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The Avro Lancaster, a four-engine heavy bomber, is the most famous and iconic bomber aircraft of the Second World War.
The Lancaster was designed by Roy Chadwick and developed from the twin-engine Avro Manchester. In place of the Manchester’s unreliable and underpowered engines, the Lancaster was fitted with Rolls Royce Merlin engines. The first prototype, BT308, made its maiden flight on 9 January 1941. Development proceeded swiftly and the first Lancasters to enter service were delivered to 44 Squadron at RAF Waddington on Christmas Eve 1941.
Dropping over 600,000 tonnes of bombs in over 156,000 sorties, the Lancaster was responsible for two-thirds of the bombs dropped by Bomber Command over Germany and German-occupied territory between March 1942 and May 1945. The Lancaster is famously associated with Operation 'Chastise', popularly known as the 'Dambusters' raid, which took place on 16-17 May 1943, when modified Lancasters from 617 Squadron attacked three dams in the Ruhr Valley using 'Bouncing Bombs' designed by Barnes Wallis.
Other notable operations in which the Lancaster participated include the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz in November 1944, and Operation 'Manna' in May 1945, when emergency supplies of food were dropped by parachute to the starving Dutch people.
Of 7,377 Lancasters built, 3,249 were lost in action. In total Bomber Command lost 55,573 men during the Second World War, including a significant number of Lancaster crew.
Photograph of a modified Avro Lancaster of 617 Squadron carrying a 22,000-pound bomb. These specially modified Lancasters could carry the 12,000 and 22,000-pound bombs which were used against the V-weapon bases and the battleshipTirpitz.