The Dambusters raid, which took place on this day in 1943, could never have happened without the mighty four-engined Avro Lancaster, undoubtedly the greatest heavy bomber of World War II.
The daring mission of the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron required a plane that was capable of both precision low flying in the face of enemy fire and of carrying a huge bomb load. In the Bomber Command fleet, only the Lancaster had those two qualities.
Despite her huge frame, with a length of 70 feet and a wingspan of 102 feet, she was an astonishingly fast and maneuverable aircraft capable of reaching almost 300 mph. Her pilots adored her because she was so powerful and easy to handle. Such was her agility that she sometimes even drew comparisons with the equally legendary fighter, the Supermarine Spitfire.
Michael Maltin, a pilot with 550 Squadron, recalled: “You used to treat the Lanc a bit like a Spitfire. You couldn’t break that aircraft. You could pull it about and do steep turns and all that. The Lancaster was magnificent.”
For the complete story by Leo McKinstry of the (London) Daily Express, click here.