The Avro Lancaster at Duxford, January 28th 2009

A few years ago, when I was still a teacher, along with four other teachers and more than a hundred members of Year 9, we all went in two coaches to Duxford near Cambridge to see the Imperial War Museum.  Look for the orange arrow:


None of you will be surprised that the very first plane I rushed to see was the Avro Lancaster. The planes are rather crowded together, but there it was:


There were trolleys and a little tractor to transport the bombs to the bomb-bay:

The bomb-bay is enormous, and eventually would be capable of taking a ten ton bomb, the “Grand Slam”:


The green cylindrical bomb in  the background in the below photograph is a blockbuster bomb or “cookie” and weighs 4,000 pounds which is around two tons. Quite often two of them were strapped together to make an 8,000 pound bomb. On occasion three of them would be bolted together to make things go with a real bang:

This is the mid-upper turret, armed with two .303 Browning machine guns. The gunners were seldom particularly happy that a target was provided underneath for the Luftwaffe night fighters to aim at:

This is the radome, behind the cockpit canopy. On more than one occasion my Dad would stand there. looking out, as the bombers all taxied out to the end of the runway for the take-off. My Dad was abundantly aware of the enormous casualty rates in Bomber Command, and more than once he wondered to himself how many of the aircraft he could see slowly making their way to the runway to take off would be coming back in the morning:


Overall, Bomber Command lost 8,325 aircraft to enemy action. A total of 55,573 young men, all of them volunteers, were killed, a casualty rate of 44.4%. Of every hundred airmen, 55 were killed, three were injured on active service, 12 became prisoners of war, two were shot down and made their way back to England and 27 survived. One of the two reasons my Dad was one of those 27 fortunate young men was the fact that he flew in Lancasters. “A Lanc will always get you back” he told me on more than one occasion. I owe my own existence, therefore, to the excellence of the Avro Lancaster.


Sooooo….when the moment was right, a fat old man quickly jumped over the rope, walked up to KB889, gave it a good pat and said “Thank you for my life”.
There will, however, always be some idiot child who is seduced by the flighty, undependable glamour of fighter aircraft and who will stand there taking photographs of Spitfires until the bus leaves. Just look at him in this photograph here:



Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Humour, The High School, Writing

24 responses to “The Avro Lancaster at Duxford, January 28th 2009

  1. Outstanding treasures from the past being preserved – makes a person feel good to know history will be seen by future generations too.

  2. atcDave

    Quite a collection! Looks like the Cold War era is well represented too.

    I never do “get” the visitors who spend all their time on only one exhibit, especially a fighter in post-war markings! There is so much to see, and so many interesting stories there. Thanks for sharing yours!

  3. Pierre Lagacé

    Nitpicking John…


    “This is the mid-upper turret, armed with two .303 Browning machine guns.”

    This is an American turret fitted with .50 caliber machine guns. It was found on B-17 and B-25. Canadian built Lancasters had this kind of turret. More poweful than 0.303 machine guns.

    As they say on this website it’s a Lancaster Mark X built in Canada.

    Serial No: KB889 Mark: X Known Op’s: 0

    Current Location: Imperial War Museum, Duxford,

    Cambridgeshire, England

    Current Status: Static Display – Restored to Wartime configuration

    Nickname: None Traced

    Service History:

    Built and Test flown 2-12-44, 45 Transport Group del’d 18-12-44, To UK 3-45, 20 MU Aston Down del’d 28-1-45, 428 Sqn, RCAF del’d 2-3-45 NA-I, Returned CDN 10-6-45, 661 (Heavy Bomber) Wing, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, for Tiger Force, No. 2 Air Command del’d 6-45, Stored at unspecified location, Mod. Mk.10 MR, 408(P) Sqn, RCAF AK-889, 107 RU, Temporary detachment to 107 (Rescue Unit) Torbay, Newfoundland while FM104 while was at Fairey Aviation, Dartmouth, N.S. for 4 months del’d 1960, Stored unspecified location c.24-4-63, Sold to Age of Flight of Niagara Falls, Ontario, del’d 5-64 and put on display by the Niagara Falls Museum in 1965, Ownership changed c.1968 to Mr. Ken Short of Oshawa who had plans to restore it to flying, this was not done and a/c remained in Oshawa, Ontario as a memorial, Sold again to Mr. D. Arnold c. 1984 -Warbirds of Great Britain- and was shipped to Blackbushe, Hampshire, registered in 1984 as G-LANC, To the RAF BBF support and has been completely restored to wartime configuration using parts of Lincoln RF342 (G-APRJ) by a crew headed by Eddie West to a static display. Purchased by the Imperial War Museum del’d 14-5-86 at Duxford, on public display on 1-11-94 at the Duxford Air Museum, Cambridgeshire c.1994


    To UK: departed for the U.K. on 3.1.45; arrived in Prestwick on 5 Jan.; Flown to Wymeswold, Liec.

