Lancaster flyover, Wickhambreaux, Kent, Saturday 10 September

This year, the annual commemoration of Dambuster David Maltby and his crew, which takes place in Wickhambreaux, Kent, has an extra ingredient – a flypast by the UK’s only flying Avro Lancaster.

The event takes place on Saturday 10 September, a few days before the 68th anniversary of the crew’s final flight, on an aborted raid on the Dortmund Ems canal on 14 September 1943. A small exhibition describing the lives of all the crew members will be opened in the Village Hall at 11.30am. This will be followed by an act of commemoration at David Maltby’s graveside, in the churchyard, starting at 12.15pm. The flyover will take place at 12.40pm, weather permitting.

Members of the families of David Maltby, William Hatton and Victor Hill will all be present, and anyone interested is welcome to attend.

Guilty as charged!

Well, I might as well admit it. I noticed a posting over on the RAF Commands forum about some confusion over the number of the Lancaster flown by Sqn Ldr Melvin Young on the Dams Raid. The writer asked why it was numbered ED877 when he thought this was the aircraft from 156 Squadron in which his uncle was killed when it was shot down on 5 May 1943.
He was soon advised of the correct information – Young’s aircraft was in fact number ED887/G. As the original poster noted, a glance at Google shows that there are many hundreds of references to the wrong number all over the interwebnet – and many of them are down to me.


Oh dear. I had better confess to the mistake.  All I can say in my defence is that I took the number from the list in John Sweetman’s magisterial book, The Dams Raid. Other authors have made the same mistake, I notice. I shan’t name them, but I will note that the earliest source I could have consulted, Bruce Robertson’s Lancaster – the Story of a Famous Bomber, is of course correct. And so is the list in Alex Bateman’s No 617 Squadron (Osprey, 2009) – although you would expect nothing less from such a meticulous researcher as Alex.

BBMF to honour AVRO at Chadderton on Sunday

This coming Sunday, 16 May, marks the 67th anniversary of the Dams Raid. I will be posting more material about this later this week but thought people in the North West might like to know about the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s plans for the day.
The BBMF Lancaster, ‘Phantom of the Ruhr’, has been out of action for the last few days with a faulty fuel cock. Luckily, a replacement has been found (which must have been quite a task for an aircraft in its seventh decade!) and it is undergoing an airtest today.
If all is well, the Lancaster will be marking the centenary of the foundation of the AV Roe company by flying over the site of the factory where it was designed and where more than 7,000 were built during the war – Chadderton, near Oldham. You’ll get a great view at Manchester Airport, where it will dip to an altitude of 100ft.
Great chance to get some good pics – please send me any you take and I may publish them on this blog.
(Special note for real Lancaster buffs – PA474 was actually built by Vickers Armstrong in Chester!)

