After years of driving though Nanton and saying, “one day I have to visit the Bomber Command Museum and see the Lancaster” I finally did it yesterday for Remembrance Day. Having seen the play “Flight Risk” a few days earlier gave me some interesting insights, things to look for that I may have missed otherwise. The play is about man, Hank about to celebrates his 100th Birthday who was a tail gunner in WWII
The Lancaster fills the hanger from end to end in Bomber Command in Nanton.
Two things stood out for me see the Lancaster in person. In the play, Hank mentioned that the tail gunner was the most isolated member of the seven-man crew. Stepping into the Lancaster this was not hard to see. You would need to climb over what was essentially the rear wing a to get to your post and you would be exposed to the elements the whole time you where there. There are even two little door that would block you off from the rest of the crew. It’s easy to see that these plans were not in any way design for human comfort. For as large as they were, there is not a lot of space inside and the tail gunner was cramped at the back, completely exposed to an attack from the back.
The skies can be a cold place. Open to the elements the tail gunner could see temperatures of -40C
The second thing that struct me was something else that Hank said in the play. He said that they left out all the armor on the plane so that it could carry it's massive bomb payload. Again, seeing this in person made me realized how exposed the whole crew really was. The body of the plane is just thin sheet metal, not much thicker than what you would see on your average aluminum canoe. I’m pretty sure that any gun larger than a pellet gun would have no problem penetrating this thin skin. And man, that must have been load inside. Anyone who has ridden on a turboprop will know how loud it can be if your seated close to that engine even with the insulated walls. Now think of having four 1620 HP V12 Rolls Royce engines roaring beside you with nothing but sheet metal between you that raw power.
This is looking back at the Tail Gunners post. The ladder is on top of the rear wing assembly.
I'm always amazed when I see "old technology". 1620 HP V12 Roles Royce
Least We Forget!
Check out the Bomber Command web site.