 lb parachute mines.
"No-Ball" V-1 flying bomb launch sites 1 x 4,000 lb impact fused HC and up to 18 x 500 lb GP bombs, with both impact and delay fusing.
"Piece" Docks, fortifications and ships 6 x 2,000 lb short-delay fused AP bombs, plus other GP/HE bombs based on local needs or availability.
"Plumduff-Plus" Heavy industry 1 x 8,000 lb impact or barometric fused HC and up to 6 x 500 lbs impact or delay fused GP/HE bombs.
"Usual" Blast and incendiary area bombing 1 x 4,000 lb impact-fused HC bomb, and 12 SBCs with incendiary bomblets.
no code name given Medium-range low altitude tactical raids 6 x 1,000 lb short and long delay fused GP/HE bombs, additional 250 lb GP/HE bombs sometimes added.
no code name given Submarines (up to 1942): 5 x 250 lb short delay fuse SAP bombs for surfaced U-boats (post-1942): 6 x 500 lb and 3 x 250 lb anti-submarine depth charge bombs.
Special purpose weapons and codenames Type of target Weapon
"Grand Slam" Underground or armoured facilities 1 x 22,000 lb short-delay fused "Grand Slam" bomb.
"Tallboy" Very strong or durable structures (e.g.: submarine pens) battleship Tirpitz 1 x 12,000 lb short-delay fused "Tallboy" bomb.
"Upkeep" Dams 1 x 9,250 lb, hydrostatic-fused "Upkeep" mine.
Bombsights

Bombsights used on Lancasters included: [24]

Mark IX Course Setting Bomb Sight (CSBS). This was an early preset vector bombsight that involved squinting through wires that had to be manually set based on aircraft speed, altitude and bombload. This sight lacked tactical flexibility as it had to be manually adjusted if any of the parameters changed and was soon changed in favour of more advanced designs. Mark XIV bombsight A vector bombsight where the bomb aimer input details of the bombload, target altitude and wind direction and the analogue computer then continuously calculated the trajectory of the bombs and projected an inverted sword shape onto a sighting glass on the sighting head. Assuming the sight was set correctly, when the target was in the cross hairs of the sword shape, the bomb aimer would be able to accurately release the bombs. T1 bombsight A Mark XIV bombsight modified for mass production and produced in the USA. Some of the pneumatic gyro drives on the Mk XIV sight were replaced with electronic gyros and other minor modifications were made. Stabilizing Automatic Bomb Sight Also known as "SABS", this was an advanced bombsight mainly used by 617 Squadron for precision raids. Like the American Norden bombsight it was a tachometric sight.

[edit] Radio, radar and countermeasures equipment [ edit | edit source ]

The Lancaster had a very advanced communications system for its time. Most British-built Lancasters were fitted with the R1155 receiver and T1154 transmitter, whereas the Canadian-built aircraft and those built for service in the Far East had American radios. These provided radio direction-finding, as well as voice and Morse capabilities.

H2S Ground-looking navigation radar system - eventually, it could be homed in on by the German night fighters' NAXOS receiver and had to be used with discretion. This is the large blister under the rear fuselage on later Lancasters. Fishpond An add-on to H2S that provided additional (aerial) coverage of the underside of the aircraft to display attacking fighters on an auxiliary screen in the radio operator's position. Monica A rearward-looking radar to warn of night fighter approaches. However, it could not distinguish between attacking enemy fighters and nearby friendly bombers and served as a homing beacon for suitably equipped German night fighters. Once this was realised, it was removed altogether. GEE A receiver for a navigation system of synchronized pulses transmitted from the UK - aircraft calculated their position from the time delay between pulses. The range of GEE was 3-400 mi (483-644 km). GEE used a whip aerial mounted on the top of the fuselage ahead of the mid-upper turret. Boozer (radar detector) A system of lights mounted on the aircraft's instrument panel that lit up when the aircraft was being tracked by Würzburg ground radar and Lichtenstein airborne radar. In practice it was found to be more disconcerting than useful, as the lights were often triggered by false alerts in the radar-signal-infested skies over Germany. Oboe A very accurate navigation system consisting of a receiver/transponder for two radar stations transmitting from widely separated locations in Southern England which together determined the range and the bearing on the range. The system could only handle one aircraft at a time, and was fitted to a Pathfinder aircraft, usually a fast and manoeuvrable Mosquito which marked the target for the main force rather than a Lancaster. GEE-H Similar to Oboe but with the transponder on the ground allowing more aircraft to use the system simultaneously. GEE-H aircraft were usually marked with two horizontal yellow stripes on the fins. Village Inn A radar-aimed gun turret fitted to some Lancaster rear turrets in 1944. Identifiable by a dome mounted below the turret. Airborne Cigar (ABC) This was only fitted to the Lancasters of 101 Squadron. It had three large aerials, two sticking out of the top of the fuselage and one under the bomb aimer's position. These aircraft carried a German-speaking crew member on board and were used to jam radio to German night fighters and feed false information on allied bomber positions to them. Due to the nature of the equipment, the enemy was able to track the aircraft and due to this, 101 suffered the highest casualty rate of any squadron. Fitted from about mid-1943, they remained until the end of the war.


The Avro Lancaster Bomber

It had four gigantic engines. They made 7,377 of them. They were one of the simplest most successful aircraft designs of world war II It featured a multipurpose and massively large bomb bay that accommodated devastating weaponry from 4000 pound bombs to 12000 pound tallboys meant to bust bunkers. Lancasters also carried the 22,000 pound Grand Slam bombs, the largest non nuclear bombs carried in the entire war. The Lancaster aircraft built by Avro in the UK was the workhorse night bomber during the war to stop the Nazis. It was the foresight of designers that made the Lancaster a great test bed for new anti submarine technology and other battlefield roles. The Lancaster was used for deploying the anti dam bouncing bombs in the Ruhr. It was the various bomb loads that the crews prepared the Lancaster for that made it unusual in the war. The bombing packages were quite precise and crews used to for exact missions, incendiaries around factories, redoubt reduction, anti heavy industry bomb packages and even port mining. The Lancasters also used quite a suite of electronic warfare equipment for example acting as pathfinder aircraft marking bomb targets jamming enemy radars: rear looking radars and the Oboe radar location tracking system that kept crews from getting lost. Lancasters were used to drop food for people trapped and running out of provisions.

The Lancaster was piloted and operated by a crew of 7. It could reach 45,000 feet altitude, travel at just under 300 miles per hours and go 1500 miles on one tank of gas.

At the nose of the plane was a bubble canopy view window and firing station for Browning twin .303 machine guns with 1000 rounds each. He often laid prone below that gun to use the bomb aiming gear. Or he could sit up and look through the bubble canopy and help the navigator negotiate the way to and out of targets.

Over the bomb bay the pilot and flight engineer sat side by side. The pilot sat on the left in a raised seat and the engineer had a collapsible seat and workstation. Both had good views.

There was gunner who manned the upper turret in mid fuselage, there was a gunner who manned the rear machine guns and two people operated the bomb bay doors.

Missions started general after dark and the crew huddle into their positions as it climbed up into the atmosphere. At 30,000 feet the crew had to have heated suits to avoid hypothermia. The crews flew for three or four hour before reaching their respective targets when all hell broke loose. Enemy fighters cut swathes through the air, flak brought down aircraft or sent hot glowing shrapnel arcing through the skin of the plane and killing or maiming anyone inside, or setting off fires in the munitions or fuel storage.

Half of all Lancaster crews were shot down. Crews that fulfilled 30 missions received a full military commission.

The actual bombing runs caused far more death and destruction below than they experienced at altitude.


Variants [ edit ] [ edit | edit source ]

Media related to Avro Lancaster B Mark I at Wikimedia Commons

The original Lancasters were produced with Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines and SU carburettors. Minor details were changed throughout the production series - for example the pitot head design was changed from being on a long mast at the front of the nose to a short fairing mounted on the side of the fuselage under the cockpit. Later production Lancasters had Merlin 22 and 24 engines. No designation change was made to denote these alterations. [33] B.I Special

[22]B1 Special releasing Grand Slam:32 Aircraft were adapted to take first the super-heavy "Tallboy" and then "Grand Slam" bombs. Up-rated engines with paddle-bladed propellers gave more power, and the removal of gun turrets reduced weight and gave smoother lines. For the Tallboy, the bomb bay doors were bulged for the Grand Slam, they were removed completely and the area faired over. For some Tallboy raids, the mid-upper turret was removed. This modification was retained for the Grand Slam aircraft, and in addition the nose turret was later removed. Two airframes (HK541 and SW244) were modified to carry a dorsal "saddle tank" with 1,200 gal (5,455 L) mounted aft of a modified canopy for increasing range. No. 1577 SD Flight tested the aircraft in India and Australia in 1945 for possible use in the Pacific, [14]  but the tank adversely affected handling characteristics when full and an early type of flight refuelling designed in the late 1930s for commercial flying boats was later used instead. [34]

PR.1 B 1 modified for photographic reconnaissance, operated by RAF No. 82 and No. 541 Squadrons, wartime. All armament and turrets were removed with a reconfigured nose and a camera carried in the bomb bay. The type was also operated by 683 Squadron from circa 1950 for photographic reconnaissance based atAden and subsequently Habbaniya in Iraq until disbanded 30 November 1953. B.I (FE) In anticipation of the needs of the Tiger Force operations against the Japanese in the Far East (FE), a tropicalized variant was based on late production aircraft. The B I (FE) had modified radio, radar, navaids, and a 400 gal (1,818 L) tank installed in the bomb bay. Most were painted with white upper-surfaces and black undersides with a low demarcation between the colours. B.II

Media related to Avro Lancaster B Mark II at Wikimedia Commons

[23]B II with Bristol Hercules radial engines:Bristol Hercules (Hercules VI or XVI engines) powered variant, of which 300 were produced by Armstrong Whitworth. One difference between the two engine versions was that the VI had manual mixture control, requiring an extra lever on the throttle pedestal. Very early examples were fitted with an FN.64 ventral turret however, these were quickly removed due to problems with aiming the turret through its periscope (which prevented the gunner from seeing a target he was not already aiming at), and inadequate traverse speed.

