Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

9 January 1941

BT308, the Avro Lancaster prototype, at RAF Ringway, 9 January 1941. (Avro Heritage Museum)
Captain Harry Albert (“Sam”) Brown, O.B.E. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

9 January 1941: Test pilot Captain Harry Albert (“Sam”) Brown, O.B.E., (1896–1953) makes the first flight of the Avro Lancaster prototype, BT308, at RAF Ringway, Cheshire, England, south of Manchester.

Throughout World War II, 7,377 of these long range heavy bombers were produced for the Royal Air Force. The majority were powered by Rolls-Royce or Packard Merlin V-12 engines—the same engines that powered the Supermarine Spitfire and North American P-51 Mustang fighters.

The bomber was designed by Roy Chadwick, F.R.S.A., F.R.Ae.S., the Chief Designer and Engineer of A. V. Roe & Company Limited, based on the earlier twin-engine Avro Manchester Mk.I. Because of this, it was originally designated as the Manchester Mk.III, before being re-named Lancaster. Chadwick was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, 2 June 1943, for his work.

The first prototype, BT308, was unarmed and had three small vertical fins.

Avro 683 Lancaster prototype BT308, shortly after the first flight at Manchester, 9 January 1941. (A.V.Roe via R.A.Scholefield) Photograph used with permission.
Avro 683 Lancaster prototype BT308, shortly after the first flight at RAF Ringway, Manchester, England, 9 January 1941. (A.V.Roe via R.A.Scholefield) Photograph is from The R.A. Scholefield Collection and is used with permission.

With the second prototype, DG595, the small center vertical fin was deleted and two larger fins were used at the outboard ends of a longer horizontal tailplane. DG595 was also equipped with power gun turrets at the nose, dorsal and ventral positions, and at the tail.

Avro Lancaster DG595, the second protoype of the Royal Air Force four-engine heavy bomber. This armed prototype has the twin-tail arrangement of the production aircraft. (Unattributed)
Avro Lancaster DG595, the second protoype of the Royal Air Force four-engine long range heavy bomber. This armed prototype has the twin-tail arrangement of the production aircraft. (Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Air Ministry clearance form for Avro 638 Lancaster BT308. Shown on page 1 are the aircraft's engine type and serial numbers.
Air Ministry clearance form for Avro 683 Lancaster BT308. Shown on page 1 are the aircraft’s engine type and serial numbers.
Air Ministry test flight clearance form, Page 2.
Air Ministry test flight clearance form, Page 2. This form is signed by the airplane’s designer, Roy Chadwick, 5 January 1941.

The first production model, Lancaster Mk.I, was operated by a crew of seven: pilot, flight engineer, navigator/bombardier, radio operator and three gunners. It was a large, all-metal, mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was 68 feet, 11 inches (21.001 meters) long with a wingspan of 102 feet, 0 inches (31.090) meters and an overall height of 19 feet, 6 inches (5.944 meters). The Mk.I had an empty weight of 36,900 pounds (16,738 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 68,000 pounds (30,909 kilograms).

BT308 and early production Lancasters were equipped with four liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,648.96-cubic-inch-displacement (27.01 liter), Roll-Royce Merlin XX single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines, which were rated at 1,480 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. to 6,000 feet (1,829 meters). The Merlins drove three-bladed de Havilland Hydromatic quick-feathering, constant-speed airscrews (propellers), which had a diameter of 13 feet, 0 inches (3.962 meters), through a 0.420:1 gear reduction.

DG595 was used for performance testing at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down. The Mark I had a maximum economic cruise speed of 267 miles per hour (430 kilometers per hour) at 20,800 feet (6,340 meters), and a maximum speed of 286 miles per hour (460 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) at a gross weight of 45,300 pounds (20,548 kilograms).¹ Its service ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) at 64,500 pounds (29,257 kilograms). It had a range of  2,530 miles (4,072 kilometers) with a 7,000 pound (3,175 kilogram) bomb load.

The Lancaster was designed to carry a 14,000 pound (6,350 kilogram) bomb load, but modified bombers carried the 22,000 pound (9,979 kilogram) Grand Slam bomb. For defense, the standard Lancaster had eight Browning .303-caliber Mark II machine guns in three power-operated turrets, with a total of 14,000 rounds of ammunition.

According to the Royal Air Force, “Almost half all Lancasters delivered during the war (3,345 of 7,373) were lost on operations with the loss of over 21,000 crew members.”

Only two airworthy Avro Lancasters are in existence.

The Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster Mk.I, PA474. This airplane was built in 1945 by Vickers Armstongs Ltd. at Broughton, Wales, United Kingdom. (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight)
The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Avro Lancaster Mk.X FM213, flies formation with an Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornet. The bomber is marked VR A and nicknamed “Vera.” FM213 was built by Victory Aircraft Ltd., Malton, Ontario, Canada. (Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum)

¹ Speeds shown are True Air Speed (T.A.S.)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

25 November 1940

The prototype de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito, W4050, takes off on its first flight at Hatfield, 25 November 1940. (BAE Systems)

25 November 1940: De Havilland Aircraft Company’s Chief Test Pilot, Geoffrey Raoul de Havilland, Jr., and engineer John Walker, made the first flight of the DH.98 Mosquito prototype, E0234, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. The prototype’s Royal Air Force identification was W4050. The multi-role combat aircraft was constructed primarily of layers of balsa covered with layers of birch, then a layer of doped cotton fabric. It was powered by two Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engines.

Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, Jr, with a DH.98 Mosquito, 14 October 1943. (Photo by Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images 3320005)

The construction materials took advantage of plentiful supplies of wood, and also made workers who were not in the standard metal aircraft industry able to take part.

The prototype was rolled out 19 November 1040, painted overall yellow.

The prototype de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito, E0234, outside the Assembly Building, 19 November 1940. (BAE Systems)

The prototype had a wingspan of 54 feet, 2 inches (16.510 meters), and its gross weight was 19,670 pounds (8,922 kilograms). W4050 was powered by two liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,648.96-cubic-inch-displacement (27.01 liter) Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.21 single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines, producing 1,460 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 10,000 feet (3028 meters), with 10 pounds (0.69 Bar) of boost, and driving three-bladed de Havilland Hydromatic propellers through a gear reduction.

The prototype DH.98 Mosquito,now marked W4050, in the field behind Salisbury Hall (where it was designed and built) just before its first flight, 25 November 1940. (HistoryNet)

The DH.98 had been predicted to be 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour) faster than the Supermarine Spitfire, but was actually much faster. In testing, the prototype reached 392 miles per hour (631 kilometers per hour) at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). Improvements were continuously made, and with 2-stage superchargers, W4050 reached a maximum 437 miles per hour (703 kilometers per hour). The DH.98 prototype had a service ceiling of 34,000 feet (10,363 meters) and range of 2,180 miles (3,500 kilometers).

The production fighter variant, the Mosquito F. Mk.II, was 41 feet, 2 inches (12.548 meters) long with a wingspan of 54 feet, 2 inches (16.510 meters) and height of 15 feet, 3 inches (4.648 meters) in 3-point position. The wings had 1½° incidence with approxmatey 2½° dihedral. The leading edges were swept aft 2½°. The total wing area was 436.7 square feet (40.6 square meters). The fighter’s empty weight was 13,356 pounds (6,058 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 18,649 pounds (8,459 kilograms). The Mk.II had a total fuel capacity of 553 gallons.

The Mk.II had a cruise speed of 265 miles per hour (426 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and maximum speed of 380 miles per hour (612 kilometers per hour) at 21,400 feet (6,523 meters).

Mosquito bomber variants could carry four 500 pound bombs, or two 2,000 pound bombs, but were otherwise unarmed. Fighters were equipped with four Hispano Mk.II 20 mm autocannon and four Browning .303-caliber Mk.II machine guns in the nose.

6,411 DH.98 Mosquitoes were built in England, 1,134 in Canada and 212 in Australia. It was produced in bomber, fighter, night fighter, fighter bomber and photo reconnaissance versions.

The prototype DH.98 Mosquito, W4050, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire. (Royal Air Force)

W4050’s (the prototype’s Royal Air Force identification) fuselage was damaged while taxiing at Boscombe Down, 24 February 1941, and had to be replaced with one intended for a second prototype, W4051. It remained at de Havilland and was used to test different engines, armaments and versions. After a series of tests conducted in December 1943, the prototype Mosquito was permanently grounded. It was used as an instructional airframe and later placed in storage.

In September 1958, W4050 was turned over to the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre. Today, the restored prototype DH.98 Mosquito is at the museum at London Colney, Hertfordshire, England.

The Mosquito prototype with camouflauged upper surfaces as it appeared at Boscombe Down, (de Havilland Aircraft Museum)
The Mosquito prototype with camouflaged upper surfaces as it appeared at Boscombe Down, 1941. (de Havilland Aircraft Museum)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

22 November 1913

C.A.H. Longcroft, circa 1913 (R.A.F.)

