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It was deep in World War Two, Air Chief Marshall Arthur 'Bomber' Harris, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C) of RAF Bomber Command, was busy trying to win the war HIS way- that is, bludgeon the German people into submission by the use of 'area bombing' at night. Many could just NOT understand why this was happening; if the Luftwaffe had failed to do this against a much smaller target area, and at dramatically shorter distances (many of their bases were just across the English Channel in 1940) and against less efficient night defenses in the skies over London during the 1940/41 'Blitz', then why on Earth did Harris think he could win the war against Germany, THIS way?

All he was doing was taking the lion's share of British, Canadian, Free French, Polish, New Zealand, Czech and Australian youth, and feeding them into a meat grinder over the Ruhr Valley, Berlin and other targets in Occupied Europe. There was only ONE branch of any military service of ANY fighting power where the chances of being killed were higher. It wasn't the U.S Parachute Infantry, it wasn't the British Commandos - it was the Submarine Service of the Kriegsmarine, Germany's U-Boat arm! Harris's single-minded obsession meant that Britain 'spent' many thousands more lives than she should have, and diverted the efforts of hundreds of thousands of others either directly (groundcrew, radio technicians, drivers, etc) or indirectly (aeronautical engineers, ammunition workers, aircraft fitters, etc) into the support of his stubborn goal. The end result? Probably the prolongation of the war - he should have just used mainly the Mosquito, as with Bennett's Light Night Striking Force, and a few specialist heavy bomber squadrons. Instead, Britain was so drained of manpower that the moment her forces hit the Normandy beaches they began to suffer terminal attrition, with damaged regiments not being brought up to strength, but broken up to act as reinforcements for other units. This meant that Field Marshal Montgomery of the British Army had to be even MORE cautious, because he could not afford casualties, which probably explains how we almost lost the Battle of Normandy. As you can gather, I do NOT like what Harris did to one of the most gallant commands of the Royal Air Force!

An event seemingly of little importance took part on the 9th June, just 3 days after D-Day. An unarmed four-engine bomber prototype took off from Ringway Airfield, near the Avro Works. It looked like a large Lancaster, indeed, it had been originally named Lancaster IV. but in reality 'PW925' it was a different 'beast', with a much longer fuselage and a wing seemingly influenced by the high-aspect Davis wing of the B-24, and much more powerful, 1,750 hp, Rolls-Royce Merlin 85 engines in unusual annular nacelles. Unfortunately, the urgent need for replacement Lancasters meant that the Lincoln had to be delayed. Consequently, the first production aircraft did not reach 57 Squadron at RAF East Kirkby in Lincolnshire until August, 1945. These first Lincolns had a maximum speed of 295 mph and a range, when carrying a bomb load (14,000 lb, or 1 x 22,000 lb bomb) of 1,470 miles or 2,930 miles with maximum fuel. Defensive armament was - at long last in RAF Bomber Command - to consist of 2 x .5" Browning machine guns in all positions (tail, nose and dorsal turrets). There was some variation, in that some dorsal turrets contained 2 x 20mm cannon, and other aircraft had a single Browning in a ventral position.

57 Squadron, along with many other squadrons were slated to form 'Tiger Force', a combination of bomber, fighter and reconnaissance units intended to join in the final assault on the Japanese homeland in 1946. Before 'Tiger Force' could be dispatched, the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan brought the war to an abrupt end. Following the end of hostilities, 617 Squadron, the famous 'Dambusters', toured the USA with their new Lincolns.

The principal production version was the Lincoln B.2, built at Avro factories in Manchester and Yeadon (Leeds) and under sub-contract by Armstrong-Whitworth and Metropolitan-Vickers. A grand total of 528 Lincolns were built, but despite their rugged construction, the jet fighters coming into service in Warsaw Pact countries meant that they were rapidly becoming obsolete. To help out, the RAF acquired 88 B-29 and B-29A aircraft (as the Washington B.1) from USAF stocks in 1950. No less than 23 Bomber Command squadrons used the Lincoln (many powered by Packard Merlin 68 or 300 engines) as well as No. 116, 151, 192, 199 and 527 Squadrons in No 90 Group on signals and calibration work. Probably the most spectacular display by Lincolns was a massed flypast by no less 15 squadrons at the Farnborough Show in 1950. Canada, which had successfully built Avro Lancaster during WW2, built a single example of the Lincoln.

The Lincoln did see action, but just not where the defence planners expected it to do so!
From 1947 to 1955 a detachment of Lincolns were based on Changi and Tengah airfields in Singapore. From there, they reached out and bombed jungle hide-outs of the Communist guerillas of the Malayan National Liberation Army, fighting British and Commonwealth forces in Malaya; this conflict lasted from 1948 to 1960, and Lincolns of both the RAF and the Royal Australian Air Force (Australian-built, no less) gave a low-key equivalent of the 'Arc Light' missions to be undertaken some years later in Vietnam by the USAF B52 force. Strangely, unlike Vietnam, the Communist forces were eventually defeated in Malaya.

Other actions included the bombing of Mau Mau terrorist forces in Kenya, from the base at Eastleigh near Nairobi, from 1953 to 1955, and also raids against insurgents in Aden from RAF Khormaksar from 1956 to 1957 by No 1426 Flight.

RAF Bomber Command finally withdrew its last front-line Lincolns in 1955, when the V-Force jet bombers came into service in quantity. However, a number continued with No. 90 Group on signals, radar and electronic countermeasures duties. The last flight overseas by a Lincoln took place in February 1963 when a single aircraft visited Cyprus, Libya and Malta. When Bomber Command finally retired these aircraft, some were transferred to the Central Signals Establishment, where they joined Canberra, Hastings and Varsity aircraft in undertaking many classified tasks, including providing anti-jamming training for ground radar operators. It is said that a single Lincoln, orbiting at 15,000 feet could black out - electronically - the whole of the East Coast of England!

On 12th March, 1963 - just ten days before the 'Beatles' debut album, 'Please, Please Me' was released - three Lincolns performed a last formation flight over bases in East Anglia, to mark the withdrawal of the type.

Above, you can see the only complete Lincoln in Europe. RF398, a B.2 Mk IV, was built by Armstrong-Whitworth at Baginton near Coventry, as part of an order of 200, and first flew in September, 1945; 'A-W' eventually built 281 out of the total of 528 Lincolns. It was sent back and forth between modification centres and Maintenance Units from 1945 until 1957! Finally, in November, 1957, it was assigned to Bomber Command Bombing School at RAF Lindholme in South Yorkshire, where it joined a fleet of Hastings and Varsity aircraft, and wore the blue spinners of 'B' Squadron. In 1960, when Bomber Command retired all Lincolns, RF398 was sent to the Central Signals Establishment at RAF Watton, to take part in classified signals and radar work. Forming part of the initial equipment of No 151 Squadron (the renamed CSE), this aircraft was retired with the last survivors of the Lincoln fleet in 1963, and selected for preservation for the new RAF Museum, and assigned to the Cosford site.

Fully restored, and with its rear turret refurbished courtesy of the West Midlands Branch of the Air Gunners Association, the Lincoln is one of only four complete aircraft of this type left in the world (as well as some other sections and components). There is an Australian-built Mk.30 under restoration 'Down Under' and two complete examples in Argentina! Yes, the Fuerza Aérea Argentina operated 30 Lincolns, alongside their 15 Lancasters and has made a good job of preserving a couple.

There is one interesting twist to this story. In the early 1980s, there were persistent reports that RF398 might be haunted, and a series of tests were undertaken by local psychic groups and Wolverhampton Polytechnic. There are many reports of strange happenings - a dropped spanner was thrust back into the hand of an engineer who was working on the aircraft, and perhaps most amazing of all, another member of staff fell towards the hangar floor from a height of 15 feet - and found himself lowered gently the last few feet to the concrete floor!

I have had ONE experience myself with RF398. Back in the 1980s, when Cosford was far less popular than it is now, I decided to make a visit one June in mid-week, when there would be fewer people about and therefore a better chance for undisturbed photography. I entered the hangar where the Lincoln was and found just two other people there. I was busy taking many shots, when things fell very silent. I looked up to find myself alone - I was quite close to the Lincoln - and I swear that the temperature dropped 20 degrees in a matter of seconds! The hair stood up on the back of my head, and I inched slowly away from RF398, to slide quickly through the small door into the next hangar. An unusual experience, and one that I have never experienced with any other aircraft.

The Lincoln - son of Lancaster - did not fulfil the mission it was designed for, but as the very last piston-engine heavy bomber of the RAF deserves its place in history.

Originally posted to shortfinals on Sun May 12, 2013 at 09:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kossack Air Force, Aviation & Pilots, History for Kossacks, and World War Two Aircraft.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We were always told that the Brits (5+ / 0-)

    got the better of the deal; that they would bomb during the night while we "Yanks" would fly over Germany and bomb in daylight.

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Sun May 12, 2013 at 09:48:55 PM PDT

  •  Another good diary (8+ / 0-)

    I have to agree with you. As much as I admire these old bombers, I think the Strategic bombing campaign was a total waste of men, materials and resources. If I remember correctly Albert Speer said that German Industrial Production was not slowed down by these raids. I read an assessment of WWII and that was the conclusion they also came too. It was similar to the US carpet bombing in North Vietnam. Mostly we  blew up bridges that were rebuilt in a day and plowed up farmers fields for them. I also think "Bomber" Harris should have been tried as a war criminal. Off topic, but I wrote a diary about flying on a B-17 and I'll post it tomorrow. That is if I remember.

  •  Haunted Museums (6+ / 0-)

    Up at the local museum today, as we were closing, my young docent told me she never closes up the vehicle building without pulling out her phone and talking to someone as she does. Says it just feels spooky to her; she blames the hearses.

    I don't laugh; I worked around those buildings by myself for years, sometimes late at night, and never gave it a second thought, but maybe that's just me. I've heard some stories....

  •  Thanks SF (3+ / 0-)

    I actually expected that the Link, was, like the Washington actually an American design.  Got me.

    The Lanc lineage is obvious on this one.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Sun May 12, 2013 at 11:04:26 PM PDT

  •  From all I can determine, Harris resisted (4+ / 0-)

    bombing transportation infrastructure in favor of area bombing. If he had bombed rail line, roads, staging areas and bridges, the war might have ended sooner. I have read he even tried to resist Eisenhower ordering the cutting of roads and rails just before D-Day.  

    Good story. There were many fine airplanes "orphaned" by the jet age.

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Mon May 13, 2013 at 02:18:56 AM PDT

    •  Harris was nearly fired over his initial refusal.. (3+ / 0-) hand over operational control of Bomber Command to Eisenhower in the run-up to D-Day and the immediate post D-Day period.

      What most forget is that Ike had an excellent Deputy in Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, a very well respected and well-liked RAF officer, who was quite capable of directing air operations as Ike needed them. This could well have caused Harris to 'blow up'.

      The Transportation Plan worked (as, to an extent, did the oil plan)

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Mon May 13, 2013 at 03:56:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Harris and Hap Arnold (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, shortfinals

      both resisted diverting bombers to support the invasion of Europe because they were certain the bombing campaign was going to bring Germany to its knees "any day now".

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon May 13, 2013 at 04:50:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah...right....I hearrd that.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ....and the 'Bomber Barons' were convinced that the invasion was hardly necessary. Just a few regiments to occupy what they hadn't bombed flat.....

        Harris actually tried to get Churchill to put 'pressure on the Yanks' to join his insane crusade to try and bomb Berlin flat. 'If they come in with us, we can win the war in 6 months' !!!

        'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

        by shortfinals on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:22:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  From history learning site UK: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, shortfinals

          How much did Air Marshall Arthur Harris mirror Air Marshall Herman Goering?

          I believe Harris gave "a dose of their own medicine" to excess, in retribution for the bombing of London.
          Bomb us (UK) into capitulation?  "How 'bout you lot?!"

