The Avro Lancaster was Bomber Command’s most famous bomber during World War Two. The Lancaster was used on many occasions on bombing raids in Germany, including the so-called ‘1000 Bomber’ raid on Cologne.
The Lancaster was born out of the unsuccessful Manchester bomber. The original Lancaster was built onto a converted Manchester frame with four Merlin X engines attached to an enlarged wing section.
The first prototype Lancaster first flew on January 9th 1941. By May 1941, a second prototype was designed which was equipped with more powerful Merlin XX engines. In September 1941, the Lancaster was delivered to 44 Squadron for crew training and evaluation. It was an immediate success. The Air Ministry put in large orders almost immediately and the first production Lancaster flew in October 1941. Avro’s first contract was for 1,070 Lancasters but more soon followed. In fact, the orders for the bomber was too much for Avro and work was contracted out to other companies, such as Armstrong Whitley, Vickers Armstrong and Austin Morris. In all, 7,377 Lancasters were built.
The Lancaster was a heavily armed bomber. It had eight 0.303 machine guns in various turrets on board. As time progressed, the bomb bay in the plane was changed to allow such mighty bombs as the ‘Grand Slam’ to be carried. The ‘Grand Slam’ at 22,000 lb (9979 kg) was the heaviest bomb carried in World War Two.
The Lancasters took part in many raids on Germany in World War Two. They were also used in specific raids such as the one on the ‘Tirpitz’ (November 1944) holed up in a Norwegian fjord. The most famous bombing raid by Lancasters was the ‘Dambuster Raids’. For this, Barnes Wallis had to make a number of modifications to the Lancasters that took part in this raid. Nineteen Lancasters took part in this raid on May 17th 1943, with eight planes being lost.
The Lancaster flew more than 156,000 sorties in World War Two. The plane dropped a total of 608,000 tons of high explosive bombs and more than 51 million incendiary bombs.
Maximum speed: 287 mph (462 km/h) at 11,500 feet (3505 metres)
Ceiling height: 24,500 feet (7470 metres)
Range: 2,530 miles (4072 km)
Armament: eight x 0.303 machine guns;
maximum bomb load of one x 22,000 lb Tall Boy bomb (9979 kg)
or 14,000 lb (6350 kg) of smaller bombs.