Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Canadian Warplanes 3: Avro Lancaster, 1942-1945

Avro Lancaster, RCAF 1942-1945

Data current to 12 April 2021.

 (No. 408 Squadron Photo)

Avro Lancaster Mk. II (Serial No. DS723), coded EQ-B, No. 408 Squadron, RCAF.  The aircraft was nicknamed 'Titus'.

The Avro Lancaster is a four-engined heavy bomber, designed and manufactured by Avro as a contemporary of the Handley Page Halifax and the Short Stirling.  All three aircraft were four-engined heavy bombers adopted by the RAF during the same Second World War era.  The Lancaster was powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines and in one version, Bristol Hercules engines.  It first saw service with RAF Bomber Command in 1942 and as the strategic bombing offensive over Europe gathered momentum, it was the main aircraft for the night-time bombing campaigns that followed.  As increasing numbers of the type were produced, it became the principal heavy used by the RAF, the RCAF and squadrons from other Commonwealth and European countries serving within the RAF, overshadowing contemporaries such as the Halifax and Stirling.  Of the 7,377 aircraft built, 3,736 were lost during the War (3,249 in action and 487 in ground accidents).

 (CFJIC-DND Photo, PL-1177 via Don Smith)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Serial No. R5727), built in the UK and flown to Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario in August, 1942 to serve as a pattern for the other Lancasters to be built in Canada.  The fabrication drawings had been delivered in January, 1942.  R5727 become the first of the type to conduct a transatlantic crossing.  The first Canadian-built Lancaster was a Mk. X (Serial No. KB700), aka “The Ruhr Express” coming off the line a year after R5727 arrived in Canada.  R5727 is shown here in flight over Montreal, Quebec.  Of particular note is the FN-64 “Belly Turret” fitted to this aircraft.  It is quite clear in some of the photos. The guns are .303 cal., but a few Lancasters were apparently fitted with a .50 cal mount as well.  The belly turret was not successful because of visibility issues, and was replaced with the H2S radar in that position.  (Don Smith)

During early 1942, it was decided that the bomber should be produced in Canada, where it was manufactured by Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario.  The Canadian-built Lancaster B Mk. X was produced in significant numbers.  A total of 430 of this type were built, earlier examples differing little from their British-built predecessors, except for using Packard-built Merlin engines and American-style instruments and electronics.

Postwar, the Lancaster was supplanted as the main strategic bomber of the RAF by the Avro Lincoln, a larger version of the Lancaster (three were built in Canada and flown by the RCAF).  The Lancaster took on the role of long range anti-submarine patrol aircraft and air-sea rescue.  It was also used for photo-reconnaissance and aerial mapping.

Beginning in 1946, Lancaster Mk. Xs were modified for service with the RCAF.  Fourteen aircraft were modified to perform aerial and photo-reconnaissance missions; these would go on to perform much of the mapping of northern Canada until as late as 1962.  Throughout the 1950s, the RCAF operated seventy modified Lancasters, designated Lancaster 10MR/MPs, as Maritime Reconnaissance and Patrol aircraft in an anti-submarine role.  Modifications involved the installation of radar and sonobuoy operators' positions, removal of the rear and mid-upper gun turrets, installation of a 400-gallon fuel tank in the bomb bay to increase the patrol range, upgraded electronics, radar, and instrumentation, and a cooking stove in the centre section.  They served throughout the 1950s, when they were replaced by the Lockheed Neptune and Canadair Argus.

The B.X was a Canadian-built B.III with Canadian- and US-made instruments and electrics.  On later batches the heavier Martin 250CE was substituted for the Nash & Thomson FN-50 mid-upper turret, mounted further forward to maintain centre of gravity balance.  Canada was a long term operator of the Lancaster, using modified aircraft after the war for maritime patrol, search and rescue and photo-reconnaissance until 1964.  The last flight by the RCAF was by F/L Lynn Garrison in (Serial No. KB-976), on 4 July 1964 at the Calgary International Air Show.

Postwar the RCAF modified the B X (as the Lancaster Mk 10) to fill a variety of roles, with specific designations for each role. These included:

10ARArea Reconnaissance – three aircraft modified for surveillance operations over the Arctic. Fitted with lengthened nose (40 inches (100 cm) longer) and carrying cameras and ELINT equipment. These remained in service until 1964.

10BRBomber Reconnaissance. Minimally modified variant with additional windows for observers in rear fuselage. 13 converted.

10DCDrone controller with Ryan Firebee drones – two modified in 1957 and operational until 1961.

10MR (later 10MP): Maritime Reconnaissance or Maritime Patrol anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft, based on BR with mid-upper turret removed.  70–75 converted. In service from 1950 to 1955.

10NNavigational trainer. Five converted.

10OOrenda jet engine testbed for the engine used in the Avro CF-100 Canuck.

10PPhoto reconnaissance mapping duties. 11 converted 1948–1950.  Retired 1964.

10S&R: Interim search-and-rescue aircraft, minimally modified 10S. Replaced by disarmed 10BR and 10MRs.

10S : Standard – designation applied to baseline standard, with Merlin 224 engines, Marin mid-upper turret and H2S radar, for aircraft retained postwar for future use. Sometimes referred to by unofficial designation 10U.

B.XV: As per Lancaster B.IV/Lincoln B.1 but built in Canada and renamed Avro Lincoln XV.  Three were built before order was cancelled when war ended.
Avro 683 Lancaster Mk. III (1), (Serial No. EE 182), Mk. X and Mk. XP (228), (Serial Nos. FM101, FM102, FM103, FM104 (preserved in the BCAM), FM105, FM110, FM111, FM115, FM118, FM120, FM122, FM 123, FM124, FM126, FM127, FM128, FM130, FM136 (preserved in the Aerospace Museum of Calgary), FM140, FM148, FM153, FM155, FM159 (preserved in the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum), FM172, FM199, FM206, FM207, FM208, FM209, FM210, FM211, FM212 (Windsor, Ontario), FM213 (CWHM), FM214, FM215, FM216, FM217, FM218, FM219, FM220, FM221 (Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories, wreckage), FN222, FM223, FM224, FM225, FM226, FM227, FM228, FM229, KB721, KB732, KB733, KB739, KB744, KB746, KB747, KB748, KB757, KB760, KB764, KB771, KB772, KB774, KB781, KB783, KB789, KB791, KB794, KB796, KB801, KB802, KB807, KB810, KB811, KB812, KB819, KB820, KB823, KB824, KB825, KB826, KB827, KB829, KB830, KB833, KB836, KB837, KB838, KB839 (GMAM), KB840, KB841, KB843, KB844, KB847, KB848, KB849, KB851, KB852, KB854, KB856, KB857, KB860, KB861, KB862, KB863, KB864, KB865, KB867, KB868, KB871, KB872, KB873, KB875, KB876, KB877, KB878, KB880, KB881, KB882, KB883, KB884, KB885, KB886, KB888, KB889 (preserved in the IWM, Duxford, UK), , KB890, KB891, KB892, KB893, KB894, KB895, KB896, KB898, KB899, KB900, KB912- KB934, KB936, KB937, KB938, KB939, KB940, KB941, KB942, KB943, KB944 (preserved in the CASM), KB945, KB946, KB947, KB948, KB949, KB950, KB951, KB953, KB953, KB954, KB955, KB956, KB957, KB958, KB959, KB959, KB960, KB961, KB962, KB963, KB964, KB965, KB967, KB968, KB969, KB970, KB972, KB973, KB974, KB975, KB976 (Fantasy of Flight Museum, Florida), KB977, KB978, KB979, KB981, KB982, KB983, KB984, KB986, KB988, KB990, KB991, KB992, KB994 (North Weald, UK), KB995, KB996, KB997, KB998, KB999), for a total of 229 aircraft.

