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Avro Lancaster I: Side Plan

Avro Lancaster I: Side Plan

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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]

20 images of Lancaster bombers – seen these?

One of the most iconic planes of the Second World War, the Avro Lancaster. Britains premier four-engined heavy bomber of which over 7,000 were built.

The Lancaster entered service with RAF Bomber Command in 1942 and flew 156,000 sorties, dropping over 608,612 long tons of bombs. Being able to carry 14,000 lb of normal bombs and even the 22,000 lb grand slam bomb it was this bomber that laid waste to German industry, rail yards, bunkers, and cities.

It also was the Lancaster that was used in the Dambusters mission, dropping bouncing bombs that destroyed dams in the Ruhr river.

Seventeen Lancasters survive to this day, two of the are airworthy and a third being prepared for flight.

Photograph looking back over the starboard wing of a Lancaster of No 61 Squadron, Bomber Command, after an attack on U-751 in the Bay of Biscay, 17 July 1942. The U-boat had been attacked and crippled by a Whitley of No 502 Squadron earlier, before being finally sunk by depth charges dropped by the Lancaster.

Back at their base, East Wretham, Norfolk, two members of the crew of Avro Lancaster B Mark II, DS669 ‘KO-L’, of No. 115 Squadron RAF, examine the rear of their aircraft, where the rear turret, with its unfortunate gunner, was sheared off by bombs dropped from an aircraft flying above, during a raid on Cologne on the night of 28/29 June 1943.

The personnel required to keep one Avro Lancaster flying on operations, taken at Scampton, Lincolnshire. Front row (left to right) flying control officer, WAAF parachute packer, meteorological officer, seven aircrew (pilot and captain, navigator and observer, air bomber, flight engineer, wireless operator/air gunner and two air gunners): second row, twelve flight maintenance crew (left to right n.c.o. fitter, flight maintenance mechanic, n.c.o. fitter, five flight maintenance mechanics, electrical mechanic, instrument repairer, and two radio mechanics): third row, bombing up team WAAF tractor driver with a bomb train of 16 Small Bomb Containers (SBC), each loaded with 236 x 4-lb No. 15 incendiaries and, behind, three bombing-up crew: fourth row, seventeen ground servicing crew (left to right corporal mechanic, four aircraft mechanics, engineer officer, fitter/armourer, three armourers, radio mechanic, two instrument repairers, three bomb handlers, machine gunbelt fitter): back row (left to right) AEC Matador petrol tender and two crew, Avro Lancaster B Mark I heavy bomber, mobile workshop and three crew.

A Lancaster Mk III of No. 619 Squadron on a test flight from RAF Coningsby, 14 February 1944.

A No 57 Squadron mid-upper gunner, Sergeant ‘Dusty’ Miller, ‘scans the sky for enemy aircraft’ from a Lancaster’s Fraser Nash FN50 turret. This image was part of a sequence taken for an Air Ministry picture story entitled ‘T for Tommy Makes a Sortie’, which portrayed the events surrounding a single Lancaster bomber and its crew during a typical operation.

Lancaster B Mark III, LM449 ‘PG-H’, of No. 619 Squadron RAF based at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, in flight.

Aircrew of No. 106 Squadron photographed in front of a Lancaster at Syerston, Nottinghamshire, on the morning after the raids on Genoa, 22-23 October 1942. Crews of No 106 Squadron photographed in front of a Lancaster at Syerston, Nottinghamshire, on the morning after the raids on Genoa, 22-23 October 1942. Fourth from the right is Pilot Officer David Shannon, a future ‘Dambuster’ and leading light of No 617 Squadron.

British former prisoners of war prepare to board an Avro Lancaster B Mark I, PB934, of No. 582 Squadron RAF at Lubeck, Germany, for repatriation to the United Kingdom.Canadian PO (A) S Jess, wireless operator of an Avro Lancaster bomber operating from Waddington, Lincolnshire carrying two pigeon boxes. Homing pigeons served as a means of communications in the event of a crash, ditching or radio failure.

Badly Damaged Lancaster Is Brought Back Safely After Attack on Mailly Le Camp

The bomb load most commonly used for area bombing raids (Bomber Command executive codeword ‘Usual’) in the bomb bay of an Avro Lancaster of No. 57 Squadron RAF at Scampton Lincolnshire. ‘Usual’ consisted of a 4,000 impact-fused HC bomb (‘cookie’), and 12 Small Bomb Containers (SBCs) each loaded with incendiaries, in this case, 236 x 4-lb incendiary sticks.

Flying Officer J B Burnside, the flight engineer on board an Avro Lancaster B Mark III of No. 619 Squadron RAF based at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, checks settings on the control panel from his seat in the cockpit.Flying Officer P Ingleby, the navigator of an Avro Lancaster B Mark III of No. 619 Squadron RAF based at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, seated at his table in the aircraft.

Flying Officer P Ingleby, the navigator of an Avro Lancaster B Mark III of No. 619 Squadron RAF based at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, seated at his table in the aircraft.

Flying Officer R W Stewart, a wireless operator on board an Avro Lancaster B Mark I of No. 57 Squadron RAF based at Scampton, Lincolnshire, speaking to the pilot from his position in front of the Marconi T1154/R1155 transmitter/receiver set.

Aerial photograph of an attack by Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster bombers on St. Vith, Belgium, on 26 December 1944.

The damaged fuselage and mid-upper turret of Avro Lancaster B Mark I, R5700 ‘ZN-G’, of No. 106 Squadron RAF based at Syerston, Nottinghamshire, after crash-landing at Hardwick, Norfolk, following an attack by a German fighter over Essen. R5700, was among 60 aircraft taking part in the first “Oboe” raid on Essen on the night of 13/14 January 1943, when it was twice attacked by a Focke Wulf Fw 190 “Wilde Sau” night-fighter shortly after bombing the target. The aircraft was severely damaged, the rear gunner was badly wounded and the mid-upper gunner, Sergeant J B Hood, was killed, but the pilot, Sergeant P N Reed, managed to fly the crippled bomber as far as the USAAF base at Hardwick before executing a successful crash-landing. Three weeks later, Sergeant Reed and his crew failed to return from a raid on Hamburg.

The rear section of Avro Lancaster B Mark I, DV305 ‘BQ-O’, No. 550 Squadron RAF based at North Killingholme, Lincolnshire, seen at Woodbridge Emergency Landing Ground, Suffolk, after the severely-damaged aircraft crash-landed there following an attack by a German night fighter over Berlin on the night of 30/31 January 1944. In the course of the attack both the rear gunner and the mid-upper gunner were killed, and the bomb-aimer baled out having misunderstood orders. The pilot, Flying Officer G A Morrison, managed to bring the crippled aircraft back without any navigation aids.

Aircrew and ground staff of No. 467 Squadron, RAAF at RAF Waddington, UK, celebrate the completion of 100 operations by the Avro Lancaster R5868 ‘S for Sugar’ after its sortie on 11 – 12 May 1944 to a communications target in Belgium.

Ground crew servicing an Avro Lancaster of No 300 Polish Bomber Squadron RAF at Faldingworth, Lincolnshire.

One of the last great RAF-raids together with RCAF and FAFL against germany. This raid was intended to knock out the coastal batteries on this Frisian island which controlled the approaches to the ports of Bremen and Wilhelmshaven.

Avro Lancaster I: Side Plan - History

    The Lancaster flew for the first time on January 9, 1941 as a four-engine development of the Avro Manchester. The RAF began to equip with Mk Is in early 1942, and used them first on March 10th against targets in Essen. Altogether, more than 7,300 Lancasters were produced in Britain as Mks I to VII and in Canada as Mk Xs, and they dropped more than 608,000 tons of bombs on 156,000 wartime missions. Some Lancasters were still flying with the RAF in the early 1950s as maritime-reconnaissance, photo-reconnaissance and rescue aircraft.

    Like all successful aircraft, the Lancaster not only looked good but its flying characteristics matched its appearance. It is all the more ironic therefore that the birth of Avro's mighty machine owed so much to failure, the failure of its immediate predecessor, the twin engine Avro Manchester . The Avro 683 evolved almost accidentally as a result of recurrent failure of the insufficiently developed Rolls Royce Vulture engines installed on the Manchester .

The Avro 679 Manchester was the predecessor to the Lancaster, which performed
poorly due to the inadequacies of its Rolls Royce Vulture engines.

    In May 1936, Group Captain R.D. Oxland, Director of the Air Ministry's Operational Requirements, issued specification P.131/36 for a twin engine bomber capable of carrying internally a 12,000 lb maximum bomb load, or a single 8,000 lb bomb, or a pair of torpedoes. Two firms were invited to build prototypes of their design submissions, Handley Page submitted the HP 56 and Avro the 679. During the trials, the HP 56 was rejected, because of a projected shortage of Rolls-Royce engines. Within weeks of Avro receiving a prototype order, a production order was placed for 200 machines to the new Specification 191/37.

    Large when compared with other twin engine aircraft the P.131/36 was actually powered by four Rolls-Royce engines. Under the designation Vulture, Rolls-Royce had mated a pair of V12 cylinder Kestrel engines with a common crankcase creating a 24 cylinder "X" engine and a lot of trouble. On July 25, 1939, the prototype, L7246 was flown for the first time with Group Captain H.A. Brown at the controls. While airborne for only 17 minutes, it was long enough to realize that the Vulture engines were turning out much less power than anticipated and wing loading made the aircraft extremely difficult to fly.

