By Tara LeggettFeature
1. The Lancaster’s most famous exploit was its involvement in Operation Chastise, an attack on German dams in the Ruhr Valley which later earned the colloquial name of 'The Dam Busters'. Out of three dams on the Eder, Möhne, and Sorpe rivers, Allied forces breached two of them and partially breached the third after dropping the revolutionary 'bouncing bomb' from their Lancs.
2. Another of the Lancaster's famed accolades was the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz on November 12, 1944, in the remote Kaa fjord of Norway. 31 Lancasters dropped 12,000-pound (5,400-kg) “Tallboy” bombs.
3. Bomber Command suffered its first Lancaster loss on February 7, 1942. L7542 joined 44 Squadron at Waddington, but crashed when , the pilot got the wind direction wrong and made an abrupt manoeuvre to correct his error, only to lose control. Luckily, nobody was hurt. Including test-flying for signing off at Woodford, L7542 had a flying life of just six hours.
4. A Lancaster called ‘Aries’ was the first British aircraft to fly around the world and later became a pioneer of polar flying.
5. The Lancaster design was an improvement upon the twin-engined Avro Manchester bomber. Production, for the most part, was done in Lancashire before final assembly in Cheshire, hence the name of the bomber.
6. Lancasters powered by Bristol Hercules air-cooled radial engines were produced as a result of shortages of Merlin engines, but these proved to be less capable than Merlin-powered versions and therefore the production of the Merlin engine was outsourced to America.
7. Over half of the 7,377 Lancasters produced (3,932 of them to be exact), were shot down during the war, at a total cost of £186,770,000 (or £7,397,375,152 in today's money).
8. Weighing 16,738 kg empty, the Lancaster was able to haul an additional 15,014 kg in fuel and bombs.
9. Each Lancaster cost between £45,000 and £50,000 each to produce (that's around £2 million in today's money.)
10. Killingholme’s 550 Squadron wrote itself into RAF history when three of its Lancasters went on to complete 100 operations. The accolade made ‘Five-Fifty’ one of only three squadrons ever to record a ‘hat-trick’ of centenarians with Avro’s masterpiece. That accolade would have been an unprecedented fourth but for an instrument failure on the unit’s oldest aircraft.
11. Apart from the 683 base model, BAE lists 15 other variants of the Lancaster bomber:
PR.1B1 (photographic reconnaissance)
B.1 (FE, modified for the tropics)
The air-sea rescue variants ASR.III and ASR.3N.III
The maritime recon models GR.3 and MR.3
The models B.IV, B.VII, B.X, and the B.XV
12. At 20,000 feet, temperatures inside the cramped Lancaster could plummet to minus 40, potentially leading to frostbite!
13. Avro’s first contract was for 1,070 Lancasters but more soon followed. In fact, the orders for the bomber was too much for Avro and work was contracted out to other companies, such as Armstrong Whitley, Vickers Armstrong and Austin Morris. In all, 7,377 Lancasters were built.
14. The Lancaster flew more than 156,000 sorties in World War Two.
15. The ‘Grand Slam’ (at 9979 kg) was the heaviest bomb carried in World War Two. Changes had to be made to the design of the Lancaster bomb bay in order to cater to it being able to carry such a large load.
16. The Lancaster had eight 0.303 machine guns in various turrets on board.
17. Throughout World War Two, the plane dropped a total of 608,000 tons of high explosive bombs and more than 51 million incendiary bombs.
18. The Lanc had a ceiling height of 24,500 feet (7470 metres)
19. The Lancaster bomber could reach speeds of up to 282 mph (454 km/h) at a weight of 63,000 lb on its four Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 engines.
20. The Lancaster was one of the largest bombers in WWII, at 21 metres long and with a wingspan of 31 metres!