22 November 1913: Captain Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, Welsh Regiment, British Army, attached to No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, as a flight commander, flies a Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a from Montrose, Scotland, non-stop to Farnborough, Hampshire, England. The distance covered was approximately 630 miles (1,014 kilometers).¹

Captain Longcroft, accompanied by Colonel Frederick Hugh Sykes, Commandant of the Military Wing, departed Montrose Aerodrome at 8:55 a.m., flying B.E.2.a number 218. He passed York at 11:55 a.m., then continued on to Portsmouth, and next to Farnborough, where he landed at 4:10 p.m. The total duration of the flight was 7 hours, 15 minutes, at an average speed of approximately 86.9 miles per hour (139.9 kilometers per hour).

At the time, British newspapers speculated as to whether Captain Longcroft had established a new world record (or at least, a British national record), but the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale does not recognize any records attributed to Longcroft. On 13 October 1913, Auguste Seguin of France had established an FAI world record for distance of 1021,20 kilometers (634.54 statute miles) at Korobcheevo, Russia.²

For this flight, Captain Longcroft was awarded the first Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.

The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom. (RAeC)

Number 2 Squadron is the most senior of all Royal Air Force squadrons, having been founded at Farnborough, Hampshire, England, 13 May 1912. At the time the squadron was also known as No. II (Army Co-operation) Squadron.

Montrose Aerodrome, now known as RAF Montrose, was the first of twelve planned stations for the Royal Flying Corps. It was originally located at Upper Dysart Farm in Forfarshire, on the eastern shoreline of Scotland.

Captain Longcroft’s Bristol & Colonial Aeroplane Company B.E.2.a, number 218. (Montrose Air Station Heritage Cenre)

Captain Longcroft’s B.E.2.a., number 218, was built by British & Colonial Aeroplane Company (later, Bristol) at Filton, South Goucestershire, under order number A1147. It was delivered to the R.F.C. on 2 November 2013.

The B.E.2.a was slightly modified with the addition of a windscreen and a fuel tank with a capacity of 54 Imperial gallons (245 liters), “and special oiling arrangements.”

The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a (which stands for Blériot Experimental, meaning that it was a tractor-type airplane, which had been developed by Louis Blériot) was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. It was a two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane which was used as a trainer, reconnaissance aircraft, artillery spotter or bomber. An observer occupied the forward cockpit and the pilot was aft.

The fuselage was constructed of a wooden framework, cross-braced with wires. The wings had wood spars and ribs. The airframe was covered in doped fabric. The B.E.2.a used wing-warping for roll control.This would be changed to ailerons for the B.E.2.b.

The wings of the 2.a and 2.b were straight with no dihedral. Both upper and lower wings had the same span and chord, and were not staggered. (The B.E.2.c added both dihedral and stagger.) The lower wing spars were connected through the fuselage with steel tubing. The landing gear had both wheels and tires, but also wood-covered steel tube skids extending forward to protect the propeller from contacting the ground.

The B.E.2.a–2.b was 29 feet, 6½ inches (9.004 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 7½ inches (11.773 meters). The wings’ chord was 6 feet, 4 inches (1.930 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,274 pounds (578 kilograms) and gross weight of 1,600 pounds (726 kilograms).

The B.E.2, B.E.2.a and B.E.2.b were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 6.949 liter (424.036 cubic inch) Renault Type WB side-valve 90° V-8 engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.12:1. The WB was rated at 70 horsepower at 1,750 r.p.m. The engine drove a four-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller at one-half crankshaft speed. The Renault WB was 3 feet, 9.5 inches (1.556 meters) long, 2 feet, 8.8 inches (0.833 meters) high and 2 feet, 5.8 inches (0.757 meters) wide. It weighed 396 pounds (180 kilograms).

The airplane had a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour) at 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). It could climb to 3,000 feet (914 meters) in 9 minutes and to 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) in 35 minutes. The service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Maximum endurance was 3 hours.

Although designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, only 6 B.E.2s were built there. The remainder were built by Armstong Whitworth, British and Colonial Airplane Co., Coventry Ordnance Works, Handley Page, Hewlett and Blondeau, and Vickers.

Air Vice-Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force,1930. (Walter Stoneman/National Portrait Gallery NPG x186018)

Air Vice-Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, was born Llanarth, Cardiganshire, Wales, 13 May 1883. He was the third of four children of Charles Edward Longcroft and Catherine Alicia Holcombe Longcroft. Charles was educated at Charterhouse, a private boarding school (for some incomprehensible reason, known in England as a “public school”) in Goldalming, Surrey, England. He then attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

C.A.H. Longcroft was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Welsh Regiment of the British Army, 2 May 1903. From 1904 to 1906, he served in India. Returning to the United Kingdom, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, 13 December 1906. He then deployed to South Africa until 1909.

On 5 March 1912, Lieutenant Longcroft was issued an aviator’s certificate (H192) by the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom.