Of the 17 surviving and largely intact Lancasters known to exist, two are airworthy; one, called Vera (Serial No. FM213), coded VR-A, is in Canada, operated by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope, a suburb of Hamilton, Ontario, and the other, (Serial No. PA474), is based in Coningsby, in the UK, operated by The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.  In 2014, "Vera" toured the UK in a series of joint displays with the BBMF aircraft.  For the 2018 flying season, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Chastise, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Lancaster is painted in the markings of Guy Gibson's 617 Squadron aircraft (Serial No. ED932), coded AJ-G, when he commanded the "Dambusters" raids.

Another Lancaster, Just Jane, based in East Kirkby Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre is able to taxi but is not currently airworthy, though there are plans to return her to flight in the future.  The fourth Lancaster with working engines and able to taxi is "Bazalgette" (Serial No. FM159), based at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta.  It has been carefully restored from a vandalised state and is now a major tourist attraction.

The first Lancaster to come to Canada

 (CFJIC-DND Photo, PL-1170 via Don Smith)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Serial No. R5727), built in the UK and flown to Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario, in August 1942 to serve as a pattern for the other Lancasters to be built in Canada.  The fabrication drawings had been delivered in January, 1942.  R5727 become the first of the type to conduct a transatlantic crossing.  The first Canadian-built Lancaster was a Mk. X (Serial No. KB700), aka “The Ruhr Express” coming off the line a year after R5727 arrived in Canada.  R5727 is shown here in flight over Montreal, Quebec.
Most of these photos were taken at Gander, Newfoundland, while a few were of the aircraft in the air over Montreal.  The aircraft flew from Prestwick so some of the ground shots might have been taken there.  Of particular note is the FN-64 “Belly Turret” fitted to this aircraft.  It is quite clear in some of the photos. The guns are .303 cal., but a few Lancasters were apparently fitted with a .50 cal mount as well.  The belly turret was not successful because of visibility issues, and was replaced with the H2S radar in that position.  (Don Smith)

 (CFJIC-DND Photo, PL-1172 via Don Smith)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Serial No. R5727), built in the UK and flown to Victory Aircraft in Malton, Canada in August 1942 to serve as a pattern for the other Lancasters to be built in Canada.  There is a Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, USAAF (Serial No. 41-9203), being delivered to the RAF as Fortress Mk. IIA, RAF (Serial No. FK209), during a stop at Dorval Airport, Quebec.  Note the ASV radar antennae under the wings and on the nose.  This aircraft served with RAF Coastal Command, until it was shot down in March 1943 by a German Junkers Ju 88 over Bay of Biscay.  Behind them is an RAF Martin B-26 Marauder Mk. I, a Canadian Vickers Canso A, a Lockheed Ventura, Lockheed Hudsons, an Airspeed Oxford, and a North American B-25 Mitchell.

 (CFJIC-DND Photo, PL-1171 via Don Smith)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Serial No. R5727), built in the UK and flown to Victory Aircraft in Malton, Canada in August 1942 to serve as a pattern for the other Lancasters to be built in Canada.

 (CFJIC-DND Photo, PL-1173 via Don Smith)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Serial No. R5727), built in the UK and flown to Victory Aircraft in Malton, Canada in August 1942 to serve as a pattern for the other Lancasters to be built in Canada.

 (CFJIC-DND Photo, PL-1174 via Don Smith)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Serial No. R5727), built in the UK and flown to Victory Aircraft in Malton, Canada in August 1942 to serve as a pattern for the other Lancasters to be built in Canada.

 (CFJIC-DND Photo, PL-1175 via Don Smith)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Serial No. R5727), built in the UK and flown to Victory Aircraft in Malton, Canada in August 1942 to serve as a pattern for the other Lancasters to be built in Canada.

 (CFJIC-DND Photo, PL-1180 via Don Smith)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Serial No. R5727), built in the UK and flown to Victory Aircraft in Malton, Canada in August 1942 to serve as a pattern for the other Lancasters to be built in Canada.

 (CFJIC-DND Photo, PL-1182 via Don Smith)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Serial No. R5727), built in the UK and flown to Victory Aircraft in Malton, Canada in August 1942 to serve as a pattern for the other Lancasters to be built in Canada.
 (Extract from Lancaster in action by R.S.G. Mackay)
Avro Lancaster cutaway diagram.
Emergency exit diagram for the Avro Lancaster.

No. 6 Group, RCAF

No. 6 Group RCAF consisted of RCAF heavy bomber squadrons serving in Europe from 1942 to 1945 during the Second World War.  The group operated out of airfields in  Yorkshire, England, and many squadrons flew the Avro Lancaster.

The RCAF began participating in operations by RAF Bomber Command in 1941, but its squadrons were initially attached to RAF groups.  In addition, many individual RCAF personnel belonged to RAF aircrews, serving in RAF squadrons.  The Canadian government wanted RCAF bomber squadrons and personnel to be concentrated, as much as possible, in a distinct, identifiably Canadian group. 

When No. 6 Group RCAF was formed on 25 October 1942, it was comprised of eight squadrons.  At the peak of its strength, No. 6 Group RCAF consisted of 14 squadrons.  Fifteen squadrons would eventually serve with the group, which was almost every RCAF heavy bomber squadron.  Headquarters for No. 6 Group RCAF was at Allerton park, near Knaresborough and Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England.

No. 6 Group RCAF flew 40,822 operational sorties A total of 814 aircraft and approximately 5,700 airmen did not return from operations and 4,203 airmen lost their lives.

The following RCAF squadrons were part of No. 6 Group RCAF: Nos. 405, 408, 415, 419, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 431, 432, 433, and 434 Squadrons.  Wikipedia.  Bashow, David L. No Prouder Place: Canadians and the Bomber Command Experience 1939-1945. (St. Catharine's, Ontario, Canada: Vanwell Publishing Limited, 2005); Dunmore, Spencer and William Carter. Reap the Whirlwind: The Untold Story of 6 Group, Canada's Bomber Force of World War II.  (Toronto, Ontario, Canada: McLelland and Stewart Inc., 1991); Milberry, Larry, ed. Sixty Years - The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924 - 1984.  (Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Canav Books, 1984).

No. 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron, RCAF was formed at Driffield, Yorkshire, on 23 April 1941 as an Article XV squadron and equipped with the Vickers Wellington bomber.  It flew the RCAF's first bombing operation ten weeks later on 12/13 June 1941, attacking the railway marshalling yards at Schwerte, Germany.  It converted to the Handley Page Halifax in April 1942, taking part in the historic 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne on the night of 30/31 May 1942.

In late October 1942, the squadron was loaned to Coastal Command to fly anti-submarine patrols in the Bay of Biscay at the time of the North African landings.

The squadron returned to Bomber Command at the beginning of March 1943, flying with No. 6 Group RCAF for short time before being selected for the elite No. 8 (Pathfinder) Group based at Gransden Lodge Airfield, with which it served until the end of the war.  Through the last 20 months of the bomber offensive the squadron was equipped with the Avro Lancaster.