Due to the Luftwaffe Schräge Musik attacks, a variety of unofficial field modifications were made, including fitting of 20 mm cannon or a .50 inch machine gun in the open hole where the FN.64 had been installed, before an official modification (Mod 925) fitted with a .303 inch machine gun was authorized for the same location, though not in all aircraft. These were rarely installed on other variants as the H2S radar that was not used on the B II was mounted there. Three types of bulged bomb bay were used on the B II, the prototype having a narrow bulge running from just aft of the cockpit to the end of the bomb bay, while early production examples had a full width bulge that ran the same length and on late production examples the bomb bay doors were prominently bulged throughout their length. B.III

Media related to Avro Lancaster B Mark III at Wikimedia Commons

This variant, which was built concurrently with the B I and was indistinguishable externally from that variant, was fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines. The Packard Merlins used Bendix - Stromberg pressure-injection carburettors, requiring the addition of slow-running cut-off switches in the cockpit. B III (Special)

[24]"Upkeep" bouncing bomb used for dam busting bomb mounted under Lancaster B III (Special). The chain was driven by a hydraulic motor and gave the bomb its backspin.:Known at the time of modification as the "Type 464 Provisioning" [35]  Lancaster, 23 aircraft of this type were built to carry the "Upkeep" bouncing bomb for the dam busting raids. The bomb bay doors were removed and Vickers-built struts to carry the bomb were fitted in their place at Woodford Aerodrome near Stockport where the workers worked day and night. A hydraulic motor, driven by the pump previously used for the mid-upper turret was fitted to spin the bomb. Lamps were fitted in the bomb bay and nose for the simple height measurement system which enabled the accurate control of low-flying altitude at night. The mid-upper turret was removed to save weight and the gunner moved to the front turret to relieve the bomb aimer from having to man the front guns so that he could assist with map reading.

ASR.III/ASR.3 B III modified for air-sea rescue, with three dipole ventral antennas fitted aft of the radome and carrying an airborne lifeboatin an adapted bomb bay. The armament was often removed and the mid-upper turret faired-over, especially in postwar use. Observation windows were added to both sides of the rear fuselage, a port window just forward of the tailplane and a starboard window into the rear access door. A number of ASR 3 conversions were fitted with Lincoln-style rudders. [36]

[25]Orthographic projection of the Lancaster B Mk.I, with profiles detailing the B Mk.I (Special) with Grand Slam bomb, Hercules-powered B Mk.II with bulged bomb bay doors and FN.64 ventral turret and the B Mk.III (Special) with the Upkeep storeGR.3/MR.3

B.III modified for maritime reconnaissance. B.IV The B.IV featured an increased wingspan and lengthened fuselage and new Boulton Paul F turret (two Xـ.5in Browning machine guns) with framed "bay window" nose glazing. The prototypes (PW925PW929 andPW932) were powered by two-stage Merlin 85s inboard and later, Merlin 68s on the outboard mounts. Because of the major redesign, the aircraft was quickly renamed Lincoln B 1. B.V Increased wingspan and lengthened fuselage, two-stage Merlin 85s. Renamed Lincoln B 2 B.VI Nine aircraft converted from B.IIIs. Fitted with Merlin 85/87 which had two-stage superchargers, giving much improved high altitude performance. The B VI could achieve a maximum speed of 313 mph (505 km/h) at 18,200 ft (5,550 m) at 65,000 lb (29,500 kg) take off weight and a service ceiling of 28,500 ft (8,690 m) at the same weight. Climb to 28,000 ft (8,500 m) at 65,000 lb (29,500 kg) take off weight was accomplished in 44.8 minutes with a maximum climb rate of 1,080 ft/min (5.5 m/s) at 1,000 ft (305 m). [37]  A Lancaster B VI was dived to a maximum indicated speed of 350 mph (565 km/h), or Mach 0.72 at 25,000 ft (7,620 m) in June 1944. [38]  The Merlin 85/87 series engines were fitted with annular cowlings similar to the Avro Lincoln and three bladed paddle-type propellers were fitted. These aircraft were only used by Pathfinder units by No. 7 Squadron RAF, No. 83 Squadron RAF, No. 405 Squadron RCAF and by No. 635 Squadron RAF. Often used as a "Master Bomber" the B VI's were allocated to RAF Bomber Command apart from two that were retained by Rolls-Royce for installation and flight testing. [39]  Their dorsal and nose turrets were removed and faired-over. The more powerful engines proved troublesome in service and were disliked by ground maintenance staff for their rough running and propensity to 'surge and hunt', making synchronisation impossible. This was caused by variations in the fuel/air mixture and over time would damage the engine. [40]  The B VI was withdrawn from operational service in November 1944 and surviving aircraft were used by Rolls-Royce, the Royal Aircraft Establishment and the Bomb Ballistics Unit (BBU) for various testing and experimental duties. B.VII

Media related to Avro Lancaster B Mark VII at Wikimedia Commons

The B.VII was the final production version of the Lancaster. The Martin𧇺CE mid-upper turret was moved slightly further forward than on previous Marks and the Nash & Thomson FN-82 tail turret with twin 0.50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns replaced the FN.20 turret with four Browning .303 Mark IIs. The Martin turret carried two 0.5 inch Browning Mark II machine guns which packed much more punch than the .303s of the older turret. However, these Martin turrets arrived too late for inclusion in the first 50 aircraft built by Austin and these were therefore referred to as Mark VII (Interim). Another 180 true Mark VIIs were built at Longbridge. Two sub-variants of the VII existed, the "Far East" (B VII FE) for use in tropical climates and the B VII "Western Union", which went to France. B.X

Media related to Avro Lancaster B Mark X at Wikimedia Commons

[26]Sole Canadian Lancaster B.XV/Lincoln B.XV:The B.X was a Canadian-built B.III with Canadian- and US-made instruments and electrics. On later batches the heavier Martin 250CE was substituted for the Nash & Thomson FN-50 mid-upper turret, mounted further forward to maintain centre of gravity balance. Canada was a long term operator of the Lancaster, using modified aircraft after the war for maritime patrol, search and rescue and photo-reconnaissance until 1964. The last flight by the RCAF was by F/L Lynn Garrison in KB-976, on 4 July 1964 at the Calgary International Air Show.

  • 10ARArea Reconnaissance Electronic Warfare aircraft with lengthened nose.
  • 10BRBomber Reconnaissance
  • 10DCDrone controller with Ryan Firebee drones - 2 modified.
  • 10MR (later 10MP): Maritime Reconnaissance or Maritime Patrol Anti-submarine warfare aircraft
  • 10NNavigational trainer
  • 10OOrenda jet engine testbed for the engine used in the Avro CF-100.
  • 10PPhoto reconnaissance mapping duties
  • 10SR: Air-sea Search and Rescue aircraft - 8 modified.
  • 10S and 10UStandard aircraft and Unmodified aircraft held in storage for future use or for transfer to museums.

Bomb bay of the Avro Lancaster - History



























Avro 683 &ldquoLancaster&rdquo B.Mk.III
United Kingdom &mdash World War II four-engined heavy bomber

Archive Photos Airplane Trading Cards and Photos [1]

[Avro 683 Lancaster B.Mk.III (ED865) (Trade Card, A History of British Military Aircraft, 1963, Kellogg, UK, 7 of 16). (The Skytamer Archive, copyright © 2014 Skytamer Images) [1] ]

[Avro 683 Lancaster Mk.III (ED470, AM-P), Airplane card: 1993 &ldquoWorld War II War Machines, the Flight Series&rdquo, The Rogers Group, USA (The Skytamer Archive)]

Overview 2

  • Avro 683 Lancaster
  • Role: Heavy bomber
  • Manufacturer: Avro
  • Designed by: Roy Chadwick
  • First flight: 8 January 1941
  • Introduced: 1942
  • Retired: 1963 (Canada)
  • Primary users: Royal Air Force Royal, Canadian Air Force
  • Number built: 7,377
  • Unit cost: £s45-50,000 when introduced (£s1.3-1.5 million in 2005 currency)
  • Developed from: Avro Manchester
  • Variants: Avro Lancastrian, Avro Lincoln, Avro York

The Lancaster owes its origin to Air Ministry specification B.13/36 for a twin-engined medium bomber to be fitted with Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. The first aircraft built to this specification was the Manchester, the prototype of which first flew in July, 1939. About 18 months later the Manchester began to go into squadron service in the RAF.

Owing to delays in the development of the Vulture engine the decision was taken in mid-1940 to design a new version of the Manchester to be fitted with four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The first conversion made use of about 75% of parts and assemblies of the Manchester, the principal change being the provision of a new center-section with mountings for four Merlin × engines. This aeroplane became the first prototype of the Lancaster.

A second prototype fitted with four Merlin XX engines and considerably modified in detail was designed, built and flown in some eight months.

The first production Lancasters began to come off the production lines early in 1942 and in the same year the decision was made to produce the Lancaster in Canada. The first Canadian-built Lancaster was delivered by air across the Atlantic in September, 1943. In 1944 Lancaster production was begun in Australia.

The Lancaster is the most versatile of British heavy bombers. It can carry a maximum internal load of 18,000 lbs without modification to the standard bomb-bay. On a range of 1,000 miles its normal load is 14,000 lbs. With modifications to the bomb-bay it carries both the 12,000 lb and 22,000 lb bombs, the only bomber in the World to carry bombs of these sizes.

There have been four basic versions of the Lancaster. These are as follow:

  1. Lancaster I: Four Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines.
  2. Lancaster II: Four Bristol Hercules VI air-cooled radial engines.
  3. Lancaster III: Same as the Mk.I but fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines.
  4. Lancaster X: The Canadian-built version of the Mk.III fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines.

