420 Squadron Lancaster Period
May to June 1945
One of the most written about planes of World War II is the Avro Lancaster or the "Lanc". The Lancaster first became operational in early March, 1942 with 44 Squadron. It was the quintessential heavy bomber surpassing all of its contemporaries. Throughout the war 7,377 were built of the various marks, including 430 Mark X's built in Canada
The Lancaster had a wing span of 102 feet and the total length was just over 69 feet. Empty it weighed about 36,800 lbs and could be loaded to 63,000 lbs. Most versions were powered by four RR Merlin V 12 engines that produced 1,460 hp. The Lancaster cruised at 210 mph. It had a service ceiling of about 24,500 feet and had an operational distance with a typical bomb load of 1,660 miles. The crew consisted of the pilot, flight engineer, bomb aimer, navigator, wireless operator, mid upper gunner and tail gunner. The gun positions were typically each equipped with four .303 Browning machine guns. A key feature of the Lancaster was its cavernous bomb bay of 33 feet of unobstructed space. A typical operational bomb load would be about 14,000 lbs. However, with specially "bulged" bomb bay doors, the Lancaster could carry a single 12,000 lb "cookie" and with further modifications it could hoist the largest bomb in the allied arsenal the "Grand Slam" into the air. This mammoth of a bomb measured 25.5 feet long and weighed in at a staggering 22,000 lbs, which was more than a Hampden bomber weighed fully loaded!
420 Squadron never flew the Lancaster on ops. Just as the war ended it was converting to the Canadian built Mark X.
There are at least 17 representatives of Lancaster bombers still in existence around the world and two are still flight worthy. One is in Canada flown out of the Hamilton, Ontario airport by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and is dedicated to the memory of P/O Andrew Mynarski VC.
Mynarski Lancaster, Saskatoon, SK Air Show 1989:
The other flight worthy example is in England flown by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, England. Static displays of Lancasters can be found at the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum (Nanton, Alberta), the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum (Greenwood, Nova Scotia), the Canada Aviation Museum (Ottawa, Ontario), the Aerospace Museum (Calgary, Alberta), City of Edmundston, New Brunswick, City of Windsor, Ontario, Toronto Aerospace Museum (Toronto, Ontario).
(In the squadron records below entries summarized from the 420 Squadron Operational Record Books (ORB's) are in normal type. Entries taken from my father's diary (January 1, 1944 to June 1945) are indicated in blue bold italics. Supplemental information from various sources and my comments are in green bold italic.)
April 23 to May 8 (Victory in Europe), 1945: During this period the squadron was not operational due to its conversion from the Halifax III to the Lancaster X.
May 5: A fairly busy day, finished "P" at noon and started on "Z" after dinner. This is the fifth day they have been working on "D". Now they are going to change another carb. Nearly all the German army has surrendered and navy is expected anytime.
May 6: A fairly busy day all day, and we finished up the inspection on "Z". I am going to try to go to Manchester tomorrow and try and come back Tuesday. They have changed three carbs on "D" and still have the same trouble. Went to church again tonight.
May 7: Left camp on the 8:30 bus. Left York on the 10 o'clock train for Manchester. More army giving up now. Norway and Denmark are now free leaving only Prague.
May 8: VE day. Station parade was held. All men listened to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Roman Catholic and Protestant church services were held. A dance was held in the evening and a large bonfire was lit. Very little damage done to camp from the celebrations. Left Manchester on the 8 o'clock train and arrived in York to catch the 1:30 bus to camp only to find nothing doing and won't be for next few days. So I may get paid tonight and go back. Heard Churchill speak at 3 pm and now as I am writing this listening to King George as today is V-Day.
May 9: Day of recuperation. Another dance held this evening.
May 10: Information about repatriotation.
From May 11 to June 14 preparations were made for the squadron's return to Canada. On June 12 and 13 the 20 Lancasters were flown by their crews to Canada. Those personnel not transported by air were sent to Canada by ship thus ending 420 Squadron's mission in England on June 14, 1945. At Debert the squadron began preparations to participate in Tiger Force attacks on Japan. However, Japan surrendered before the squadron became operational in the Pacific Theatre.
Cpl Bert Parker was discharged from the RCAF in September 1945. He was "Mentioned In Despatches" in the King's 1945 New Year's Honours list for distinguished service.