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Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Harris referred to the Avro Lancaster four-engine bomber as "the finest bomber of the war." Harris was fully justified in his appraisal, for the Lancaster could carry enormous bomb load over enemy targets. Indeed, this rugged and dependable British heavy bomber helped make possible a new concept in aerial bombardment.
During the early stages of World War II, British bombing targets were carefully pinpointed and then attacked in daylight by a handful of low flying bombers whose crews relied on the element of surprise for their success and safety. But then the British Air Ministry changed from such limited daytime raids to night raids, and when the Lancaster became operational in March of 1942, it became possible to organize massed night time assaults on centers of German war production.Throughout the war more than 7,300 of the simple and compact Lancasters were produced, most of which were Lancaster Mark IIIs. Powered by four Packard-built Rolls-Royce Merlin engines rated at 1,390 horsepower each, the Mark III had a maximum speed of 270 miles per hour, a service ceiling of 21,500 feet and a maximum range of 2,200 miles. The aircraft, which normally carried a 14,000-pound bomb load, was armed with eight .303-caliber machine guns mounted in three power-operated turrets. Some Lancasters, however, were modified to accommodate 22,000-pound "Grand Slam" bomb. The single most spectacular wartime feat accomplished by Lancasters came on the night of May 17, 1943 when Mark IIIs destroyed three dams in the Ruhr Valley. Flying at precisely 60 feet above water level, the bombers dropped specially-designed mines which skipped along the surface of the water, struck the dams, sank and exploded. The raid totally disrupted the transmission of hydroelectric power to German industry in the Ruhr and flooded the valley with millions of gallons of water. During the war, Lancasters flew more than 156,000 combat sorties and accounted for two thirds of all the high explosive and incendiary bombs unleashed by the R.A.F. over Germany. All told , Lancasters dropped a total more than 600,000 tons of bombs.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
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