The Avro Lancaster first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF and squadrons from other Commonwealth and European countries serving within RAF Bomber Command. The &ldquoLanc&rdquo or &ldquoLankie,&rdquo as it was affectionately known, became the most famous and most successful of the Second World War night bombers, &ldquodelivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties.&rdquo Although the Lancaster was primarily a night bomber, it excelled in many other roles including daylight precision bombing, and gained worldwide renown as the &ldquoDam Buster &rdquo used in the 1943 &ldquoOperation Chastise&rdquo raids on Germany's Ruhr Valley dams.

Design and Development 2

The origins of the Lancaster stem from a twin-engined bomber design submitted to meet Specification P.13/36, which was for a new generation of twin-engined medium bombers for &ldquoworldwide use &rdquo, the engine specified as the Rolls-Royce Vulture. The resulting aircraft was the Manchester, which, although a capable aircraft, was troubled by the unreliability of the Vulture. Only 200 Manchesters were built and they were withdrawn from service in 1942.

Avro's chief designer, Roy Chadwick, was already working on an improved Manchester design using four of the more reliable but less powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines on a larger wing. The aircraft was initially designated Avro Type 683 Manchester III, and later re-named the Lancaster. The prototype aircraft (BT308) was assembled by Avro's experimental flight department at Manchester's Ringway Airport from where test pilot H.A. &ldquoBill &rdquo Thorn took the controls for its first flight on Thursday, 9 January 1941. The aircraft proved to be a great improvement on its predecessor, being &ldquoone of the few warplanes in history to be &lsquoright&rsquo from the start.&rdquo Its initial three-finned tail layout, a result of the design being adapted from the Manchester I, was quickly changed on the second prototype (DG595) and subsequent production aircraft to the familiar twin-finned specification also used on the later Manchesters.

Some of the later orders for Manchesters were changed in favor of Lancasters, the designs were very similar and both featured the same distinctive greenhouse cockpit, turret nose and twin tail. The Lancaster discarded the stubby central third tail fin of the early Manchesters and used the wider span tailplane and larger elliptical twin fins from the later Manchester Mk.IA.

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 oval fins and rudders. The Lancaster was initially powered by four wing-mounted Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engines with three-bladed airscrews. It had retractable main landing gear and fixed tail-wheel, with the hydraulically operated main landing gear raised into the inner engine nacelles.

The majority of Lancasters built during the war years were manufactured by Avro at their factory at Chadderton near Oldham, Lancashire and test flown from Woodford Aerodrome in Cheshire. Other Lancasters were built by Metropolitan-Vickers (1080, also tested at Woodford) and Armstrong Whitworth. The aircraft was also produced at the Austin Motor Company works in Longbridge, Birmingham later in the Second World War and postwar by Vickers-Armstrongs at Chester. Only 300 of the Lancaster B II fitted with Bristol Hercules engines were constructed this was a stopgap modification caused by a shortage of Merlin engines as fighter production was of higher priority. Many B.IIs were lost after running out of fuel. The Lancaster B.III had Packard Merlin engines but was otherwise identical to contemporary B.Is, with 3,030 B.III's built, almost all at A.V. Roe's Newton Heath factory. The B I and B III were built concurrently, and minor modifications were made to both marks as new batches were ordered. Examples of these modifications were the relocation of the pitot head from the nose to the side of the cockpit, and the change from de Havilland "needle blade" propellers to Hamilton Standard or Nash Kelvinator made &ldquopaddle blade&rdquo propellers.

Of later variants, only the Canadian-built Lancaster B.Mk.X, manufactured by Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario, was produced in significant numbers. A total of 430 of this type were built, earlier examples differing little from their British-built predecessors, except for using Packard-built Merlin engines and American-style instrumentation and electrics. Late-series models replaced the Frazer Nash mid-upper turret with a differently configured Martin turret, mounted slightly further forward for weight balance. A total of 7,377 Lancasters of all marks were built throughout the duration of the war, each at a 1943 cost of £s45-50,000 (approximately equivalent to £s1.3-1.5 million in 2005 currency).

Crew Accommodation 2

Starting at the nose, the bomb aimer had two positions to man. His primary location was lying prone on the floor of the nose of the aircraft, with access to the controls for the bombsight head in front, with the bombsight computer on his left and bomb release selectors on the right. He would also use his view out of the large transparent perspex nose cupola to assist the navigator with map reading. To man the Frazer Nash FN5 nose turret, he simply had to stand up and he would be in position behind the triggers of his twin .303 in (7.7 mm) guns. The bomb aimer's position contained the nose parachute exit in the floor.

Moving backwards, on the roof of the bomb bay the pilot and flight engineer sat side-by-side under the expansive canopy, with the pilot sitting on the left on a raised portion of the floor. The flight engineer sat on a collapsible seat (known as a &ldquosecond dicky seat&rdquo) to the pilot's right, with the fuel selectors and gauges on a panel behind him and to his right.

Behind these crew members, and behind a curtain fitted to allow him to use light to work, sat the navigator. His position faced to port with a large chart table in front of him. An instrument panel showing the airspeed, altitude and other details required for navigation was mounted on the side of the fuselage above the chart table.

The radios for the wireless operator were mounted on the left-hand end of the chart table, facing towards the rear of the aircraft. Behind these radios, facing forwards, on a seat at the front of the main spar sat the wireless operator. To his left was a window, and above him was the astrodome, used for visual signalling and also by the navigator for celestial navigation.

Behind the wireless operator were the two spars for the wing, which created a major obstacle for crew members moving down the fuselage even on the ground. On reaching the end of the bomb bay the floor dropped down to the bottom of the fuselage, and the mid upper gunner's Frazer Nash FN50 or FN150 turret was reached. His position allowed a 360° view over the top of the aircraft, with two .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns to protect the aircraft from above and to the side. The mid-upper gunner had perhaps the most uncomfortable ride of all the crew, as he was seated on a rectangle of canvas that was slung beneath the turret once the gunner had occupied his position. He could be required to occupy this seat for up to eight hours at a time.

To the rear of the turret was the side crew door, on the starboard side of the fuselage. This was the main entrance to the aircraft, and also could be used as a parachute exit. At the extreme rear of the aircraft, over the spars for the tailplane, the rear gunner sat in his exposed position in the FN20, FN120 or &ldquoRose Rice&rdquo turret, entered through a small hatch in the rear of the fuselage, and depending on the size of the rear gunner, the area was so cramped that the gunner would often hang their parachute on a hook inside the fuselage, near the turret doors. In the FN20 and FN120 turrets, he had four .303 in (7.7 mm) Brownings, and in the Rose Rice turret he had two .50 in (12.7 mm) Brownings. Neither the mid upper or rear gunner's positions were heated, and the gunners had to wear electrically heated suits to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Many rear gunners insisted on having the center section of perspex removed from the turret to give a completely unobstructed view.

Armament 2

While eight .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns were the most common Lancaster armament, twin .50 in (12.7 mm) turrets were later available in both the tail and dorsal positions. A Preston-Green mount was available for a .50 in (12.7 mm) mounted in a ventral blister, but this was mostly used in RCAF service. This blister was later the location for the H2S radar. A Nash & Thomson FN-64 periscope-sighted twin .303 in (7.7 mm) ventral turret was also available but rarely fitted as it was hard to sight. (Similar problems afflicted the ventral turret in the North American B-25C Mitchell and other bombers). Some unofficial mounts for .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns or even 20 mm cannon were made, firing through ventral holes of various designs.

An important feature of the Lancaster was its extensive bomb bay, at 33 ft (10.05 m) long. Initially, the heaviest bombs carried were 4,000 lb (1,820 kg) &ldquoCookies &rdquo. Bulged doors were added to allow the aircraft to carry 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) and later 12,000 lb (5,450 kg) &ldquoCookies&rdquo. Towards the end of the war, attacking special and hardened targets, the B.I Specials could carry the 21 ft (6.4 m) long 12,000 lb (5,450 kg) &ldquoTallboy&rdquo or 25.5 ft (7.77 m) long 22,000 lb (9,980 kg) &ldquoGrand Slam&rdquo &ldquoearthquake&rdquo bombs, the Lancaster was able to deliver the heaviest bombs made. To carry the &ldquoGrand Slam&rdquo extensive modifications to the aircraft were required which led to them being redesignated as B.I (Specials). The modifications included removal of the mid-upper turret, two guns from the rear turret, removal of all of the cockpit armor plating and installation of Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.24 Engines which had better take-off performance. The bomb-bay doors were removed and the rear end of the bomb bay cut away to clear the tail of the bomb. Later the nose turret was also removed to further improve performance.

Bombsights used on Lancasters included:

  • Mark IX Course-Setting Bombsight (CSBS): This was an early preset vector bombsight that involved squinting through wires that had to be manually set based on aircraft speed, altitude and bombload. This sight lacked tactical flexibility as it had to be manually adjusted if any of the parameters changed and was soon phased out in favor of the bombsights below.
  • Mark XIV bombsight: A vector bombsight where the bomb aimer input various details of the bombload, target altitude and wind direction, and the analogue computer then continuously calculated the trajectory of the bombs and projected an inverted sword shape onto a sighting glass on the sighting head. Assuming the sight was set correctly, when the target was in the cross hairs of the sword shape, the bomb aimer would be able to accurately release the bombs.
  • T1 bombsight: A Mark XIV bombsight modified for mass production and produced in the USA. Some of the pneumatic gyro drives on the Mk.XIV sight were replaced with electronic gyros and other minor modifications were made.
  • Stabilizing Automatic Bomb Sight: Also known as "SABS", this was an advanced bombsight mainly used by 617 Squadron for precision raids. Like the American Norden bombsight it was a tachometric sight.

Radio, Radar and Countermeasures Equipment 2

The Lancaster had a very advanced communications system for its time. Most British-built Lancasters were fitted with the R1155 receiver and T1154 transmitter, whereas the Canadian built aircraft and those built for service in the Far East had American radios. These provided radio direction-finding, as well as voice and Morse capabilities.

  • H2S: Ground-looking navigation radar system - eventually, it could be homed in on by the German night fighters' NAXOS receiver and had to be used with discretion.
  • Fishpond: An add-on to H2S that provided additional (aerial) coverage of the underside of the aircraft to display attacking fighters on an auxiliary screen in the radio operator's position.
  • Monica: A rearward-looking radar to warn of night fighter approaches. However, it could not distinguish between attacking enemy fighters and nearby friendly bombers and served as a homing beacon for suitably-equipped German night fighters. Once this was realized, it was removed altogether.
  • GEE: A receiver for a navigation system of synchronized pulses transmitted from the UK - aircraft calculated their position from the time delay between pulses. The range of GEE was 3-400 mi (483-644 km).
  • Boozer (radar detector): A system of lights mounted on the aircraft's instrument panel that lit up when the aircraft was being tracked by Würzburg ground radar and Lichtenstein airborne radar. In practice it was found to be more disconcerting than useful, as the lights were often triggered by false alerts in the radar-signal-infested skies over Germany.
  • Oboe: A very accurate navigation system consisting of a receiver/transponder for two radar stations transmitting from widely separated locations in Southern England which together determined the range and the bearing on the range. The system could only handle one aircraft at a time, and was fitted to a Pathfinder aircraft, usually a fast and maneuverable Mosquito rather than a heavy Lancaster, which marked the target for the main force.
  • GEE-H: Similar to Oboe but with the transponder on the ground allowing more aircraft to use the system simultaneously. GEE-H aircraft were usually marked with two horizontal yellow stripes on the fins.
  • Village Inn: A radar-aimed gun turret fitted to some Lancasters in 1944.
  • Airborne Cigar (ABC): This was only fitted to the Lancasters of 101 Squadron. It was three aerials, two sticking out of the top of the fuselage and one under the bomb aimer's position. These aircraft carried a German speaking crew member on board and were used to jam radio to German night fighters and feed false information on allied bomber positions to them. Due to the nature of the equipment, the enemy was able to track the aircraft and due to this 101 suffered the highest casualty rate of any squadron. Fitted from about mid-1943, they remained until the end of the war.

Operational History 2

Lancasters flew 156,000 sorties and dropped 608,612 long tons (618,378 tonnes) of bombs between 1942 and 1945. Lancs took part in the devastating round-the-clock raids on Hamburg during Air Marshall Harris' &ldquoOperation Gomorrah&rdquo in July 1943. Just 35 Lancasters completed more than 100 successful operations each, and 3,249 were lost in action. The most successful survivor completed 139 operations, and was scrapped in 1947.

A famous Lancaster bombing raid was the 1943 mission, codenamed &ldquoOperation Chastise&rdquo, to destroy the dams of the Ruhr Valley. The mission was carried out by 617 Squadron in modified Mk.IIIs carrying special drum shaped bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis. The story of the mission was later made into a film, &ldquoThe Dam Busters.&rdquo Also famous was a series of Lancaster attacks using &ldquoTallboy&rdquo bombs against the German battleship Tirpitz, which first disabled and later sank the ship.

Lancasters from Bomber Command were to have formed the main strength of Tiger Force, the Commonwealth bomber contingent scheduled to take part in Operation Downfall, the codename for the planned invasion of Japan in late 1945, from bases on Okinawa.

RAF Lancasters dropped food into the Holland region of the occupied Netherlands, with the acquiescence of the occupying German forces, to feed people who were in danger of starvation. Named after the food Manna which miraculously appeared for the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, the aircraft involved were from 1, 3 and 8 Groups, and consisted of 145 Mosquitoes and 3,156 Lancasters, flying between them a total of 3,298 sorties. The first of the two RAF Lancasters chosen for the test flight was nicknamed &ldquoBad Penny&rdquo from the old expression: &ldquoa bad penny always turns up.&rdquo This bomber, with a crew of seven men (five Canadians including pilot Robert Upcott of Windsor, Ontario), took off in bad weather on the morning of 29 April 1945 without a cease fire agreement from the German forces, and successfully dropped her cargo.

A development of the Lancaster was the Avro Lincoln bomber, initially known as the Lancaster IV and Lancaster V. These two marks became the Lincoln B1 and B2 respectively. There was also a civilian airliner based on the Lancaster, the Lancastrian. Other developments were the York, a square-bodied transport and, via the Lincoln, the Shackleton which continued in airborne early warning service up to 1992.

In 1946, four Lancasters were converted by Avro at Bracebridge Heath, Lincolnshire as freighters for use by British South American Airways, but proved to be uneconomical and were withdrawn after a year in service.

Four Lancaster Mk.III's were converted by Flight Refuelling Limited as two pairs of tanker and receiver aircraft for development of in-flight refueling. In 1947, one aircraft was flown non-stop 3,459 mi (5,567 km) from London to Bermuda. Later the two tanker aircraft were joined by another converted Lancaster and were used in the Berlin Airlift, achieving 757 tanker sorties.

Fifty-nine Lancaster B.Is and B.VIIs were overhauled by Avro at Woodford and Langar and delivered to the Aeronavale (France) during 1952/53. These were flown until the mid-1960s by four squadrons in France and New Caledonia in the maritime reconnaissance and search-and-rescue roles. During its Argentinian service, Lancasters saw limited use in military coups, owing to the small number there.

Variants 2

Avro Lancaster B.I &mdash The original Lancasters were produced with Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines and SU carburetors. Minor details were changed throughout the production series - for example the pitot head design was changed from being on a long mast at the front of the nose to a short fairing mounted on the side of the fuselage under the cockpit. Later production Lancasters had Merlin 22 and 24 engines. No designation change was made to denote these alterations.

Avro Lancaster B.I Special &mdash Adapted to take first the super-heavy &ldquoTallboy&rdquo and then &ldquoGrand Slam&rdquo bombs. Upgraded engines with paddle-bladed propellers gave more power, and the removal of gun turrets reduced weight and gave smoother lines. For the Tallboy, the bomb-bay doors were bulged for the Grand Slam, they were removed completely and the area faired over. For some Tallboy raids, the mid upper turret was removed. This modification was retained for the Grand Slam aircraft, and in addition the nose turret was later removed. Two airframes (HK541 and SW244) were modified to carry a dorsal &ldquosaddle tank&rdquo with 1,200 gal (5,455 L) mounted aft of a modified canopy for increasing range. No. 1577 SD Flight tested the aircraft in India and Australia in 1945 for possible use in the Pacific, but the tank adversely affected handling characteristics when full and flight refueling was later used instead.

Avro Lancaster PR.I &mdash B.1 modified for photographic reconnaissance, operated by RAF No. 82 and No. 541 Squadrons, wartime. All armament and turrets were removed with a reconfigured nose and a camera carried in the bomb bay. The type was also operated by 683 Squadron from circa 1950 for photographic reconnaissance based at Aden and subsequently Habbaniya in Iraq until disbanded 30 November 1953.

Avro Lancaster B.I (FE) &mdash In anticipation of the needs of the Tiger Force operations against the Japanese in the Far East (FE), a tropicalized variant was based on late production aircraft. The B I (FE) had modified radio, radar, navaids and a 400 gal (1,818 L) tank installed in the bomb bay. The mid-upper turret was also removed.

Avro Lancaster B.II &mdash Bristol Hercules (Hercules VI or XVI engines) powered variant, of which 300 were produced by Armstrong Whitworth. One difference between the two engine versions was that the VI had manual mixture control, requiring an extra lever on the throttle pedestal. These aircraft were almost always fitted with an FN.64 ventral turret and pronounced step in the bulged bomb bay.

Avro Lancaster B.Mk.III &mdash These aircraft were fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines and produced at the same time as the B.I, the two marks being indistinguishable externally. The minor differences between the two variants were related to the engine installation, and included the addition of slow-running cut-off switches in the cockpit, a requirement due to the Bendix Stromberg pressure-injection carburetors fitted to the Packard Merlin engines.

Avro Lancaster B.III Special &mdash Known at the time of modification as the &ldquoType 464 Provisioning&rdquo Lancaster, this variant was built to carry the "Upkeep" bouncing bomb for the dam busting raids. The bomb-bay doors were removed and Vickers-built struts to carry the bomb were fitted in their place. A hydraulic motor, driven by the pump previously used for the mid upper turret was fitted to spin the bomb. Lamps were fitted in the bomb bay and nose for the simple height measurement system which enabled the accurate control of low-flying altitude at night. The mid-upper turret was removed to save weight, and the gunner moved to the front turret to relieve the bomb aimer from having to man the front guns so that he could assist with map reading.

Avro Lancaster ASR.III/ASR.3 &mdash B.III modified for air-sea rescue, with three dipole ventral antennas fitted aft of the radome and carrying an airborne lifeboat in the re-configured bomb bay. The armament was often removed and the mid-upper turret faired-over, especially in postwar use. Observation windows were added to both sides of the rear fuselage, a port window just forward of the tailplane, and a starboard window into the rear access door. A number of ASR.3 conversions were fitted with Lincoln-style rudders.

Avro Lancaster GR.3/MR.3 &mdash B.III modified for maritime reconnaissance.

Avro Lancaster B.IV &mdash The B.IV featured an increased wingspan and lengthened fuselage and new Boulton Paul F turret (two × 0.5 in) with re-configured framed &ldquobay window&rdquo nose glazing. The prototypes (PW925, PW929 and PW932) were powered by two-stage Merlin 85s inboard and later, Merlin 68s on the outboard mounts. Because of the major re-design, the aircraft was quickly renamed Lincoln B.1.

Avro Lancaster B.V &mdash Increased wingspan and lengthened fuselage, two-stage Merlin 85s. Renamed Lincoln B.2.

