In the dark years of WWII Bomber Command of the RAF provided the only means of taking the offensive against Nazi Germany. In January 1943 the Allied leaders authorised the Combined Bomber Offensive as the primary Allied assault on the Nazi war economy.
The most famous and succesuful heavy bomber in RAF service during WWII, the Lancaster resulted from the failure of the twin-engined Avro Manchester. When the unreliable Roll Royce Vulture engines of the Manchester led to high loss rate, Avro redesigned the wing to taje four Merlin engines. The prototype Lancaster flew in January 1941, the first production aircraft wer delivered to No. 44 Sqn before the end of the year and the type began operations in March 1942.
The Lancaster was an inmediate success and ultimately 62 squadrons of Bomber Command were equipped with the type. No 75 (NZ) Sqn issued with Lancaster in March 1944, replacing the Short Stirling bomber.
The Lancaster did not serve with the RNZAF in New Zealand, but the French Navy operated the type in the Pacific after the war, for maritime reconnaissance. One of their machines was presented to NZ (Museum of Transport and Technology) where it is on display today in Bomber Command colours.
- Crew: 7
- Length: 69’ 6’’
- Wingspan: 102 ft
- Loaded weight: 4 x RR Merlin XX or XXII, 1280hp each.
- Maximum speed: 287 mph.
- Celling: 25,500 ft.
- Range: 1,660 miles, with 14,000lb bomb load.
- Armament: 14,000 lbs bombs; 8 x 0,303 MG in three turrets (Mk 1 Special: 22,000 lb ‘Grand Slam’ bomb)