    To correct lateral instability a central fin was added to the second prototype, L7247, which flew for the first time on May 26,1940. The second machine was armed with six .303 Browning machine guns, two in the nose, ventral and tail turrets. Production quickly followed with the first production machine, L7276, rolling out on August 5, 1940 during the height of the Battle of Britain. Production machines had a wing span increase and the ventral turret was removed to the dorsal position. The need for additional modifications and the urgency of manufacturing fighters slowed down production of the P.13136, which was now known as the Manchester. L7277. The second production machine, was not delivered until October 25, 1940.

    This second production machine was delivered to No. 207 Squadron at Waddington under the command of Wing Commander Hyde, which had been reformed to work up the still secret Manchester. By the end of the year, No. 207 Squadron had received some twenty machines. On January 9, 1941, the existence of the Manchester was revealed to the full RAF and on February 24, six Manchesters were part of the attacking force raiding Brest where a Hipper class cruiser was reported. All machines returned safely, but L7284 crash landed at Waddington when the hydraulic system failed. Trouble with the hydraulic system persisted, but was eventually traced to an oil leak which fouled the undercarriage micro switches and was corrected.

    Problems with the Vulture power plants were not so easily solved however, and No. 207 Squadron seldom had more than five machines serviceable at one time. On the night of March 13, 1941, the first Manchester was lost to enemy action when L7319 was shot down shortly after takeoff from Waddington by Feld W. Hans Hahn of I/NJG 2. Most of the Manchester's mechanical problems by now had been solved and a second assembly line, at Metropolitan Vickers, which began turning out machines for the new Squadrons being formed. The basic problem with the Manchester, that of being underpowered, was still to be addressed. With a service ceiling of only 10,000 feet, the loss of one engine resulted in an almost immediate loss of height. The poor performance of the Manchester caused one squadron to (only half-jokingly) plan their squadron reunion in POW camp.

    In April, all Manchesters were grounded when faults were found in the Vulture engine bearings. On June 16, the Manchesters were again grounded to modify the cooling system, and again on June 30 for complete engine overhauls and testing, the results of which were a further series of modifications.

    On August 7, operations were resumed at which time two further faults showed up. The tail flutter, which was eventually corrected by redesigning the tail to an enlarged twin fin configuration under the designation Manchester IA, and the propeller feathering problem which was not so easily traced. Engine problems seemed to increase rather than abate and casualties grew.

    During initial trials of the Manchester prototype, it had been quickly realized that the 24 cylinder Vultures were not turning out the anticipated power. Two projects were initiated to correct the situation, replacement of the Vultures with a pair of Napier Sabre or Bristol Centaurus engines, keeping the twin engine configuration under the designation Manchester Mk II, or by reconfiguring the aircraft to a four engine machine under the designation Manchester Mk III. The four engine solution was completed first, and so successfully that the twin engine projects were dropped out of hand.

Only 300 Lancaster IIs were built with 1,650 hp Bristol Hercules VI radial engines.

    Owing to delays in the full development of the Vulture engine, the decision was taken in mid 1940 to design a new version of the Manchester with four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The first conversion made use of about 75 per cent of the Manchester's parts and assemblies, the principal change being the provision of a new center section of the wing with mountings for Merlin engines. This aircraft became the first prototype of the Lancaster. A second prototype fitted with Merlins and significantly modified in detail was designed, built and flown in just eight months. The first production Lancaster I flew just over five months later, its power plant comprising similar 954 kW (1,280 hp) Rolls-Royce Merlin XX Vee, liquid-cooled engines, each driving a three-blade constant-speed and fully feathering propeller. Because of the possibility of some interruption in Merlin production, the Lancaster II was built with 1,230 kW (1,650 hp) Bristol Hercules VI radial engines. These fears did not materialize, with the result that only 300 Lancaster IIs were built.

    BT308, a standard Manchester airframe, was fitted with a new wing center section into which were installed four of the very reliable Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines. Flying for the first time on January 9, 1941, that flight was enough to convince Roy Dobson and his designers that true success had been achieved.

    The doubling from two to four motors meant an increase in the Manchester's maximum bomb load, from 10,350 lbs to an operational average of 12,000/14,000 lbs. Fuel capacity was increased from 1,700 to 2,154 gallons and range increased from 1,200 miles to 2,350 miles. Bomber Command now had a bomber that could penetrate deep into Nazi occupied Europe with a much larger bomb load and could reasonably expect to evade or fight off all that the enemy could provide in defensive measures—and at an altitude more than double the Manchester's meager 10,000 foot ceiling. Of even more importance to the crews flying the bomber into enemy air space was the security afforded them by the reliability of the newly installed Merlin power plants.

    Official testing at Boscombe Down during March found that the elevators and ailerons responded well at either end of an I.A.S. range of 100 to 290 mph, but rudder pressure did increase with speed. The strong tendency to swing to port during takeoff was solved by advancing the port-outer throttle and raising the tail quickly, to allow the pilot to bring the rudders into play.

    In May the second prototype, DG595, took to the air. In contrast to BT308, she carried both mid-upper and ventral turrets and a newly designed and enlarged twin tail configuration which discarded the center fin. New 1,280 HP Merlin XX engines had been installed in place of the earlier Merlin Xs. The RAF now had a bomber with which it could wage war in Germany. There would be no more talk around the squadrons about reunions in POW camp!

Avro lancaster I - "Admiral Prune," 106 Sq., Syerston
November 1942
Guy Gibson
Photo from 617 Squadron the "Dambusters"
In 1942 Guy Gibson expressed a desire to return to Bomber Command, and he soon received a telegram asking him to report for an interview with the newly appointed C-in-C Bomber Command, "Bomber" Harris. Apparently the interview must have gone well because two days later another telegram arrived telling him he was to command the 106th Bomber Squadron at Coningsby, in Lincolnshire. Gibson named his aircraft "Admiral Prune," and the aircraft's side was decorated with a Mickey Mouse figure with bombs underneath, depicting the number of trips the aircraft carried out.

    First operational RAF squadron to be equipped with Lancasters was No 44, which used them operationally for the first time on March 3, 1942 laying mines in the Heligoland Bight. Defended by ten machine-guns and carrying a maximum bomb load of 6,350 kg (14,000 lb). The Lancaster was, and soon proved itself to be a formidable weapon in the hands of the RAF, which had, by mid 1942, learned a great deal about night bombing operations over Europe. By comparison with contemporary four-engined bombers it was statistically the most effective, dropping 132 tons of bombs for each aircraft lost on operations the corresponding figure for the Halifax and Stirling were 56 and 41 tons respectively. The Lancaster was so right from the beginning that there were very few changes in airframe design during its wartime service. Improved power plants, however, provided steadily improving performance: the Lancaster VII, for example, with 1,207 kW (1,620 hp) Merlin 24 engines, had a maximum takeoff weight of 30,844 kg (68,000 lb) by comparison with the 22,680 kg (50,000 lb) of the early Is. Bomb load changed considerably, the cavernous bomb bay being designed originally to carry bombs of up to 4,000 lb, with a total bomb load of 6,350 kg (14,000 lb) it was modified progressively to carry the 22,000 lb Grand Slam bomb.

    The Lancaster will be remembered for its part in two spectacular operations: the breaching of the Mohne and Eder dams on the night of May 16-17,1943 by No 617 Squadron (led by Wing Cdr. Guy Gibson) and the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz Its contribution to victory in World War II is best measured, however, by the total of 608,612 tons of bombs delivered, which represented two-thirds of the total bomb load dropped by the RAF from the time of its entry into service. A total of 7,366 Lancasters were built (including Mk Xs in Canada) and the type remained in front-line service with the RAF until 1954. Canada had some photo-reconnaissance Lancasters in service in 1964.

Manufactured by Victory Aircraft in 1945, converted by Avro Canada to
Mk.19P in 1949. This aircraft was retired on September 29, 1962.

Lancaster I
Wing span: 102 ft 0 in (31.09 m)
Length: 69 ft 4 in (21.13 m)
Height: 19 ft 7 in (5.97 m)
Empty: 36,900 lb. (16,738 kg)
Normal: 53,000 lb (24,062 kg)
Maximum Speed: 287 mph (462 km/h)
Service Ceiling: 24,500 ft. (7,470 m)
Range: 1,660 miles (2,670 km)
Four 954.5 kW (1,280 hp) Rolls-Royce Merlin 24s
12 cylinder Vee engines.
Ten 0.303 in machine-guns and up to 14,000 lb
(6,350 kg) of bombs, maximum one 22,000 (9,988) bomb.

RAF Bomber Sorties and Losses:
1939 - 1945
Night sorties: 297,663
Losses: 7,449
Day sorties: 876

British and American Bomber Offensive against Germany
1939 - 1945
RAF Bomber Command
1939 31 tons
1940 13,033 tons
1941 31,504 tons
1942 45,561 tons
1943 157,457 tons
1944 525,518 tons
1945 191,540 tons
Total: 964,644 tons
U.S. 8th Air Force
1939 -
1940 -
1941 -
1942 1,561 tons
1943 44,165 tons
1944 389,119 tons
1945 188,573 tons
Total: 623,418 tons

© The Aviation History On-Line Museum. All rights reserved.
Created May 19, 2007. Updated May 24, 2015.