The squadron's last operational mission took place on 25 April 1945 when nine Lancasters bombed the Berghof, and four aircraft bombed enemy gun batteries on island of Wangerooge.  The squadron was disbanded on 5 September 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4542803)

Avro Lancaster "Ruhr Express" preparing for its first Operation over Germany.  The “Ruhr Express” flew two operations with No. 405 Squadron before completing its service with No. 419 “Moose” Squadron.  On 2 January 1945 KB700, the first Canadian built Lancaster, experienced hydraulic problems while attempting to land following a raid to Nuremberg, its 49th operation.  The flaps would not deploy properly and, after overshooting the runway, the aircraft ended up in a farmer’s field where it collided with a trench digger.  Amid exploding ammunition the crew escaped but fire destroyed the aircraft. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4542805)

RCAF Avro Lancaster "Ruhr Express" being bombed up for a mission over Berlin.  Ground crews are steering two "cookies" (block-buster bombs) into position under the bomb-bay.  This aircraft was the first Canadian built Lancaster.  

 (RCAF Photo via Mike Kaehler)

In honour of all those that got the aircraft over target and the many that did not make it back home.  Two air gunners of the Moose squandron of the Canadian Bomber Group in Briyain, Flight Sergeants G.E. Berteau, Penhold, Alberta, and L. Nozzolillo, Toronto, (310 Broadview Avenue) Ontario, examine the remains of the first Canadian-built Lancaster to fly operationally, the "Ruhr Express".  Just before dawn on a snowy January morning, the "Ruhr Express" caught fire after a successful attack on Nuremburg, and was gutted.  She had made 50 flights over German-held territory, and every time brought back her crew safely, including the last mission.  Only the tail plane and rear structure escaped the flames.

No. 408 Squadron, RCAF, was formed on 24 June 1941, as part of No. 5 Group, RAF.  It was the second RCAF bomber squadron formed overseas.  The "Goose" Squadron, was initially based at RAF Lindholme in Yorkshire, England, and equipped with Handley Page Hampdens.  No. 408  Squadron converted aircraft several times during the war, changing from Hampden aircraft to the Handley Page Halifax, and then to Avro Lancaster bombers in August 1943 after moving to RAF Linton-on-Ouse and where it became part of No. 6 Group, RCAF.

No. 408 Squadron flew 4,610 sorties and dropped 11,340 tons of bombs.  A total of 170 aircraft were lost and 933 personnel were killed, listed as missing in action (MIA) or became prisoners of war (PW).  Squadron members won two hundred decorations, and 11 battle honours for its wartime operations.  On 5 September 1945, No. 408 Squadron was officially disbanded.

 (RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster Mk. II (Serial No. DS704), No. 408 Squadron, RCAF.

(RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. LL725), EQ-C, of No. 408 Squadron being bombed up Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, ca. 1944.

No. 419 Bomber Squadron, RCAF, was formed at RAF Mildenhall, England in 1941 as part of No. 3 Group, Bomber Command.  The squadron moved to RAF Middleton St, George when it joined No. 6 Group, RCAF, and remained in England until 1945.  The squadron operated Vickers Wellington, then Handley Page Halifax and finally Avro Lancaster bombers during this period.  It was the third RCAF bomber unit to be formed in England.  It began flying operations in January 1942, converting almost immediately to Vickers Wellington Mk. IIIs,  The squadron moved north to Leeming as part of No. 6 Group, RCAF, in August 1942.  In November it was re-equipped with Handley Page Halifax Mk. IIs, which it flew for the next 18 months on night offensive bombing missions against Germany.  After three quick moves it settled at Middleton St. George in November and stayed there for the rest of its service in Bomber Command.

In April 1944 the squadron began to convert to Canadian-built Avro Lancaster Mk. Xs that had been flown across the Atlantic.  The squadron remained continuously on the offensive until 25 April 1945, when it flew its last sortie.  Squadron personnel flew a total of 4,325 operational sorties during the war from Mannheim to Nuremberg, Milan to Berlin and Munich to Hanover, inflicting heavy damage on the enemy.  As a result of its wartime record, No. 419 Squadron became one of the most decorated units under the RCAF during the war.  Over a span of roughly three-and-a-quarter years it logged 400 operational missions (342 bombing missions, 53 mining excursions, 3 leaflet raids and 1 "spoof") involving 4,325 sorties.  One hundred and twenty nine aircraft were lost on these operations.

Between January 1943 to March 1944, No. 419 Squadron was involved in over 200 sorties involving 2,400 crewing operations losing 59 aircraft, a rate of one in every 40.  415 men were either killed or taken PW during those 15 months, averaging 4 crews a month.  The average crew survival rate was between 2 and 3 months when about 20 missions would be flown.  In general mining operations were relatively safer missions.  In particular the attacks on German cities intensified from early October when more than 100 crews were regularly dispatched to bomb Frankfurt, Mannheim, Berlin, Magdeburg, Leipzig and Nuremberg.  During March 1944, the squadron carried out many mining missions, before taking part in No. 6 Group RCAF's 118-crew attack on Nuremberg at the end of the month.  It suffered the squadron's worst loss of the war, with 13 aircraft going down on one sortie.

No. 419 Squadron was, like other squadrons in 6 Group, RCAF, heavily involved in bombing missions during the run up to the June landings in Normandy.  Rail-yards were successfully attacked at Trappes (6/7), Le Mans (13/14), Amiens (16/17), Laon (23/24), Aulnoye (25/26), Courtrai (26/27) and Vaires-sur-Marne (29/30) as well as mining operations in the Gironde Estuary (3/4), Brest (4/5), Lorient, Brest, St Nazaire, the Terchelling Islands (11/12), Heligoland (18/19 and 30/31) and Kiel Bay (22/23).  An aircraft factory at Meulan Les Mureaux was bombed on 2/3 March.  No. 419 Squadron flew back to Canada in June 1945 and was disbanded at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on 5 September 1945.

 (RCAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster Mk. X, No. 419 Squadron, RCAF, with (Serial No. KB711) in the lead.

 (RCAF Photo, PL29477)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. Xs, newly built Canadian aircraft, marshalled for take-off, 1st Op, No. 419 (Moose) Squadron, RCAF, 3 May 1944.

 (RCAF Photo, PL43704)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. X, No. 419 Squadron, RCAF, preparing for raid on Wangerooge Island, 25 Apr 1945.

 (RCAF Photo, UKLS736)

Avro Lancaster, with needle props, No. 419 Squadron, Middleton, St. George, 3000th sortie. 

 (RCAF Photo, PL43394)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. X, No. 419 Squadron, at their dispersal site, Middleton, St. George, England, 18 Apr 1945.

No. 420 Squadron, RCAF, was formed at Waddinton, Lincolnshire, England, on 19 December 1941.  During the Second World War, the squadron flew Avro Manchester, Handley Page Hampden, Vickers Wellington, Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster bombers on numerous strategic and tactical bombing operations.  From June to October 1943, No. 420 Squadron flew tropicalized Vickers Wellington aircraft from North Africa in support of the invasions of Sicily and Italy.  In April 1945 they converted to Avro Lancasters, and when hostilities in Europe concluded, it was selected as part of Tiger Force slated for duty in the Pacific, and returned to Canada for reorganisation and training.  The sudden end of the war in the Far East resulted in the Squadron being disbanded at Debert, Nova Scotia on 5 September 1945.

 (Ian Duncan Photo)

Avro Lancaster Mk. X (Serial No. KB-871), coded PT-E, No. 420 City of London "Snowy Owl" Squadron, RCAF, at dispersal.

