The Avro Lancaster was the best night heavy bomber in WWII, and is the most famous of the RAF (Royal Air Force) heavy bombers. It was born after the twin engine Manchester proved a failure because of the inadequacy of its Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. The designs for the Manchester were changed; two more engines were added, the wingspan was increased (first from 80 ft to 90 ft, and then to 102 ft), as well as several other modifications. Thus, the Lancaster was created, with the first one flying in January of 1941.
Lancasters continued to be modified throughout the war, and many versions were made, each with a few small differences. You may have heard, for example, of the famous ‘Dambusters’ who used modified Lancasters to skip ‘bouncing bombs’ into dams in Germany. After the war they were also modified for many civilian and experimental jobs as well.
I’m going to describe the Avro Lancaster Mk. I. Although other versions had slight changes made, this is the basic design of the Lancasters:
The Avro Lancaster Mk. I had eight 7.7-mm machine guns, and a crew of seven. It had two guns in the nose turret, two in the dorsal (upper) turret, and four in the tail turret. The Mk. II had a couple more machine guns in a ventral (lower) turret, but this was not implemented in the majority of the ‘Lancs’, and so did not prevent hundreds of airmen’s lives from being lost to upward firing enemy night-fighters. The Mk. I could carry a maximum of 8,165 kg (18,000 lb) of bomb load, sometimes including a 1800 kg (4000 lb) – or even larger as the war progressed – ‘Cookie’ bomb as well as many more smaller explosives. This impressive bomb-load capacity was almost equal to the American B-29 Superfortress, even though the Lancaster is a much smaller plane. It was 21.18 m (69.5 ft) long, and had a wingspan of 31.09 m (102 ft). It could fly as fast as 394 km/h (245 mph) at sea level, and had a range of up to 3589 km (2230 miles) or slightly less with a full bomb load. It had an operational ceiling of 6706 m (22,000 ft).
Lancasters were the main force behind the night bombing runs over Europe during WWII, serving with the RAF, RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force), as well as other commonwealth air forces. They flew over 156,000 bombing sorties and saw service throughout, and well after the war. In all, Lancasters dropped 618,378 tonnes (that’s over 628,000,000 kilograms!) of bombs on Europe, destroying huge portions of land.
Sadly, almost half of the 7,377 Lancasters ever built were lost in action or accidents. Now only two specimens remain airworthy; one is based in Great Britain and the other in Canada.
Below are some pictures of the Lancaster scale model that I recently finished assembling.
Here are a few more sites where you can read a little more about the Lancaster: