Friday Fact: The Lancaster flew 160000 sorties
The Lancaster, the most successful night bombers of the Second World War delivered over six hundred thousand long tons of bombs in the first three years of its active duty.
The Lancaster was an exceptionally versatile craft. From aerial reconnaissance to mapping; from refuelling on the fly to bombing runs; from submarine hunting to air-sea rescue, it was able to carry out just about any task. I would not be surprised if Santa had a Lanc stashed away somewhere as a contingency plan if he can`t find the keys for his sleigh. Due to the general purpose of the aircraft, it was fast, it was sturdy, and it could lift a heavy load. The civil sector variant, the Avro Lancastrian was used as high-speed transatlantic passenger and airmail carrier. During the Berlin Blockade, they were used to airlift petrol. British South American Airways` Lancastrian was also the first aircraft to use the newly opened London Heathrow Airport in 1946.
Roy Chadwick, chief designer of the company was working on a design to improve the Avro Manchester`s design; the Manchester was widely regarded as an unreliable craft powered by equally unreliable Rolls-Royce Vulture twin-engines. No surprise there, there were only a few warplanes that worked as intended from the very beginning.
The Avro Lancaster was one of them.
Test pilot Bill Thorn took the control rod and the bird in the air in January 1941 for the first time. Chadwick concentrated on the Rolls-Royce Merlin, a far more reliable, and a bit less powerful engine instead. You can strap four of them on the wings anyway. It proved to be a great improvement on the Manchester.
No. 44 “Rhodesia” was the first Royal Air Force Squadron to convert to the Lancaster in 1942; they flew a total of 4362 sorties. Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Sir Arthur Travers “Bomber” Harris, also known as the “Butcher” by RAF officers fondly referred to the Lanc as the shining sword of the RAF Bomber Command. And for good reason.
Group Captain James Brian Trait of the Royal Air Force let a force of three dozen Lancasters, that first damaged, than capsized the Nazi colossus Tripitz. The 50 000 tons battleship was the sister of Bismarck, destroying it undermined the entire German effort to harass the Allied Arctic supply route. The Lancs were there during Operation Gomorrah, crippling the Nazi armament production in Hamburg. They carried bouncing bombs that devastated the dams in Ruhr Valley; this story made it to the big screen; the film was conveniently titled The Dam Busters.
After the war, they were mostly used for aerial refuelling, photo-reconnaissance, search and rescue.
KB889, a Canadian-built Mark X Lancaster is resting in the Imperial War Museum, Duxford since 1986. How did it get there? By Vanguard, of course! The retired craft has been dismantled and lifted on no less than seven flat trailers, then reassembled at the destination for static display.
They have built 7377 Lancs. Only a dozen and a half survived around the globe.
Two of them are still airworthy. Quite the remarkable little bird.