Avro Lancaster I: Side Plan - History

Avro 691 &ldquoLancastrian&rdquo
British four-engine transport/airliner

Archive Photos [1,2] ¹

[Airplane Card: &ldquoAvro 691 Lancastrian&rdquo, Barbers Teas, UK, 1956, Card 10 of 25. (The Skytamer Archive copyright © 2013 Skytamer Images) [2] ]

Overview [3]

  • Role: Passenger and mail transport
  • Manufacturer: Avro
  • Designer: Roy Chadwick
  • First flight: 1943
  • Introduction: 1945 (BOAC)
  • Retired: 1960
  • Primary users: BOAC Trans Canada Airlines Alitalia Royal Air Force Rolls-Royce (engine test-beds)
  • Produced: 1943-1945
  • Number built: 91 (including conversions)
  • Developed from: Avro Lancaster

The Avro 691 Lancastrian was a Canadian and British passenger and mail transport aircraft of the 1940s and 1950s developed from the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber. The Lancaster was named after Lancaster, Lancashire a Lancastrian is an inhabitant of Lancashire.

The Lancastrian was basically a modified Lancaster bomber without armor or armament and with the gun turrets replaced by streamlined metal fairings, including a new nose section. The initial batch was converted directly from Lancasters later batches were new builds.

Design and Development [3]

In 1943, Canada's Victory Aircraft converted a Lancaster × bomber for civil transport duties with Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA). (After the war Victory Aircraft was purchased by what became Avro Canada). This conversion was a success resulting in eight additional Lancaster Xs being converted. The "specials" were powered by Packard-built Merlin 38 engines and featured a lengthened, streamlined nose and tail cone. Range was increased by two 400 gal (1,818 L) Lancaster long-range fuel tanks fitted as standard in the bomb bay. These Lancastrians were used by TCA on its Montreal-Prestwick route.

The modification of abundant military aircraft into desperately needed civil transports was common in the United Kingdom in the immediate post-war period: the Handley Page Halton was a similar conversion of the Halifax heavy bomber.

Operational History [3]

In 1945, deliveries commenced of 30 British-built Lancastrians for BOAC. On a demonstration flight on 23 April 1945 (G-AGLF) flew 13,500 mi (21,700 km) from England to Auckland, New Zealand in three days, 14 hours at an average speed of 220 mph (354 km/h).

The Lancastrian was fast, had a long range, and was capable of carrying a heavy load, but space inside was very limited as the Lancaster had been designed with space for its 7 crew dispersed through the fuselage, and the 33 ft (10.05 m) long bomb bay. Consequently it was not suited to carry large numbers of passengers, but for mail and a small number of VIP passengers. BOAC used it for flights between England and Australia from 31 May 1945. It also served with the RAF RAF Lancaster I (PD328) was converted to a Lancastrian and renamed Aries, as well as serving with QANTAS and Flota Aérea Mercante Argentina.

Lancastrians were used during the Berlin Airlift to transport petrol 15 aircraft made over 5,000 trips. In 1946 a Lancastrian operated by BSAA was the first aircraft to make a scheduled flight from the then-newly opened London Heathrow Airport.

Lancastrian Engine Test-beds [3]

With the advent of gas turbine engines there emerged a need to test the new engines in a controlled flight environment in well instrumented installations. An ideal candidate emerged as the Avro Lancastrian which could easily accommodate the test instrumentation as well as fly on the power of two piston engines if required. Several Lancastrians were allocated for engine test-bed work with turbojet engines replacing the outer Merlin engines or test piston engines in the inner nacelles. Fuel arrangements varied but could include Kerosene jet fuel in outer wing tanks or fuselage tanks, with AVGAS carried in remaining fuel tanks.

Name Serial Test Engine First Flight Notes
VH742 2 × Rolls-Royce Nene + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 8/14/1946 Flew the first international all-jet passenger flight from London to Paris on 23 November 1946.
Nene-Lancastrian VH737 2 × Rolls-Royce Nene + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin
Avon-Lancastrian VM732 2 × Rolls-Royce Avon + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin
Avon-Lancastrian VL970 2 × Rolls-Royce Avon + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin Latterly used to test the Rolls-Royce Avon 502 civil turbojet for the de Havilland Comet 2 airliner.
Ghost-Lancastrian VM703 2 × de Havilland Ghost 50 + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin + 2 × Walter HWK 109-500 RATOG packs 7/24/1947 Testing the Engines and take-off boost system proposed for the de Havilland Comet 1 airliner
Ghost-Lancastrian VM729 2 × de Havilland Ghost 50 + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin Used for afterburner research and later development and certification of the Ghost 50 for the Comet 1a.
Sapphire-Lancastrian VM733 2 × Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 1/18/1950
Griffon-Lancastrian VM704 2 × Rolls-Royce Griffon 57 inboard + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin T.24/4 outboard Used for testing the Griffon installation for the Avro Shackleton
Griffon-Lancastrian VM728 2 × Rolls-Royce Griffon 57 inboard + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin T.24/4 outboard Used for testing the Griffon installation for the Avro Shackleton
VM704 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 600 + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin

The B.S.A.A Lancastrian 3, &ldquoStar Dust&rdquo [3]

On 2 August 1947 Lancastrian &ldquoStar Dust&rdquo (G-AGWH) of British South American Airways was lost in the Argentine Andes, whilst en route from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile. The probable cause of the crash was a navigation error due to the then-unknown effect of the fast-moving jetstream.

Variants [3]

  • Lancaster XPP: Nine built by converting Lancasters at Victory Aircraft Ltd. Canada.
  • Lancastrian C.1: Nine-seat transport aircraft for BOAC and Qantas. Royal Air Force designation Lancastrian C.1 to Specification 16/44. A total of 23 built by Avro.
  • Lancastrian C.2: Nine-seat military transport aircraft for the RAF. A total of 33 built by Avro.
  • Lancastrian 3: 13-seat transport aircraft for British South American Airways. A total of 18 built by Avro.
  • Lancastrian C.4: Ten to 13-seat military transport aircraft for the RAF. Eight built by Avro.

Operators [3]

Civil Operators

  • Argentina: Flota Aérea Mercante Argentina
  • Australia: Qantas
  • Canada: Trans Canada Airlines
  • Italy: Alitalia - six Lancastrians operated circa 1948
  • United Kingdom: British European Airways British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) British South American Airways Flight Refuelling Ltd. Silver City Skyways Limited

Military Operators

Avro 691 &ldquo Lancastrian &rdquo Specifications [4]


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Same as Lancaster but with new nose and tail fairings
  • 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

  • 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).


  • Four 1,280-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 24 twelve-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled engines with two-speed superchargers.
  • Three-blade de Havilland constant-speed full-feathering airscrews.
  • Fuel tanks in wings (2,154 Imp. gallons) and in fuselage beneath cabin floor (1,020 Imp. gallons).


  • Crew of five and nine passengers.
  • Two pilots side-by-side with dual controls.
  • Navigator and radio-operator behind pilots.
  • Passenger cabin with seats for nine on port side facing inwards.
  • These seats may be converted into three sleeping bunks by lowering seat backs.
  • Three further bunks pull down from the roof above the seats.
  • Sound proofing, ventilation and oxygen equipment.
  • Toilets and gallery.
  • Mail and freight carried in nose compartment and beneath floor of cabin.
  • Storage aft of passenger accommodation for life-saving dinghies.
  • Span: 102 ft 0 in
  • Length: 76 ft 10 in
  • Height: 19 ft 6 in
  • Net wing area: 1,205 ft²
  • Gross wing area: 1,297 ft²

Weights and Loadings:

  • Tare weight: 3,426 lbs
  • Fixed and removable equipment (including electrical, instruments, auto-controls, radio, de-icing, dinghies, heating and ventilation, and oxygen): 4,160 lbs
  • Furnishings (including bunks, mattresses, settees, toilets, upholstery, carpets, sound-proofing, galley, food and water): 1,564 lbs
  • Weight fully equipped and furnished: 36,150 lbs
  • Fuel (3,174 Imp. gallons): 22,853 lbs
  • Oil (150 Imp. gallons): 1,350 lbs
  • Crew (5 at 170 lbs): 850 lbs
  • Crew baggage: 200 lbs
  • Passengers (9 at 170 lbs each): 1,530 lbs
  • Passenger's baggage: 495 lbs
  • Mail or freight: 1,572 lbs
  • Payload (passengers, baggage and cargo): 3,597 lbs
  • Maximum payload (with corresponding reduction in fuel): 4,845 lbs
  • Weight loaded: 65,000 lbs.
  • Wing loading: 50.10 lbs/ft²
  • Power loading: 12.7 lbs/hp


  • Maximum speed at 3,500 ft with a mean weight of 53,000 lbs: 295 mph at 12,000 ft: 310 mph
  • Maximum weak mixture cruising speed at 11,000 feet: 275 mph at 17,500 ft: 285 mph
  • Rate of climb at 9,500 ft with a weight of 65,000 lbs: 750 ft/min at 16,000 feet: 550 ft/min
  • Service ceiling: 23,000 feet

Under still air conditions with no allowance for take-off and climb and using 3,174 Imp. gallons of fuel and caring 3,597 lbs payload at 15,000 ft).