Avro Lancaster B.VI &mdash Nine aircraft converted from B.IIIs. Fitted with Merlin 85/87 which had two-stage superchargers, giving much improved high altitude performance. The Merlin 85/87 series engines were fitted with annular cowlings similar to the post war Avro Lincoln and four bladed paddle-type propellers were fitted. These aircraft were only used by Pathfinder units by No. 7 Squadron RAF, No. 83 Squadron RAF, No. 405 Squadron RCAF and by No. 635 Squadron RAF. Often used as a "Master Bomber" the B.VIs allocated to RAF Bomber Command (2 being retained by Rolls Royce for installation and flight testing) had their dorsal and nose turrets removed and faired-over. The more powerful engines proved troublesome in service and were disliked by ground maintenance staff for their rough running and propensity to 'surge and hunt', making synchronization impossible. The B.VI was withdrawn from service in November 1944 and the surviving aircraft were used by Rolls Royce, the Royal Aircraft Establishment and the Bomb Ballistics Unit (BBU) for various testing and experimental duties.

Avro Lancaster B.VII &mdash The B.VII was the final production version of the Lancaster. The Martin 250CE mid-upper turret was re-positioned slightly further forward than on previous Marks, and the Nash & Thomson FN-82 tail turret with twin 0.50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns replaced the FN.20 turret with four 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns.

Avro Lancaster B.X &mdash The B.X was a Canadian-built B.III with Canadian- and US-made instrumentation and electrics. On later batches the heavier Martin 250CE was substituted for the Nash & Thomson FN-50 mid-upper turret, mounted further forward to maintain center of gravity balance. Canada was a long term operator of the Lancaster, utilizing modified aircraft in postwar maritime patrol, search and rescue and photo-reconnaissance roles until 1964. The last flight by the RCAF was flown by F/L Lynn Garrison in KB-976, on 4 July 1964 at the Calgary International Air Show.

Operators 2

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • France
  • New Zealand
  • Poland
  • Soviet Union
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

Surviving Aircraft 2

  • There are 17 known largely complete Avro Lancasters remaining in the world with two airworthy, one of which can be found at Ontario's Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

Avro 683 Lancaster B.Mk.III Specifications 3,4 (as noted)

Manufactures: 4

  • A. V. Roe and Co Ltd
  • Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd
  • Metropolitan-Vickers Ltd
  • Mid-wing cantilever monoplane.
  • Wing in five main sections, comprising a center-section of parallel chord and thickness which is integral with the fuselage center-section, two tapering outer sections and two semi-circular wing-tips.
  • Subsidiary wing units consist of detachable leading and trailing-edge sections of outer wings and center-section, flaps and ailerons.
  • All units are built up individually with all fittings and equipment before assembly.
  • Two-spar wing structure, each spar consisting of a top and bottom extruded boom bolted on to a single thick gauge web-plate.
  • Ribs are aluminum-alloy pressings suitably flanged and swaged for stiffness.
  • The entire wing is covered with a smooth aluminum-alloy skin.
  • Ailerons on outer wing sections have metal noses and are fabric-covered aft of the hinges.
  • Trimming-tabs in ailerons. Split trailing-edge flaps between ailerons and fuselage.

Fuselage 3

  • Oval all-metal structure in five separately-assembled main sections.
  • The fuselage backbone is formed by pairs of extruded longerons located halfway down the cross-section of the three middle sections.
  • Cross beams between these longerons support the floor and form the roof of the bomb compartment.
  • "U"-frames and formers bolted to the longerons carry the smooth skin plating.
  • The remaining sections are built up of oval frames and formers and longitudinal stringers, covered with flush-riveted metal skin.
  • All equipment and fittings are installed before final assembly of the separate units.

Tail Unit 3

  • Cantilever monoplane type with twin oval fins and rudders.
  • Tail-plane in two sections built up in similar manner to the wings, the tail-plane spars being joined together within the fuselage on the center-line.
  • Tailplane, fins and rudder, are metal-covered, elevators covered with fabric.
  • Trimming-tabs in elevators and rudders.

Landing Gear 3

  • Retractable main wheels and fixed tail-wheel.
  • Main wheels are hydraulically retracted into the inboard engine nacelles and hinged doors connected to the retracting gear close the apertures when the wheels are raised.
  • Track: 23 ft 9 in (7.24 m).

Power Plant 3,4

  • Four 1,300-hp Packard Merlin 28 1,480-hp Merlin 38 or 1,640-hp Merlin 224 radial air-cooled engines in welded steel-tube nacelles cantilevered from the front spar of the wings.
  • Three-bladed constant-speed full-feathering airscrews.
  • Six protected fuel tanks in wings.
  • Separate oil tank in each nacelle.

Accommodation 3

  • Provision for a crew of seven.
  • Bomb aimer in the nose below the front gun-turret.
  • Above and behind and to port is the Pilot's position in a raised canopy with good all-round vision.
  • Inside the canopy immediately aft of the pilot's seat is the Fighting Controller's position.
  • Slightly aft of this position is the Navigator's station, with table, chart stowage and astral dome in the roof.
  • At the rear end of the navigator's table and just forward of the front spar is the Radio Operator's station.
  • Within the center-section is a rest room with bed.
  • Aft of the rear spar are the mid upper and mid lower turrets, together with various equipment stowage for flares, emergency rations, etc.
  • In the extreme tail is the rear turret.
  • A walkway is provided along the entire length of the fuselage and the main entrance door is situated on the starboard side just forward of the tail-plane.

Armament, Bombs, Armor and Equipment 3

  • Ten Browning .303 machine-guns in four hydraulically-operated Nash & Thompson turrets, one in the nose, two amidships and one in the extreme tail.
  • The tail-turret carries four guns, the remainder two each.
  • The tail-turret is fed by ammunition tracks from boxes in the rear fuselage.
  • The bomb compartment is 33 ft long and has normal accommodation for a maximum weight of approximately 8 tons in various combinations of bombs.
  • The largest size which can be carried under special conditions is the 22,000 lb bomb.
  • An armored bulkhead is fitted across the center-section portion of the fuselage and is so arranged that it will open up for passage through the fuselage on either side of the center-line.
  • The back of the pilot's seat is armor-plated and there is armor protection behind his head.
  • Certain other vulnerable parts of the structure and the turrets are armored.
  • Special bullet-proof glass is provided for the fighting controller's position.
  • Full night-flying equipment, radio, flares, oxygen, de-icing equipment, etc.
  • A dinghy is carried in the center-section trailing-edge portion of the wing and is automatically released and inflated in a crash alighting in the sea.
  • It can also be operated by hand.

Dimensions 3,4

  • Span: 102 ft 0 in
  • Length: 69 ft 4 in
  • Height: 20 ft 6 in
  • Net wing area: 1,205 ft²
  • Gross wing area: 1,297 ft²
  • Tare weight: 36,475 lbs
  • All-up weight: 50,000 lbs
  • Take-off weight with 22,000 lb bomb load: 72,000 lbs

Performance with normal bomb load 5

  • Maximum speed at 11,500 ft: 287 mph
  • Cruising speed at 12,000 ft: 210 mph
  • Climb to 20,000 ft: 41 min 40 sec
  • Service ceiling without bomb load: 24,500 ft
  • Range with 14,000 lb bomb load: 1,660 miles
  • Range with 22,000 lb bomb load: 1,040 miles
  1. Shupek, John. The Skytamer Archive. &ldquoA History of British Military Aircraft&rdquo Kellogg Company of Great Britain Ltd., 1963, UK, Card 7 of 16&rdquo
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Avro Lancaster
  3. Bridgman, Leonard, &ldquoAvro: The Avro 683 Lancaster.&rdquo Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1945/1946. Sampson Low Marston & Company Limited, London, 1946. pp. 15c-17c
  4. Jackson, A. J. &ldquoAvro 683 Lancaster&rdquo Avro Aircraft Since 1908, Second Edition. Putnam Aeronautical Books, London, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-797-X, pgs. 358-369.
  5. Mason, Francis K. &ldquoAvro Type 683 Lancaster&rdquo The British Bomber since 1914, Second Edition. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, USA. 1994. ISBN 1-555750-085-1, pp. 343-349.

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All rights reserved


The Origins of the Lancaster

During WW2, area bombing was the pinnacle of military technology and having the tools to deploy this tactic gauged your military prowess. However, this is where the RAF (the British Royal Air Force) lagged behind Germany's Luftwaffe - the German Air Force - and they needed to do something quickly. In response to the Air Ministry Specification P.13/36 which was for a capable medium bomber for world-wide-use, the Avro Manchester was born.

The twin-engine Avro Manchester entered service in November 1940 and only saw limited action as it was later regarded as an operational failure. The Rolls-Royce Vulture engines that were fitted onto the Manchester were deficient and made the bomber highly underpowered and unreliable. In need of something more capable, the Manchester was retired in 1942 and was redesigned into a four-engine beast - the Avro Lancaster.


Bomb bay of the Avro Lancaster - History

Welcome! The biography below was written & designed by Margaret Dove, Roy Chadwick's daughter, in 2006.

    - Monday, June 8, 1942
  • The new International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln, England, officially opened on April 12, 2018, and includes the Chadwick Centre: "The Chadwick Centre uses state-of-the-art technology and interactive displays to tell the story of Bomber Command, through the eyes of those who witnessed events first-hand. Interviews with veterans of both Air and Ground Crew, and support staff from around the world, come together to create an Orchestra of Voices. There are accounts from survivors of the Allied bombing campaign, members of the Resistance Movement, and people affected by the influx of thousands of service personnel into their communities." More info about visiting & events.

A passport photograph of Roy Chadwick at 23 years of age.

Artistic and with unbounded enthusiasm, Roy Chadwick embraced aviation as it began in 1903. When he was 10 years old. He was the fifth generation of engineers in the Chadwick family. Born on April 30th 1893 he attended St Luke's church school in Weaste, and then St Clements Church School in Urmston, Lancashire. He made his own early model planes and flew them at night for fear of ridicule. At 14 he entered The British Westinghouse, Electrical and Engineering Works in Manchester, as a trainee draughtsman and worked here for four years in the Design Office, and on the shop floor.

