Looking at wartime pictures of this particular aircraft, it can be rather confusing to see the unmistakable nose and gaping bomb bay of an Avro Lancaster, only to look across to the engines and see the four strange radial engines which power it. Although something doesn’t seem quite right, there is definitely something rather appealing about this unusual Lancaster and one which is worthy of further investigation. The radial engined Lancaster Mk.II entered RAF service in late 1942, where it was welcomed with open arms by squadrons converting from twin engined Wellingtons. With only 300 aircraft of this type being produced, operational losses would invariably be replaced with standard Merlin engined Lancasters, which meant that by the time of D-Day, only two squadrons were still operating the type, No.514 Squadron and No.408 (Goose) Squadron RCAF.
No.408 (Goose) Squadron RCAF began the war operating Handley Page Hampden bombers from RAF Lindholme, but would later convert to the Halifax and then the Lancaster B.II. Whilst based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, it is unusual to note that whilst they began the summer flying the radial engined variant of the Avro Lancaster, they would go back to flying the Halifax before the summer was out. Making a significant contribution to Bomber Command’s war effort, the squadron would mount 4,610 sorties during WWII, tragically losing 170 aircraft during that time – the squadron’s code letters were EQ.
This particular Lancaster certainly lived up to its nickname and sported some rather spectacular nose artwork to advertise the fact – known as Avro Lancaster B.II LL725 ‘Z for Zombie’, this Lancaster carried a rather imaginative representation of a bomb carrying ghoul on its port side nose, along with a meticulously applied mission scoreboard. Unfortunately, the aircraft would be lost over Hamburg on the night of 28th/29th July 1944, just before No.408 Squadron reverted back to operating Halifax bombers.
n interesting feature of some of the early Lancaster Mk.I and Mk.II aircraft was the inclusion of a rear facing FN-64 ventral turret, an attempt to provide the aircraft with better defensive armament against attack from behind and below. In operation, the gun proved difficult to use and was largely ineffective, other than providing reassurance for bomber crews and was subsequently removed, however modifications required to install the turret would result in the radial engined B.II variant of the Lancaster featuring no fewer than three different versions of the aircraft’s iconic bomb bay.
Avro Lancaster B.II DS842 ‘Fanny Ferkin II’ was delivered to RAF No.514 Squadron in December 1943 and would spend its entire service career with this unit. Another aircraft which benefitted from rather elaborate nose artwork, this Lancaster is worthy of particular note as it embarked on a lecture tour of USAAF bases in Britain during May 1944, allowing American air and ground crews to take a closer look at Britain’s most famous bomber and to find out what it was like to operate. It would be interesting to find out if any of these American onlookers thought that this particular Lancaster appeared a little strange to their eyes as well and why it was different. The aircraft would eventually be scrapped in March 1945, although this is not known if it was as a result of combat damage sustained, an accident or being cannibalised to keep other aircraft flying.
With the Avro Lancaster B.II occupying such an unusual and fascinating position in the story of Britain’s most famous wartime bomber, every time this particular kit is released, it always disappears almost immediately, as modellers stock up on this rather odd looking variant. As the kit also includes the two appealing nose art schemes detailed above, it makes this an almost irresistible Bomber Command build project for the dark winter months ahead. Importantly, we are pleased to report that this fabulous kit is now available once more.