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Lancaster Bomber Special and Mk II

RAF heaviest bombers of WW2

Lancaster Bomber Mk II

Lancaster Bomber Special and Mk II
Type: RAF heaviest bombers of WW2.
History: A batch of 300 Lancaster bomber was built as Mk IIs with the more powerful Bristol Hercules radial engines and with bulged bomb bays and a ventral turret.

The Avro Lancaster Mk II and Mk I Special was equipped to carry the 12,000 lb light-case bomb and the 12,000 lb and 22,000 llb Earthquake bombs, the H2S radar blister under the rear fuselage being removed.

Loading Tallboy bomb in Lancaster bomber
The first of the big bombs used by Lancaster bomber Specials was the 12,000 lb HC device. The main sections were filled with Torpex. The bomb required a team of four to prepare and bolt together - a procedure which took two hours and fifteen minutes, and loading took a further 35 minutes.

The aircraft of 617 (Dambusters) Sqn were equipped to spin and release the Wallis skipping drum bomb.

Lancaster bomber drops Dambuster bomb
An Upkeen (Dambuster) mine drops away from a Lancaster bomber Special during trials at Reculver.

Breached Mohne dam after attack by Dambusters
The breached Mohne Dam the day after the raid from May 16/17, 1943.

They carried a heavier load of bigger bombs than any other aircraft in the European theatre. The 12,000 lb AP bomb was used to sink the Tirpitz, and the 22,000 lb weapon finally shook down the stubborn viaduct at Bielefeld in March 1945.

Stricken Tirpitz after attack by Lancaster bombers
The stricken battleship Tirpitz after the 12 November 1944 attack by 31 Lancaster bombers. The ship was hit by at least six 12,000 lb Tallboys, one of which caused an explosion in one of the vessel's magazines.

Bielefeld Viaduct after attacked by Lancaster bombers
The Bielefeld Viaduct after being attacked by Lancaster Specials of 617 Sqn, which dropped one Grand Slam and several Tallboys on the structure on 14 March 1945. The large craters visible in this pictures are those left by the Tallboys, while the Grand Slam made a rather smaller hole, penetrating deep and exploding underground.

Bomber Harris himsel summarised about the Avro Lancaster: 'One Lancaster is to be preferred to four Halifaxes. The Hailfax suffers about four times the casualties for a given bomb tonnage. Low ceiling and short range make it an embarrassment when planning attacks with Lancasters.'
In fact, the Lancaster actually suffered a higher loss rate than the Halifax during the daylight raids which predominated at the end of WW2, and its crews were more likely to die if their aircraft was shot down. Many also suspect that the Lancaster crews, bombing from higher altitude in greater discomfort, may have been less accurate in delivering their bombs. Finally, although it carried a heavier bombload, the Lancaster was a less useful multi-role areroplane than the capacious Halifax, and was less well-suited for tropical operations.

RAF bombs from 40lb to 22000lb
The collection of RAF bombs from 40 lb to 22,000 lb.

But in Arthur Harri's strategic bombing campaign live aircrew in enemy PoW camps were no more useful than the dead, and getting bombs 'bang-on' a pinpoint target was of less concern than saturating what were usually 'area targets'.
The fact that the average Lancaster delivered 154 tons of bombs in it's 27.2 sortie life, and could reach beyond Berlin, made it more useful than a shorter-range Halifax averaging only 100 tons.
With these advantages being enjoyed by an aircraft which was also cheaper to produce, it was inevitable that the Lancaster would be built in larger numbers than any other bomber, and would bear the brunt of the bombing campaign. They were despatched on 156,192 operational sorties during WW2, and some 3,836 were lost. These sorties included 107,085 on raids against Germany (23,204 of them by day) during which 2,508 Lancasters were lost (179 by day), representing nearly half of the Bomber Command total.
The Lancaster's narrow focus and suitability for the pure bomber role was largely the result of its wartime genisis. The Halifax and Stirling had been designed in peacetime for the anticipated needs of war, whereas the Lancaster was designed in the light of real operational experience. Multi-role capability was not needed, whereas ease and economy of production was more important than crew comfort and survival.

Users: RAF (British, Canadian and Polish squadrons), Canada, New Zealand (for all versions).

Bomb-up a Avro Lancaster with a Tallboy bomb
Ground crew bomb-up a Lancaster with a 12,000 lb Tallboy bomb. The bombs on the side of the aircraft indicate missions flown.

Technical data and statistics :
Avro 683 Lancaster Mk II
heavy bomber
Power plant

four Bristol Hercules VI 14-cylinder two-row, sleeve-valve radials engines, each with 1,650 hp

Wing span
102 ft 0 in
Length overall
64 ft 9 in
Height overall
19 ft 7 in
Weight empty
36,900 lb
Weight loaded
68,000 lb
Maximum speed
287 mph
at 11,500 ft
Cruising speed
210 mph
Climb time to 20,000 ft
41 minutes
(with maximum weight)
Service ceiling
24,500 ft
1,660 miles
(with 14,000lb bombs), 2,685 miles

ten 0.303in Browning in power turrets in nose (2), mid-upper (2), ventral (2) and tail (4)

maximum bomb load of 22,000 lb bombs
Price per unit
40,000 £
= 190,000 $
First flight (Mk I)
9 January 1941
Service delivery (mk I)
September 1941
(Mk II not later than October 1942)
First combat mission (Special)
May 1943
Final delivery
2 February 1946
Withdrawal from service
February 1954
Total production figure

Total: 7,366
(of these 300 Mk II, 3,425 Mk I and 3,039 Mk III)

Operations in WW2
(148,403 as bomber)
(40.76 ops per loss)
Bomb tonnage on targets
608,612 t
(4.1 tons per bomber op)

3d model Lancaster bomber Mk II
3d model Lancaster Mk II

Lancaster bomber Mk II
Lancaster bomber Mk II of No 61 Squadron, used from October 1942.

U-boat bunker destroyed by Grand Slam bomb
16.5 feet strong reinforced concrete slab of a U-Boat bunker destroyed by a Grand Slam.

for enlargement please click on the pictures.
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