Avro Lancaster – One of the Most Capable Bombers of the War in 20 Images

Jesse
A Lancaster Mk III of No. 619 Squadron on a test flight from RAF Coningsby, 14 February 1944

Along with the Spitfire, the Avro Lancaster has become a symbol not only of the Allied victory in WWII, but of British pride. The four engine Merlin powered bomber carried more bombs than its American counterpart – the B-17 Flying Fortress, and wasn’t much shy of the next generation B-29 Superfortress.

From a purely bomber based perspective, being able to carry more and for greater distances means the Lancaster could be considered the best bomber of the entire conflict. It was based on the Avro Manchester, a twin engine medium bomber developed in the late 1930s.

Over 7,000 Lancasters were built, entering service in 1942 and taking the fight to the Axis by flying 156,000 sorties, and dropping over 681,645 tons of bombs over the course of the war.

Lancaster B Mark III, LM449 ‘PG-H’, of No. 619 Squadron RAF based at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, in flight.
Lancaster B Mark III, LM449 ‘PG-H’, of No. 619 Squadron RAF based at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, in flight.

The Lancaster was an incredibly well designed aircraft that pilots adored for its stable and precise flying characteristics. The aircraft had brilliant performance and handling despite its size, and was known to be able to out maneuverer fighters at high altitudes at the hands of a skilled pilot. It could even comfortably barrel-roll!

The four 1,300 hp V12 Merlin engines propelled the aircraft across the sky at 280 mph when fully loaded.

One of the Lancaster’s secrets to success was its large 10 meter long unobstructed bomb bay, that could carry a maximum of 10 tons of bombs.

The Lancaster’s large bomb bay enabled it to carry a much greater variety of loads compared to contemporary bombers.
The Lancaster’s large bomb bay enabled it to carry a much greater variety of loads compared to contemporary bombers.

The Lancaster was made famous for peculiar missions, like the Dambusters, who flew Lancasters armed with rotating bouncing bombs to German dams, at heights sometimes as low as 60 feet! With modifications it could carry the Tallboy, a 12,000 lb earthquake bomb, and the larger 22,000 lb Grand Slam, both designed to penetrate deep into the ground next to a target just before detonating, and destroy the structure with a powerful earthquake.

This was the largest payload flown during the war, and the Lancaster was the only Allied aircraft over Europe that could do it, in part to its bomb load capabilities, and also due to its large bomb bay.

A 617 Squadron Lancaster dropping a Grand Slam bomb on the Arnsberg viaduct, March 1945.
A 617 Squadron Lancaster dropping a Grand Slam bomb on the Arnsberg viaduct, March 1945.

After the war the Lancaster was quickly superseded by the Avro Lincoln, a very similar aircraft, but stayed in use with various other roles including aerial photography, maritime patrol, aerial tanker for in flight refuelling, and even a passenger airliner.

Just 11 years after the first flight of the Lancaster, the Avro Vulcan would fly for the first time.

 

Two crew members from an Avro Lancaster B Mark II examine the rear of their aircraft, where the rear turret, along with its unfortunate gunner, was sheared off by bombs dropped from above.
Two crew members from an Avro Lancaster B Mark II examine the rear of their aircraft, where the rear turret, along with its unfortunate gunner, was sheared off by bombs dropped from above.

 

One of the last great RAF-raids together with RCAF and FAFL against germany. This raid was intended to knock out the coastal batteries on this Frisian island which controlled the approaches to the ports of Bremen and Wilhelmshaven.
One of the last great RAF-raids together with RCAF and FAFL against germany. This raid was intended to knock out the coastal batteries on this Frisian island which controlled the approaches to the ports of Bremen and Wilhelmshaven.

 

Ground crew servicing an Avro Lancaster of No 300 Polish Bomber Squadron RAF at Faldingworth, Lincolnshire
Ground crew servicing an Avro Lancaster of No 300 Polish Bomber Squadron RAF at Faldingworth, Lincolnshire

 

Flying Officer R W Stewart, a wireless operator on board an Avro Lancaster B Mark I
Flying Officer R W Stewart, a wireless operator on board an Avro Lancaster B Mark I

 

Aircrew of No. 106 Squadron photographed in front of a Lancaster at Syerston, Nottinghamshire.
Aircrew of No. 106 Squadron photographed in front of a Lancaster at Syerston, Nottinghamshire.

 

Aerial photograph of an attack by Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster bombers on St. Vith, Belgium, on 26 December 1944.
Aerial photograph of an attack by Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster bombers on St. Vith, Belgium, on 26 December 1944.

 

A No 57 Squadron mid-upper gunner, Sergeant ‘Dusty’ Miller, ‘scans the sky for enemy aircraft’ from a Lancaster’s Fraser Nash FN50 turret.
A No 57 Squadron mid-upper gunner, Sergeant ‘Dusty’ Miller, ‘scans the sky for enemy aircraft’ from a Lancaster’s Fraser Nash FN50 turret.

 

A Lancaster B II fitted with Bristol Hercules radial engines.
A Lancaster B II fitted with Bristol Hercules radial engines.

 

RCAF 405 Squadron Lancaster 10MP Maritime Patrol aircraft in February 1953
RCAF 405 Squadron Lancaster 10MP Maritime Patrol aircraft in February 1953

 

No. 619 Squadron Avro Lancaster III
No. 619 Squadron Avro Lancaster III

 

Mechanics working on the port-outer Merlin engine of a Lancaster at Mepal, Cambridgeshire, 9 February 1945.
Mechanics working on the port-outer Merlin engine of a Lancaster at Mepal, Cambridgeshire, 9 February 1945.

 

Lincoln A73-20 during a test flight. Both starboard engines have their propeller blades feathered
Lincoln A73-20 during a test flight. Both starboard engines have their propeller blades feathered

 

HM Queen Elizabeth inspecting flight and ground crews on a visit to Warboys, a station of No 8 Pathfinder Group. An Avro Lancaster of No 156 Squadron, Royal Air Force is seen in a T2 hangar. 10 February 1944
HM Queen Elizabeth inspecting flight and ground crews on a visit to Warboys, a station of No 8 Pathfinder Group. An Avro Lancaster of No 156 Squadron, Royal Air Force is seen in a T2 hangar. 10 February 1944

 

Ground crews refuelling and bombing up an Avro Lancaster at Mepal, Cambridgeshire, for a night raid on Krefeld, Germany.
Ground crews refuelling and bombing up an Avro Lancaster at Mepal, Cambridgeshire, for a night raid on Krefeld, Germany.

 

Avro Lancaster B Mk II ExCC
Avro Lancaster B Mk II ExCC

 

An RAF officer inspects the hole left by a 22,000-lb deep-penetration ‘Grand Slam’ bomb which pierced the reinforced concrete roof of the German submarine pens at Farge, north of Bremen
An RAF officer inspects the hole left by a 22,000-lb deep-penetration ‘Grand Slam’ bomb which pierced the reinforced concrete roof of the German submarine pens at Farge, north of Bremen

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An Avro Lancaster B Mark I or III releases its bombs through cloud, during a daylight attack on a flying-bomb launch site at Les Catelliers in northern France.
An Avro Lancaster B Mark I or III releases its bombs through cloud, during a daylight attack on a flying-bomb launch site at Les Catelliers in northern France.