After volunteering, on 10 April 1912 Lieutenant Longcroft was assigned to the Air Battalion, Royal Engineers. The unit operated lighter-than-air craft. The following month, 13 May 1912, he was “seconded” (temporarily transferred for duties outside of his normal unit) to the newly established Royal Flying Corps. On 1 July 1912, Lieutenant Longcroft was appointed a Flying Officer, R.F.C. On 20 November 1912, he was assigned as a flight commander, No. 2 Squadron, at Farnborough and Montrose. On that same day, he was promoted to the temporary rank of captain. That rank became permanent 13 August 1913.

Captain Longcroft was promoted to the temporary rank of major, 1 May 1914, and assigned as the commanding officer No. 1 Squadron at Farnborough, which, after the start of World War I, served on the Western Front. His new rank became permanent two months later (22 June). On 19 October 1914, Longcroft was Mentioned in Dispatches.

Major Longcroft became the commanding officer of No. 4 Squadron 29 January 1915. On 18 August 1915 he was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel. He was reassigned to command the Training Wing.

The Imperial House of Romanov (the reigning house of Imperial Russia) awarded Major Longcroft the Order of St. Staninslas (Орденъ Св. Станислава), 3rd Class with Swords, 25 August 1915.

Brigadier-General Charles A. H. Longcroft, Royal Flying Corps, ca. 1917 (Wikipedia)

On 28 August 1916, Colonel Longcourt was promoted to the temporary rank of brigadier-general. He was placed in command of 2nd (Corps) Wing, R.F.C. (His permanent rank of lieutenant-colonel was effective 1 January 1917.) Next, on 18 October 1917, Longcroft was promoted to temporary major-general. He was next assigned as General Officer Commanding, Training Division.

France appointed him an Officier de la Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur in 1917.

On 1 April 1918, the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were combined to form the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.). Major-General Longcroft was transferred from the British Army to the R.A.F. and attached to III Brigade. While retaining that temporary rank, his permanent rank of lieutenant-colonel was confirmed and he was immediately promoted to the permanent rank of colonel. On 29 April, he was advanced once again to the temporary rank of brigadier-general, and assigned as General Officer Commanding, III Brigade.

In the New Year’s Honours List, 1 January 1918, Brigadier-General Longcroft was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) for service under fire.

For his service during World War I, Brigadier-General Longcroft was awarded the Distinguished Service Order; the Air Force Cross; the 1914 Star with Clasp; the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. He was also appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (C.M.G.) by King George V.

On 1 May 1919, Temporary Brigadier-General Longcroft was promoted to the rank of acting brigadier-general.

The new R.A.F. changed to a new system of officer ranks. On 1 August 1919, Longcroft resigned his commission in the Welsh Brigade to accept a commission in the R.A.F. Acting Brigadier-General Longcroft became Group Captain Longcroft. Four days later, 5 August, he was promoted to Air Commodore.

The first class of cadets at RAF Cranwell, 1920. (Royal Air Force)

Air Commodore Longroft became the first commandant of the newly established R.A.F. College at Cranwell. The first cadets arrived 5 February 1920. His command consisted of 56 officers, 516 airmen, 200 cadets, 1 headmaster and 8 schoolmasters.

Air Commodore Longcroft married Mrs. William Duncan Hepburn (née Marjory McKerrell-Brown) at St. Paul’s Church, Portman Square, London, 27 April 1921. The ceremony was officiated by Squadron Leader the Reverend Bernard William Keymer, O.B.E., R.A.F. Mrs. Hepburn was the widow of Captain W. D. Hepburn, Seaforth Highlanders, British Army. The Longcrofts would have a son, Charles McKerrell Longcroft, born in 1926. (Squadron Leader Keymer was one of the first chaplains at RAF Cranwell, and is credited with creating the school’s motto, Superna Petimus—”We seek things that are above.”)

King George V appointed Air Commodore Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, to be an Ordinary Member of the Military Division of the Third Class, of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.), 2 June 1923.³

On 9 October 1923, Air-Commodore Longcroft was placed on the Half-Pay List. Shortly after, 10 December, he was appointed Director of Personal Services.

Air Commodore Longcroft was advanced to the rank of air vice-marshal, 1 July 1925.

On 1 November 1926, Air Vice-Marshal Longcroft became Air Officer Commanding, Inland Area.

Longcroft retired from the Royal Air Force at his own request, 2 November 1929.

On 15 November 1932, King George V appointed Air Vice-Marshal Longcroft, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C. (retired) to be Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.³ In 1948, he became Secretary and Registrar of the Order.⁴

On 9 June 1938, King George VI invested him Knight Commander of the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.).

