Avro Lancaster of 9 sqn RAF based at Salbani, India in 1945. Finished in the all white scheme of the so called Tiger Force, which was designated to bomb Japan but never used due to the American nuclear bombs. Limited edition of only 3,000, now very hard to find.
Avro’s chief designer, Roy Chadwick knew that the twin engined Manchester was a good aircraft. Designed to cope with the stresses of dive bombing and to carry torpedoes, it had immense strength and a large, partition free bomb bay. But it was dogged by the under developed Rolls Royce Vulture engine, whose construction (bolting two 12 cylinder engines round a common crankshaft) led to catastrophic unreliability.
Faced with the ignominious Air Ministry instruction to build Halifax bombers instead, Chadwick worked feverishly in association with Rolls Royce and produced what was arguably the greatest bomber of WWII. With a ceiling of up to 24,000 feet and an eventual load carrying ability greater than its entire weight, the ‘Lanc’ was not only prized by the Brass hats, but much loved by its crews for its ability to get them out of trouble with near fighter agility, yet take off, cruise and land with genteel docility.
From its first operational sortie in March, 1942, some 7,377 aircraft were made, flew 156,000 missions and dropped 608,612 tons of ordnance-that’s two thirds of all the bombs dropped by Bomber Command during the war. But there was always a price to be paid. Over 4,000 Lancasters, together with their seven man crews, were lost.
The Lancaster was far from a blunt instrument. That capacious bomb bay allowed Barnes Wallis to design the bouncing Upkeep bomb, the 12,000lb Tallboy and the 22,000lb Grand Slam all of which were specific, tactical weapons. Arguments over the effectiveness of these weapons miss the point; that Bomber Command and its leader, Arthur Harris, would always adopt new technology that would aid precision bombing. Lancasters also played a crucial role in daylight operations before, during and after D-Day and additionally, were the preferred aircraft for the Pathfinder forces and in developing the first effective air-to-ground Radar navigation system; H2S.