The strange tale of how Johnny became George

This is a rare picture of one of the specially modified Lancasters (given the cumbersome name of ‘Type 464 Provisioning’) used on the Dams Raid. It was taken at RAF Scampton after the war, sometime in 1947. At this stage it was carrying the code YF-A, signifying it was part of the ‘Scampton Station Flight.’
This was the last of the many codes this aircraft had used over the previous four years. For this is Lancaster ED906, which had been flown by David Maltby on the Dams Raid in May 1943, when it was coded AJ-J. After that raid, it wasn’t used again in operations until, in the autumn, it was converted back to standard Lancaster form, with a normal bomb-bay mechanism but no doors, and given the code KC-J. It was then flown by 617 Squadron’s Flt Lt BW Clayton on five operations between 11 November 1943 and 4 January 1944.
This is where things start getting complicated because it was then converted back to ‘Dambuster’ type, and given another new code, AJ-G, which of course was the code carried by Guy Gibson’s completely different Lancaster (ED932) on the Dams Raid.
At some point in 1944 it was flown to RAF Metheringham where it was used as a spare aircraft by members of the station staff. One of these was Sqn Ldr Johnny Meagher who was attached to 106 Squadron as an instructor in his six month break between operational tours. As one of his crew has recently recalled:
My second skipper S/Ldr. Johnny Meagher became an instructor pilot attached to 106 squadron Metheringham for his 6 months rest period after his first tour with 61 squadron. AJ-G was parked there as tour expired in its dambuster configuration. Johnny used it regularly for pilot training, familiarisation flights & as a general hack for shuttling the CO & others around & picking up off base crews etc.
ED906 was then taken to Coningsby and finally into storage at 46 Maintenance Unit in Lossiemouth.
After the war, ED906 was one of the three Dambuster aircraft brought out of storage and used in Operation Guzzle, the disposal of the ‘Upkeep’ revolving mines used in the Dams Raid. There were some 37 of these weapons left over, and each had to be individually dumped into the sea just beyond the edge of the Atlantic shelf some 280 miles west of Glasgow. This took place between August and December 1946. It may well have still carried the AJ-G code at this stage. After Guzzle it was then recoded YF-A.
It was ‘struck off charge’ (i.e. released for scrapping) on 29 July 1947.
[Some information in this article from Alex Bateman’s posts on Lancaster Archive.]
pic-lanc-ED906
This is a rare picture of one of the specially modified Lancasters (given the cumbersome name of ‘Type 464 Provisioning’) used on the Dams Raid. It was taken at RAF Scampton after the war, sometime in 1947. At this stage it was carrying the code YF-A, signifying it was part of the ‘Scampton Station Flight.’
This was the last of the many codes this aircraft had used over the previous four years. For this is Lancaster ED906, which had been flown by David Maltby on the Dams Raid in May 1943, when it was coded AJ-J. On the raid, it answered to the call sign ‘J for Johnny’. It wasn’t used again in operations until, in the autumn, it was converted back to standard Lancaster form, with a normal bomb-bay mechanism but no doors, and given the code KC-J. It was then flown by 617 Squadron’s Flt Lt BW Clayton on five operations between 11 November 1943 and 4 January 1944.
This is where things start getting complicated because it was then converted back to ‘Dambuster’ type, and given another new code, AJ-G, which of course was the code carried by Guy Gibson’s completely different Lancaster (ED932) on the Dams Raid, when its call sign was ‘G for George’.
At some point in 1944 it was flown to RAF Metheringham where it was used as a spare aircraft by members of the station staff. One of these was Sqn Ldr Johnny Meagher who was attached to 106 Squadron as an instructor in his six month break between operational tours. As one of his crew has recently recalled:
My second skipper S/Ldr. Johnny Meagher became an instructor pilot attached to 106 squadron Metheringham for his 6 months rest period after his first tour with 61 squadron. AJ-G was parked there as tour expired in its dambuster configuration. Johnny used it regularly for pilot training, familiarisation flights & as a general hack for shuttling the CO & others around & picking up off base crews etc.
ED906 was then taken to Coningsby and finally into storage at 46 Maintenance Unit in Lossiemouth.
After the war, ED906 was one of the three Dambuster aircraft brought out of storage and used in Operation Guzzle, the disposal of the ‘Upkeep’ revolving mines used in the Dams Raid. There were some 37 of these weapons left over, and each had to be individually dumped into the sea just beyond the edge of the Atlantic shelf some 280 miles west of Glasgow. This took place between August and December 1946. It may well have still carried the AJ-G code at this stage. After Guzzle it received its final code, YF-A.
It was ‘struck off charge’ (i.e. released for scrapping) on 29 July 1947.
[Some information in this article from Alex Bateman’s posts on Lancaster-Archive forum.]