The Institute of Science & Technology, Manchester.

After work, on three nights a week, Roy Chadwick attended The Manchester College of Technology, built in 1903. It is now The Institute of Science and Technology, and part of Manchester University. A plaque to Roy Chadwick stands, high on the wall, in the Institute's Entrance Hall. Here, from 1907 -1911, Roy studied Pure and Applied Mathematics Calculus, and the Design of Petrol engines, etc: At the end of 1911, at 18 years of age, he joined the great, pioneer aeroplane designer Alliott Verdon-Roe,in his newly established firm: A.V.Roe and Co Ltd. which was housed in the cellar of Alliott's brother, Humphrey's mill, in Ancoats ,Manchester. Here, Roy was Alliott's Personal Assistant, and the firm's draughtsman.

Roy now did the draughtsmanship for the three planes which led up to Alliott Verdon Roe's, famous light bomber and trainer, of World War One: The AVRO 504. These three planes were the Avro500, with a 50hp engine. The 501, with a 100hp engine, and the 503. The famous AVRO 504, of which over 7,000 were built, during WW1 and after had many variants, and Roy Chadwick designed these in collaboration with A.V. Roe. TheAvro 504k, seen here, which Roy designed, gave thousands, their first flights, post war. A flying school was established, and many people learnt to fly on the 504k. H.M. King George Sixth, when he was Duke of York, learnt to fly on this machine. It was the R.A.F. trainer for many years. Also, it was sold, worldwide: the very first machine, used by the Australian airline, QANTAS, was an AVRO 504K.

In 1915, when he was just 22years old, Roy Chadwick designed The Avro PIKE. A twin engine, pusher biplane bomber, with two, 160hp engines. It was the first bomber in the world to have internal stowage for bombs and a gun turret, aft of the wings. Two later planes had 190hp Rolls Royce engines. Three AVRO "Pikes" are seen here, at Avro's new, Experimental Station at Hamble, Southampton built by Alliott Verdon-Roe (Later Sir Alliott) in 1917 to be the Assembly Works, and Testing Station, for machines built at the Manchester Works( Established by then, at Newton Heath Manchester. ) Roy Chadwick had his Design Office, at Hamble, where he now lived and he went up to the Manchester works frequently, to liase at all levels. He also went to the Admiralty, in London, which controlled aviation and later, throughout his career, to The Air Ministry, in London.

After "The Pike" Roy Chadwick designed three more large fighting planes, one of which became the first Avro Manchester, in1918. In 1916, Roy began to consider single seated fighters, and small aircraft and in 1918 he designed the world's first true, light aeroplane The AVRO BABY. This won a section of the Aerial Derby in 1919, and Avro Test Pilot, Bert Hinkler, flew his machine to Turin 650 miles from England. Hinkler also made the long flight from Sidney to his home in Bundaberg, Australia, on this little machine. Seven types of the "Baby" were made the last being The Antarctic Baby, a floatplane with folding wings, for the last Expedition of the great, Antartic Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, in 1921. In the photo here, are Alliott Verdon -Roe, Roy Chadwick, the Russian pilot Gwaiter, Bert Hinkler, and another pilot, at Hamble, with an Avro Baby sold to Russia and flown there by the pilot. At this time, while up on a test flight, in an AVRO "Baby", Roy had gone up without his flying jacket. It was a cold February day, and he fainted. He "came to" as he was crashing into trees beside the aerodrome. His right arm and left leg, and pelvis were severely fractured, and the joystick went through his neck! He later, made a full recovery , thanks to the skill of the great ,WW1 surgeon: Sir Arbuthnot Lane, at his clinic in London.

Roy Chadwick beside the Avro Baby.

Roy Chadwick's Avro BABY can justly claim to be the ancestor of THE LIGHT AEROPLANE. It had a 35hp water cooled engine, a wing span of 25ft and a gross weight of only 870 lbs (395kg) It had a maximum speed of 80 mph.

Roy Chadwick (right) with the Avro Antartic and pilot of the Shackleton Expedition, Major Carr (centre).

At Hamble, with The AVRO "Antarctic" Baby Roy Chadwick seated far right, after his accident (he used a stick, for several years), with R.J. Parrot the Avro, General Manager, and Major Carr, the pilot of Sir Ernest Shackleton's "Shackleton-Rowett Expedition" to the Antarctic, in1921. This machine, whose wings could be folded, was winched aboard Sir Ernest's vessel, The "Quest", where it lay at anchor in London, before the voyage. Five more types of machine followed, including a racing machine, and a small cabin machine.

Early in 1920, Roy Chadwick designed the world's biggest, single engine bomber: The AVRO ALDERSHOT. A three bay, biplane, with a crew of 4: two pilots, a gunner, and a radio operator/bomb aimer. One prototype was shown at an R.A.F. display At Hendon in June 1922 His Majesty King George the Fifth, and Queen Mary, attended the display. Aldershot's equipped the RAF 99 Squadron in 1923.

Here at Hamble, are Roy Chadwick, two Avro staff members, Alliott Verdon- Roe, a staff member, and Jock Ratcliffe, who was a member of Roy Chadwick's Design Office, beside THE AVRO ALDERSHOT, in 1923.Its wingspan was only 20ft less than the Avro Lancaster.

Members of the Expedition.

About this time, too, Roy Chadwick was designing a seaplane to compete in the Schneider Trophy race. Then he designed a Fleet Gunnery, Spotting machine, which was a variant of the Aldershot, for Coastal defence, or Troop carrying (The Avro AVA.) Followed by an Ultra light monoplane in 1923,and an Ultrahigh biplane. Then a training seaplane, a direct variant of the Avro 504k, of which large numbers were sold. At this time, some members of the Oxford University Air Squadron, under George Binney, formed the Oxford Arctic Expedition, and took with them Roy Chadwick's AVRO ARCTIC,In the photo are Messrs Tymms,Taylor and Ellis ,at Base Camp, Reindeer Peninsula, Liefde Bay, Spitzbergenin the summer of 1924. Their plane, The Avro Arctic is seen below. George Binney, wrote a book "By Seaplane and Sledge in the Arctic" a copy of which is in the University of Oxford Library.

Aeroplane competitions were in full swing, at this time, and Roy Chadwick designed the lightweight, Avro Avis upon which, Bert Hinkler won The Grosvenor Challenge Trophy, in1924. He also designed a variant of The Aldershot which was called The Andover, to be used as an Ambulance Plane, in the Middle East. It could take twelve passengers or 6 stretcher cases. These planes were used by the R.A.F. Now, also, in 1925, Roy Chadwick thinking ahead, as he always did, designed an all metal aeroplane The Avenger. This was a single seater fighter. It came second in the Open Handicap Race at Blackpool with a speed of 180 mph. Roy believed in all metal construction, but it took a while before he could convince the authorities. Many of his subsequent machines, though, had partial steel tube construction.

A famous AVRO aeroplane of the 1920s was The AVRO AVIAN, of 1926. Earlier, Roy Chadwick had collaborated with the Spanish Inventor of The AUTOGIRO the forerunner of today's Helicopters. Senor Juan de la Cierva who's Rotors was mounted on an Avro 504K body. Many Avro "Autogiros" were built in the following years, and used worldwide. For the AVIAN aeroplane, this type of fuselage was used and the whole was of strong construction. It was destined to become a well-known, light, touring aeroplane, and was produced in large quantities. In this photo, Roy Chadwick, Bert Hinkler and R.J. Parrott stand beside Avian G-EBOV. On this machine, Hinkler won three races at Bournemouth in 1927. He then bought the machine, and made a non-stop flight to Riga in Latvia in 1927, a long flight of 1,200 miles. It was wonderful on such a small machine. It had an 85hp Cirrus engine. Then he made a spectacular, solo flight to Australia on it, in February 1928. Bert Hinkler is a National Hero in Australia today. Seven Marks of the Avian were built, and over 400 machines produced, which were sold, worldwide. The Whittlesey Manufacturing Co: in America, made Avians under licence. The Australian, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, a great, Aviation hero, also, made a famous, Solo flight to Australia on his Avian "Southern Cross Junior" in1930. This plane had a 120hp Gipsy engine.

After the Avian, Roy Chadwick designed a fighter and a day bomber. Then, in1928 Avros was sold to the Midlands Industrialist, Sir John Siddeley, who owned among other companies, the aircraft company, Hawkers. Manufacturing rights were purchased from the Fokker Co: for a high wing, commercial monoplane, and Roy Chadwick designed The Avro Ten, to use 3 Siddeley Lynx engines, and to carry eight passengers, and a crew of two. A smaller version: the Avro Five carried 4 passengers. A famous Avro Ten, was "Faith in Australia" owned by the Ace, Pioneer, Australian Pilot Charles Ulm. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith bought five Avro Tens for his Australian National Airways, and Avro Tens were supplied also, to Imperial Airways and Indian State Airways.

Charles Ulm (2nd left) and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, (third left) after a record flight in the 1930s. They are Australian Heroes.

Roy Chadwick with the winner of the Schneider Trophy, Fl Lt Boothman (later AVM, Sir John) who was touring aircraft factories, at Avros in the 1930s

Roy Chadwick at Woodford with the Avro Test Pilot and W. R. Andrews standing beside the Avro Tutor.

After Avros was sold, Roy Chadwick returned to live near Manchester, and to his office at A.V. Roe and Co. Ltd, at Newton Heath, Manchester. The company had bought, in the late 1920s a large piece of land, not far from today's Manchester Airport, to be the company's aerodrome. Also, in 1929, the Air Ministry decided to replace the Avro 504 type training aircraft, which had been in use with the RAF since 1917 and a competition was held, to decide which company would build a replacement. Machines were tested under service conditions for 3 years, and Roy Chadwick's Avro Tutor (Seen here, flying upside down, in formation) was chosen as the RAFs AB Initio Trainer. Roy Chadwick also designed a variant of the Avro 626 with a Cheetah engine, upon which all flying personel could be trained. 380 Tutors were built, and exported to 7 countries, and also, as civilian versions to Australia and Tanganyika. The Avro 626 was exported to 15 countries.