  • At maximum weak mixture cruising speed of 265 mph: 3,570 miles
  • At speed between most economical and maximum weak mixture cruising speed of 232 mph: 3,950 miles
  • At most economical speed of 200 mph: 4,501 miles
  1. Shupek, John. Avro 691 Lancastrian 3-view drawing via The Skytamer Archive (3-view drawing by John Shupek copyright © 2013 Skytamer Images. All Rights Reserved)
  2. Barbers Teas, &ldquoAirplanes&rdquo, Airplane Trade Cards, 1956, UK
  3. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Avro Lancastrian
  4. Bridgman, Leonard, &ldquoAvro: The Avro 688 Tudor I (Avro XX).&rdquo Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1945/1946. Sampson Low, Marston & Company Limited, London, 1946. pp. 13c-14c

Copyright © 1998-2020 (Our 22 nd Year) Skytamer Images, Whittier, California
All rights reserved

Avro Lancaster (Crew Positions)

The crew compartment in an Avro Lancaster consisted of a single deck to accommodate the Pilot, Navigator (and the Set Operator when introduced), Air Bomber, Wireless Operator and Flight Engineer. Gunners were accommodated in a mid and rear turret

Pilot’s Position

Flight Engineer’s Position

The primary role of the Flight Engineer was to “act as the link between aircrew and ground crew for the care and maintenance of the aircraft, to carry out engineering checks before, during and post flight and to assist the pilot during take off and landing”.

His position, which was situated to the right of the pilot, was equipped with a panel which enabled him to monitor the engines and the various hydraulic systems and to transfer fuel from one tank to another

During take off and landing, he was seated on a fold down seat, thereby enabling him to assist the pilot with some of the controls.

Navigator’s Position

The primary role of the Navigator was “to know the aircraft position at all times and to provide the pilot with courses to steer to achieve the sortie objective”

His position was situated on the port side of the aircraft, behind the Pilot and Flight Engineer and in front of the Wireless Operator’s position

Initially the Navigator relied on map reading, dead reckoning, astro navigation and visual aids to enable him to plot the position of the aircraft and the subsequent course.

However, the development of radar enabled systems such as Gee, H2S and Oboe to assist with the navigational process.

Some crews carried an additional navigator (known as the Set Operator [*]) whose primary role was to provide the navigator with radar fixes throughout the flight.

(*) Post War, these became known as the the Nav. [Radar], with the navigator known as the Nav. [Plotter]

Air Bomber’s Position

The primary role of the Air Bomber was “to act as the eyes of the navigator throughout the flight and then, when approaching the target area, to move himself to the Air Bomber’s position to enable him to direct the pilot over the target, identify the aiming point and trigger the release of the bombs”

Whilst the Air Bomber’s position was in the nose of the aircraft, he spent the bulk of the flight seated beside the Navigator so that he could provide fixes, weather reports etc to assist the navigation process.

Wireless Operator’s Position

The primary role of the Wireless Operator was “to keep his aircraft constantly in touch with the ground by sending and receiving all information, reports and orders vital to the success of the sortie and the safety of the aircraft”

His position was situated in a compartment on the port side of the aircraft.

Lancaster Wireless Operator IWM CH8790

The position was equipped with a R1155 receiver which enabled the wireless operator (WOP) to listen to (and log) half hourly messages sent from Group headquarters which were transmitted in Morse code via MF [over UK] or HF [over Europe].

As well as operating the wireless equipment, the Wireless Operator was also required to act as an air gunner in an emergency, to discharge “Window”, and, when the concept of a navigation team was introduced, he was also responsible for monitoring the “Monica” or “Fishpond” equipment.

Gunners’ Positions

The primary role of the Air Gunners was “to be the eyes and the sting of the aircraft, by warning the pilot of approaching enemy aircraft, telling him what tactics to adopt to evade action, and, if combat does develop, to destroy or drive off the enemy”

Their positions, which were situated in the middle (mid-upper) and rear of the Lancaster, were fitted with the following turret types:

  • Mid-Upper Turret: Frazer-Nash FN50 (FN150 on later versions)
  • Rear Turret: Frazer-Nash FN20 (FN120 / FN121 on later versions)

Avro Lancaster: The Night Raider

Avro Lancaster Mark IIIs of No. 207 Squadron, Royal Air Force, strike Berlin in late 1943.

The Avro Lancaster rained terror on Germany but never attained the B-17’s fame, even though it could carry twice the bombload over an equal distance.

The brilliant comedic artist Bruce McCall illustrated a 1971 article in playboy magazine titled “Major Howdy Bixby’s Album of Forgotten Warbirds.”

It was a catalogue of aircraft encapsulating several nations’ worst aeronautical excesses, in a manner that today might be considered politically incorrect. The Italian fighter was double-ended so it could switch sides instantly. The Japanese Kak­aka Shirley was an amphibious pedal-bomber, and the American candidate was a primary trainer with all 19 student pilots under one 50-yard-long greenhouse, for the sake of economy.

The British representative was the Humbley-Pudge Gallipoli Heavyish Bomber. “Four Varley Panjandrum engines screwed her up to a cruising altitude several feet over the legal minimum of the day,” read the accompanying text. “The last survivor serves today as a chicken house—albeit an impressive one—for the Maharani of Gunjipor. It crash-landed on her lawn in 1944, but the RAF, despite numerous reminders, simply keeps forgetting to come round and pick it up.”

Ouch. But not far from the truth. Handley Page Heyfords and Hampdens, Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys, Fairey Hendons, Vickers Wellingtons, Short Stirlings—a long string of mulish two- and four-engine bombers with all the grace of railroad boxcars and not much better performance had been the Royal Air Force’s stock in trade for far too long.

Yet sired by this force of low-and-slow bomb trucks came the single most useful heavy bomber of World War II over Europe: the Avro Lancaster. Not as stylish or high-performance as the Boeing B-17, the lumbering Lanc forewent coolness points in favor of typically carrying two or three times a Flying Fortress’ bombload to Germany.

The Lancaster’s bomb bay was so huge that it was the only WWII airplane that could heft the RAF’s 22,000-pound Grand Slam bomb and take it up to 18,000 feet, an altitude that allowed it to attain a near-supersonic, concrete-penetrating terminal velocity. Grand Slams were so expensive—only 41 were ever dropped on German targets—that Lanc crews were forbidden to jettison them. The special Lancasters that carried them not only had bellied-out bomb-bay doors but special landing gear for overweight landings.

Hard to imagine, but the Lancaster was directly descended from the twin-engine Avro Manchester, the least successful of the RAF’s covey of “heavyish” bombers. The Manchester project involved that bane of aircraft builders, a new airframe plus an unproven engine, the Rolls-Royce Vulture. The Vulture was an X-24: four banks of six cylinders each, arranged in a star pattern around a common crankcase and crankshaft. The cylinder banks were from Rolls’ Peregrine V-12, a small, 880-hp predecessor of the Merlin.

Rolls hoped the Vulture would generate 1,760 hp, with further upgrades inevitable. But it turned out that localizing all 24 connecting rods around a single central crank created cooling and oil-feed problems, and the Vulture probably never ran semi-reliably at more than 1,450 to 1,550 hp and too often spun its bearings. So Avro was left with an excellent but underpowered twin-engine airframe. The Manchester’s designer, the legendary Roy Chadwick, saw this coming and had already made plans for a four-Merlin-engine Manchester.

The Air Ministry, however, wouldn’t hear of it. Avro asked for the necessary engines and scarce aluminum alloy to create a prototype, and was told by one particular Colonel Blimp to go pound sand. Actually, he told Avro to “go dig for it.” As far as the RAF was concerned, it already had the four-engine Handley Page Halifax and didn’t need to complicate the picture.

The Lancaster was developed from the twin-engine Manchester. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images).

As it turned out, Avro had some very good friends at Rolls-Royce and found itself in possession of four Merlins. The engineers scrounged up the necessary metal for a prototype, and the resultant Manchester III was quickly renamed Lancaster, in order to cast off any suggestion of its unfortunate parentage.

Unlike almost every other WWII airplane, the Lanc was good to go when it first went into production. The first Lancaster I to fly an operational mission, in March 1942, was virtually identical to the last one over Germany, in late April 1945. And there were only three Lancaster versions to ever be produced in quantity: the Mark I, with British-built Merlin engines 300-odd Mark IIs, with Bristol Hercules sleeve-valve radials and the Mark III, with American Packard-built Merlins. Not that Lancs were perfect the Air Ministry decided that unless a modification produced major benefits, it was better to continue producing basic Lancasters without interruption. Ultimately, 7,377 were built, 430 of them in Canada.

Manchester parentage wasn’t all bad. When the Air Ministry had first proposed that twin-engine bomber, they wanted all manner of irrelevant capabilities. The new bomber was to be catapult-launchable, so it could use existing RAF grass fields. It was to be quickly convertible into a troop carrier, and it needed to carry two big torpedoes for anti-shipping use.

The silly requirements fell by the wayside, but the Manchester ended up with a 33-foot-long bomb bay for torpedoes that it never carried. No spar boxes crossed it, no fuselage framing obstructed it. That feature became part of the Lancaster, enabling it to carry the bombload of two B-17s over the same distance, and requiring only seven crewmen to do it rather than 10.

