Lancaster Bomber: Facts About The World War 2 Aircraft

Here are some facts about the Lancaster Bomber.

  • The Lancaster Bomber was one of the most famous aircraft of World War II. It first saw service in 1941 and became the RAF’s main bomber during the war.

  • The first prototype Lancaster flew in January, 1941. A total of 7,377 Lancasters were made, after the first one rolled off the production line in October, 1941.
  • It carried a crew of 7 and could fly at about 454 kmh. The plane was just over 21 metres long, had a wingspan of 31 metres and a flying range of 4,000 km.
  • The Lancaster was normally armed with 8 Browning machine guns, as well as bombs. Some planes were modified so they could carry the so called Grand Slam bomb, weighing 10,000 kg.
  • During World War II, Lancasters flew over 156,000 sorties, or raids. They dropped over 50 million incendiary bombs and over 608,000 tons of explosive bombs.

Lancaster Bomber

  • One of the most famous bombing raids was a 1942 raid on Cologne, Germany. Over 1,000 bombers dropped bombs on the industrial city, destroying over 600 acres.
  • Many Lancaster crew members were given medals for heroic actions while flying. Guy Gibson had flown 170 missions by the age of 24 and was awarded the Victoria Cross.
  • Towards the end of World War II, Lancaster Bombers dropped food into the occupied Netherlands.
  • After the war, the Canadian Air Force used them and they were even used to transport passengers to South America.
  • The Lancaster features in several films about World War II. Most famous is the 1955 film The Dam Busters which documents the plan to destroy German dams with so called bouncing bombs.
  • Today, 17 Lancasters survive. One is used regularly in air shows as part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and flew at the Queen‘s 80th birthday in 2006.

What next? Learn more about the Battle of Britain and the Spitfire, another important plane used during WW2.

10 Spitfire Facts

Here are ten facts about Spitfires.

  • The Spitfire was the most famous fighter aircraft of World War II. It was the only British fighter plane to be in continuous production throughout the war.
  • RJ Mitchell, an engineer at Supermarine Aviation, designed the Spitfire originally to be a high performance, short range plane. The first planes were mass produced in 1938.

  • The name Spitfire was taken from an old English word meaning someone of strong or fiery character. The names Snipe and Shrew were also considered for the plane.
  • The plane weighed almost 2,400 kilograms and had a top speed of 582 kph, although could dive at faster speeds. It was able to climb to a height of almost 7,000 metres in just over 9 minutes.

Spitfire

  • Just over 20,000 Spitfires were built in total. The plane remained in production and active service until 1955.
  • Some of the planes had modifications made to their under the wing mountings. Instead of carrying bombs, the planes could carry two small barrels of beer.The Spitfire played an important role in the Battle of Britain in 1940, in which Germany sought to dominate the air. The Allies won, despite having only 700 aircraft against the 2,000 German planes.
  • Many German pilots actually believed the Spitfire was better than their own planes. One German pilot even asked his commanding officer for a squadron of Spitfires.
  • The Spitfire has featured in many war films, including Battle of BritainMalta Story and Reach for the Sky. Today, there are almost 50 Spitfires left around the world which can still be flown.
  • The Spitfires used in the film Battle of Britain were almost invisible to the camera, as they were so well camouflaged. They had to be filmed against clouds so that they could be seen.

What next? Learn more about World War 2 by visiting our World War 2 resources page.