Air Vice Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, died 20 February 1958 at London. He was 74 years of age.

Air Vice Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force.

¹ Lincolnshire Echo, No. 6431, Monday, 24 November 1913, Page 3, Column 5. Some sources state the distance was 445 miles (716 kilometers) in 7 hours, 20 minutes.

² FAI Record File Number 15378

³ Supplement 32830 to the London Gazette, 2 June 1923, Page 3945

⁴ Supplement 33883 of the London Gazette, 15 November 1932 at Page 7260.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

12 November 1944

Tirpitz
KMS Tirpitz anchored in Bogen Bay, Ofotfjord, near Narvik, Norway, circa 1943–1944. (U.S. Navy Historical Center)

12 November 1944: No. 9 Squadron and No. 617 Squadron (Dambusters), Royal Air Force, sent a force of 32 Avro Lancaster long range heavy bombers to attack the 49,948 metric-ton-displacement Kriegsmarine battleship KMS Tirpitz at Tromsø Fjord, Norway. The attack was filmed by a photo aircraft of No. 463 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force.

The Lancasters were armed with 12,030 pound (5,457 kilogram) Tallboy bombs. They bombed from altitudes from 12,000 to 16,000 feet (3,658–4,877 meters). Two of the bombs hit the battleship, one was a very near miss and another three also were close enough that they probably contributed to the overall damage. Many other Tallboys landed within the torpedo nets that surrounded the ship and cratered the seabed, removing the sandy bottom which had been built up under Tirpitz‘ hull to prevent her from sinking. Tirpitz immediately began to list and was then rocked by an internal explosion. It capsized and sank to the sea bed. As many as 1,204 sailors were killed.

KMS Tirpitz under attack, 12 November 1944. The battleship is visible to the left of the bomb splashes and is firing its main guns at the bombers. (Unattributed)
KMS Tirpitz under attack, 12 November 1944. The battleship is visible to the right of the bomb splashes and is firing its main guns at the bombers. (Unattributed)

Tirpitz was a Bismarck-class battleship armed with a main battery of eight 38-centimeter (15-inch/52-caliber) guns in four turrets. These guns had a maximum range of 22.7 miles (36.5 kilometers) when firing a 1,800 pound (816 kilogram) projectile. The German Navy did not use its heavy warships to directly engage the British fleet, but instead to raid the Atlantic convoys.  The merchant ships with their destroyer escorts were defenseless against a battleship or battle cruiser. Allied forces expended tremendous effort and resources to contain or destroy Tirpitz throughout the war.

A Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster being "bombed up" with a 12,000 pound Tallboy earth-penetrating bomb.
A Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster being “bombed up” with a 12,030 pound (5,456.7 kilogram) Tallboy earth-penetrating bomb. (Royal Air Force)

The Avro Lancaster was a four-engine long range heavy bomber. It wasn’t as fast as the American B-17 Flying Fortress, but was capable of flying longer distances with a heavier bomb load. It was operated by a crew of seven: Pilot, flight engineer, navigator, radio operator, bomb aimer/nose gunner, top gunner and tail gunner. The “Lanc” was 69 feet, 4 inches (21.133 meters) long, with a wingspan of 102 feet (31.090 meters) and had an overall height of 20 feet, 6 inches (6.248 meters). It had a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 72,000 pounds (32,657 kilograms) when carrying a 22,000 pound (9,979 kilogram) Grand Slam bomb.

The Lancaster was powered by four liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,648.96-cubic-inch-displacement (27.01 liter), Rolls Royce Merlin XX or Packard V-1650 single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines, which were rated at 1,480 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. to 6,000 feet (1,829 meters). They turned three-bladed de Havilland Hydromatic constant-speed propellers which had a diameter of 13 feet (3.962 meters) through a 0.420:1 gear reduction.

These Merlin engines, the same as those powering Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane and North American P-51 Mustang fighters, gave the Lancaster a maximum speed of 282 miles per hour (456 kilometers per hour) at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) at a weight of 63,000 pounds (28,576 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 21,400 feet (6,523 meters) and maximum range was 2,530 miles (4,073 kilometers).

Defensive armament for a standard Lancaster consisted of eight Browning Mark II .303-caliber machine guns in three power turrets, nose, dorsal and tail. Modified bombers deleted various combinations of guns to reduce weight.

The Tallboy (Bomb, Medium Capacity, 12,000 lb) was a special demolition bomb designed to be dropped from high altitude, reach supersonic speeds, then penetrate as far as 90 feet (27 meters) into the ground before detonating. It was built of a specially hardened steel casing filled with 5,200 pounds (2,358 kilograms) of Torpex explosive. The bomb was designed by Barnes Wallis, who had also designed the special bomb used by the Dambusters in their famous 1943 attack on the Ruhr Valley hydroelectric dams, as well as the Grand Slam, a 22,000-pound (10,000 kilogram) scaled-up version of the Tallboy. The Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs were very successfully used against U-boat pens and heavily fortified underground rocket facilities.

