The Avro Lancaster was one of the most iconic and successful allied aircraft of world war two. It was a British four-engine heavy bomber that played a significant role in changing the course of the Second World War.
In the mid-1930s, the Royal Air Force set out requirements for a new two-engine medium bomber. The idea was to produce a medium bomber that could be used worldwide, in a multitude of bombing roles including dive-bombing and torpedo bombing. The Avro Aircraft Company was among several British aircraft manufacturers competing to design the new aircraft. In 1937, both Avro and Handley Page received orders to produce prototypes. Avro’s derivative named the “Manchester '' had its first flight in July of 1939. The Air Ministry would eventually choose the Avro Manchester as the victorious design.
Avro went on to receive production orders for the Manchester bomber. Between 1940 and 1941, 202 Manchester aircraft were produced. During early testing and operations, it became clear that the Avro Manchester would not be a viable option due to countless reliability issues, ranging from the aircraft structure, control surfaces, and most importantly the engines. By 1940, Avro was working on an improved version of the Manchester bomber. The redesign would be powered by not two, but four less powerful, far more reliable engines than the Manchester. The redesigned aircraft would be named the “Lancaster''. The Lancaster would go on to become one of the most successful and legendary bombers of not just World War Two, but of all time.
The Lancaster measured an impressive 69 feet in length, 102 feet in wingspan, and 19 feet in height. The aircraft was capable of traveling at 240 knots, with a range of 2200nm, and could fly up to 24,500 feet. The Avro Lancaster could carry an impressive bomb load, and thanks to its 33ft bomb bay, it could carry even the heaviest bombs in the commonwealth arsenal. Though typically the Lancaster would carry no more than 14,000lb of bombs during missions. To get to and from the target, the Lancaster was powered by four Rolls Royce Merlin V12 engines. In terms of defensive armaments,' the aircraft was armed with four defensive turrets, located at the nose, underside, topside, and tail of the aircraft.
Avro received initial orders to produce 1070 Lancaster's. The Avro Lancaster first flew in October of 1941. By the end of the war, more than 7,000 Lancaster's would be built by six aircraft manufacturers, including Victory Aircraft in Malton, Canada.
The Lancaster was introduced in early 1942 with No. 44 Squadron at RAF Waddington. The type was quickly introduced into many squadrons across the United Kingdom. The Lancaster was designed and flew as a night bomber, so to be less susceptible to enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft weaponry. The Avro Lancaster was involved in some of the most daring air raids of World War Two.
Our Lancaster; KB-882, was built in November of 1944 by Victory Aircraft at their facility in Malton, Canada, near present-day Toronto Pearson International Airport. KB-882 was one of 430 Lancaster Mk. X’s produced under license in Canada.
KB-882 was delivered just before the end of hostilities in Europe. It was ferried to England in March of 1945 and operated with the 428 “Ghost” Squadron. By the end of the War in Europe, KB-882 had flown 11 combat missions. On one such mission, KB-882 was returning to base after delivering her payload on Merseburg when the rear gunner spotted a German night fighter near the aircraft. The Lancaster was put into an evasive corkscrew maneuver while the rear gunner opened fire on the German aircraft, the German night fighter avoided further confrontation with the Lancaster. The artwork on our packaging depicts this action-packed scene. During her time in Europe, KB-882’s targets ranged from cities to factories and other industrial targets. KB-882 not only had a direct impact on the war effort but it is one of the very few surviving Lancaster's which was involved in World War Two.
After the end of hostilities in Europe, KB-882 returned to Canada and was to join the Tiger Force, a squadron that was intended to fight in Japan. However, before training could even begin, the war in the Pacific had drawn to a close. For a short period, KB-882, along with other Lancaster's, was placed into storage. In the 1950s the Cold War escalated, giving Lancaster a new role. KB-882 underwent reconnaissance conversion work to become a Lancaster Mk X AR. The modification included an extension of the nose of the aircraft to house mapping and reconnaissance equipment. For the remainder of its service, KB-882 flew in a reconnaissance role. KB-882 began flying with the No. 408 Squadron, the role of this squadron was photo-reconnaissance, arctic mapping, and arctic reconnaissance. Many of KB-882s missions involved photographing and surveilling Soviet ships, stations and submarines.
In 1964, after a twenty-year career playing a role in both World War Two and the Cold War, KB-882 was honorably retired and sold to the town of Edmonston, New Brunswick. The aircraft was purchased by the town for $1400 and served as an RCAF memorial. After decades on display, the aircraft was purchased by the National Air Force Museum of Canada. The talented restoration team at the museum is currently working on restoring the aircraft to be a static display so the rich history of KB-882 can be appreciated by museum-goers for decades to come.
The Plane Chains team is extremely honored to have had the opportunity to upcycle parts from the legendary Avro Lancaster. A portion of proceeds from each keychain sold is being donated to the National Air Force Museum of Canada to support their ongoing restoration of KB-882.
To claim your own unique piece of World War Two history, visit our shop.