No. 424 Squadron, RCAF, was formed at RAF Topcliffe, North Yorkshire in England on 15 October 1942, as the sixth RCAF Overseas bomber squadron.  It was allocated to No. 4 Group, RAF, where it was initially equipped with the Vickers Wellington Mk. III medium bomber, and later with Mk. Xs.  No. 424 Squadron joined No. 6 Group, RCAF and began operations on 15 January 1943, after moving to RAF Leeming, and then to RAF Dalton.  By the end of April 1943, No. 424 Squadron had bombed Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Bochum, Hamburg, Cologne, Essen, and took part in a third trip to Duisburg.  No. 424 Squadron RCAF 'Tiger Squadron' aircraft wore the code letters "QB".

On 10 April 1943, No. 424 Squadron was selected to become part of No. 205 Group, RAF, forming part of No. 331 (RCAF) Medium Bomber Wing, flying Vickers Wellington B Mk. X bombers, for operations in North Africa.  The Wellingtons were tropicalized for use in the heat, sand, and frequent dust storms, and offered much improved performance including the ability to fly on one engine.  Its first new mission was in support of Operaton Husky, the invasion of Sicily (9/10 July), while based in Tunisia.  The squadron bombed airfields, harbours, freight yards and rail junctions.

No, 424 Squadron was declared operational at Zina (Kairouan West) Airfield, Tunisia on 26 June 1943, operating from a rough and primitive airstrip scraped out of scrubby unused olive groves, initially bombing 'pre-invasion' targets, then bombing in support of Allied Ground Forces in Sicily, and Operation Avalanche, the invasion of Southern Italy (3 September).  Flying almost nightly, the 'Tigers' operated from Zina Airfield until 29 September 1943.  The squadron moved to El Hani East Landing Ground (Kairouan), from where they continued to support Allied Ground Forces in Italy.  The last mission of No. 331 (RCAF) Wing was on 5 October 1943 when twenty-one Vickers Wellington B Mk. X aircraft of No. 424 and No. 425 Squadrons bombed the airfield at Grosseto, Italy, half-way between Rome and Pisa.  They departed on 15 October 1943.

No. 424 Squadron arrived back in Yorkshire, on 6 November 1943, and was assigned to No. 63 Base, RCAF, at RAF Skipton-on-Swale, arriving in time for yet another North Yorkshire winter.  The squardon was re-equipped with Handley Page Halifax Mk. III heavy bombers.  Operating out of Skipton-on-Swale, it continued in the night offensive against Germany throughout 1944.  In October 1944, a Mat Ferguson 'Squadron Badge' was submitted to the Chester Herald of the Royal College of Arms and 'much modified' came to be approved by King George VI in June 1945.  No. 424 Squadron gained its "Tiger" nickname.

In January 1945, No. 424 Squadron was re-equipped with Avro Lancaster Mk. Is and Mk. IIIs and flew its final sortie in April 1945.  After VE Day, the squadron served with No. 1 Group RAF 'Bomber Command Strike Force', flying POW repatriation missions from Italy from 30 August.   The squadron was disbanded at Skipton on 15 October 1945, having received fourteen battle honours.

Returning to Canada, the squadron was re-activated at Mount Hope, Ontario, on 15 April 1946, as No. 424 (Light Bomber) Squadron (Auxiliary).  Its headquarters was again at 275 James Street, Hamilton, Ontario, where 'The City of Hamilton' Squadron had began its 'lineage' with the RCAF Canadian Home War Establishment (HWE) No. 19 Bomber Squadron, on 15 May 1935.

 (RCAF Photo)

Avro 683 Lancaster Mk. X (Serial No. NG347), coded QB-P for Papa, “Piccadilly Princess”, No. 424 "Tiger" (B) Squadron, RCAF.

This Lancaster was abandoned after it crashed near Hartford Bridge, Hampshire, in the UK, after being severely damaged in the rear fuselage and starboard wing by a night-fighter immediately after dropping its bomb load over the target at Mannheim, Germany on the 10th of August 1943.  The aircraft was destroyed.  The head and shoulders of the “Princess” nose art was recovered the day after the crash by the pilot and ended up on display at the Canadian War Museum in April 1949.  This piece of the fuselage is believed to still be in the possession of the Museum.  (Note: Handley Page Halifax Mk. V, (Serial No. EB247), coded ZL-P, also carried the name “Piccadilly Princess”, when it flew with No. 427 "Lion" (B) Squadron, RCAF).

No. 425 Squadron, RCAF, the first French Canadian squadron, was formed on 22 June 1942 at RAF Dishforth in Yorkshire, England, as a bomber unit flying Vickers Wellingtons.  No. 425 Squadron RCAF 'Alouette Squadron' aircraft wore the code letters "KW".  The squadron went into action for the first time on the night of 5/6 October 1942, bombing  Aachen, Germany with a small number of aircraft.  In 1943, the squadron flew to Kairoun, Tunisia, and from there, it conducted operations against Italy and Sicily, returning to the UK in November of the same year. 

In December 1943, they were re-equipped with Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers and flew their first mission with these aircraft in February 1944.  Their final operation took place on 25 April 1945, when they bombed gun batteries on the Frisian island of Wangerooge.  Following the end of the war in Europe, in May 1945, No. 425 Squadron re-equipped again, this time with Avro Lancaster Mk. Xs.  The squadron flew back to Canada in June 1945, to prepare for their role in Tiger Force for the continuing war against Japan.  The use of atomic bombs and firebombing raids on Japan led to the end of the war and the need for Tiger Force.  No. 425 Squadron was disbanded on 5 September 1945 at RCAF Staton Debert, Nova Scotia, less than three weeks after the Japanese surrender.

 (DND Photo)

Avro Lancaster, No. 425 Squadron, RCAF, VE Day celebration, RAF Tholthorpe, England, 8 May 1945.

No. 426 Squadron, RCAF, was first formed at RAF Dishforth, England on 15 October 1942, with Vickers Wellington Mk. IIIs and Mk. Xs.  The squadron flew with No. 4 Group, RAF, carrying out its first operational mission occurred on the night of the 14th and 15 January 1943, when seven Wellingtons bombed Lorient, France.  The squadron flew its missions at night, principally over Germany.  Unlike the other RCAF Wellington squadrons it did not go to Tunisia that year, but remained operating over Germany.  In 1943 No. 426 Squadron was transferred to No. 6 Group, RCAF, and in June it moved to RAF Linton-on-Ouse, where it was re-equipped with the Bristol Hercules radial-engined Avro Lancaster Mk. II heavy bomber.  Shortly afterwards, No. 426 Squadron resumed the offensive, and continued with the night campaign from Linton for the next ten months.  On April 1944 it began to re-equip with Handley Page Halifax Mk. IIIs and Mk. VIIs, and for the next year continued to operate with these bombers as part of No. 6 Group.

During the war it flew 261 operational missions (242 bombing missions and 19 mining excursions) involving 3,213 sorties, and in doing so lost 88 aircraft.  Its last operation took place on 25 April 1945, when 20 Halifaxes bombed gun batteries on the island of Wangerooge On 25 May 1945, the squadron was renamed to No. 426 Transport Squadron.

Possibly, the most heroic act realized by a member of the squadron during the war took place on 20 October 1943, when Flight Sergeant Stuart (the pilot) and his crew were sent to bomb Leipzig.  During the mission he was engaged by enemy Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Junkers Ju 88 fighters.He initially managed to shake them off, but not before having his aircraft rendered almost unfit to fly, leaving it with a shattered cockpit, damaged and gun turrets, holes in the fuel tanks, damaged hydraulics and no navigation instruments.  Against all odds Stuart decided to continue the mission and successfully bombed his target before guiding his crippled aircraft home.  He was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM).  The squadron was disbanded on 1 January 1946.

