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Avro Lancaster

The Avro Lancaster was the most important bomber of RAF Bomber Command, serving 61 squadrons including not only British, but also Australian, Canadian and Polish units under RAF control. Crewed by seven and powered by four Packard Merlin engines, the Lancaster Mk.III pictured here was capable of carrying a normal maximum bombload of 14,000 pounds. Its payload and range capabilities coupled with its large bomb bay made the Lancaster uniquely suited for the carriage of special weapons such as the 22,000 lb. Grand Slam "earthquake bomb" and the Barnes Wallis designed "bouncing bomb" made famous by 617 Squadron and their Dambuster operations. Lancaster squadrons carried out 156,308 operational sorties during the war, dropping over 600,000 tons of bombs, over 51,000,000 incendiaries, and over 12,000 sea mines. In addition to these operational sorties, the Lancaster was also called upon to carry out missions of humanity, such as the dropping of food supplies to the starving Dutch in May, 1945 and thousands of round trips throughout Europe and back to England to return over 70,000 Allied POWs to friendly soil. The Lancaster Mk.III pictured here was lost on the evening of February 21, 1945 on a mission to Worms, Germany. The aircraft served with 635 Squadron, operating from Downham Market. Its serial number was PB668 and F2-M on the side of the fuselage signifies squadron code and individual aircraft ID. A brief description of the incident is as follows: "Five minutes prior to reaching the [aiming point], the starboard inner failed. The attack continued, during which Flak wrecked the port inner and the bomb load had to be jettisoned. It was then discovered that the bomb doors were jammed in the open position and, later, as the crew tried to to reach Juvincourt, the electrics began to fail. The Battle-Lines were crossed at 5,000 feet and with the starboard outer misfiring, a forced-landing was made at 2120 in a field near Thiercelet* [sic] in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. No injuries. F/L R.W.Toothill; F/S J.A. Davies; F/O J.B. Luard; F/S W.W. Colvin; Sgt. F.W. Stone; Sgt. F.W. Coombes and Sgt. S.H. Fortune." The feathered props on the No.2 and No.3 engines in the photos can clearly be seen. (*Note that Tiercelet is a small town in France very near the Luxembourg border.)

Sources: Wilson, Stewart. Aircraft Of WWII. Fyshwick, ACT: Aerospace Publications, Pty Ltd., 1998.
Wright, Larry. "Lancaster History." Aug., 2010. Oct. 7, 2010.
"Lost Bombers - A Database Of Bombers Lost During World War II." Oct., 2005. Oct. 7, 2010.