Avro Lancaster

The Aircraft On Display

The Mark VII, of which the Museum's aircraft is an example, was the final production version, with the dorsal turret moved slightly forward, and the tail turret's four 0.303 inch machine guns replaced by two of 0.5 inch calibre. This mark was designed to be more suitable for operation in the tropics, as part of "Tiger Force", the British contribution to the invasion of Japan (and so never being required).

Type / History

Type Heavy bomber
Manufacturer A.V. Roe and sons
Designer Roy Chadwick
Maiden flight January 1941
Introduced RAF 1942
Retired Canada 1963
Primary users RAF
Number built 7,377
Variants Avro Lancastrian - interim transport conversion
Avro Lincoln - heavy bomber development
Avro York - transport derivative

The Avro Lancaster has its origins in the shortcomings of its predecessor, the Avro Manchester. The Manchester was a heavy bomber designed to UK Air Ministry Specification P.13/36, and was to use two of the new 24-cylinder Rolls Royce Vulture engines. These engines used an "X" layout, rather than the "V" of most 12-cylinder engines, but had severe reliability problems. As a result, only about 200 were built.

Roy Chadwick, Avro's chief designer, responded to the problem, replacing the Vultures with four of the less-powerful Merlin engines, and increasing the wing area. The modification was a success from the start, the change to the bomber's performance being so large that the its name was changed, from Manchester Mark III to Lancaster Mark I.

The Mark I was followed by the Mark II with Bristol Hercules radial engines, which was not a successful modification, and the Mark III with US-built Packard Merlins. The Lancaster Mark IV, first flown in June 1944, was characterised by a lengthened fuselage and increased wingspan, a change so large that it was renamed the Avro Lincoln Mark I - and so marked the effective end of the Lancaster's development. Other Lancaster marks, such as the Canadian-built Mark X, were minor modifications of the Mark III.

The performance and load-carrying capacity of the Lancaster meant that it was chosen for many "special" operations, such as the Dam Buster raids on the Rhine Valley dams in 1943, pathfinder operations marking targets for the main bomber force, and daylight precision bombing raids using the large "Tallboy" (11,000 pound) and "Grand Slam" (22,000 pound) bombs.

The "Lanc" or "Lankie," as it became affectionately known became the most famous and most successful of the Second World War night bombers, reputedly "delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties".

General Characteristics

General characteristics

Crew 7: pilot, flight engineer, navigator, bomb aimer,
wireless operator, mid-upper and rear gunners
Length 69 ft 5 in (21.18 m)
Wingspan 102 ft (31.09 m)
Height 19 ft 7 in (5.97 m)
Wing area 1,300 ft2 (120 m)
Empty weight 36 828 lb (16,705 kg)
Loaded weight 63,000 lb (29,000 kg)
Powerplant Rolls-Royce Merlin XX V12 engines, 1,280 hp (954 kW) each


Maximum speed 240 knots (280 mph, 450 km/h) at 15,000 ft (5,600 m)
Range 2,300 nm (2,700 mi, 4,300 km) with minimal bomb load
Service ceiling 23,500 ft (8,160 m)
Wing loading 48 lb/ft2 (240 kg/m2)
Power/mass 0.081 hp/lb (130 W/kg)


Guns 8, 0.303 in (7.70 mm) Browning machine guns in three turrets
Bomb load Maximum: 22,000 lb (10,000 kg)
Typical: 14,000 lb (6,400 kg)