 (RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster Mk. II (Serial No. DS689), coded OW-S, No. 426 Squadron, RCAF.  Manufactured by Armstrong-Whitworth, Aircraft Ltd. Baginton, Coventry, this bomber is equipped with Bristol Hercules radial air-cooled engines and bulged bomb-bay doors to carry the large ‘Super-cookies’.  DS689 flew several missions over Berlin until it was lost during a raid on Stuttgart on the night of 7/8 December 1943.

DS689 was delivered to No. 426 Squadron on Monday 29 June 1942.. The aircraft failed to return from night-operations to Stuttgart on the night of Thursday, 7 October 1943, becoming the 28th aircraft from the Squadron to become non effective and struck off charge, becoming the 214th Squadron aircraft to become non-effective and struck off charge flying out of RAF Station Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, the 592nd aircraft from Canadian Squadrons operating in Bomber Command, the 350th aircraft from No.6 (RCAF) Bomber Group, to become non-effective and struck off charge and the 52nd aircraft to become non-effective flying from Base Station RAF Station Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, the main Station of No.61 (Beaver) Bomber Base No.6 (RCAF) Bomber Group.  Lancaster DS689 was the 75th aircraft having been briefed to attack Stuttgart to become non-effective and struck off charge and the 285th aircraft from the Group to become non-effective and struck off charge following an operational sortie and the 263rd aircraft to become non-effective and struck off charge following a bombing sortie. Air Ministry (AM) Form 78 indicates that DS689 had 339 hours 35 minutes flying time logged against the airframe.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo,  PL 26857)

While his mascot "Flak" sits by faithfully until the job is finished, Sgt. Wilbur Dovell a mid-upper gunner with No. 426 'Thunderbird' (B) Squadron, RCAF, does a pull through on the machine guns of his mid-upper turret in a Canadian Lancaster. While of doubtful breed, "Flak" is without doubt a faithful companion.  He waits patiently till his master has done the daily inspection on the guns and turret and then ambles along to the next job of the day.  He is there when the boys take off and is the first to greet them on their return.  On training flights he sleeps on the wireless operator's table in the four-engine aircraft and has many hours flying to his credit.

No. 427 Squadron, RCAF, was formed at Croft, England on 7 November 1942 and spent its wartime entirely in England as a part of No. 6 Group, RCAF.  The squadron flew Vickers Wellington Mk. IIIs and Mk. Xs, from its first operational mission on 14 December 1942, a minelaying sortie to the Frisian Islands, until May 1943 when it was relocated to Leeming, North Yorkshire.  Re-equipped with Handley Page Halifax Mk. V aircraft, the squadron flew intensely until early 1944 when it replaced its inventory with Halifax Mk. III aircraft.  This fleet saw the greatest number of missions and in slightly more than a year's time they were then replaced by Avro Lancaster bombers prior to the end of the Second World War.  The Lancasters were used for prisoner of war repatriation until the end of May 1946.  No. 427 Squadron was stood down on 1 June 1946.

Avro Lancaster Mk. l and Mk. III (Mar 1945 – May 1946), ME393 D ME426 C ME498 K MESOl T NX548 J NX549 U NXSSO V NXSSl G NX552 S NX553 H NX554 F NXSSS R PA260 Q PA263 E PA271 W RAS34 A RA536 N RA537 P RA538 B RA539 0.

No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, also known as the Ghost Squadron,was the ninth long-range heavy bomber Article XV squadron formed overseas during the Second World War, at RAF Dalton in Yorkshire, England on 7 Nov 1942.  The squadron was initially assigned to No. 4 Group, RAF.  With the creation of No. 6 Group, RCAF, the squadron was reallocated on 1 Jan 1943 operating with it until 25 April 1945.  No. 428 Squadron RCAF Ghost Squadron aircraft were coded NA.

The squadron was initially equipped with Vickers Wellington Mk. III and Mk. Xs.  It carried out its first operational mission on 26-27 Jan 1943, when five Wellingtons bombed the U-Boat base at Lorient in Brittany, on the Bay of Biscay.  In the early part of June 1943, the squadron moved to RAF Middleton, St. George, where it remained for the remainder of the war.  Around this time the squadron was converted to Handley Page Halifax Mk. V heavy bombers, later supplemented by Mk. IIAs.

In January 1944, Halifax bombers from No. 428 Squadron participated in the first high-level mining raid (Gardening), when mines were dropped by parachute from 15,000 feet (4,570 m) over Brest on 4/5 Jan and Saint-Nazaire on 6/7 Jan 1945.  The squadron flew its last sortie with the Halifax on 12 June 1944.  Shortly afterwards, No. 408 Squadron converted to the Canadian-built Avro Lancaster B Mk. X, with the first sortie taking place on 14 June 1944.

For the final phase of the air campaign against Germany, the squadron took part in day and night raids, with its last operational sortie taking place on 25 April 1945, when 15 Lancasters bombed anti-aircraft gun batteries defending the mouth of the Weser River on the Frisian Island of Wangerooge No. 428 Squadron RCAF remained in service in the United Kingdom until the end of May 1945.

By the middle of June the squadron had moved to RCAF Station Yarmouth in Nova Scotia, where it was disbanded on 5 Sep 1945.

 (RCAF Photo via Fred Paradie)

Avro Lancaster (Serial No. KB 882), coded NA-R, in the UK with No. 428 Squadron, RCAF. 

 (Chris Sheehan Photo)

Avro Lancaster, "Goofy", No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, with Radar Mechanic Harold Greer, Middleton St George, UK, 1944.

 (RCAF Photo via Chriss Sheehan)

Avro Lancaster (Serial No. KB882), coded NA-R, No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, typical English scene, Middleton St George, UK, 1944.  KB882 was later converted to Mk. 10 AR standard with a 3 foot nose extension.  It is one of the 17 Lancasters that survive.

 (Chris Sheehand Photo)

Avro Lancaster, No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, with her crew, Middleton St George, England, 1944.

 (RCAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster "Sugars Blues", No. 428 Squadron, Radar Mech Harold Greer, Middleton St George, England.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3614986)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. X (Serial No. KB760), coded NA-P, with aircrew and groundcrew, No. 428 (Ghost) Squadron, RCAF.  They flew the squadron's 2,000th sortie, a raid on Bremen, Germany, 18 Aug 1944.  The badge for the squadron's sponsor, the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE) is visible on the nose. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4118874)

Avro Lancaster bomb load, five rows of 1000 lb bombs, four per row.

 (Willowby Family Photo)

Avro Lancaster bomb load.  John Robert Willowby's grandfather, Air Vice Marshall Mike McEwen, RCAF is in this photo, examining the bombload of an Avro Lancaster, somewhere in the UK, ca 1944-45.  Jim Morgan noted, "those of you who are bomb aficionados, please correct me if I'm wrong but from what I see there in the bomb bay is one 2500 lb cookie (round canister), three five hundred pounders, two 250 pounders as well as at least six lighter bombs that may very well be incendiaries.  Looks like nearly a standard mix if they're going after a heavy target!"

 (DND Photo) 

...and sadly, what happens when flak hits the aircraft before it drops its bombs. Avro Lancaster exploding over Essen, Germany, 11 Mar 1945.

