For the last three years of the Second World War the Avro Lancaster was the main heavy bomber used by Bomber Command to take the war to the heart-land of Nazi Germany.
It resulted from design work undertaken by Roy Chadwick and his Avro team to overcome the problems experienced with the twin-engined Manchester bomber. The prototype made its first flight in January 1941.
With an impressive performance and excellent flying characteristics it soon established its superiority over other allied four-engined bombers operating in Europe.
The industrial and military organisation needed to build and operate the Lancaster was huge. Six major companies built 7377 aircraft at ten factories on two continents; at the height of production over 1,100,000 men and women were employed working for over 920 companies. More service personnel were involved in flying and maintaining it than any other British aircraft in history.
The Lancaster’s operational career is littered with impressive statistics, some are set out below, but it is worth remembering that the average age of the seven-man crew was only 22 years. They endured danger and discomfort and many showed great courage in continuing to fly knowing the odds against survival were high. Bomber Command suffered the highest casualty rate of any branch of the British services in World War Two.
On average Lancasters completed twenty-one missions before being lost.