Lancasters first flew operationally in March 1942 and were well received by their aircrew. It was regarded as "a pilot's airplane" which inspired confidence. Evidence of this is the story of a Lancaster flight engineer who, having feathered two of the Rolls Royce Merlin engines and facing the prospect of flying over several hundred miles of cold, unfriendly ocean, turned to his pilot and said, "I suppose this means we shall be *** late for breakfast!"
The Lancaster was the most successful bomber used by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force. It was chosen for special operations such as the "Dambusters" raid and the attack which sunk the German Battleship Tirpitz.
Lancasters were built to accomplish their specific purpose and crew comfort and security was clearly a secondary consideration. Generally flying under the cover of darkness, it had virtually no defensive armour. The crew of seven worked in cramped conditions, particularly the air gunners who remained at their posts for the entire flight. Some had to place their flight boots into the turrets before climbing in, and then put their boots on. At night and at 20,000 feet the temperature in the turrets frequently fell to minus forty degrees and frostbite was not uncommon.
As the war was about to end, and shortly after peace finally was in place, some of the aircraft's finest hours were in "non-offensive" operations. The first of these was during Operation Manna when in May 1945 Lancaster squadrons dispatched a total of 3,156 sorties to drop 6,684 tons of food supplies to the starving Dutch.
The second saw many of the Lancaster squadrons returning Allied Prisoners of War from various locations throughout Europe back to England. In a period of 24 days a total of 2900 round trips were flown and 74,000 ex-POW's were returned.
It was lovely to see the Lancaster grace the village fete with a flypast.