Archive for March 3rd, 2008

The Avro Lancaster was, without question, the finest night-time heavy bomber used in WWII.  And it needed the dark, because while most variants were powered by Merlin engines (the same engine type used in Spitfires and Mustangs), it was one of the slower four-engine bombers, reaching top speeds of only about 290 MPH.

But what it lacked in speed, it made up for in bomb capacity.  In its standard configuration, it could carry seven tons of bombs, a payload only surpassed by later variants of Boeing’s B-17 Flying Fortress and its bigger brother, the B-29.  Modified Lancasters also dropped WWII’s version of the MOAB in three flavors; huge (8,000 lbs in 1942), gigantic (12,000 lbs in 1943), and colossal (22,000 lbs in 1945).

Lancasters also took part (at pretty low altitudes) in the famous dam-busting missions in the Ruhr Valley, which inspired the movie The Dam Busters.

Nearly 7,400 Lancasters were built in Britain, Canada, and Australia, flying well over 150,000 sorties.

But on this date in 1942, Avro’s “heavy” was introduced to combat and flew its first missions in more mundane fashion, laying mines near Brest, France.

And while there were plenty of these bombers around during the War, finding good photographs that are legal to display has proven problematic. So, I’ll link you to a nice RAF site which also contains a LOT of good information and some photos…here you go.

Recommended Reading: The Vital Guide to Fighting Aircraft of World War II – a handy, almost pocket-sized book.  There isn’t a ton of detail here, but it’s hard to beat for a quick reference.

In addition, http://www.dambusters.org.uk is a great site dedicated to the specialized dam-busting missions.

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