 (RAF Photo via James Craik)

An impressive aerial photograph of 12 Lancasters of No. 428 Squadron RCAF 'Ghost Squadron', lined up nose to tail taken 31 May 1945, the day they left for Canada. 15 Canadian built Lancasters took off at one minute intervals from their Bomber Station at Middleton St. George Yorkshire in the UK.  They were the first of the Canadian Squadrons to leave the United Kingdom after VE Day.  More followed daily until all aircrew were gone.  They were heading home to join "Tiger Force" for the war in the Pacific.

No. 429 Squadron, RCAFwas formed on 7 Nov 1942 and initially assigned to No 4 Group at RAF East Moor.  It was reassigned to No 6. Group, RCAF, and flew until it was disbanded on 31 May 1946.  The squadron moved to RAF Leeming in 1943.  During the war No. 408 Squadron flew Vickers Wellingtons in the Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role from Nov 1942 to Aug 1943, then the Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber from Aug 1943 to March 1945, then the Avro Lancaster B Mk. I and Mk. III from March 1945 to May 1946.  The squadron also flew the Douglas Dakota transport aircraft.  No. 429 (Bison) Squadron aircraft wore the code letters AL.

Summary Sorties: 3221 (including 45 airlifting 1055 POW’s back to England).  Operational/Non-opera­tional Flying Hours: 17,289110,934.  Bombs dropped: 9356 tons.  Victories: Aircraft: 7 destroyed, 1 probably destroyed, 10 damaged.  Casualties: Operational: 71 air­craft; 451 aircrew, of whom 82 were killed, 322 missing, 23 POW, 7 injured; 17 proved safe. Non-operational: 11 air­craft; 25 personnel, of whom 15 were killed, 10 injured.

Honours and Awards: 2 bars to DFC, 45 DFC’s, 1 AFC, 1 CGM, 7 DFM’s.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4046922)

Avro Lancaster, RCAF No. 429 Squadron, 27 Mar 1945. 

No. 431 Squadron, RCAF, was formed on 11 Nov 1942, at RAF Burn, in North Yorkshire England.  The squadron was initially equipped with Vickers Wellington B Mk. X medium bombers and assigned to No. 4 Group, RAF.  The squadron moved to RAF Tholthorpe in mid-1943 as part of the move to bring all RCAF squadrons into No. 6 Group, RCAF.  Here, it converted to the  Handley Page Halifax B Mk. III heavy bomber.  In December 1943 the squadron moved to RAF Croft where it was re-equipped with Halifax Mk. IIIs and later, Avro Lancaster B Mk. Xs.  The squadron moved to RCAF Station Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, after the war, and was disbanded there on 5 September 1945.

No. 432 Squadron, RCAFwas first formed at RAF Skipton-on-Swale on 1 May 1943, as part of No. 6 Group, RCAF.  The unit was initially equipped with Vickers Wellington Mk. X medium bombers.  The squadron deployed to RAF East Moor in mid-September.  In Oct 1943, it was re-equipped with Avro Lancaster Mk. II heavy bombers.  In February 1944 the squadron converted to Handley Page Halifax Mk. IIIs, upgrading these to Halifax Mk.VIIs in July.

As part of a RCAF public relations plan, the town of Leaside officially "adopted" No. 432 Squadron, RCAF.  The squadron took the town's name as its nickname, becoming 432 "Leaside" Squadron RCAF.  The sponsorship lasted the duration of the war.  The squadron was disbanded at East Moor in May, 1945.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3615003)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. II (Serial No. DS848), coded QO-R with aircrew, No. 432 (Leaside) Squadron, RCAF, 1944.

No. 433 Squadron, RCAF, was formed at RAF Skipton-on-Swale on 25 Sep 1943, but was without aircraft for nearly two months.  When these arrived they were the latest version of the Handley Page Halifax Mk. III, and No. 433 worked up on them to begin operations on 2 Jan 1944. For the next year the squadron was continuously operational on Halifaxes over the Continent by night.  In January 1945 the Halifaxes were replaced by Avro Lancaster Mk. Is, and No. 433 Squadron used these for three months, by which time the war in Europe had come to an end.  No. 433 was not disbanded but, as part of No. 1 Group, flew trooping flights from Germany and Italy, bringing back troops and POWs.  This continued until 15 Oct 1945, when the squadron disbanded at Skipton-on-Swale.

No. 434 Squadron, RCAFwas first formed at RAF Tholthorpe, England on 13 June 1943.  It was initially equipped with the Handley Page Halifax Mk. V.  On 13 Aug 1943 it flew its first operational sortie, a bombing raid across the Alps to Milan, Italy.  In May 1944 the unit received Halifax Mk. IIIs to replace its Mk. Vs.  The squadron was adopted by the Rotary Club of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and to show its connection to the city adopted the nickname "Bluenose Squadron", the common nickname for people from Nova Scotia and a tribute to the schooner Bluenose.  An image of the schooner is on the squadron badge.

The squadron moved to RAF Croft in December 1943 and re-equipped with Avro Lancaster Mk. Is and Mk. Xs in December 1944.  After VE, the squadron was earmarked for Tiger Force to carry on the war against Japan, but was never deployed to the Far East.  The unit was disbanded at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on 5 September 1945.

During the war, No. 434 Squadron flew 198 missions, including 179 bombing, 17 mine laying, one diversionary and one sea search.  This was made up of a total of 2,582 individual aircraft sorties, including 45 prisoner of war airlift sorties.  It flew 14,622 operational flying hours and dropped 10,358 tons of bombs plus 225 mines.  The squadron accounted for seven enemy aircraft destroyed along with two probable and four damaged.  No. 434 Squadron lost 75 aircraft, and had 484 aircrew operational casualties, including 34 killed, 313 presumed dead, 121 made prisoners and 16 who evaded capture and escaped.  The non-operational casualty total was eight killed, plus one member who died of natural causes.  Unit personnel received six bars to the DFC, 108 DFCs, six DFMs, one BEM and seven MiDs.

No. 617 Squadron, RAF

No. 617 Squadron, RAF, was formed under great secrecy at RAF Scampton on 21 March 1943.  It included RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF personnel and was formed for the specific task of attacking three major dams that contributed water and power to the Ruhr industrial region in Germany: the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams.  The plan was given the codename Operation Chastise and the mission was carried out on 17 May 1943.  The squadron had to develop the tactics to deploy Barnes Wallis's "bouncing bomb", and undertook some of its training over the dams of the Upper Derwebt Valley in Derbyshire, as the towers on the dam walls were similar to those to be found on some of the target dams in Germany.

 (IWM Photo, HU 69915)

Operation CHASTISE was the coden name for the attack on the Moehne, Eder and Sorpe Dams by No. 617 Squadron RAF on the night of 16/17 May 1943.  A practice 10.000 lbs 'Upkeep' weapon attached to the bomb bay of Wing Commander Guy Gibson's Avro Type 464 (Provisioning) Lancaster, (Serial No. ED932/G), coded AJ-G, at Manston, Kent, while conducting dropping trials off Reculver.

The original commander of No. 617 Squadron, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the raid.

 (IWM Photo, CH 18005)

Avro Lancaster (Serial No. ED932), coded AJ-G, No. 617 Squadron, with RAF Wing Commander Guy Gibson (in the door of the aircraft) and his crew as they prepare to board for a raid on the Ruhr Dams, 16 May 1943. Left to right: Flight Lieutenant R.D. Trevor-Roper, DEM; Sergeant J. Pulford; Flight Sergeant G.A. Deering, RCAF; Pilot Officer F.M. Spafford, DFM, RAAF; Flight Lieutenant R.E.G. Hutchinson, DFC; Wing Commander Guy Gibson; Pilot Officer H.T. Taerum, RCAF.

