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The Lancaster

The Lancaster book was written as a complete history of the Avro Lancaster from the drawing board to the present day. Its journey is described in detail as it is introduced as a heavy bomber in the Squadrons of the Allied Forces during World War Two. Its contribution to Bomber Command was immeasurable not only in regular missions but as a Pathfinder aircraft and speciality targets such as the Dam Raids. The seven-person crew positions are explained in detail as they worked as a team to get the job done and the narrative includes personal accounts of an interviewed bomb aimer and tail gunner. The efforts to preserve present day museum and flying example Lancasters are extensively described as the seventy-year-old aircraft continue to educate and awe the public. The narrative is superbly supported by a vast collection of wartime and modern photographs.

Content

Chapter 1 The Avro Lancaster

The need to improve the Royal Air Force's (RAF) bomber capability during the 1930s in face of the rising Nazi threat became very evident. The biplane era was coming to a close and the initial transition to monoplane aircraft resulted in a performance improvement but which still fell short of the perceived realistic bomber requirement. The designers at Avro finally developed the combination of a unique airframe, one continuous bomb bay, and sufficient power, four Rolls Royce Merlin engines, to produce the famous Avro Lancaster bomber. This chapter will describe the evolution of the design and the basic aircraft systems that contributed to its success as the prime RAF bomber of the Second World War.


Chapter 2 The Lancaster Squadrons

The Lancaster Squadrons were scattered throughout Britain with concentrations in certain areas such as Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. They were predominately RAF squadrons but there were other nationalities crewing squadrons, such as the Royal Canadian Air Force. A brief history of the Lancaster squadrons will include mention of some of the major raids that were assigned to these squadrons and the medals awarded for bravery. The specialty Squadrons, such as the Dam Buster and Pathfinder squadrons, will also be mentioned.


Chapter 3 The Lancaster Operations

The scope of Lancaster operations, from Murmansk in the frozen northern regions of Europe to the heat of the deserts in North Africa, confirmed the capability of the aircraft, the crew and the organisational ability of Bomber Command. That such far reaching bombing raids were planned and successfully executed contributed to the success of The Allies to defeat the Third Reich. These missions were in addition to the daily raids, weather permitting, on the industrial heart of Germany. The targets were varied, mostly heavily defended, and exacted a terrible toll on the Squadrons. Losses were extremely high but still the crews departed nightly, scared but optimistic they would survive.


Chapter 4 The Crew

The Lancaster was a tool of war and how that tool was used and performed was up to the crew who manipulated their own particular switches, dials and levers. The functions of the seven crew members will be explained both in their own area of responsibility and together as an operational crew - individually they were formidable, together they were invincible and it was that bonding and thought that carried these young men, night after night, through their goal of completing their missions.


Chapter 5 The Flying Lancasters

The only two flying examples left in the world, out of 7,377 built, and their organisations will be discussed. The history of the individual aircraft will be detailed with a description of the organisations that keep these unique aircraft flying. The organisations are the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in Britain and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Canada. The sight and sound of these aircraft performing at official government functions and airshows is indeed a memorable experience. The summer of 2014 will be the highlight of their museum life as they fly together in formation over the former Bomber Command countryside with its historic abandoned and active RAF Stations.


Chapter 6 The Museum Lancasters

Two museums in the world have restored Lancasters to engine ground run and taxi capability. They are the Lincoln Aviation Heritage Centre (LAHC) and the Bomber Command Museum of Canada (BCMC). A complete history and description of the LAHC will be described from its location at the RAF East Kirkby Bomber Command World War Two airfield to the present-day facilities with the resident restored ground running Lancaster VII, called Just Jane, being the prime exhibit and attraction. The museum funds the operating costs of the aircraft by selling crew positions in the aircraft for taxi runs down the grass runway, certainly a memorable experience. The Nanton Lancaster Society was formed in the small town of Nanton, Alberta, Canada in 1986 to take care of the decaying Lancaster which had been at the entrance to the city for twenty-five years. Subsequent growth changed the name to BCMC as it took on the role of preserving Bomber Command artifacts and collecting other aircraft. The history of restoring the Mark X aircraft will be described leading up to the ground run of all four engines in 2013.


Chapter 7 The Lancaster Experience

The unique experience of being in a Lancaster during a ground run up will be recounted by the author and photographer. The photographer, Martin Keen, has extensive experience with the Lancaster at the Lincoln Aviation Heritage Centre and is familiar with all the sights and sounds of the aircraft during ground run and taxi conditions. The author, Gordon Wilson, a former military and airline pilot, was on-board the Bomber Command Museum of Canada Lancaster during a ground run up demonstration.