The bomb bay also created the Lanc’s distinctive multipaned cockpit, which had to be set high in order to clear room beneath it for the forward part of the bay. A B-17’s bomb bay was aft of the flight deck.

Lancasters rarely operated in daytime. Bomber Command’s nighttime tactics were entirely unlike the U.S. Army Air Forces’ formation-driven daylight raids. Lancasters and whatever other bombers were involved flew independently, in 200-mile-long “streams” driving through the night, each navigator on his own. The idea was to overwhelm the German radar, flak, searchlights and night fighters guarding a single gateway into the target rather than attacking on a broad front.

Defensive armament was the Lancaster’s Achil­les’ heel. It had only three turrets—tail, top and nose—though they were hydraulically driven, a development the British had pioneered. The Air Ministry dithered about providing the Lanc with a belly turret, and ultimately came up with a twin-.303 mount operated via a periscope by a gunner lying prone on the bomber’s belly. The position was fittingly known as “the dustbin,” and when it was lowered into place, it slowed the Lancaster by 15 knots.

In any case, only a few Lancs were fitted with dustbins, so the Luftwaffe quickly developed Schräge Musik, the fixed, upward-angled, dual 20mm cannons carried behind the cockpit on various night fighters. If the night was dark enough for British gunners to not spot them, the Germans would sneak under the bombers from aft or abeam and fire without even aiming once they were under a Lanc’s fat belly. It took a long time for the RAF to become aware of Schräge Musik, since virtually none of its victims survived.

Even though the tail turret mounted four rapid-fire guns (1,200 rounds a minute each), they were .303-inch Brownings. The RAF knew it needed at least .50-caliber guns to pierce most aircraft armor, but in 1929 the British Army had decreed that Browning .303s would be the military’s gun of choice, since they assumed—wrongly, it turned out—that there were vast stocks of .303 ammunition left over from World War I.

Other than the pilot, the tail gunner could be considered the most important member of the crew. He was more lookout than marksman, and it was up to him to instantly command the Lancaster’s standard corkscrew evasion maneuver if he so much as imagined spotting a Luftwaffe night fighter’s shadowy shape. The corkscrew consisted of a combination of near-aerobatic full-deflection banks in both directions, wingovers and max-performance climbs and descents. One Luftwaffe pilot even reported watching a Lanc evade him by doing a loop.

Some tail gunners went through an entire tour (typically 30 missions, though the number varied) without ever seeing a Messerschmitt or Junkers. Others occasionally saw them but held their fire, preferring to not give away their presence. And then there were Lancaster pilots who commanded their gunners to fire at anything they saw, though it sometimes turned out to be another Lanc.

Some Lancasters had armor covering the tail gunner’s torso, but soon most of it was removed to provide better visibility. Gunners then began removing the entire Perspex panel directly in front of them, for the clearest possible visibility. One thing a tail gunner didn’t lack was ammunition: 2,500 rounds per gun, stored in two big boxes just aft of the wing, for weight-and-balance reasons, and fed to the guns by long chutes. A tail turret typically fired only about 1,000 rounds during a night fighter engagement, often only a few hundred.

The tail turret was a cramped workspace, and some gunners cut off the double entrance doors accessing the interior, particularly for better bailout capability. A tail gunner’s (and top-turret gunner’s) bailout door was the crew entrance door, near the aft end of the fuselage and just ahead of the horizontal stabilizer on the right side. Everybody else in the crew was expected to exit through a narrow hatch on the flight deck. It comes as no surprise that the Lancaster crew survival rate after being hit was low.

A Lancaster cockpit held four men—pilot, flight engineer, navigator and radio operator—with a bombardier/gunner in the nose, several steps below and ahead of the flight deck. Two gunners aft—top turret and tailgun—filled out the crew. Unlike the B-17, which had armor throughout, Lancs went to war with just a small sheet of armor behind the pilot’s head and a pair of armored doors amidships with no obvious purpose.

Lancasters lacked a copilot, so the flight engineer was often trained as a “pilot assistant.” (Getty Images)

Though it was initially assumed that Lancasters would be flown by two pilots, the British quickly ran into a pilot shortage and could only spare one per aircraft. Britain had nothing like America’s Civilian Pilot Training Program, converting tens of thousands of farmboys into aviators before the U.S. even got into the war. University flying clubs were the best the Brits could do, for in the 1930s it was assumed that only English gentlemen could become pilots.

Soon the RAF was forced to teach what might be considered commoners how to fly, and a new generation of flight-sergeant pilots went into combat. Whether they were the sons of Welsh coal miners or London cabbies, the flight sergeants were in absolute command of their Lancasters, regardless of the officer-and-gentleman rank of other crew members.

While it might seem an insignificant system, the Lancaster’s heating ducts, fed by hot air from the engine nacelles, were among the aircraft’s worst mechanisms. The radio operator and pilot were nicely accommodated, the bombardier was sauteed, and the navigator and gunners froze. There were times when tail gunners with open turrets were too frostbitten to operate their triggers. A kerosene-fueled stand-alone heating system was cobbled together at one point, but it never worked well enough to become operational.

Flying a Lancaster took substantial upper-body strength, since the controls were unboosted and heavy, though the Lanc reacted strongly and smoothly to yoke inputs. It was said that control forces were “like pulling on a pair of oars in a boat race.” Lancasters were surprisingly nimble and could be barrel-rolled and looped. Some had simple autopilots, but they were only used over friendly turf, since disconnecting them consumed several seconds. This meant that Lanc pilots soloed and hand-flew their airplanes for many hours, and sometimes had to do it while wounded. And these were pilots who typically had only about 300 hours before commanding their first Lancaster.

The RAF soon realized it had better train another crewman—typically the flight engineer—to be a “pilot assistant” able to at least cruise the big bomber back to Britain and set it up for a crew bailout over home ground. In fact there was probably ample second-pilot talent in every Lancaster cockpit, since navigators and bombardiers were often flight school washouts. One story has it that a washout crewman took over from a dead pilot and not only flew his Lanc back to England but landed it, at night. He was ordered to reapply to flight school.

Actually, taxiing a Lancaster was more demanding than flying it, and the old saw that “If you can make it to the runway, you can fly it anywhere” is probably true. The Lanc had classically British air brakes on each main wheel, the air pressure activated by a bicycle-brake handgrip on the yoke and apportioned to each wheel by rudder pressure. With air pressure supplied by an engine-driven compressor and that engine at low power while taxiing, it took awhile to replenish the air tank pressure after using the brakes, and it required appreciable time for the air to get from tank to brakes. John D. Williams, a British writer and 12,000-hour pilot, flew the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Lancaster and later wrote: “Tank pressure is probably good enough to allow braking most of the time. Probably! Most of the time! Those are words I am not used to hearing.”

Lancasters inevitably flew into icing conditions, yet they had no wing or tail deicing boots—only propeller deicers. The awkward solution was a thick paste called Kilfrost, which ground crews smeared onto leading edges before a mission. Lancs were generally thought to handle ice well, and they had the power to climb out of icing layers.

Though the Lancaster is usually thought of as a brute-force carpet bomber, it in fact helped to develop the delicate art of electronic warfare.

When Lancs first went into operation, navigating from England to a target in the Ruhr Valley was a matter of dead reckoning by navigators who were not ancient mariners but boys who had taken a three-month course in chart-reading and calculating a heading. There were no radio navaids, and scant methods to accurately figure winds aloft or drift at night. Many Lancs ended up 50 miles from their targets.

The first electronic aid was called Gee—a Loran-like system that received signals from ground stations that produced a cross-grid on a cathode ray tube and defined the airplane’s position. The Germans quickly learned to jam Gee, but it remained an aid to help bombers find their way home.

Next came Oboe, so named for the sound it produced. Oboe was akin to radio-range instrument approaches, though of far greater range, extending 300 miles from Britain well into Germany. The most accurate radio-navigation system used during WWII, Oboe produced a steady on-course tone with off-course left and right signals.

There was also a device code-named G-H, a kind of reverse Oboe. Aircraft that carried it could transmit a signal that ground stations used to provide a position fix.

Most sophisticated of all was H2S—ground-mapping radar, thanks to the British invention of the cavity magnetron that made compact, high-power airborne radar possible. Lancaster navigators used it to very accurately find and identify targets, particularly if they were anywhere near a body of water, and then intercommed H2S data to the bombardier to be fed into his bombsight. Unfortunately for the British, German night fighters and their ground controllers learned to home in on H2S signals. This capability also complicated use of a Lancaster system called Monica—a radar unit in the tail turret that could zero in on pursuing night fighters. The night fighters learned that Monica’s beam could also help them zero in on the tail turret.

Ground crewmen prepare to load ordnance into a Lancaster prior to a mission. (Getty Images)

At one point late in the war, a Lancaster was liable to be carrying 16 different radar-jamming black boxes plus three radar-warning devices as well as two navigation/homing systems. Had it not been for all the Lancs’ radio countermeasures, they would have simply lost any head-on attempt to bull their way through German defenses. The Lancaster started WWII as what aviation writer Bill Sweetman called “a brazen raider.” By 1945, it had become, again in Sweetman’s words, “a stealthy intruder…concealing itself behind subtle electronic smokescreens and finding its way along webs of electromagnetic waves….[The Lancaster] embraced some of the most advanced thinking in the world on the best way to penetrate an enemy’s airspace….Never again did a new British bomber carry a single defensive gun. Stealth and electronic countermeasures were to assure the bomber’s capability to penetrate defenses.”

