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Lancaster Returns Home


27" x 39" x 2", Oil on Canvas. Framed.

Early Lancaster Bombers c. 1942  (Which were also built in Canada by the AVRO company), at first were not equipped with an upper dorsal turret gun, making them lighter, but less able to defend themselves against attack. This illustration is of a story told to me by a former crew member (a radio navigation officer*):

            "We were in the last squadron to get off the ground. It was a long wait. Our aircraft was one of those new night bombers, painted black on the underside for obvious reasons. They likely wouldn't even see us. But worse luck, the June night was absolutely clear, and while sitting there - we could see the cracks of dawn breaking. I knew that the German anti-aircraft defenses and their fighters could see us in daylight. Why are they so slow...?

            At last we are off, but  it's nearly daylight when we reached the target, some factories near Dortmund. Then abruptly my fears were confirmed. A loud explosion indicated we had been hit. The plane shook. My radio fell from the table spitting green sparks. I grabbed the fire extinguisher, for that and made my way past the tangle of wires and junk to a small window the the rear. Part of the starboard rudder was torn away. I went back and told our pilot, Danny - We immediately and blindly dropped our bomb load to lighten the aircraft and tried turning back towards the channel. But it was difficult - cables had been broken and the hydraulics were failing. Danny increased the engine speed on the Starboard side so we might turn better. It was then that the inside Starboard engine began to sputter and belch smoke.  Then he feathered the damaged engine and cut all the RPM's - which of course now brought us closer to the ground. Slow, damaged and leaving a trail of smoke - we were worried about fighter aircraft - but our camouflaged top surface made us difficult to see from above (we hoped..!).

            Limping over the Channel, we barely skimmed above the waves. We could see the dots of other aircraft above us and assumed the worse. It would only be minutes before we were discovered and obliterated. Then Danny said he could see the thin white line of the white cliffs of Dover and increased the throttles. He had to get up another thousand feet... but the engines didn't seem up to the job. 

            That great bomber found new strength from somewhere. Moments later, in the full bright morning sunshine - we lifted well over the cliffs. We could see the airfield ahead of us. We had no radio, no controls and likely on fire. But only worried about a stall... Danny cut the engines and went straight in, not lowering the gear until the last minute. Surprising us all - it worked. 

We made it."



History:  When the United Kingdom's Bomber Command was given the difficult missions of destroying German dams in the Ruhr valley and sinking the pocket battleship Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord, their aircraft of choice was the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber. With four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines giving a top speed of 287 mph and a range of 1,660 miles, the Lancaster’s’ seven-man crew could provide a knockout punch with a typical load of 18,000 pounds of high explosive over the target. Along with the Handley Page Halifax, the Lancaster gave the UK the offensive striking power needed to penetrate German air defenses during World War II. As Winston Churchill instructed the Air Ministry in 1942, the UK must "…make sure that the maximum weight of the best type of bombs is dropped on [Germany] by the aircraft placed at their disposal."

Entering service at the beginning of 1942, the Lancaster’s design grew out of a failed predecessor, the Avro Manchester. While its’ airframe offered a stable platform for heavy bombing assignments, the Manchester’s twin engine design was inadequate to the task. By upgrading to four Merlins, the resulting aircraft met the nation’s needs and 7,366 Avro Lancasters were built during the war, the most of any British bomber. Armament included eight to ten Browning machine guns for fighter defense (depending on model variant) mounted in the nose, upper dorsal turret and the tail. Experience with a variety of bomb loads eventually led to adoption of the ‘Grand Slam’ 22,000-pound bomb, the largest carried by any aircraft in the war. For the dam-busting strike in May 1943, the Lancaster dropped British designer Barnes Wallis’s ‘bouncing bombs’ which skipped on the surface before impact. Wartime Lancaster sorties totaled about 156,000 during which roughly 608,000 tons of ordnance were dropped on the enemy.

As the war in Europe drew to a close, the Lancaster was readied for service against Japan as part of Bomber Command’s ‘Tiger Force’, but the war’s end put a halt to this plan. Apart from its primary bombing tasks, the versatile Lancaster was also used for maritime surveillance, photo reconnaissance missions and, later, as an engine test bed platform. The final airframe was delivered in February, 1946 but the plane flew for many years in civilian guise and as a warplane when sold to other nations. A number of Lancasters were preserved and still can be viewed at museums, but only two still fly under their own power to airshows -- one in Canada and one in the UK.  [History by Jeff VanDerford]

Nicknames: "Lanc"

Specifications (Lancaster Mk I):
        Engines: Four 1,460 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin XX inline piston engines.
        Weight: Empty 36,900 lbs, Maximum Takeoff 68,000 lbs.
        Wingspan: 102 ft 0 in.
        Length 69 ft 6 in.
        Height: 20 ft 0 in.
            Maximum Speed at 12,000 ft: 287 mph
            Service Ceiling: 24,500 ft
            Range with 14,000 pound load: 1,660 miles
            Two 0.303-inch (7.7mm) guns in nose, ventral and dorsal turrets.
            Four 0.303-inch (7.7mm) guns in tail turret.
            Fourteen 1,000 pound bombs.
        Crew: 7

Number Built: 7,366