Roy Chadwick's next design was a smaller version of the Tutor, for instructing RAF pilots this was the Avro Cadet. The flying School at Hamble: Air Service Training bought many Cadets and The Royal Australian Air Force, bought 34 machines. Flying Clubs in Britain, bought Cadets, also. The Avro Commodore, followed, which was an enclosed version of the Cadet. Next followed the Avro Eighteen, a variant of the Avro Ten, with a welded steel tube body and from this came the Immortal Avro Anson.( A line up of these versatile aircraft is seen here). Nearly 11,00 were built, and used in WW11 as transport aircraft, and for training Air Crews, in the Empire Air Training Scheme. Originally designed for Imperial Airways in 1933 by Roy Chadwick, he adapted it for The Air Ministry, to be a Coastal Reconnaissance aircraft. It was also used for Air Sea Rescue, and extensively by Air Transport Command during the war.

The Avro Lancaster which has been called the best bomber of World War ll, was designed by Roy Chadwick, as a variant of the Avro Manchester. The Manchester, an all metal, mid winged monoplane, was begun in the late 1930s as Avros submission for the Air Ministry's Specification for a long range bomber. Rolls Royce Vulture engines were to be used. Roy Chadwick, with his extensive knowledge from the First World War, designed a graceful, but rugged aeroplane. His forward thinking led him to design the plane round a remarkable Bomb Bay, capable of housing ten tons of bombs, in many combinations. The new and untried Vulture engines proved to be completely unreliable and over a few weeks from November1940 to January 1941, Roy Chadwick's inspired lengthening of the Manchester wing, and the installation of 4 Rolls Royce Merlin engines, led to the creation of the Avro Lancaster, Over 7,300 Lancaster's were built. 40,000 aircraft workers were engaged on its production. Over 6,000,000 feet of factory floor space was used, throughout the many subsidiary factories. The Lancaster could fly higher, and further than other aircraft it was very manoeuvrable easy to handle, and light on the controls. There are many Lancaster's in Museums in Britain, Australia and Canada, and two that fly, today: "The City of Lincoln" in Britain, and the Mynarsky Lancaster in Canada.

Almost immediately, in 1941, Roy Chadwick designed a long-range transport aircraft, named The Avro York. He used Lancaster wings, undercarriage and tail components, allied to a square fuselage, and mainly, Rolls Royce Merlin Engines. One famous York called "Ascalon" was made for Sir Winston Churchill to use during the war. It carried him to review the Troops in North Africa, and he went to The Yalta Conference in "Ascalon". King George VI th also flew to North Africa in "Ascalon" in 1943. Lord Louis Mount batten's personal plane was an Avro York, when he was Viceroy of India and when The Duke of Gloucester was Governor General of Australia, his personal aircraft was the York "Endeavour". Yorks played a great role, later, taking supplies to Berlin, during The Berlin Airlift in 1947. Its range was 2,700 miles.

As the war progressed, the Air Ministry called for a larger, long-range bomber, for service in the Far East, and Roy Chadwick designed a variant of the Avro Lancaster, with a larger wing span of 120 ft, and a longer fuselage and an ability to fly at 35,000ft this aircraft was named The Avro Lincoln. A pilot wrote that this could be said of the Lincoln: "I change my body but not my spirit" Lincolns saw service in the Far East, post war, and the Argentine Air Force ordered 30 machines in 1947.

In 1944 Avros, at their Waddington factory, began a conversion of the Lancaster, to follow that, which had been made by Victory Aircraft in Canada. This was to make an aircraft for long-range navigational flights. The nose and tail sections were modified and extra fuel tanks added. The new machine was named the Avro Lancastrian and was delivered to The Empire Air Navigation School at RAF Shawbury.The first plane was called Aries, and it set off on the first, circumnavigation of the world. QANTAS airline of Australia used Lancastrians, on their London to Australia flights. BSAA also used Lancastrians on regular flights to South America as did Flota Aerea Mercante Argentina. The Canadian Authorities had established a regular route from Canada toBritain earlier. This plane had a range of 4,100 miles with a 7,500 lb payload.

In November 1946, The Avro Lancastrian fitted with Rolls Royce Nene Jets, was the first JET "Airliner" to fly between two countries: (London to Paris) and its designer, Roy Chadwick was on board.(seen here in the cockpit)

As the war progressed, Roy Chadwick was very anxious that Britain should have its own Civil Aircraft, post war. He began to design an airliner, but due to wartime restrictions, could not design a completely new machine, but had to use existing aircraft parts, tools and jigs. A streamlined, low wing aircraft was the result. Using the Lincoln wing, and 4, Rolls Royce 1,760hp engines. This aircraft was named the Avro Tudor, and it was Britain's first, pressurised airliner. Many modifications were made, to suit the company, which would use the Tudor, and a Tudor Mk 11 was designed to carry 60 passengers. Eventually, the Tudors were used, very successfully, in the Famous Berlin Airlift, in which food and fuel were airlifted into Berlin.

Throughout his career, Roy Chadwick had always had several machines on his drawing board at a time and now was no exception. The RAF asked him to tender for a long range Coastal Command aircraft, with the Lincoln wing, and 2,450 hp Rolls Royce Griffon Engines. He set up a large area of the Chadderton factory, where a Mock-Up was made which was of a plane large enough to hold all the equipment needed, for the surveillance task, it was to undertake. This was in 1946, and Roy Chadwick named it theAvro Shackleton, after Sir Ernest Shackleton the great Antarctic Explorer, and also after his wife's grandmother Agnes Shackleton, who was a distant relative of the explorer. The Shackleton did major work for the RAF in many parts of the Commonwealth, and during the Cold War and it had an exceptionally long life in the service of Britain.

Roy Chadwick was always keen to encourage young people to be interested in aircraft: he had always taken his sisters to the Hamble aerodrome, and then his daughters to Woodford.

Roy Chadwick, seen here, at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys in 1944, as Guest of Honour at an ATC Rally, judging model Lancaster's with ATC Cadet, Peter Bamford. Also, (seen left) At The Institute of Science and Technology, Manchester, in November 1946 with (left to right) The Chancellor of Manchester University who had made Roy Chadwick an Hon: Master of Science and Sir John Cockcroft (Atomic Science) and Sir Harold Hartley. Sir John and Sir Harold were students with Roy Chadwick at the Institute in the early days and all three were receiving Honorary Fellowships of the Institute. A plaque to Roy Chadwick is installed high up on the wall of the Entrance Hall at the Institute of Science and Technology.


RELATED ARTICLES

Gibson won the Victoria Cross and 33 other airmen were awarded medals for gallantry in the raid. A CBE was also awarded to Roy Chadwick, Avro’s chief designer who had conceived the Lancaster bomber.

The honour was fully deserved, since the Dambusters could never have succeeded without the Lancaster, whose unique qualities of robustness and responsiveness made it the ideal plane for such a precision task.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the inventor of the bouncing bomb, Barnes Wallis, wrote in fulsome tones to Chadwick: ‘May I offer you my deepest thanks for the existence of your wonderful Lancaster, the only aircraft in the world capable of doing the job.’

Lancaster Bomber flies over Derwent Dam in Derbyshire in 2016

But the impact of the Lancaster went far beyond the Dams raid. The plane dramatically enhanced the potency of Bomber Command, turning the RAF strategists’ dreams of a hard-hitting aerial offensive against the Reich into a practical reality.

The Lancaster plane dramatically enhanced the potency of Bomber Command

During the crucial years before the D-Day landings in 1944, the nightly Lancaster raids on Nazi Germany effectively formed a second front in Europe alongside the epic struggle by the Soviet Union in the east.

Flying over 156,000 missions against Germany and its ally Italy, the plane dropped around 608,000 tons of bombs. So bullish at the start of its campaign of European conquest, the Reich was forced on to the defensive by the Lancaster. More than two million Germans were engaged in anti-aircraft duties by early 1944.

Lancasters fly over Buckingham Palace for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry watch the fly-past from the balcony

Yet, as the Dams raid proved, the Lancaster was not just a broadsword. Its finesse meant it could also make pin-point attacks. This is the bomber that sank the German battleship the Tirpitz in November 1944, that destroyed one-third of German submarines in their ports and wrecked the transport system in occupied France in the run-up to D-Day, paralysing the movement of German reinforcements.

1944: British ground crew checking load of 1,000lb bombs in the open bomb bay of a Lancaster long range bomber

Similarly, in August 1943, 324 Lancasters led a devastating raid on the Nazi experimental research station at Peenemunde in the Baltic where the V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets were being developed.

Given its role in turning the tide of World War II, it is no exaggeration to describe the Lancaster as by far the most important bomber in the history of the RAF. In fact, Sir Arthur Harris, the tough-minded head of Bomber Command from 1942, once declared that the Lancaster was ‘the greatest single factor in winning the war against Germany’.

The magnificence of the plane lay in its design, which combined a heavyweight punch with speed and manoeuvrability. Harry Yates, a pilot with 75 Squadron, said of the plane: ‘Some products of the hand of man have the uncanny capacity to pull at the heart-strings and that Lancaster was one such.

‘Everything about it was just right. Its muscular, swept lines were beautiful to look at. It flew with effortless grace and had a precise weighted feel. It made the pilot’s job easy. You could throw it all over the skies if you had the physical inclination.’ The plane’s agility was all the more surprising because of its size and bomb-loading capacity.

With a maximum weight of over 30 tons, far heavier than the RAF’s previous generation of bombers such as the Wellington and the Hampden, its standard version could lift on average 14,000lb of bombs, though towards the end of the war a specialised version could carry the colossal 22,000lb Grand Slam ‘earthquake’ bomb, the biggest conventional weapon dropped during the conflict.