Lancaster and B-17 proponents will argue forever over the merits of the two outstanding bombers, but no consensus is possible, nor will statistics help, since the airplanes flew such different missions. B-17s in the European and Mediterranean theaters bombed nearly every country in Europe plus several in the Middle East and North Africa. The Lancaster almost exclusively bombed Ger­many, with occasional sorties against targets in France and Kreigsmarine capital ships. So it should come as no surprise that the Boeing dropped more bomb tonnage than the Avro. Fighting against unseen Luftwaffe night fighters was an entirely different affair than the pitched daytime battles B-17s and their escorts fought, so loss rates aren’t comparable.

The Manchester/Lancaster was designed after the Fortress was already flying and was a second-generation WWII heavy bomber. It could be argued that it had more in common with the B-29 than with the B-17—its emphasis on extreme range and maximum bombload, for example, and its pioneering use of a constant-cross-section fuselage. One unbuilt Lancaster variant, the Avro Model 684 Stratosphere Bomber, would have been a Brit Superfort. It was intended to carry a fifth Merlin engine, mounted inside the fuselage, the only purpose of which was to drive a huge supercharger ducted to all four wing engines. The cabin would also have been pressurized, assumedly by the same blower, and the bomber was intended to have an absolute ceiling of 50,000-plus feet.

So let us simply offer praise and gratitude for the Avro Lancaster, which carried more bombs over Europe farther, per airplane, than did any other World War II bomber.

Contributing editor Stephan Wilkinson recommends for further reading: Bomber, by Len Deighton Avro Lancaster, by Bill Sweetman and Rikyu Watanabe Avro Lancaster, by Richard Marks Combat Legend: Avro Lancaster, by Harry Holmes and Avro Lancaster, by Ken Delve.

Night Raider originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Aviation History. Subscribe today!

The Lancaster lifted into the air for the last time.

Once airborne, the crew were told at 2014 by radio that the Fighter Affiliation part of the exercise was cancelled and that they should now carry out the bombing part of the flight.

The aircraft carried sixteen practice bombs each weighing 10 lb, made of cast iron and filled with a mixture of gunpowder and magnesium that ignited on contact with the target to produce a bright flash of light so that the results could be observed from both the ground and air. (1)

An hour later they had dropped 10 bombs from their load when the crew received a radio message that they should return to base.

They did as instructed and arrived overhead a few minutes later to find the airfield in darkness.

They flew around the area with their navigation and upper and lower identification lights on.

It must have been very puzzling to the crew, as relatively inexperienced as they were.

They were over their home base and although it showed no lights they had apparently not been informed of any danger.

Then they were told by the airfield to switch off their lights.

Having done as instructed immediately the pilot was about to ask for further information.

The rear gunner saw a twin-engined aircraft approaching rapidly.

He shouted ‘Corkscrew – Port!’ and the pilot flung the aircraft into a sudden diving turn to the left as the rear gunner switched his guns from the safety position to active and prepared to fire.

The aircraft flew by the without firing and turned to come around for another rearward attack.

A Short History of the RAF Pathfinder Force

RAF Bomber Command was Britain’s greatest and mightiest weapon during the Second World War. It was the only weapon capable of striking heavily and directly at the heart of Nazi Germany. Despite this, in the early years of the war, the effectiveness of Bomber Command was limited because of its inability to navigate accurately and deliver its destructive power precisely enough onto individual targets. It soon became apparent that the vast effort of Bomber Command would be wasted, unless an accurate means of guiding aircraft to their targets could be found.

Arming a Short Stirling of No.7 Squadron Pathfinder Force

In 1941, the idea of a special force, to lead the main bomber streams was endorsed by the then Deputy Director of Bomber Operations, Group Captain Syd Bufton. He suggested that six squadrons should be based close to each other, their aircrews enriched with 40 of the Command’s most highly experienced crews. The idea however was condemned by the new AOC-in-C, Air Marshal Arthur Harris, later to be called ‘Bomber Harris’, he believed it was likely to foster elitism and hence ruin morale. However, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, overruled Harris and with the support of Winston Churchill a separate force was created.

Thus, on the 15 th August 1942, the Pathfinder Force (PFF) was formed. The force, initially administered by No.3 Group, moved into their new headquarters at RAF Wyton, which was chosen by Group Captain (later to become, Air Vice-Marshal), Don Bennett for its good landline communications and favourable weather record.

Captain Swales and his crew in front of a Lancaster

The Pathfinder Force initially comprised of five squadrons, one from each of the operational Bomber Command Groups. The squadrons were, Nos.7 (Stirlings), 35 (Halifaxes), 83 (Lancasters), 109 “special duties” (Wellingtons) and 156 (Wellingtons). These squadrons were located on adjacent airfields at Oakington, Graveley, Wyton and Warboys.

Promising Bennett his full support and having great respect for him, Harris was still opposed to the formation of the PFF. However, he would not give PFF any leeway, and insisted that it must begin operations on the same day that the Squadrons assembled, giving them no time for training or preparation. In the end, bad weather prevented any operations. The next night Bennett sent the force out to bomb the submarine base at Flensburg. More bad weather, which had not been forecast, couple with the lack of any navigational or radar aids at that stage meant that the raid, not surprisingly, failed. Undeterred by the enforced bad start, the PFF steadily worked up and developed their techniques results soon began to show.

The crash aircraft flown by Captain Swales

One of PFF Squadron’s, No.109, was tasked with the development and testing of the new OBOE radio equipment. OBOE was destined to be one of PFF’s greatest technical aids used to pinpointing targets and guiding the Pathfinders to them using signals from pairs of UK based stations. Apart from OBOE, the force had another radio navigational aid called GEE. This was a slightly older system but still useful and always used in conjunction with OBOE. Both of these aids were only effective up to 300 miles, Berlin was another 250 miles beyond the reach of OBOE or GEE. Another notable achievement for the PFF was the introduction of the first airborne ground mapping radar system called H2S. Trialled by the Halifax’s of No.35 Sqn, on the 30 th January 1943, H2S radar was used by RAF bombers for navigation for the first time and so became the first ground mapping radar to be used in combat. Other technical aids were the flares and Target Indicators (TIs), which showed the main bomber streams where to drop their bombs. Hooded flares were developed to illuminate the target without dazzling the bomb aimers, and TIs in a spectacular range of colours marked the exact position of the target either on the ground or in the air above. After all these aids were introduced into service the accuracy of the bombers increased steadily. OBOE’s first operational trials were on the 20 th December 1943, when four Mosquitoes of No.109 Sqn dropped high explosives on a German coking plant.

On the 25 th January 1943 the PFF became a separate group, No.8. By this time the Pathfinders had proved themselves and at long last Bomber Command was a fully effective force. Any aircrew that was posted to PFF was conditional on two things firstly they had to volunteer and secondly, they had to accept that a tour duty with PFF was 45 operational sorties and not 30 as in the rest of Bomber Command. This ensured that PFF gained maximum valve from the highly experienced crews, it was not uncommon for aircrew to undertake more than 45 sorties.

A Pathfinder Lancaster fitted with H2S ground mapping radar

In April 1943 a further two squadrons, both equipped with Lancasters, joined the PFF, No.405 of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which was based at Gransden and No.97 based a Bourn. Three months later PFF moved its headquarters from Wyton to Castle Hill house in the local town of Huntingdon and in the same month a further two squadrons joined PFF, Nos. 105 and 139 Sqns, both equipped with Mosquitoes and based at Marham. In the following year a further three more squadrons joined the group, Nos. 627 (Mosquitoes), 692 (Mosquitoes) and 635 (Lancasters).

Over the period of the 30 th & 31 st March 1944 PFF and Bomber Command set out to bomb Nuremburg. Of the 795 Bomber Command aircraft, 95 failed to return. The reason for this disastrous loss rate (11.9%) was that the route devised by PFF which involved several doglegs, to avoid heavy defences and disguise the real objective was overruled by Bomber Command and changed to a more direct route. This lead the force straight into the German defences and the bombers were consequently picked off by night fighters. Bad luck was again to hit PFF the following month when No.582 Sqn (Lancasters) joined the Group but immediately afterwards Nos.83, 97 and 627 Sqns were transferred to No.5 Group to undertake Pathfinder trials. Throughout the rest of the war there was a growing trend for other Bomber Command Groups to do their own advanced navigation, with their crews being trained in techniques evolved by PFF during the vital earlier years. However, after this drain on its strength, PFF began to recover and to obtain new units. These were mostly Mosquitoes and these became the Light Night Striking Force (LNSF). Many of the LNSF Mosquitoes carried the 4,000lb “Cookie” bomb as far as Berlin. They also flew diversionary raids to distract attention away from the main bomber streams.

Fitting a 4000Ib “cookie” bomb into a Mosquito of the “Light Night Striking Force”

In April 1945 the PFF reached its peak strength with eight Lancaster and eleven Mosquito units, this included three that had been detached to No.5 Group. By the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, the PFF had flown a total of 50,490 sorties against 3,440 targets. The number of PFF aircrew killed on operations totalled 3,618. Of the 32 Victoria Crosses awarded to Bomber Command during World War 2, three went to PFF pilots, Bazalgette, Palmer and Swales, all posthumously.