A flight of three Avro Lancaster bombers of No. 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, photographed 8 May 1945. The airplane closest to the camera, marked KC-B, is a Lancaster B Mk.I. The other two are Lancaster B Mk.I Specials modified to carry the 22,000 pound Grand Slam bomb. They are identified by the "YZ" fuselage codes. Photograph from the collection of Mrs. Cresswell, © IWM MH-30796.
A flight of three Avro Lancaster bombers of No. 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, photographed 8 May 1945. The airplane closest to the camera, marked KC-B, is a Lancaster B Mk.I. The other two are Lancaster B Mk.I Specials modified to carry the 22,000 pound Grand Slam bomb. They are identified by the “YZ” fuselage codes. Photograph from the collection of Mrs. Cresswell, © IWM MH-30796.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

20 September 1918

Lieutenant (j.g.) David S. Ingalls, USN, France, 1918. (U.S. Navy)
Lieutenant (j.g.) David S. Ingalls, USN, France, 1918. (U.S. Navy)

20 September 1918: While assigned to No. 213 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Lieutenant (junior grade) David Sinton Ingalls, United States Navy, shot down a Fokker D.VII reconnaissance airplane near Vlissegham, Belgium, while flying a Sopwith Camel, serial number D8177. This was Ingalls’ fifth confirmed aerial victory, making him the U.S. Navy’s only fighter ace of World War I.

Lieutenant Ingalls was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions of 15 September 1918, when “he led a flight of five machines on a low bombing raid of an enemy aerodrome. On the homeward journey he shot down a two-seater enemy aeroplane in flames. He further participated in two other low bombing raids and upon still another occasion shot down an enemy kite balloon in flames near Ostend.”  He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious service. The Royal Air Force awarded him its Distinguished Flying Cross for the 15 September mission against Uytkerke Aerodrome, and he was Mentioned in Dispatches. France appointed him Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.

Sopwith Camel F.1. (Royal Air Force)

The Sopwith Camel F.1 was a British single-place, single-engine biplane fighter, produced by the Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Canbury Park Road, Kingston-on-Thames. The airplane was constructed of a wooden framework, with the forward fuselage being covered with aluminum panels and plywood, while the aft fuselage, wings and tail surfaces were covered with fabric.

The length of the Camel F.I varied from 18 feet, 6 inches (5.639 meters) to 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters), depending on which engine was installed. Both upper and lower wings had a span of 28 feet, 0 inches (8.534 meters) and chord of 4 feet, 6 inches (1.372 meters). They were separated vertically by 5 feet (1.524 meters) at the fuselage. The upper wing had 0° dihedral, while the lower wing had 5° dihedral and was staggered 1 foot, 6 inches (0.457 meters) behind the upper wing. The single-bay wings were braced with airfoil-shaped streamline wires. The overall height of the Camel also varied with the engine, from 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) to 8 feet, 9 inches (2.667 meters).

The heaviest Camel F.I variant used the Le Rhône 180 h.p. engine. It had an empty weight of 1,048 pounds (475 kilograms). Its gross weight of 1,567 pounds (711 kilograms). The lightest was equipped with the Gnôme Monosoupape 100 horsepower engine, with weights of 882 pounds (400 kilograms) and 1,387 pounds (629 kilograms), respectively.

Front view of a Sopwith Camel F.I
Front view of a Sopwith Camel F.I

The first Camel was powered by an air-cooled 15.268 liter (931.72 cubic inches) Société Clerget-Blin et Cie Clerget Type 9 nine-cylinder rotary engine which produced 110 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. and drove a wooden two-bladed propeller. Eight different rotary engines ¹ from four manufacturers, ranging from 100 to 180 horsepower, were used in the type.

The best performance came with the Bentley B.R.1 engine (5.7:1 compression ratio). This variant had a maximum speed of 121 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 114.5 miles per hour (184 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). It could climb to 6,500 feet (1,981 meters) in 4 minutes, 35 seconds; to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) in 8 minutes, 10 seconds; and 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) in 15 minutes, 55 seconds. It had a service ceiling of 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). Two other Camel variants could reach 24,000 feet (7,315 meters).

Sopwith Camel F.1 N6254, right profile. (NASA)
Lt. W.O. Bentley R.N.A.S.
Lieutenant Walter Owen Bentley, R.N.A.S.

