|“|| Apres moi, le deluge.|
After me, the flood.
- Motto; R.A.F. No. 617 Squadron
The Lancaster was a four-engined strategic bomber, carry some 8 t. of bombs in its hold and able to obliterate any entrenched structure or industrial building in a single run. Although less well defended than the legendary "Flying Fortress", the Lancaster nonetheless bore eight 7.7mm machine-guns (It was also modified in the field to have 12.7 and 20mm guns in the turrets), making it difficult to intercept for the enemy fighters. Thanks to its four Merlin engines the Lancaster is actually 20% faster that the lighter Wellington, but also more expensive.
The 'Lanc', as it was affectionately known, became the most famous and most successful of the Second World War night bombers, "delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties. Although the Lancaster was primarily a night bomber, it excelled in many other roles including daylight precision bombing. So much so, that the No. 617 RAF Squadron gained worldwide renown as the "Dam Busters"; using the "Upkeep" bouncing cylinder bomb used in the 1943 Operation Chastise raids on Germany's Ruhr Valley dams.
The origins of the Lancaster stem from a twin-engined bomber design submitted to meet Specification P.13/36, which was for a new generation of twin-engined medium bombers for "worldwide use", the engine specified as the Rolls-Royce Vulture. The resulting aircraft was the Manchester, which, although a capable aircraft, was underpowered and troubled by the unreliability of the Vulture engine. Only 200 Manchesters were built and they were withdrawn from service in 1942.
Avro's chief designer, Roy Chadwick, was already working on an improved Manchester design using four of the more reliable but less powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines on a larger wing. The aircraft was initially designated Avro Type 683 Manchester III, and later re-named the Lancaster. The prototype aircraft BT308 was assembled by Avro's experimental flight department at Manchester's Ringway Airport from where test pilot H.A. "Bill" Thorn took the controls for its first flight on Thursday, 9 January 1941. The aircraft proved to be a great improvement on its predecessor, being "one of the few warplanes in history to be 'right' from the start." Its initial three-finned tail layout, a result of the design being adapted from the Manchester I, was quickly changed on the second prototype DG595 and subsequent production aircraft to the familiar twin-finned specification also used on the later Manchesters (below). Some of the later orders for Manchesters were changed in favour of Lancasters; the designs were very similar and both featured the same distinctive greenhouse cockpit, turret nose, and twin tail. The Lancaster discarded the stubby central third tail fin of the early Manchesters and used the wider span tailplane and larger elliptical twin fins from the later Manchester IA.
The first RAF squadron to convert to the Lancaster was No. 44 Squadron RAF in early 1942. Lancasters flew 156,000 sorties and dropped 608,612 long tons (618,378 tonnes) of bombs between 1942 and 1945. Just 35 Lancasters completed more than 100 successful operations each, and 3,249 were lost in action. The most successful survivor completed 139 operations, and was scrapped in 1947.
Lancs took part in the devastating round-the-clock raids on Hamburg during Air Chief Marshal Harris' "Operation Gomorrah" in July 1943. A famous Lancaster bombing raid was the 1943 mission, codenamed Operation Chastise, to destroy the dams of the Ruhr Valley. The operation was carried out by 617 Squadron in modified Mk IIIs carrying special drum shaped bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis. The story of the operation was later made into a film, The Dam Busters. Also famous was a series of Lancaster attacks using Tallboy bombs against the German battleship Tirpitz, which first disabled and later sank the ship.
Lancasters from Bomber Command were to have formed the main strength of Tiger Force, the Commonwealth bomber contingent scheduled to take part in Operation Downfall, the codename for the planned invasion of Japan in late 1945. Together with the new Avro Lincoln and Liberators they would have operated from bases on Okinawa; the invasion was made unnecessary by the Japanese surrender.
RAF Lancasters dropped food into the Holland region of the occupied Netherlands, with the acquiescence of the occupying German forces, to feed people who were in danger of starvation. The mission was named 'Operation Manna' after the food Manna which is said to have miraculously appeared for the Israelites in the Book of Exodus. The aircraft involved were from 1, 3, and 8 Groups, and consisted of 145 Mosquitoes and 3,156 Lancasters, flying between them a total of 3,298 sorties. The first of the two RAF Lancasters chosen for the test flight was nicknamed "Bad Penny" from the old expression: "a bad penny always turns up."
This bomber, with a crew of seven men (five Canadians including pilot Robert Upcott of Windsor, Ontario), took off in bad weather on the morning of 29 April 1945 without a ceasefire agreement from the German forces, and successfully dropped her cargo.
Strategies and TacticsEdit
- Despite its size, the Lancaster Moves faster than the Wellington, making it excellent as a raiding aircraft.
- It is advisable to make the Lancaster in high numbers and watch your enemy's movement. When they're crossing a town, you can send all of your Lancasters on an all out raid on them when they can't make any major movements.
Heavy carpet bomb
Large cal. MG turrets