Crew and their Halifax from No.35 Sqn Pathfinder Force

Extract from the London Gazette of Friday 20 th April 1945

The King has been pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the under mentioned officer in recognition of his most conspicuous bravery:

Captain Edwin Swales DFC

South African Air Force, No.582 Squadron

Captain Swales was “Master Bomber” of a force of aircraft, which attacked Pforzheim on the night of February 23 rd , 1945. As “Master Bomber”, he had the task of locating the target area with precision and giving aiming instructions to the main force of bombers following in this wake.

Soon after he had reached the target area he was engaged by an enemy fighter, and one of this engines was put out of action. His rear guns failed and his crippled aircraft was an easy prey to further attacks. Unperturbed, he carried on with his allotted task clearly and precisely he issued aiming instructions to the main force. Captain Swales’ aircraft was put out of action, almost defenceless, he stayed over the target area issuing this instructions until he was satisfied that the attack had achieved its purpose.

Captain Swales did not, however, regard his mission as completed. His aircraft was damaged, such that, its speed was so much reduced it could only be kept in the air with great difficulty. The blind-flying instruments were no longer working he was determined at all costs to prevent this aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands, he set course for home. After an hour he flew into thin-layered cloud, he kept his course by skilful lying between the layers, but later heavy cloud and turbulent air conditions were met. The aircraft, by now over friendly territory, became more and more difficult to control it was losing height steadily. Realizing that the situation was desperate Captain Swales ordered this crew to bale out. Time was very short and it required all this exertions to keep the aircraft steady while each of this crew moved in turn to the escape hatch and parachuted to safety. Hardly had the last crewmember jumped when the aircraft plunged to earth, Captain Swales was found dead at the controls.

Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the face of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life so that his comrades might live.

On the 12 th May 1945, Air Vice-Marshal J R Whitley succeeded Bennett as AOC Pathfinders, and on the 15 th December No.8 (PFF) Group was disbanded.

Overview of part of the Pathfinder Collection

Listed below are the squadrons that formed No.8 (Pathfinder Force) Group.

Station and aircraft details are for when the Units were part of the Pathfinder Force.

No.7 Squadron

Station – Oakington from Oct 1940 onwards.

Aircraft – Short Stirling I & III Aug 1940 – Aug 1943, Avro Lancaster B.I & III Jul 1943 onwards.

No.35 Squadron

Station – Graveley from Aug 1942 onwards

Aircraft – Handley Page Halifax B.I, B.II & B.III Nov 1940 – Mar 1944, Avro Lancaster B.I, B.III Mar 1944 onwards.

No.83 Squadron

Station – Wyton Aug 1942 – Apr 1944, Coningsby Apr 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – Avro Lancaster B.I & B.III May 1942 onwards.

No.97 Squadron

Station – Bourn Apr 1943 – Apr 1944,

“A”, “B” & “C” Flights detached to Gransden Lodge, Graveley and Oakington respectively during Aug/Sep 1943,Coningsby – Apr 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – Avro Lancaster B.I & B.III Jan 1942 onwards.

No.105 Squadron (joined PPF in 1943)

Station – Marham Sep 1942 – Mar 1944, Bourn Mar 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito B.IV, B.IX & B.XVI Nov 1941 onwards.

No.109 Squadron

Station – Wyton Aug 1942 – Jul 1943, Marham Jul 1943 – Apr 1944, Little Staughton Apr 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito B.IV, B.IX & B.XVI Dec 1941 onwards.

No.128 Squadron

Station – Wyton Sep 1944

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito B.XVI, B.XX & B.XXV Sep 1944 onwards.

No.142 Squadron

Station – Gransden Lodge Oct 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito B.XXV Oct 1944 onwards.

No.156 Squadron

Station – Warboys Aug 1942 – Mar 1944, Upwood Mar 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – Vickers Wellington IC & III Feb 1942 – Jan 1943, Avro Lancaster B.I & B.III Jan 1943 onwards.

No.162 Squadron

Station – Bourn Dec 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito B.XX & B.XXV Dec 1944 – July 1945.

No.163 Squadron

Station – Wyton Jan 1945 onwards.

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito B.XVI & B.XXV Jan 1945 onwards.

No.405 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force

Station – Gransden Lodge Apr 1943 onwards.

Aircraft – Handley Page Halifax B.II Apr 1942 – Sep 1943, Avro Lancaster B.I, B.III & B.X Aug 1943 onwards.

No.571 Squadron

Station – Downham Market Apr 1944, Oakington 24 th Apr 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito B.XVI Apr 1944 onwards.

No.582 Squadron

Station – Little Staughton Apr 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – Avro Lancaster B.I, B.III Apr 1944 onwards.

No.608 Squadron

Station – Downham Market Aug 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito B.XX, B.XXV & B.XVI Aug 1944 onwards.

No.627 Squadron

Station – Oakington Nov 1943 – Apr 1944, Woodhall Spa Apr 1944 onwards,

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito B.IV, B.IX, B.XVI, B.XX, B.XXV Nov 1943 onwards.

No.635 Squadron

Station – Downham Market Mar 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – Avro Lancaster B.I, B.III & B.VI Mar 1944 onwards.

No.692 Squadron

Station – Graveley Jan 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito B.IV, B.XVI Jan 1944 onwards.

1409 (Meteorological) Flight

Station­ – Oakington 1 st Apr 1943 – Jan 1944, Wyton Jan 1944 onwards.

Aircraft – De Havilland Mosquito

Ex-members of Pathfinder Force meeting at RAF Wyton for Pathfinder Weekend in August 2014, average age 96

Forming a part of the RAF Wyton Heritage Centre, the RAF Pathfinder Collection proudly displays one of the largest unpublished collections of PFF imagery in existence. Accompanying this photographic collection are many artefacts associated with PFF, including items recovered from World War II crashed Pathfinder aircraft.

The idea for a Pathfinder Collection goes back to the summer of 1995, when it was suggested that a temporary display should be set up in anticipation of that year’s Pathfinder Sunday (an annual event held each August) for the benefit of the Pathfinder’s and their families. It generated an overwhelming interest and a request from those present for a more permanent museum.

Thus, the PFF collection was born and continues to grow with the full support of successive Station Commanders and sections around RAF Wyton. Other areas within the Heritage Centre are the Imagery Intelligence Collection (an area in which I have a main interest), looking at the history of Photographic Reconnaissance and the Wyton History Timeline, this a large display showing the wide range of activities that have happen at RAF Wyton from 1912 to the present day.

The Heritage Centre is manned by a small number of volunteers like myself, who wish to ensure that the memories of the brave members of the Pathfinder Force, the role of RAF Wyton and the history of Photographic Reconnaissance is not forgotten.

Avro Lancaster

I have finally started my Hasegawa Dambuster Avro Lancaster BIII This article covers the initial steps in what will be bound to be a lengthy project.

I expect everybody reading this will know something about operation Chastise – the attack on the Ruhr dams by 617 squadron. I have in the process of researching this model found out a lot more of the operation that is was glossed over in the film. I can particularly recommend Dambusters by John Sweetham , and

The aircraft I am going to model is AJ-N “Nut” flown by Pilot Officer Leslie Gordon Knight (RAAF) which was the final aircraft in the first wave of attacks and scored the hit on the Eder dam which destroyed it. (It’ll make a change from AJ-G “George” Guy Gibson’s aircraft). For this feat three of the crew received medals. They of course where the “lucky” ones, 8 of the 19 planes involved in the raid didn’t return.

In addition to the Eduard “Big Ed” photo etch set which I got for a song on EBay, I have purchased a few extra odds and ends, by the time I finished saving £20 on the etch set is going to cost me a packet!

Initial Impressions:

The mouldings are not quite up to modern standards (I’ve been spoilt by too many Eduard and Tamiya kits lately). There is some nasty sink marks on the fuselage sides which will need filling, some nasty looking ejection marks are present on the inside of the cockpit and in the wheel wells, hopefully most of these will be covered by photo etch. There is some raised riveting on the wings, which I will have to be careful not to damage. The transparency parts are nice and thin which is good seeing how much detail I plan to chuck inside. The Eduard photo etch and resin engine set by CMK are very impressive, this will be the first time I have played with resin, what wonders await?

To over pimp a Lancaster add oodles of etch A few bits of resin And a wizard Merlin

Right on with the build…

Starting with the cockpit and a razor saw. The first thing to be attacked was the navigators / wireless table for which the unattractive blocks representing the radio equipment and the crew seats where cut off. A new etch table surface an partition between Radio operator and navigator where stuck onto what was left of the original part [3]. This was painted Tamiya X-71 Cockpit Green with a quick wash of X-71 with a little added white to make the surface look used. Etch crew seats replaced the L shaped blocks of the original.

[1] Cockpit as Hasegawa intended [2] Time for a saw [3] Radio operator / navigator bulkhead

A similar exercise was performed on the pilot’s platform which was supplemented by some nice looking folded storage boxes [4]. Etch was available to cover the cockpit floor which was fortunate as the sink marks in this piece where huge. This was painted and the dry brushed with silver to represent wear [5]. The pilot seat was supplemented with a new armoured head screen and arm rest. The orange circle (which I have seen in several photos) was hand painted [6].

