Probably the most famous Allied bomber of the Second World War, the Avro Lancaster had impressive flying characteristics and operational performance. What is surprising is that such a fine aircraft should have resulted from Avro’s desperate attempts to remedy the defects of its earlier unsuccessful Manchester bomber. The prototype Lancaster, which flew in January 1941, was a converted Manchester airframe with an enlarged wing centre section and four 1145 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin Xs. The Merlins replaced two 1,760 hp Rolls-Royce Vulture engines, which had proved to be very unreliable. The modifications were an immediate success and such was the speed of development in wartime the first production Lancaster was flown in October 1941.
RAF No. 44 Squadron was the first to be fully equipped with Lancasters, notching up another first when it flew them operationally over Heligoland in March 1942. The Lancaster could carry a huge bomb load. It was the RAF’s only heavy bomber capable of carrying the 12,000 lb “Tallboy” and 22,000 lb “Grand Slam” bombs. The aircraft won a place for itself in history, with the daring and precise bombing raids on the Ruhr Dams, in May 1943 and with the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz, in November 1944.
Thousands of Canadian airmen and ground crew served with RCAF and RAF Lancaster squadrons in England, during the war. By late 1944, the Canadian No. 6 Group of Bomber Command operated thirteen squadrons of Lancasters in the war against Germany. At home, thousands more Canadians worked at Victory Aircraft in Malton (Toronto) to produce 430 Lancaster Mk. Xs, between 1943 and 1945.
After WW II, about 230 Lancasters served with the RCAF in several roles including, Arctic reconnaissance, maritime patrol and as a bomber. The Lancaster was ceremonially retired from the RCAF at Downsview (Toronto) in April 1964. In total 7,377 Lancasters rolled off the production lines in Britain and Canada, during WW II. Today, 17 Lancasters survive around the world, but only two are in flying condition.
The Museum's Lancaster Mk. X was built at Victory Aircraft, Malton in July 1945 and was later converted to a RCAF 10MR configuration. In 1952, it suffered a serious accident and received a replacement wing centre section from a Lancaster that had flown in combat over Germany. It served as a maritime patrol aircraft, with No. 405 Squadron, Greenwood, NS and No. 107 Rescue Unit, Torbay, Newfoundland for many years and was retired from the RCAF in late 1963. With help from the Sulley Foundation in 1977, it was acquired from the Royal Canadian Legion in Goderich, Ontario, where it had been on outside display. Eleven years passed before it was completely restored and flew again on September 24, 1988. The Lancaster is dedicated to the memory of P/O Andrew Mynarski and is referred to as the “Mynarski Memorial Lancaster”. It is painted in the colours of his aircraft KB726 – VR-A, which flew with RCAF No. 419 (Moose) Squadron. Andrew Mynarski won the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth’s highest award for gallantry, on June 13, 1944, when his Lancaster was shot down in flames, by a German night fighter. As the bomber fell, he attempted to free the tail gunner trapped in the rear turret of the blazing and out of control aircraft. The tail gunner miraculously survived the crash and lived to tell the story, but sadly Andrew Mynarski died from his severe burns.