Friday, November 12, 2010

The Lancaster Bomber of WWII

WWII Lancaster Bomber NX611 ("Just Jane")
At home at Lincolnshire Aviation & Heritage Museum,
RAF East Kirkby, Lincolnshire
Otherwise known as "Just Jane" or the "City of Sheffield"

(For additional information click on 'Comments' below)


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

"Just Jane" Avro Lancaster NX611

The Second World War Avro Lancaster NX611 was named "Just Jane" after Jane the 'Daily Mirror' wartime comic strip character 'Jane' who seemed to have a habit of losing some of her outer garments! There is a painting of 'Jane' dressed as many of the young men of the war years would no doubt have imagined her on the side of this Avro Lancaster Bomber. One could well imagine this kind of image on the wall of a 21st Century barracks. Sometimes, not a lot changes between the generations!

"Just Jane" was built by Austin Motors of Longbridge, Birmingham in April 1945 - one of the first 150 "B Mark VII" Avro Lancasters planned to become part of the RAF "Tiger Force" for the war in the Far East against the Japanese homeland. However, because of the Japanese surrender after the dropping of the Atomic Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki the NX611 became surplus to requirements and consequently 'mothballed' at Llandow until 1952.

After being bought by the French Government in 1952 NX611 operated as part of the French Naval Air Arm for the next 10 years. She was then flown around the world to Noumeau, New Caledonia (‘Nouvelle Caledonie’) where it was used for air-sea rescue and cartography. After the French disposed of NX611 in 1964 the aircraft spent about a year in Sydney, Australia and then flown back to the UK (Biggin Hill, Kent) in May 1965.

After some years being based at Lavenham in Suffolk, NX611 was put up for auction in 1972 at Squire's Gate Airfield, Blackpool, Lancashire. Although the Lancaster failed to reach its reserve price, NX611 was then privately sold to the Rt Hon Lord Lilford and became the 'Gate Guardian' at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire.

In the meantime Lincolnshire farming brothers Fred and Harold Panton bought some additional land in Lincolnshire including part of the former RAF East Kirby airfield. Part of the land was used to set up a chicken farm while they also renovated part of the now disused airfield and eventually create what became the Lincolnshire Aviation and Heritage Museum. An elder brother of Fred and Harold, Christopher Panton had lost his life during the war while serving as a Pilot Officer / Engineer with Bomber Command (433 Squadron, RCAF) in March 1944 during a raid on Nuremberg.

In September 1983 Fred and Harold Panton made a private purchase of NX611 from Lord Lindlow's agent. After allowing the aircraft to complete 10 years service at RAF Scampton, the RAF moved the aircraft to its new home at the former RAF East Kirkby in 1987. After several years of restoration work, including the engines, "Just Jane" was taxied down the runway under its own power in 1995, although it was not to do a take off. This was 50 years after being built and also the 50th anniversary of VE Day (May 1995) and VJ Day (August 1995).

On 19 August 1995 "Just Jane" was given a second name: the "City of Sheffield" dedicated to the people of that city who had built many of the castings in the steelworks there, and a city that had also suffered in the German Blitz of WW2. The sister Lancaster of "Just Jane", the "City of Lincoln" - part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) flew overhead in a salute. Since then, the Lincolnshire Aviation and Heritage Museum has been developed to remember all aspects of WW2 and in particular that of Bomber Command.

Monday, 15 November, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Visitors from all over the world come to the Lincolnshire Aviation and Heritage Museum to learn about what happened during the war years. More than 57,000 service men and women lost their lives during WW2 – more than 55,000 of them during missions or training.

There were, of course, some ground crew who also lost their lives as the result of enemy action at airfields, accidents or other reasons. During WW2, there were also many civilians in many countries who lost their lives because of aerial bombing: including Britain, Germany, other European countries as well as Japan and countries of the Far East. This was not the first war in which civilians had died because of aerial bombing. For example, there had been civilian casualties killed by aerial attacks during WW1 and the Spanish Civil War. Even during mediaeval wars, which involved sieges of towns and cities, civilians died because part of the strategy was starve the population into submission. The main difference between these earlier wars and WW2 is a matter of scale.

In 1940, during the German breakthrough in France, Belgium the Netherlands the Germans bombed many of the major British industrial and commercial cities. Seeing the silhouette of London burning as a result of German bombing, the Air Chief Marshall in charge of Bomber Command, Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, quoted the Old Testament phrase “They have sown the wind, so they shall reap the whirlwind”.

At that stage in the war, bombing of the German cities was one of the few means to take the war to Germany. The lives lost by serving personnel of Bomber Command were given following this strategy. After WW2 the peacetime realisation of the scale of civilian deaths in Germany in the latter part of the war tended to mean much of the story of Bomber Command was rather overlooked in the overall context of the war. This is where places like the Lincolnshire Aviation and Heritage Museum play an important part in preserving the truth about the war, the good things and the bad, and place the different aspects of the war into their proper context.

Thanks to the staff at the Lincolnshire Aviation and Heritage Museum for their assistance.

Monday, 15 November, 2010  

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