 (IWM TR 1128, via Joe McCarthy Jr)

Crew Members of No. 617 Squadron (The Dambusters), with Lancaster bomber (Serial No. ED285), AJ-T, "T for Tommy", at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, England on 22 July 1943 .  RCAF Pilot Flight Lieutenant Joe McCarthy (centre), Flight Engineer Sergeant W.G. Radcliffe, Navigator Flight Sergeant Donald Arthur MacLean (front left), Wireless Operator Flight Sergeant L. Eaton, Bomb Aimer Sgt G.L. Johnson, Front Gunner Sergeant R. Batson, and Rear Gunner Flying Officer D. Roger.

Don Christopher noted, "many RCAF airmen flew in 'RAF' squadrons and refused to leave their mates once 6 Group was created."  Carl Christie noted, "more members of the RCAF served in RAF units than in RCAF ones during the Second World War."  He added, "the storied No. 617 Squadron was...a good example of the "Royal Commonwealth Air Force", including an American, RCAF Squadron Leader Joe McCarthy."

Joseph Charles "Big Joe" McCarthy, DSO, DFC and Bar, CD (31 August 1919 – 6 September 1998) was an American aviator who served with the RCAF in Bomber Command He is best known as the commander and pilot of Avro Lancaster coded AJ-T ("T-Tommy") in Operation Chastise, the "Dambuster" raid of 1943.

McCarthy was best known for flying with No. 617 Squadron, RAF, including the Dams Raid in 1943.  By the time of the raid he had already taken part in thirty bombing sorties over Germany, including three over Berlin.  McCarthy and his crew flew with the second wave of Lancasters, but he had to take a spare aircraft after his failed.  T-Tommy was the only aircraft of the second wave to attack a target – the Sorpe Dam, which had to be attacked with an Upkeep bomb directly without it bouncing.  Despite the bomb hitting the target, the dam was not breached.

He was awarded a DFC in 1943 for service with No. 97 Squadron, RAF, a DSO in the same year for the dams raid, and a Bar to the DFC in 1944.

 (IWM Photo, TR 1000)

King George VI visiting No. 617 Squadron, RAF, 27 May 1943.  The King inspects ground crewmen lined up beneath the nose of Avro Lancaster B Mk I. (Serial No. ED989), coded DX-F, "Frederick III", which bears a motif derived from a caricature of Wing Commander Campbell Hopcroft, the Commanding Officer of No. 57 Squadron, RAF, which shared Scampton with No. 617 Squadron at this time.

 (IWM Photo, CH17864)

Wing Commander J B Tait, Commanding Officer of No. 617 Squadron, RAF, (fifth from left), standing with his crew by the tail of their Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Special), (Serial No. EE146), coded KC-D, at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, on returning from Lossiemouth, the day after the successful raid on the German battleship Tirpitz in Tromso Fjord, Norway, (Operation CATECHISM).

The Lancaster had a long, unobstructed bomb bay, which meant that it carry the largest bombs used by the RAF, including the 4,000 lb (1,800 kg), 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) and 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) blockbuster bombs in loads that were often supplemented with smaller bombs or incendiaries.  The Lancaster night bombers delivered 608,612 long tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties over Europe.  The versatility of the Lancaster was such that it was chosen to equip 617 Squadron and was modified to carry the Upkeep "bouncing bomb" designed by Barnes Wallis for Operation Chastise, the attack on German Ruhr valley dams. 

Although the Lancaster was primarily a night bomber, it excelled in many other roles, including daylight precision bombing, for which some Lancasters were adapted to carry the 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) Tallboy and then the 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) Grand Slam earthquake bombs (also designed by Wallis).  This was the largest payload carried by any bomber in the war.

 (IWM Photo, MH 4263)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Special), No. 617 Squadron, loaded with a "Grand Slam" 22,000lb deep-penetration bomb, running up its engines at RAF Woddhall Spa, Lincolnshire, in 1944.

 (IWM Photo, CH15380)

A 12,000-lb (5,443 kg) MC bomb (Bomber Command executive codeword 'Tallboy') seen immediately after its release from Avro Lancaster B Mark I (Serial No. JB139) of No. 617 Squadron, RAF, over the flying-bomb store at Watten, France.  The "Blockhaus d'Éperlecques" V-2 launch site was attacked on 19 June 1944 and 27 July 1944.

 (RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster (Serial No. PB997), coded YZ-E, No. 617 Squadron, dropping a ten-ton (22,000 lb Grand Slam) bomb on the Arbergen Railway Bridge over the Weser River on 21 March 1945.  Colin Leighfield noted it may be a Lancaster B1 (special) possibly dropping 12,000-lb Tallboy bombs, as the front and mid-upper turrets have been removed to reduce weight.

 (IWM Photo, CH15363)

 A 12,000-lb MC deep-penetration bomb (Bomber Command executive codeword 'Tallboy') is hoisted from the bomb dump to its carrier at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, to be loaded into an Avro Lancaster of No. 617 Squadron, RAF, for a raid on the V-weapon site at Wizernes, France, ca 1 Jan 1944.

 (IWM Photo)

A 22,000-lb Grand Slam bomb being handled at RAF Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, UK, ca 1945.  

The Grand Slam was a larger version of the Tallboy bomb and closer to the size that its inventor, Barnes Wallis, had envisaged when he developed the idea of an earthquake bomb.  Medium Capacity (M.C.) bombs were designed to remedy the shortcomings of General Purpose (G.P.) bombs, with a greater blast and casings which were robust enough to confer a considerable capacity to penetrate, especially Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs.  The Grand Slam case was made of a chrome molybdenum alloy steel and had a charge-to-weight ratio of nearly fifty per cent.  It was also known as Ten Ton Tess because of its weight.

 (RCAF Archives Photo, PL-44700)

No. 617 Squadron, RAF, RCAF Group Captain John E. Fauquier, DSO & 2 Bars, DFC, an Ottawa native, is dwarfed by a Ten-Ton-Tessie, a 22,000 lb super RAF Grand Slam bomb, 18 June 1945.  This streamlined bomb was dropped by RCAF crews on German targets towards the close of the European hostilities.  G/C Fauquier, after two out-standing tours with the Pathfinder force was tagged "King of the Pathfinders".

 (DND Photo via Chris Charland)

 Avro Lancaster at war.

 (DND Photo via Chris Charland)

 Avro Lancaster at war.

 (DND Photo via Chris Charland)

Avro Lancaster, top rear view.

 (DND Photo)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. III, rear view.

(RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster in flight during the Second World War. 

(IWM Photo, CH 6071)

Avro Lancaster, RAF (Serial No. R5852), in flight during the Second World War. 

 (RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster (Serial No. R5689), coded VN-N of No. 50 Squadron, RAF, Swinderby, UK, 28 Aug 1942.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM640-S1-: CVA 260-1518)

Avro Lancaster, RCAF, on display at an airshow at Richmond, British Columbia, Aug 1945.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM640-S1-: CVA 260-1523)

Avro Lancaster rear turret view, Vancouver, British Columbia, Aug 1945.

(RAF Photo)

Avro 683 Lancaster in flight. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 2264450)

Avro 683 Lancaster, Canada stamp. 


(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584030)

Avro Lancaster, coded LQ-A. 