The Bentley B.R.1 rotary engine was designed by Lieutenant Walter Owen Bentley, Royal Naval Air Service (later, Captain, Royal Air Force), based on the Clerget Type 9, but with major improvements. It used aluminum cylinders shrunk on to steel liners, with aluminum pistons. The Bentley B.R.1 (originally named the Admiralty Rotary, A.R.1, as it was intended for use by the Royal Navy) was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 17.304 liter (1,055.9 cubic inches) nine-cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5.7:1. It was rated at 150 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m. The B.R.1 was 1.110 meters (3 feet, 7.7 inches) long, 1.070 meters (feet, 6.125 inches) in diameter and weighted 184 kilograms (406 pounds.) The engine was manufactured by Humber, Ltd., Coventry, England.

For his work developing this engine, Captain Bentley was appointed a Member of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) in the New Years Honours List, 1 January 1919. He would later found Bentley Motors, Ltd.

Sopwith Camel F.1 FG394, left rear quarter. © IWM (Q 63822)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394, left rear quarter. © IWM (Q 63822)

The Camel was armed with two fixed, forward-firing .303 Vickers machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller. These guns were modified for air cooling. Some night fighter variants substituted Lewis machine guns mounted above the upper wing for the Vickers guns. Four 25 pound (11.3 kilogram) bombs could be carried on racks under the fuselage.

The instruments and armament of a Sopwith Camel from No. 4 Squadron, AFC. (Australian War Memorial)
The instruments and armament of a Sopwith Camel from No. 4 Squadron, AFC. (Australian War Memorial)

The Sopwith Camel was a difficult airplane to fly. Most of its weight was concentrated far forward, making it unstable, but, at the same time making the fighter highly maneuverable. The rotary engine, with so much of its mass in rotation, caused a torque effect that rolled the airplane to the right to a much greater degree than in airplanes equipped with radial or V-type engines. A skilled pilot could use this to his advantage, but many Camels ended upside down while taking off.

Twelve manufacturers ² produced 5,490 Sopwith Camels between 1916 and 1920. By the end of World War I, it was becoming outclassed by newer aircraft, however it was the single most successful fighter of the war, shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft. One single fighter, flown by Major William Barker, shot down 46 enemy aircraft, more than any other fighter in history.

It is believed that only seven Sopwith Camels still exist.

Lieutenant David Sinton Ingalls, Naval Reserve Flying Corps, circa 1919. (U.S. Naval Institute)

David Sinton Ingalls was born 28 January 1899 at Cleveland, Ohio. He was the son of Albert Stimson Ingalls, a vice president of the New York Central Railroad, and Jane Ellison Taft Ingalls, niece of President William Howard Taft. He  was educated at the University School, a private school for boys in Cleveland. He entered Yale University at New Haven, Connecticut, in 1916. Ingalls was a member of The First Yale Unit, which would become the U.S. Navy’s first aviation unit.

Shortly after the United States entered World War I, David Sinton Ingalls enlisted as a Machinist’s Mate 1st Class, United States Naval Reserve Force, at New London, Connecticut, 26 March 1917. He was sent to the Naval Aviation Detachment at West Palm Beach, Florida, for initial flight training, and then to the Naval Aviation Detachment, Huntington, New York. MM1c Ingalls was discharged 1 September 1917 and appointed an Ensign, 4 September 1917. He was Naval Aviator Number 85.

Ensign Ingalls was sent to France for duty, 12 September 1917. In December 1917, he was detached and sent to the Royal Flying Corps air station at Turnberry, South Ayrshire, Scotland, for training in aerial gunnery. He then underwent squadron formation training at nearby Ayr, Scotland. Following training, Ensign Ingalls was assigned to the Naval Air Detachment at Paris, France, 12 March 1918. On 23 March 1918, Ingalls was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade).

On 21 May 1918, Lieutenant (j.g.) Ingalls was assigned to the U.S. Army Bombing School at Clermont-Ferrand, France. On 27 June 1918, Lieutenant (j.g.) Ingalls was assigned to the Naval Air Station Dunkerque. He flew combat missions with No. 213 Squadron, and No. 218 Squadron, both of the Royal Air Force. (While flying with the 218th, he was reported to have shot down an observation balloon and a biplane. The records were lost and these claims are considered unconfirmed.)

While flying with No. 213 Squadron, on 11 August 1918, Lieutenant (j.g.) Ingalls shot down an Albatros C northeast of Diksmuide, West Flanders—his first confirmed victory. His second confirmed victory was a two-place Luftverkehrsgesellschaft m.b.H. (L.V.G.) biplane south of Zevecote, Belgium, on 21 August. He shot down a Rumpler C over Ostend, 15 September. His fourth confirmed victory took place on 18 September when he destroyed an observation balloon at La Barrière. The Fokker D.VII that he shot down on 20 September was his fifth. He shot down his sixth,a Rumpler, on 24 September 1918, over Saint-Pierre-Cappelle, Belgium. Other than the Fokker D.VII, Ingalls shared credit with other pilots for the shoot-downs.

