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Video: Low Over London From Inside a Lancaster Heavy Bomber

by John Reed on June 6, 2012

Ever wondered what it was like to pilot one of the RAF’s World War II heavy bombers that featured giant bubble canopies, or to see the Earth whip by in stereo from the plexiglass enclosed bombardier’s seat in the very nose of such a beast?

Now you can find out, and not in some grainy black and white footage from the war.  Click through the jump for some awesome footage that MoD cameramen shot from inside the RAF’s Avro Lancaster bomber as it overflew London for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee yesterday. (It’s the four-engined plane shown above, flying with a Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire, but you knew that.)

The Lancaster was RAF Bomber Command’s main heavy bomber during the war, where it was used to pound targets in Germany during nighttime raids starting in 1942. The U.S.’ fleets of B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators had the unenviable job of pummeling German targets during the daytime, in full view of Nazi antiaircraft gunners and fighter planes.

Random fact: A later evolution of the Lancaster design, the Avro Shackleton, would serve in the RAF from the 1950s until 1991 as a maritime patrol and airborne early warning plane.

Watch the video and just imagine sitting in the glass-nose of the Lancaster as you try to put bombs on target while AA artillery explodes all around you.

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

matheusdiasuk June 6, 2012 at 10:39 am

Great video and pictures.
Also, is good to remember today is the 68th anniversary of the D-Day. For those fallen warriors, we salute their sacrifice.

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Musson June 6, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Within 3 hours the allies had captured 4 of the 5 beaches. By late afternoon Omaha was in the bag as well.

So much for 'Fortress Europe.'

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blight_ June 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm

If it were easy, the British would've walked in right after Dunkirk with a handful of tanks and their McGyver Home Guard weapons, before Hitler spent a single brick of cement on the Atlantic Wall.

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Pappa51 June 7, 2012 at 11:43 am

Again Great video; I wish that our leaders appreciated our military as well. To our British Brothers and Sisters. . . V
Great job.
Long live the Queen

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J Hughes June 6, 2012 at 10:41 am

Random fact: Ive never liked the name Shackleton

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chris June 6, 2012 at 10:42 am

Great video.

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Prodozul June 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm

What's that cloth in the ****pit used for?

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nsjlmj June 6, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Awesome view! Peter Jackson needs to hurry up with that Dambusters movie.

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TinkersDam June 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Wonder how they'll handle that whole offensive callsign problem.

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Guest June 6, 2012 at 5:38 pm

They've renamed the Dog

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Noha307 June 6, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Really! I mean look, everyone would understand completely if they just left the name the same. You can't go around changing history just because its offensive. I mean I don't like the word either, but its part of history now. If anything, it should be in the movie to remind future generations of the racism we had to overcome. It reminds me of the group that wanted to remove the very same word from the Huck Finn novels.

(If anyone is wondering, the word is the non minced oath version of negro.)

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Dave June 7, 2012 at 3:42 am

Of course it's actually the Latin word for the colour of the Dog, and everyone in England still had to learn Latin in those days *, so it probably wasn't intended as racist at the time.
(*well anyone who was expected to apply for one of the better universities)

Musson June 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Interesting random fact – the machine gun ammunition belts on the B-17 50 cals were 27 feet long. If you shot the entire belt at an incoming German fighter – then you gave him 'the Whole Nine Yards.'

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Lance June 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Sweet pics like the Hurricane the best.

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chris June 7, 2012 at 7:26 am

Intresting fact the Hurricane was designed by Sr Sydney Camm, he was also the designer of the Hunter and the P-1127 Kestrel as you all know became the Harrier.

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tomatojuice June 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Came across this as well. Same flight? I only assume so. Enjoy!

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ad0_1338980737

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elizzar June 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm

it's possibly a niggly point, and i certainly don't mean to have a go at the bravery or skill of the us aircrews, but wasn't the whole day-light bombing strategy their own command's decision, which the british had tried earlier and found to be too costly in planes and men? especially as the uk at that time lacked a decent long-range fighter (as did the us to start with, which they later fixed) – hence why the british moved to the night time attacks (which were less accurate, but when you have 1000 bombers attacking a city a few are bound to hit!). oh and it was a rare patriotic feeling this past jubilee weekend, nice to see us with our flags and service people celebrated for a change, along with the queen of course. cheerio!

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Steve B June 6, 2012 at 6:09 pm

The Lancaster as well, had less defensive armament then the B17 (8 – 7.7mm MG's typically, vs. 13 – 12.7mm's for the B17 and 10 – 12.7mm's for the B24), so the RAF found the formations of Lancasters in daytime bombing runs to have more difficulty fending off German fighters. So went the theory.

As I watched the video I could only hope they were moving at somewhat less then the maximum speed of 282mph, as it fairly CRAWLS across London. I would not have wanted to do that while on a bombing mission !.

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joe June 7, 2012 at 3:27 am

True, but on the other hand the Lanc had a much, much bigger bomb capacity – some half again that of the US bomber. Twice if it was rigged for a grand slam.

The B-17 was much better protected but didn't actually pack much more kaboom than a mosquito.

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Steve B June 7, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Oh, no doubt that the Lancaster was arguably better at the role of *bombing* then either the 17 or the 24, though part of the trade off was defensive armaments for payload. Plus while bombing at night, the greater payload was needed due to the inability to actually see the target, for so-called "pinpoint" bombing, that the daylight role was supposed to allow, which was a myth in any case.

In any event, I am still to this day, shocked at the losses among bomber crews that flew both the day and might missions over Germany in WWII. So much a greater percentage of overall losses in theater compared to any other war since. They paid a terrible price to not prove that strategic bombing could win a war.

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blight_ June 8, 2012 at 6:39 am

The numbers for B-17's shooting down enemy fighters isn't particularly good, especially if you consider that B-17s were continuously upgraded in light of their inability to be a Flying Fortress. More escorts and longer ranged ones made the difference, as did the eventual loss of German fuel products.

Technoweapon June 9, 2012 at 10:52 am
kim June 6, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Given the choice of flying daytime bombing with the 8th, or nighttime bombing with the RAF (actually I'd prefer neither), statistically I'd be safer in a B-17 or a B-24 than in a Lancaster. Their crew losses were horrendous, on par with the German submarine fleet.

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stephen russell June 6, 2012 at 9:24 pm

How much for fee ride, awesome, Id go.
Paid 449.00 to ride in B17G, Aluminum Overcast, 4-12 over So CA.
Awesome experience, for anyone to have.
Next plane rides: B25, B24.

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Jacob June 6, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Aren't vintage warbird planes a bit less safe than modern planes and possibly not suited for ferrying spectators around?

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joe June 7, 2012 at 3:36 am

Yes and no.
On the other hand, I'd rather be in a Heritage Flight lancaster maintained by hand-picked Royal Air Force ground crew than a modern-ish airliner run by some of the budget airlines I've flown with…..

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Richard OBrien June 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Daft? These bombers murdered 800,000 non combatants in Germany. Dresden and so many centers of historic cultural significance, reduced to rubble. Indefensible Mass murder, with minimal effect upon German war production. (Strategic Bombing Survey)
And last time I checked, there were few "Nazi" officers in the Wehrmacht or the other branches of the German Armed Forces.
Let's stop the BS.

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blight_ June 8, 2012 at 12:17 am

I think more credit goes to Speer for boosting production than bombers being unable to put a dent in the war machine.

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Oldboy June 8, 2012 at 12:47 am

They started it.

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William C. June 8, 2012 at 1:53 am

You don't understand the concept of total war do you? The Germans and Japanese did and would have done the same in their effort to win.

People like you disrespect all of the airmen who died in the skies above Europe because you're unable to see the greater picture.

Speer's efforts to increase Germany's production would have been much more successful if there was no bombing campaign. The Germans also had to divert thousands of fighters, tens of thousands of anti-aircraft guns, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers to counter these raids. All of those assets could have been deployed at one of the fronts if there was no bombing campaign.

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gordon June 10, 2012 at 8:22 pm

At the beginning of WWII, when I was being bombed in London, and houses were being smashed into rubble, and people died in the flames, Winston Churchill said, words to the effect that "for every ton of bombs that the Germans poured on England we will give them 3 tons back." For me, Germany started bombing civilian sites into rubble, and we had little or no sympathy. I have been to Dresden and saw the devastation just after the war, and it told me that there is never any just or just or holy war. And it is poor leaders who wreak wars, for false reasons like G. Bush!

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luiz camacho June 7, 2012 at 11:48 pm

HOW MANY MACHINE GUNS IN B-29 ? AND HOW TO FIRE THEM ? I DO NOT SEE GUNNERS ( UP AND BELOW B-29 ) !

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blight_ June 8, 2012 at 12:16 am

Even Wikipedia would be most informative for you.

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Old Navy June 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm

All guns in B29, except the tail gun were remote controlled. The gunners had bubbles for observation. I thing there were both 20mm and 50 cal but I am not sure.

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scott April 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm

it isnt very often that you get to see a ww2 aircraft fly over a famous city like london. when it does everyone wants to see it go over. i know i sure as hell would!

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scott April 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm

congratulations on making it home.

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