          We're in agreement, that the ground-attack and targeted munition would have worked better.  The Republic P-47 comes to mind, augmenting the P-38, and DH.98.

          Goering had also publically stated that no enemy bombs would land on Berlin "or my name is not Hermann Goering". When this did happen, it dented his standing in the Nazi Party.

          From 1940 on he fought to keep his power from others. Rather than fight for the same common goal, Goering and his rivals were constantly thinking of ways to extend their power at the expense of others. To what extent this damaged Germany’s ability to fight the war is difficult to assess - but Albert Speer in "Inside the Third Reich" believed it did not do their cause any good.  (edit)

          He also failed to fully understand radar and its implications. The radar base at Ventnor in the Isle of Wight was not attacked during the Battle of Britian simply because Goering did not order it. That one base gave Fighter Command vital reports throughout the Battle of Britain.

          The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.” ~ Joseph Heller, Catch-22

          by 43north on Tue May 14, 2013 at 06:40:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Another good post, SF (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortfinals, RiveroftheWest

    Slightly OT, but I noted your comments about Monty and how cautious he was; any chance of a diary on Montgomery and perhaps how he's viewed in contemporary England?

    I know the Amis and Brits had some doozy disagreements over Monty and there was bad blood between Monty and Ike--and especially Patton.

    It would be interesting, I think.

    Sorry I haven't posted any comments for a few days; had some computer problems and finally broke down and replaced the old desktop PC with a laptop.

    Teaching me to use a laptop is like teaching TRex to eat with a knife and fork.

    When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

    by wheeldog on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:54:33 AM PDT

  •  No question Bomber Harris was mad but.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, shortfinals

    remember the times.  I grew up in Hull, the city around the docks where my parents lived was devastated.  There was a sense at the time of revenge.  None of my parents generation ever questioned Harris' motives.  Same is true about the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  

    Ironically, Harris was right.  He wanted to destroy the will of the German population to fight.  By January 1945 he had achieved this, even before Dresden.  Raw survival was the German civilians only goal.  What Harris did not understand and maybe no-one knew was that the factories were underground and worked by expendable slaves.  German front line troops had a choice of being shot by the Russians, the Americans, the British or by the SS.

    •  I sometimes used to drive over to Hull on the .. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...weekend when I was stationed at RAF Finningley. A very nice Streetlife Museum, if I remember.

      I would not go as far as some have, and question the bombing of civilian targets - not after Warsaw, Rotterdam, London and Coventry. 'Total war' is what Himmler preached on behalf of Hitler, and total war is what he (and the German people) got.

      What I DO question is Harris's unbending fixation on area bombing ONLY. He regarded all other plans as panacea targets. The lignite - to - oil plants were LARGE target areas, and if Air Commodore Bennett's LNSF Mosquito squadrons had been put onto these, rather than making predictable 'Berlin Milk Runs' night after night, then results would have come much earlier. After all, the Mossies were carrying 4,000lb HC bombs by this time (and they usually went out 20 - 50 at a time). A 4,000 blast bomb is the ideal weapon against an oil refinery.....

      You can't move other products you have made if you haven't got the 'pol' (petrol, oil, lubricants) to do so.

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:52:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting engine nacelles (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, shortfinals

    Were they originally designed to hold a different engine before they put the Merlins in there?

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Mon May 13, 2013 at 04:51:16 PM PDT

    •  No, actually, they were the first attempt.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest a British manufacturer to fit an annular nacelle around a V-12 engine. The Germans had been doing this for about 7 years (Ju88, Fw190D-9/Ta 152, etc).

      You simply arrange the curved oil cooler and coolant radiator around the front of the engine, and, since this aircraft was derived from a 'Lanc', you get a far more aerodynamic nacelle shape that the Lancaster's boxy, rectangular nacelle, with the big 'chin' radiator!

      This exact nacelle (and Merlin engine) was used in the attempt to modify the Lincoln design into a long-range airliner - the Avro Tudor; also it was used in the Canadair North Star - the Merlin powered DC-4 derivative.

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:31:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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