Only original part from Dambuster Lancaster goes on display

TH1_2392009409093 K486Pic: Grantham Journal

I might be wrong, but I think this is the only original part of a Dambuster Lancaster on public display anywhere in the world. Eleven Lancasters got back from the original Operation Chastise but those that survived the rest of the war were all scrapped in the late 1940s. This bit of rusty twisted metal is the gunner’s mount and hatch from the rear of Lancaster ED825, which was flown by Joe McCarthy on the Dams Raid. Almost seven months later it was being piloted by Flt Lt George Weeden on an operation to send ammunition and supplies to the French resistance when it was shot down near Doulens in France.
The story of its excavation, by a team which included Dams Raid expert Alex Bateman, was told in the Channel Five documentary, misleadingly titled The Last of the Dambusters, shown on British screens last year. Sqn Ldr George (Johnny) Johnson, bomb-aimer in McCarthy’s crew, accompanied the team on their journey.
The hatch will join the other Dambuster exhibits – many of them from the collection of 617 Squadron adjutant Harry Humphries – on display at the Grantham Museum. Well worth a visit!

BBMF Lancaster at Lord’s causes England collapse

I can only find this one picture of yesterday’s flypast over Lord’s cricket ground during an England-Australia one day international. by the BBMF Lancaster.
I wonder whether its arrival was the cause of yet another England batting collapse: England captain Andrew Strauss was dismissed 3 balls after the flyover briefly stopped play, and England went on to lose by 39 runs. Here is the ball-by-ball summary on Cricinfo which lays the blame pretty squarely on the flypast. (Translation of cricketing terms is available on request!)
17.1
Hauritz to Strauss, 1 run, cut hard out to point
A Lancaster Bomber is due to fly over Lord’s soon. What a sight that will be
17.2
Hauritz to Shah, FOUR, top shot. Down the pitch, and Shah clouts him over extra cover for four
More importantly, the Lancaster bomber is now flying over Lord’s. Wonderful sight and the crowd stand to applaud! Ah, great moment and a great noise, too, spluttering away with its four propellers and it banks to the right, over the pavilion. Super stuff
17.3
Hauritz to Shah, no run, down the pitch but is rapped on the pads
And there goes the Lancaster again. Graeme Swann’s giving it a standing ovation all by himself
17.4
Hauritz to Shah, 1 wide, down the leg side. Paine whips off the bails and says “ohh-ayyye” which is tongues for “how was that, dear fine fellow umpire?”
17.4
Hauritz to Shah, 1 run, clipped to leg
17.5
Hauritz to Strauss, OUT, got him! Australia have three as Strauss tried to turn it to leg, but was squared up – it gripped on the surface – and spooned it back to the bowler
AJ Strauss c & b Hauritz 47 (78m 53b 6×4 0x6) SR: 88.67
I think Strauss was Lancastered
17.6
Hauritz to Collingwood, no run, flicked to leg
End of over 18 (7 runs) England 85/3

I can only find this one picture of yesterday’s flypast by the BBMF Lancaster over Lord’s cricket ground during an England-Australia one day international.

I wonder whether its arrival was the cause of yet another England batting collapse: England captain Andrew Strauss was dismissed three balls after the flyover briefly stopped play, and England went on to lose by 39 runs. Here is the ball-by-ball summary on Cricinfo – which lays the blame pretty squarely on the flypast. (Translation of cricketing terms is available on request!)

17.1 Hauritz to Strauss, 1 run, cut hard out to point
A Lancaster Bomber is due to fly over Lord’s soon. What a sight that will be

17.2 Hauritz to Shah, FOUR, top shot. Down the pitch, and Shah clouts him over extra cover for four
More importantly, the Lancaster bomber is now flying over Lord’s. Wonderful sight and the crowd stand to applaud! Ah, great moment and a great noise, too, spluttering away with its four propellers and it banks to the right, over the pavilion. Super stuff

17.3 Hauritz to Shah, no run, down the pitch but is rapped on the pads
And there goes the Lancaster again. Graeme Swann’s giving it a standing ovation all by himself

17.4 Hauritz to Shah, 1 wide, down the leg side. Paine whips off the bails and says “ohh-ayyye” which is tongues for “how was that, dear fine fellow umpire?”

17.4 Hauritz to Shah, 1 run, clipped to leg

17.5 Hauritz to Strauss, OUT, got him! Australia have three as Strauss tried to turn it to leg, but was squared up – it gripped on the surface – and spooned it back to the bowler
AJ Strauss c & b Hauritz 47 (78m 53b 6×4 0x6) SR: 88.67
I think Strauss was Lancastered

17.6 Hauritz to Collingwood, no run, flicked to leg
End of over 18 (7 runs) England 85/3

UPDATE: two videos from Youtube:

AV Roe and 100 years of British flying

In the rush of dealing with a major computer problem and getting away on holiday (in which I completed the Coast to Coast walk, 192 miles from St Bees Head to Robin Hood Bay — more on this later) I failed to notice that the centenary of the first British powered flight had taken place. This was undertaken by none other than Alliott Verdon Roe in a triplane of his own design, on Walthamstow Marshes in London, on 13 July 1909. The wonderful Diamond Geezer has reported on this event in his own indomitable way, and provided his usual eclectic list of links to further information about the famous aviation pioneer. From this I learnt that Roe himself developed some rather unsavoury political views, and was a supporter of Oswald Moseley, who was of course interned during the Second World War.
Ironic, then, that the company Roe founded would go on to make the War’s most famous British heavy bomber, the Avro Lancaster, and play a huge part in defeating the fascist war machine.

In the rush of dealing with a major computer problem and getting away on holiday (in which I completed the Coast to Coast walk, 192 miles from St Bees Head to Robin Hood Bay — more on this later) I failed to notice that the centenary of the first British powered flight had taken place. This was undertaken by none other than Alliott Verdon Roe in a triplane of his own design, on Walthamstow Marshes in London, on 13 July 1909. The wonderful Diamond Geezer has reported on this event in his own indomitable way, and provided his usual eclectic list of links to further information about the famous aviation pioneer. From this I learnt that Roe himself developed some rather unsavoury political views, and was a supporter of Oswald Mosley, who was of course interned during the Second World War.

Ironic, then, that the company Roe founded would go on to make the War’s most famous British heavy bomber, the Avro Lancaster, and play a huge part in defeating the fascist war machine.

‘Last of the Dambusters’ on Youtube

I posted about this interesting (although misleadingly titled) documentary last year, when it was shown on British terrestrial TV. It shows the journey made by Sqn Ldr George (Johnny) Johnson, bomb aimer in Joe McCarthy’s AJ-T, to visit the site in Germany at which his Dambuster Lancaster crashed six months after the Dams Raid. Here it is on Youtube, in five parts.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Enjoy!

Steady, steady – bomb gone, skipper!

I’m told, because I’m not yet lucky or rich enough to have one, that one of the coolest things about the iPhone is the thousands of applications (apps) that you can download – often free and if not, costing just a few pence. If I had one, then what would be one of the first things I would download? Why, this game of course!
Afficianados amongst you will spot the game’s errors pretty quickly… A forward-spinning mine, a Lanc with a mid-upper turret. Tsk, tsk!

Lancaster at Lord’s, Leeming, Lowestoft and Leuchars (and lots of other places)

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight website has had a makeover, and is full of interesting information. There’s tons of detail about the Flight’s complement of five Spitfires, two Hurricanes, two Chipmunks and a Dakota, as well as the full history of its pride and joy, Avro Lancaster PA474. Propellerheads will sigh jealously as they read the biographies of the pilots, other aircrew, groundcrew and civilians who work for the flight – many of them regular RAF service personnel who give up their weekends during the flying season. And best of all you can download the entire season’s flying programme (in an Excel file) so you can plan your summer excursions around it. For instance, if you buy a ticket for the England v. Australia One Day International at Lord’s on Saturday 6 September you will be treated to a Lancaster flypast.
Of special interest to Dambuster fans is an introduction to the site written by Les Munro, the only surviving pilot from the Dams Raid. On his trip to the UK last year he spent some time with the Flight and he recalls it here.