Epic 400-mile flight in a crippled Lancaster 

In the December 2009 FlyPast Graham Pitchfork detailed a crew’s 400-mile flight in a badly damaged Lancaster

After completing their training with 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit at Wigsley, Nottinghamshire, five young sergeants arrived at Syerston near Newark, Notts, on September 9, 1942 to join 61 Squadron equipped with Avro Lancaster Is. They were allocated to F/Sgt Paul Campbell, an experienced captain with 22 operations already to his credit.

On the night of September 19, they took off for Munich, Germany, on their first sortie. With the starboard inner engine failing, Paul decided to jettison the bombs in the North Sea and return to base three hours after take-off.

Five nights later they were tasked to head for the Baltic to lay mines, a sortie frequently used to ‘blood’ a new crew. Codenamed gardening flights, these operations were part of a carefully planned campaign to disrupt Axis shipping and to divert a large part of the German Navy to minesweeping duties.

The 1,500lb (680kg) Mk.I mine was robustly designed to withstand drops in excess of 200mph (322km/h) and from heights that varied from 100 to 1,500ft (30-457m).  Later in the war the weapon was modified to be released from 15,000ft.

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