[4] Pilots platform [5] Cockpit floor [6] New pilots seat

Meanwhile I filled some of the cockpit wall sink marks with squadron filler, it took a number of repeated attempts to get this right, I always seem to struggle with filling. With the cockpit sides prepared I added some etch detail , comprising of a number of wall panels and hand rails. I added the co pilots seat in the down position (This is a fold away seat that was only used when carrying a “second dicky”. Generally newly qualified pilots used this seat when flying their first operational mission with an experienced crew. The cockpit sides were painted green and given a wash of promodelers to make them look suitably grubby [7].

Once this was done it was time to start adding detail from the painted etch fret, this comprised of flight engineers and bomb aimers panel to the starboard side, and additional panels for the navigator to the port side.

The wireless and Gee set were made up, through a sandwich of printed parts, I used a small piece of plastic card to represent the radio tuning panel, flooding it with Klear to give it a glass covered look.. Unfortunately I’m sure you wont be able to see these works of art when the model is complete [9].

[7] Co pilots seat [8] Bomb Aimers panels [9] Wireless operators kit

I was looking forward to making up the pilot instrument panel, which didn’t disappoint, it looks stunning [10]. Once again a little Klear was added to represent instrument glass. I did attempt to add the unfeasibly small engine throttle leavers, giving up after the fourth one hit the floor, somehow I don’t think the kit will be much poorer for their absence. I did manage to get the rudder pedals in place

[10]Pilots Instruments [11] Flight Engineer panels [12] Wireless / Navigator positions

With the addition of seat belts the interior is just about complete [11,12], the one thing left to do is to create a map showing the route to the dams to put on the navigators table. I intend to do this by creating a decal (thank you Brian Boot).

Map (actual size)
Is this really necessary in 1/72 nd scale?

And Pause Here…

I now took a four month holiday away from this project while I pursued other projects. When I stopped this build I was making excellent progress having just about completed the interior, when I returned to it I encountered a problem .
Windows or no windows


In researching the Lancaster I had found a source that stated that most Mk IIIs had the windows in the fuselage removed and consequently one of my first operations was to fill the window openings, painting over the inner surface and filling the outer surface with Mr Surfacer on top of the clear plastic inserts. It wasn’t until I was about to close the fuselage that I found a photo of the aircraft I was modelling taken just before the raid and the windows were clearly visible – Ahhhhh.[13]

I now had to fix the windows this was achieved by removing the filler with a sanding stick followed by a good work out with a polishing stick. I used a cocktail stick to scrape off the paint on the inner surface. The result was just acceptable , I don’t suppose anybody took the time to clean the windows so the resultant “frosty “ look is probably realistic.

Completing the crew space

The final job before I closed the fuselage was to create a decal for the map which was to sit on the chart table. I scaled the map down (left) and then printed it on normal paper. I then cut out a piece of decal sheet and taped it over the image and then reinserted the paper and printed again, thus saving the maximum amount of decal sheet. However I was puzzled that the image wasn’t clear and after a few minutes disappeared into a number of dots. I took a look at the decal paper and found it was for laser printers- “sugar”. I had also had a sheet of transparent inkjet decal paper and not wanting to wait I used that, fixing the decal on a piece of thin white plasticard to provide the white base. This gave a reasonable result. [14]

With all the interior completed I proceeded to dry fit the fuselage halves. This produced further puzzlement as I ended up with a huge gap[15]. I spent considerable time filling down the cockpit floor and then the dashboard but it still wouldn’t fit! After several hours I finally found that the problem was with the bottom of the dashboard not locating with the cockpit floor, a quick push with a pair of tweezers and the fit became perfect.

[15] [16]

A quick lick of plastic weld with reinforcement from masking tape and the fuselage was soon joined ( this would be the last time I would see all that beautiful detail… sob[16]) The seam lines were soon cleaned up with Mr Surfacer and a fine sanding stick it was then onto the wings.
Hacking the wings to bitsI had brought a resin control surface kit containing ailerons, elevators and rudders [17]. The first job was to clean this up. This was the first time I had used resin parts and I was a little daunted by cutting the parts from the formers. So plastic saw in hand I attacked the resin. I was surprised how easy it was, the resin was softer than I expected and it wasn’t too much effort to cut away the former and clean up the parts. It was now time to hack at the kit parts, ailerons first. With a scalpel I lightly cut along the aileron panel lines of the port wing [18], after three or four passes the part came away. I then offered up the resin part and found it was 0.5 mm to small leaving a gap (b******) this was something I would have to deal with later. I cut the upper wing surface, now to the correct size and the continued with the starboard wing.

[17] [18]
[19] [20]

The flaps were then cut from the bottom surface of both wings. I now had to thin the remaining plastic in the wing to accommodate an insert on which to mount the new ailerons, which I did with a scalpel [19]. The upper flap resin pieces were then glued to the wing and then the top and bottom wing surfaces glued together. I created a small insert from plasticard to fill the gap mentioned earlier in the port aileron.[20]
Engine nacellesI then started to construct the engine nacelles, the first job was to remove a particularly nasty injection point in the radiator bulkhead followed by the addition of a new photo etch radiator. The small outlet behind the outlet was drilled out [21] before the outer engine nacelles were assembled [22]. A small amount of filler was required to fill some gaps.

[21] [22]

The inner nacelles had to be subjected to further cutting to allow the wing flaps to be in the lowered position, in addition the port engine need more radical work as this engine was going to accommodate my resin Merlin with all the covers off. [23]. The complete forward section of the nacelle was disposed of f’rwd of the engine bulkhead. Before these nacelles were constructed the wheel wells were painted semi gloss black and the visible oil tank red. Etch parts were then added to spice up the wheel wells and then the completed nacelles glued to the wings.[24]

[23] [24]

To be continued
That’s your lot for this month, I have much more to tell and it does become a tale of woe , but your have to wait until next month for the next instalment.

Grand Plans

I have been thinking of how I might do justice in displaying the huge amount of detail that I hope the finished kit will contain. The resin engine must of course be displayed with cowls off and I want an excuse to leave the cockpit side panels open in order to maximise the view in the interior.I have come up with a plan to create a pre raid airfield diorama, depicting the aircraft undergoing pre-flight maintenance. To this end I have purchased Airfix’s flight refuelling and recovery set (EBay) from which I intend to use the Coles Mk7 crane hauling a propeller up to waiting “erks” servicing the exposed engine (I am hoping that nobody notices these kits are 1/76!). This will involve a certain amount of scratch building of a engine service platform and I will need to create an Upkeep bomb trolley as I doubt that this sort of work would be undertaken with the bomb in place. In this scene I have been inspired by “Lancaster” by M Garbett and B Goulding which I picked up for a song at the Farnborough show. This book along with details of the exports of the aircrew goes into great detail on what took to get these great aircraft off the ground. The ground crews did an incredible job working in very difficult conditions with poor equipment and very little sleep.

Would you fly seated sideways in what looks like the most uncomfortable cabin ever?

Immediately after World War II, a pressing need for transport aircraft arose. The quick solution was to convert existing military bombers and transports for the role. This led to the sideways seating on board the Avro Lancastrian, an adaption of the famous Avro Lancaster bomber.

The first conversions took place in Canada from 1943, with nine produced for Trans-Canada Airlines. BOAC took delivery of 30 of them from 1945, with a demonstration flight taking three days and 14 hours to get from England to New Zealand. Very fast for the time!

What Does An Avro Lancastrian Look Like?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Lancastrian looks almost exactly like a Lancaster with its armament removed and passenger windows added. With its four engines and twin tails, it’s hard to mistake it for anything else.

The BOAC Seating Plan

For long flights with BOAC, seating was provided for nine passengers and everyone sat right next to each other. Since you faced the windows, you were probably guaranteed a pretty decent view.

Sitting Sideways In The Lancastrian Cabin

My first thought when seeing these pictures is that it reminded me of being on the London Underground. Tube trains have sideways seating like this and while it’s fine for a quick ride, I can’t imagine sitting for hours on end like this.

Not for the claustrophobic, that’s for sure!
Its definitely cosy and cramped
It looks like disposable paper under the feet

The Other Avro Lancastrian Cabin

Of course, other airlines operated the aircraft with a more conventional layout. BSAA aircraft featured seating for 13 passengers, all facing forward as you can see below. There were 18 built in this configuration.

Overall Thoughts

My guess is that the requirement for sleeping berths is what influenced the BOAC design with everyone seated sideways facing the windows. Hopefully flights weren’t too full, as you could literally be touching another person for hours on end.

I’m glad that Austerity Airliners on Twitter tweeted about this. Without me seeing that, I would not have had the inspiration to write up this article. It’s always fun learning something new!

What do you think of the sideways seating on the Avro Lancastrian? Is it something you would be okay with, or not a chance? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please let me know.

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Colour interior images via British Airways and colourised by Benoit Vienne.
BOAC Avro Lancastrian via Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives.
Qantas Avro Lancastrian from Qantas via Business Class.
Cabin with no people via Science and Society Picture Library Prints.
Black and white cabin with people via Science and Society Picture Library Prints.
BSAA interior image via Heathrow Airports Limited.

Watch the video: Color, 1945, England: Lancaster Bomber Mission - 250034-03. Footage Farm Ltd (August 2022).