Lieutenant (j.g.) Ingalls flew his final combat mission, his sixty-third, on 3 October 1918.

On 24 September 1919, he was given the provisional rank of Lieutenant, Naval Reserve Flying Corps, with date of rank, 1 April 1919. He was released from active duty 23 December 1919.

Returning to Yale University, he graduated in 1920 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and in 1923, received a Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He practiced law for several years before being elected to the state legislature of Ohio in 1926. Later, he ran for governor and United States senator.

David Sinton Ingalls married Miss Louise Hale Harkness at Locust Valley, New York, 27 June 1922. They would have five children: Edith, Jane, Anne, Louise, and David.

Flag of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics

Ingalls was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics by President Herbert Hoover, serving from 16 March 1929 until 1 June 1932, reporting to Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adams III.

Secretary Ingalls’ photograph was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine, 2 March 1931.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics David Sinton Ingalls was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine, 2 March 1931. Photograph by Underwood & Underwood. (TIME Magazine)

On 24 December 1931, Ingalls was appointed a Lieutenant Commander, United States Naval Reserve.

Going to work in the business sector, Ingalls became vice president and general manager of Pan American Air Ferries, a commercial transport service from the United States to Egypt, and which also transported newly-built military aircraft from the United States via South America, across the South Atlantic Ocean to Africa, and then on to the Middle East.

Lieutenant Commander Ingalls was promoted to Commander, U.S.N.R., 1 July 1941, and following the United States entry into World War II, he was recalled to active duty, 23 November 1942. Commander Ingalls served as Assistant Operations Officer on the staff of the Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific, (COMNAVAIRPAC), for which he was awarded the Legion of Merit. He was promoted to Captain, 10 June 1943. He then served as chief of staff to the Commander Aircraft South Pacific Force, Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch, USN.

Captain Ingalls took command of U.S. Naval Air Station 29 (now, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport—HNL—Honolulu, Hawaii) on 1 April 1944.

Captain Ingalls was released from active duty 8 November 1945, but he remained an officer in the Naval Reserve. Ingalls returned to Pan American World Airways as vice president, and remained in that position until 1949. Later, he was president and publisher of the Cincinnati Times-Star newspaper, and a vice president of Taft Broadcasting Company.

David Sinton Ingalls, April 1952. (Nina Leen/LIFE Magazine)

By 1951, Ingalls held the rank of Commodore. On 1 July 1955, Commodore Ingalls was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral. From 1945 until 1959, Ingalls was Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command (COMNAVRESFORCOM). He retired from the Naval Reserve in February 1959.

During his Naval career, Rear Admiral Ingalls had been awarded the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, World War I Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four service stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Naval Reserve Medal, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with hourglass device.

Miss Louise Hale Harkness Ingalls with her father, David S. Ingalls, 1980. (Historic Images)

Louise Harkness Ingalls died in 1978. David Ingalls married his second wife, Frances W. Wragg, 16 February 1979.

Ingalls is the author of Hero of the Angry Sky: The World War I Diary and Letters of David S. Ingalls, America’s First Naval Ace, Ohio University Press, 2013 (Edited by Geoffrey L.  Rossano).

Rear Admiral David Sinton Ingalls died 26 April 1985 at the age of 86 years. He is buried at the Warm Springs Cemetery, Warm Springs, Virginia.

¹ Humber, Ltd., Bentley B.R.1 150 h.p., B.R.1 (5.7:1 c.r.); Clerget 9B, 130 h.p., Clerget 9Bf, 130 h.p. (long stroke): Gnôme Monosoupape,  100 h.p., Gnôme Monosoupape, 150 h.p.; Le Rhône, 110 h.p., and Le Rhône 180 h.p.

² Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Kingston-on-Thames; Boulton and Paul, Ltd., Norwich; British Caudron Co., London; Clayton and Shuttleworth, Ltd., Lincoln; Hooper and Co., Ltd., London; March, Jones and Cribb, Ltd., Leeds; Nieuport and General Aircraft Co., Ltd., London; Ruston, Proctor and Co., Ltd., Lincoln; Fairey Aviation Co., Ltd.; Portholme Aerodrome Ltd., Huntingdon; Wm. Beardmore & Co., Ltd., Glasgow; Pegler & Co., Ltd., Doncaster.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes