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The AVRO Lancaster Part 1 – Wartime Service – Airframe & Miniature #20


Mike

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The AVRO Lancaster Part 1 – Wartime Service – Airframe & Miniature #20

ISBN: 9781912932177

Valiant Wings Publishing

 

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The Lancaster was a development from the two-engined Manchester, which was always an unsatisfactory aircraft.  The Manchester was a response to the Royal Air Force's obsession with twin-engined bombers in the 30s, which would have required engines of greater power than were available at the time, and led to a change in mindset due to the comparative success of our Allies with four-engined bombers.  Rather than start from scratch, AVRO simply re-designed the Manchester by adding an extra wing section between the inner engine and the outer, thereby extending the wing and improving both lift and power output substantially – of course it wasn't quite that simple.  AVRO's chief designer, the incredible Roy Chadwick submitted this design to the specification that also drew the designs for the Halifax and the Stirling, in a sort-of prequel to the post-war V-bombers, where the Government gave the go-ahead for all three due to the untried technologies that had been proposed.  The use of the then-new Merlin engine with its previously undreamt-of power output brought the various aspects of the Lancaster's capabilities into alignment and created a rather impressive "heavy".

 

After renaming the initial prototype of the Manchester III to Lancaster, perhaps to distance it from its less-than-stellar twin-engined sibling, the first prototype flew in 1941, partially due to the fact that AVRO had pre-emptively been working on improving the performance of the Manchester, and partly because of the urgent need for a heavy bomber capable of taking the fight (and a lot of bombs) to Berlin.  A contract for over 1,000 Lancasters was soon forthcoming, and further production was begun at AVRO Canada after an example airframe was flown to them as a pattern for production.  The quality of the eventual design was such that very few noticeable differences were made between the initial and later variants, with cosmetic changes such as side windows and the enlarged bomb-aimer's window being some of the few that were readily seen if we ignore the specials and the defensive electronics that were constantly being added, improved and adjusted.  The main wartime alternative to the B.I was the B.III, which differed mainly by having license-built engines that were manufactured in the US by Packard, with over 3,000 built.  The installation was so close to the original, that a B.I could easily be retrofitted with a Packard built Merlin with very little problem.  There were of course the "Specials" such as the Dambusters and Grandslam versions, but other than 300 or so of the Hercules radial engine Lancs built as Mk.IIs, most of the in-service machines looked very similar.

 

At the end of WWII the Lancaster carried on in service in some shape or form long after hostilities ceased, with a name change to Lincoln when changes to the design rendered those variants almost unrecognisable, and later the spirit of the original design lingered on in the Shackleton, which retired in the mid-1980s, 40 years after the end of WWII.

 

The Book

The book is perfect-bound with 272 pages on glossy paper,  masses of photographs, diagrams and profiles, the modern pictures being in colour, while the contemporary content is predominantly black and white due to that being the common film format of the day, although there are some striking colour photos here and there.  It is of course written by Richard A Franks, with profiles by Richard J Caruana, isometric drawings by Juraj Jankovic, plus models by prolific modeller Steve A Evans. If you're familiar with the series, you'll know that the tome is broken down into the Airframe section that deals with the 1:1 real thing, and the miniature section that covers the scale models and recounts a number of builds, plus a host of photographic detail that will be of great help to the modeller.  Also bear in mind that this is just part one of the series, concentrating on the Lancaster’s progenitor the Manchester, Lancaster Marks I, II and III, plus all the specials, with some information about the other later marks that didn’t split-off to become the Lincoln, which is going to be dealt with in Part 2 along with post war service of the Lanc.

 

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Airframe Chapters

 

1. Manchester Prototypes & Production Page 41

2. Lancaster Prototypes & B.Mk.I Page 48

3. Lancaster B.Mk.II Page 68

4. Lancaster B.Mk.III Page 72

5. Lancaster B.Mk.VI Page 88

6. Camouflage & Markings and Colour Profiles Page 92

 

Miniature Chapters

 

5. Manchester & Lancaster Kits Page 117

6. Building a Selection Page 135

7. Building a Collection Page 158

8. In Detail Page 193

Fuselage Page 193

Engines, Cowlings & Propellers Page 211

Oil, Fuel & Heating Systems Page 217

Wings Page 220

Tail Page 225

Undercarriage Page 230

Armament Page 234

Electrical Equipment Page 250

Miscellaneous Page 259

 

Appendices

 

I. Manchester & Lancaster Kits List Page 260

II. Manchester & Lancaster Accessories & Masks List Page 262

III. Manchester & Lancaster Decals List Page 266

IV. Bibliography Page 270

 

A concertina sheet of 1:72 Scale plans are held captive inside the rear cover (equivalent to 8 pages printed on both sides), offering plans for the Manchester on one side, and the Lancaster Marks I, II, II and IV on the other.

 

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The scale plans are nicely thought out, and fold out sideways with the left-hand edge glued to the inside cover, and the isometric drawings in the main pages by Juraj Jankovic that pick out the differences between many variants and sub-variants are a dream for anyone like me that struggles to remember the details that separate the marks, and should be of particular use due to the many minor changes that would otherwise be hard to spot.  As usual with the photographs in these titles, they're excellent for the most part, and as good as they can be for the occasional slightly grainy one that is all that remains of this or that variant.  A few captions apologise for the quality, but I was unable to find much to fault with them under the circumstances.  There is however, only so much that modern photo editing software can do to tease detail out of them.  The builds by Steve A. Evans are all first-rate too, encompassing a resin Manchester conversion in 1:72, a Hasegawa Lancaster B.Mk.I in 1:72, a HK Models 1:48 B.Mk.I that appears to be the current benchmark in my chosen scale, the previous holder of that title the Tamiya Lancaster B.Mk.I/III also making an appearance, all of which wouldn't look out of place on competition tables at the highest level.  I was surprised not to see the new(ish) Airfix 1:72 kit in amongst the pages, but alas not.  Perhaps it will make an appearance as a post-WWII airframe in Part 2?

 

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Conclusion

This book brims with interesting and informative content, with something for everyone – the modeller, the aviation enthusiast or history buff.  My personal favourite parts are the variant isometrics as previously mentioned, but there is so much to enjoy and it’s all good.  There is just one pig-ugly prototype to “feast” your eyes on, wearing a gigantic rounded-edge fuel tank over the centre fuselage and rear of the cockpit, which even though it’s hideous still appeals once you’ve stopped your eyes from boggling.

 

Very highly recommended.

 

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[enter geek mode]

 

The Stirling didn’t originate from the same specification as the Manchester and Halifax. 
 

Stirling - B.12/36, specifically a four-engined heavy bomber (Supermarine were also working on a heavy to the same spec)

Manchester and Halifax - P.13/36, twin-engined tactical medium bomber. 
 

Handley Page realised the Vulture was a pile of doodoo, and redesigned their offering to use four Merlins instead, while Avro did their best until they conceded and the Lancaster was born. The rest is history, as they say.

 

[end geek mode]

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