‘The Lancaster totally transformed the damage that could be done by bombing operations,’ said RAF crewman Bill Burke. When one Lancaster had to land at the U.S. Army Air Force base in Newark, Nottinghamshire, in bad weather, the pilot opened the bomb doors to show Americans the plane’s underside interior.

One looked in awe at its scale, then declared: ‘Goddam, it’s a flying bomb bay’. Some U.S. experts were so impressed that they suggested the Lancaster should be used to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, but in the end the mission fell to the huge B-29 Superfortress.

Mechanics servicing an RAF Avro Lancaster bomber as the aircrew look on, World War II


One Night In December

13. The Development of the Lancaster.

In Podcast No 5 we discussed some of the more unusual methods crews used to access the bomb bay in flight, and touched on the history and development of the Lancaster.

Pete has written up some notes that you might find of interest. I will post the complete essay at a later date, however here is a taster, and some photographs which may help you visualise more clearly what we are talking about. The podcast lasts for about an hour and can be found here.

The Development of the Avro Lancaster.

The Avro Lancaster can be traced to an Air Ministry Operational Requirement written in the early 1930s. This was long overdue. As I explained in my Anthropology of Strategic Bombing post, the idea of aerial bombing as a war winning strategy had become widely accepted during the inter war years but even the most loyal adherent of General Douhet’s maxim that the ‘bomber would always get through’ must have struggled to believe that a force of RAF Vickers Virginias, Boulton-Paul Overstrands, Handley Page Heyfords and Fairy Hendons could bring about the collapse of a modern industrial society.

(The Handley Page Heyford was the RAF’s ‘express’ night bomber between 1934 and 1937).

A quick literature review brings up plenty of articles in the British press which talked up the RAF’s capability. One notable puff-piece in Flight magazine for example went so far as to describe the Handley Page Heyford (see picture above) as ‘the finest bomber aircraft of its type in existence’. However by the mid 1930s the disparity between aspiration and ability must have been obvious to even the non specialist audience (1). A complete overhaul was required.

In July 1935 the Air Ministry issued Specification P12/36, and this it was hoped, would encourage tenders for a new and more capable four engined heavy bomber. P12/36 called for an aircraft capable of carrying a bomb load of 14,000 lbs for 2,000 miles at 230 mph. This aircraft was to have three powered gun turrets for self defence and also be able to carry 24 fully equipped soldiers on temporary seating in the fuselage. Since it was likely to be operated from unpaved airfields it must also be rugged enough to use a grass runway, and be able to clear a 50 ft obstruction within 500 feet of starting the take off roll. Lastly, as if all this wasn’t enough, each of the major components had to be transportable by standard British troop train !

Clearly this is a very ambitious wish list, but if it could be done, then it would constitute a remarkable leap forward. By comparison the Heyford could just about carry a bomb load of 1500 lbs at 115 mph.

By 1935 the prospect of another European war was becoming obvious. Hitler and Mussolini were firmly in power, a progressive coup in Greece had been crushed and Franco looked likely to win in Spain. However it is interesting to see that the assumptions behind this specification were predicated upon the need to fly the British Army to distant points of the Empire, and once there support them with tactical bombing. The UK was nothing if not a colonial power.

Two tenders were received. The first from Shorts Brothers, which after initial plans to convert an S29 flying boat had been put aside went on to become the four engined Stirling and the second from Supermarine, the Type 316, which after some modifications to the wing planform became the Type 317.

The Supermarine aircraft never flew. The prototype fuselages were destroyed in a German attack on the factory in 1940, and soon afterwards the company was instructed to abandon the project in favour of Spitfire production. Given the threat of invasion at the time this was probably the correct decision, however it is intriguing to run a counter-factual ‘what-if ?’.

The Germans probably never knew how successful that raid on Southampton had been, after all they were targeting British fighter production, but in destroying the 317 they may have killed off the outstanding bomber of the war.

In what drawings remain the 317 looks unusually futuristic with trapezoidal wings and gracefully streamlined curves there is definitely something of Flash Gordon about it – but its projected performance was futuristic too, a maximum speed of 360 mph, an operating ceiling of 30,000 ft, a bomb load of 21,000 lbs and a combat range in excess of 3,000 miles (2). This makes it comparable to a Boeing B29 Superfortress, the war’s most expensive project, but built in suburban Hampshire and operational with the RAF in 1941.

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that a large force of these aircraft, operating from bases beyond the range of German retaliatory bombing may have profoundly altered the landscape of the war. However it is also just as possible that like the TSR-2 twenty five years later, the 317’s reputation benefits from having never been put to the test.

In retrospect the Supermarine performance figures appear rather unlikely, but we will never know.

On 6 September 1935 the Air Ministry released a second specification, this time numbered P13/36 which called for a for a twin-engine medium bomber capable of carrying bombs or torpedoes and operating from airfields or an aircraft carrier anywhere in the world. Given the range of roles assigned to it, this specification was perhaps even more ambitious than the first.

Handley Page won the right to produce a prototype, the HP 56, but soon withdrew from the project, added two engines and made the HP 57, which in time evolved into the Halifax. Avro pursued the twin engined contract alone, and by 1937 had produced the Manchester.

(The early Mk I Avro Manchester).

The Manchester entered service in November 1940 with 207 Sqn, and carried out its first operational mission by attacking the naval dockyards at Brest during the night of 24/25 February 1941. But as we detail in the podcast, the problems encountered in developing the aircraft were enormous, and on several occasions it looked as if the project would be abandoned. Several times during its development the Air Ministry recommended that that the factory space should be given over to Halifax production. Speaking after the war, Jonathan Lake, an Avro Manchester pilot said:

“… the engine made the Manchester mainly notable for its unreliability, poor performance, and general inadequacy to the task at hand …

I was one of the six original pilots to have flown with the first Manchester squadron. That was a disaster. The aircraft itself, the airframe, had many shortcomings in equipment in the beginning, but as we found out, Avro were excellent in doing modifications and re-equipping the aeroplane. The engines never were and never did become reliable. They did not give enough power for the aeroplane, so we ended up with two extremely unreliable 1,750 hp engines having to haul a 50,000-pound aircraft. We should really have had 2,500 hp engines. You felt that if you’d lost one, that was it, you weren’t coming home. It didn’t matter if you feathered the propeller or not. There was only one way you went and that was down.

I have seen an aircraft doing a run up on the ground and have two pistons come right out through the side of the engine. The original bearings were made without any silver as an economy measure, so they weren’t hard enough. The bearings would collapse the connecting rod and the piston would fling out through the side of the engine and bang! Your engine just destroyed itself.” (3).

A Royal Aeronautical Society symposium recently concluded that, “In response to the question why the RAF persisted with such an unsuitable aircraft, the answer is that it was all they had. On the vexed issue of whether aircrews were ever told the depth of the Vulture’s problems, the categoric answer is – mercifully not!” (4).

The 193 operational Manchesters flew 1,269 sorties with Bomber Command, dropping 1,826 tons of bombs and losing 78 aircraft in doing so. A further 45 aircraft were lost due to non-operational reasons, of which more than 30 involved engine failure. This is an astonishing 64% loss rate.

However some creative thinking by Roy Chadwick, the chief design engineer at Avro, had led the company to explore options away from the original specification from the outset. So when an exasperated Air Ministry official told Avro that priority would now only be given to four engined aircraft he found that a team of the company’s designers had been quietly working on a proposal for just that for some time. Six weeks later the four engined prototype of the Manchester Mk III was test flown and immediately renamed the Lancaster. One could uncharitably conclude that this rapid rebranding may have been as much a political move as an administrative one, after all the reputation of the Manchester among the engineers who worked on it and the aircrew who had to go to war in it was pretty awful, but there is little denying that it worked.

As Pete details in the podcast, the progress of the Lancaster thereafter was remarkably quick. The principle reason for this was that although the Manchester as was fatally flawed, Chadwick had in fact got something approaching 70% of the design right (5). The modular airframe construction, the logical positioning of the crew stations in the fuselage (in contrast to the shambolic crew arrangement in the nose of the Halifax), the good visibility afforded to the pilot, the extremely strong main spar and a single large uncomplicated bomb bay were all Manchester characteristics which proved central to the Lancaster’s success.

It is true that some significant technical challenges remained, such as dealing with the alarming swing to port on take off, but on the whole the RAF were impressed with the new aircraft and it passed service acceptance trials at Boscombe Down without much modification.

The first operational Lancaster was delivered to 44 Squadron at Waddington over Christmas 1941, and by 1944 Avro were producing more than 130 aircraft a month. In total 7377 aircraft were built at a cost of 50,000 GBP each, approximately 4,500,000 GBP in 2015 prices (6).

57 Squadron converted to Lancasters whilst at Scampton in September 1942.

Four main Lancaster variants were produced during the war, namely the Mk I, the Mk II with Bristol Hercules radial engines, the Mk III and the Canadian built Mk X. Other variants were manufactured for special projects such as the Mk III Special for the Dams Raid in 1943, and the Mk I Special for the Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs in 1944 and 1945.

(DX-B, a typical example of a main force Avro Lancaster Mk I).

Unfortunately this DX-B is not our aircraft, but rather W5008 the DX-B loaned to 617 for an attack on a power station in Italy. Completed by Metropolitan Vickers at Trafford Park in May 1943 (6) this airframe was lost on the night of the 27/28th August 1943 whilst carrying out an attack on Nuremberg. Six of the crew were killed including the pilot F/O Levy. One crew member, Sgt May the wireless operator, survived and was made a POW (7).

Our DX-B, LM582, was a Mk III and had a H2S blister fitted. On a visit to the RAF Museum at Hendon (thank you Bryan Legate) we traced the history of this aircraft and its eventual demise: but, as they used to say in second rate Victorian novels, forgive me dear reader, for I anticipate …