 (Wilma Bearman Photo via Don Smith)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. III, RAF (Serial No. ED666), coded WS-G, "Goofy", No. 9 Squadron, RAF, Waddington, UK, cJuly 1943.  No. 9 Squadron specialized in dropping 12,000-ton Tall Boy bombs.

  (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4207036)

Avro Lancaster bombing a target in Europe, 21 March 1945.

  (RAF Photo)

Avro 683 Lancaster, possibly (Serial No. KB689), coded VN-N, No. 50 Squadron, RAF.

 (RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster bombing St. Vith, Belgium, 26 Dec 1944.

From the RCAF Facebook page: On 25 April 1945, many Canadian aircrew took part in a 482-aircraft Bomber Command raid aimed at knocking out German coastal batteries controlling the approaches to the ports of Bremen and Wilhelmshaven.  Five Handley Page Halifax bombers and two Avro Lancaster bombers were lost – four Halifaxes and the two Lancasters to collisions – resulting in 28 Canadian and 13 British airmen being killed.

(RAF Photo)

Avro Lancasters with the RCAF on a bomb run over coastal batteries, Wangerooge, ca 1944.

 (RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster, top front view.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4542797)

Avro Lancaster nose art, 1 Feb 1944. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4558161)

Avro Lancaster rear gun turret with four .303-inch Browning machineguns, RCAF Sergeant Noixeux, Wireless air gunner and Sergeant Lavois, Pilot, 2 May 1944. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5013147)

Avro Lancaster, RCAF Station Boundary Bay, British Columbia, 8 Aug 1945.

 (IWM Photo, CH 6071)

Avro Lancaster (Serial No. R5852), coded OL-Y, c1944.

 (RAF Photo via James Craik)

An impressive aerial photograph of 12 Lancasters of the RCAF Bomber Group Ghost Squadron lined up nose to tail taken 31 May 1945, the day they left for Canada. 15 Canadian built Lancasters took off at one minute intervals from their Bomber Station at Middleton St. George Yorkshire in the UK.  They were the first of the Canadian Squadrons to leave the United Kingdom after VE Day.  More followed daily until all aircrew were gone.  They were heading home to join "Tiger Force" for the war in the Pacific.

By late 1944, victory was more a matter of time rather than a question of being achieved and the decision was made on 20 October 1944 to form a very large bomber force code named “Tiger Force”.  By June of 1944 formation and re-equipment orders had been issued to all of the Canadian Bomber Squadron’s allocated for Tiger force.

Each Squadron was to be equipped with Canadian built Lancaster Mk. Xs from the FM and KB serial number series.  These aircraft, which had been built at the Victory Aircraft Production in Malton, Ontario, had been steadily arriving in England since mid 1944.  This arrangement would allow all of the squadrons to operate the same Lancaster variant. 

A total of 141 Lancaster Mk. Xs were allocated to Tiger force.  Fortunately, the victory against Japan brought the war to an end, resulting in the disbandment of Tiger Force. This left the Canadian Government with an interesting problem as the original intention was for the RCAF units to be re-equipped with Canadian built Avro Lincolns as soon as these aircraft could be made available.  The Lancaster Mk.Xs, although Canadian made, had been transferred to RAF ownership and as a result for several months after disbandment, the Canadian built aircraft were being operated in Canada, by the RCAF, but did they not belong to the Canadian Government.  The problem was resolved by late 1945 or early 1946 when ownership of the Canadian made Lancasters which had been returned to Canada were returned to the Canadian Government ownership. The Lancasters retained their RAF serial numbers. 

With no requirement for a heavy bomber force the Canadian Government decided to place hundreds of Lancaster aircraft into long-term storage, in various disused air based in Eastern Canada, including Scoudouc.  However after several years it was realised that the damp weather environment of the Maritimes was not the best suited for long term storage of aircraft. 

The decision was then made to relocate the stored Lancasters to a drier climate which would be more acceptable for aircraft storage.  Alberta was chosen, as there were several closed British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) stations available for this task.  By the late 1940’s, many of the Lancasters had been flown out to Alberta, where the remained until the early 1950s. 

Tension between NATO nations and the Warsaw Pact, led the Canadian Government to order seventy of these preserved Lancasters to be modified for a variety of roles including Maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare.  Canadian Lancasters were also modified for Aerial Reconnaissance, Air-Sea Rescue, Navigational Training, Photo-Reconnaissance duties and as test beds for various jet engine and winterisation trials.   Lancasters continued to serve with the RCAF until 1964. 

One of the more historic discoveries during the post-war period was made when FM214 operating with No. 408 (Photographic) Squadron, flew over Foxe Basin and discovered islands that had previously been uncharted, thereby adding 5000 square miles to Canadian territory.  (Foxe Basin is a shallow oceanic basin north of Hudson Bay, in Nunavut, located between Baffin Island and the Melville Peninsula).

From early 1943, the Canadian Government operated modified Lancaster’s for trans-Atlantic air service duties, flying VIPs, priority cargo and mail from Dorval to Prestwick in the UK with a flight-time of approximately twelve and half-hours.  The service continued until 1947, and would become the nucleus of Trans-Canada Airlines.  One of these aircraft was a British made Lancaster Mk. I (Serial No. R5727) which had been flown to Canada to serve as the pattern aircraft for the Canadian made Lancaster Mk. X.  (Larry617)

 (DND Photo)

Avro Lancasters at RCAF Air Station Scoudouc, New Brunswick.  The photo was taken after VE Day (8 May 1945), but before VJ Day (15 Aug 1945).  There are at least 70 Lancasters in this photo, all likely part of "Tiger Force" preparing to deploy to Japan.  No. 4 Repair Depot, established in September 1941 was located here.

RCAF Air Station Scoudouc was initially established in 1940 as a relief landing field for No. 8 SFTS at Lakeburn, NB.  In September 1941, it became the home of No. 4 Repair Depot (later re-located to RCAF Station Dartmouth), and No. 1 Radio Direction Finding Maintenance Unit (No. 1 RFD MU), a top-secret radar maintenance unit.  In 1943, No. 1 RFD MU merged with No. 1 Repair Depot’s Radio Repair Section.  The  station was re-named RCAF Station Scoudouc in 1945.  A new repair depot was formed at the site, along with No. 1 Maintenance Wing and No. 101 RCAF Equipment Park.  These units were disbanded on 1 November 1945 and the RCAF station was abandoned.

Scoudouc was re-activated in 1951 as a Detachment of RCAF Station Chatham, and No. 5 Supply Depot located in Moncton, opened a section at the newly christened RCAF Detachment Scoudouc.  While RCAF Station Chatham’s runways were being repaired, No. 1 (Fighter) Operational Training Unit temporarily operated from the detachment and 2 years later, the Royal Canadian Navy did the same while RCN Air Station Shearwater’s airfield was being repaired.

The runways were abandoned by 1956 and most of the buildings were removed by 1958.  RCAF Detachment Scoudouc closed on 1 January 1965.  The former station is now the Scoudouc Industrial Park.  (Bruce Forsyth)

 (IWM Photo, CH 10675)
Everyone loves a nice send-off. WAAF and other ground crew members wave off Pilot Officer W.H. Eager, RCAF and his crew in Avro Lancaster B Mk. I (Serial No. W4236), coded QR-K, of No. 61 Squadron, RAF, as they begin their take-off run from Syerston, Nottinghamshire, for a night raid on Hamburg, Germany. This was W4236's 74th mission, from which it returned safely. It was lost, however, during a raid on Mannheim on 10 August 1943.