    While with 428 Sqn, RCAF: training flight flown by S/L F. Macdonnell and crew, the mid-upper gunner F/L B. Hunchburger was taking a compass reading for the Navigator; a/c flew into a cumulus cloud and in the violence the aircraft flipped on its back and Brock Hunchburger decided to leave but while clipping on his chute it opened and he leaped into space, bounced off the tail plane and landed beside a farm house not far from Derby bruising his right leg but returned to Middleton St George none the worse.

    27.5.45: a/c receive further upspecified damage on a cross-country exercise – repaired on site

    4.6.45 returned to CDN: via St Mawgan, Cornwall

    Sold to Mr. D. Arnold in UK from AVM McEwen of 405 Sqn Oshawa, Ontario. a/c fully restored to wartime configuration and unveiled for public display at Duxford Air Museum 1995

    Production Data:

    Part of the first production batch of 300 aircraft built by Victory Aircraft Limited, Malton, Ontario, Canada. KB700-KB999 (produced ‘before’ the FM-Serial batch). Packard built Rolls-Royce Merlin 38 engines in the first 75 aircraft; Merlin 224 engines in the subsequent aircraft. Deliveries commenced to Britain 9-43; completed 3-45 (average rate of production, approximately 4 aircraft per week). Victory Aircraft Construction Number 37190

    • Thanks a lot for your input. I hadn’t realised that Lancasters were ever built with those more powerful guns, although I have read that a lot of the gunners themselves would have preferred a larger calibre. To be honest, as soon as I see a Lancaster, excitement tends to get the better of me, and technical accuracy may go a little out of the window.

  4. I couldn’t have said it better than GP. Great post John.

  5. Pierre Lagacé

    Thanks for posting John.

  6. I’ve been to Duxford many a time for airshows, to the museum and even for school trips and it never fails to amaze me. Whenever a ‘vintage’ aircraft flies over the school (often the BBMF do) its either a spitfire or Lancaster in the eyes of the youngsters, regardless of what it actually is. They are both iconic aircraft and their names shall live for ever. The Lancaster was a world beater and and each one stands as a proud monument to the memory of the 55,573 young men who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Lovey to see her again. Thank you John.

    • My pleasure! It’s a long time since a proper propeller driven aircraft flew over our house! Having said that, in the last twenty years, we have had both Spitfire and Lancaster so I shouldn’t give up hope yet!

  7. Great post. Someday I’ll have to over there to see those.

  8. I always admired the Avro Lancaster but now I understand why you are such a fan. Thanks for the post John. You have made it personal.

  9. Always one of my favourite Airfix models, I seem to remember that there were painting options, daytime green and brown or night time black. I went for black, it was easier. A few years ago I lived in Spalding and often the Lancaster would fly overhead, I was always astonished by the noise of the engines and wondered what a full squadron would sound like. During the war my mother was evacuated from London to Suffolk and lived near an American air base, she always tells the story that the ground would shake as though there was an earthquake when the bombers took off!

    • Absolutely. Just the one Lancaster at East Kirkby was deafening so I can hardly imagine what several hundred must have sounded like. If you find it on the Internet, there is a wonderful recording the BBC made during WW2 of a nightingale singing only to have 800 heavy bombers come along. Absolutely stunning!

  10. I visited Duxford about a decade or so ago. It was a cold windy February week day. There were few people there other than staff. I stood in the main hall and marveled at the Lancaster and the Sunderland. I imagined the run up of engines and the smell of oil and aviation fuel. It is marvelous to see these restored aircraft, but how quickly the stories of their air crews and those that supported them is disappearing.

  11. Yes, when I was a boy, I could listen to tales of the Somme and Ypres from those who were there, but now, it is my Dad’s generation who are fading away. They won’t be forgotten though. After even seventy years, as happened a few months back, a crowd of admirers will still stop their cars, get out and block the dual carriageway, to watch a Lancaster land and then taxi back to the hangar on the airfield at the side of the road. And the same, I would hope, for a B-17!

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