Lancaster PA474 was built at the VickersArmstrong Broughton factory on Hawarden airfield, near Chester, where it was completed on May 31, 1945. The war in Europe had ended just over three weeks earlier, so the aircraft was modified for Far East operations against the Japanese as part of the “Tiger Force.” It was first flown in this configuration in August 1945. Combat operations in the Far East ended before the aircraft could be deployed, so PA474 was placed in storage with just over three hours on the airframe.
In June 1947, PA474 was converted to PR1 standard for photographic reconnaissance work. From September 1948 to February 1952, PA474 conducted aerial survey mapping work with 82 Squadron in East and South Africa, accumulating 2,000 airframe hours before being returned to the UK.
It could easily have been scrapped, but fortunately PA474 was allocated to the Cranfield College of Aeronautics in March 1954. For the next 10 years, the Lancaster was used as a platform for testing various experimental airfoil sections.
Although it flew only some 100 hours total during that time, it was maintained in airworthy condition.
In April 1964, PA474 was grounded and adopted by the Air Historical Branch for future display as a static exhibit in the nascent RAF Museum. In August 1965, though, permission was granted for PA474 to make a single flight from Henlow (where it had been sitting in the open air awaiting its fate) to Waddington, for a full refurbishment. There it was made fully airworthy and, over the next 10 years, was gradually restored to the condition and appearance of a wartime Main Force bomber, with all its gun turrets back in place by 1975.
The Lancaster joined the BBMF in 1973 and has been the centerpiece of the Flight’s famous collection of historic WW II aircraft ever since.
in Australia, shows him painting the kangaroo with the bagpipes onto W5005 in July 1943 when the aircraft had completed only 12 ops.
Vic Watts survived the war, returned to Australia, married, and raised a family. He died in 1976 at age 56, from a sudden heart attack. He never knew that one day the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) would paint their Lancaster, PA474, with the nose art that he had applied to 460 Squadron Lancaster W5005, AR-L, in 1943.
In common with many Allied bomber aircraft, Lancaster W5005 carried a log on the port side of its nose with symbols indicating the number of successful operations completed by the aircraft. On September 9, 1943, the 30 symbols on W5005 included 24 yellow bombs indicating night operations against German targets, two red bomb symbols for raids on Berlin (which were considered especially dangerous), and four ice cream cones for bombing missions against Italian targets.
This is how BBMF Lancaster PA474 is currently marked: a snapshot in time in the life of 460 Squadron Lancaster W5005. A later photo of W5005, taken in May 1944, shows 52 ops on the log, by which time the aircraft’s code letters had been changed from AR-L to AR-E2 and the name “Leader” had been overpainted.
Jerry Bateman flew 22 ops in this Lancaster—more than any other pilot—and the last of these was on December 20, 1943. Bateman survived a full tour of 30 ops, was promoted from Sergeant to Flight Lieutenant in the process and awarded the DFC. By the end of his tour, still only 21 years old, he had led his crew to bomb targets in Germany on 27 occasions: eight long, dangerous sorties to Berlin, once to a target in France, and twice on missions of over eight hours to bomb Milan, in Italy. He was attacked by a night fighter on one operation and on another, in a different Lancaster, was caught in a large cone of searchlights, subsequently reporting “many flak holes in the aircraft.” He was lucky to survive a full tour of 30 ops when most did not. Sadly, his bomb aimer and flight engineer were both killed flying with different crews. Having survived the war, Jerry Bateman returned to Australia, married, and had five sons. He died in
2011, aged 89, six years before the BBMF Lancaster adopted the nose art of his aircraft.
With 550 Squadron
In May 1944, Lancaster W5005 was transferred to 550 Squadron at North
Killingholme, Lincolnshire, where it was recoded as BQ-N and known as “N-Nan.” Its new owners kept its kangaroo and bagpipe nose art, probably because it was thought too good to lose.
W5005 flew a further 42 ops with 550 Squadron until its luck ran out on its 94th op, a bombing raid against the docks at
Kiel, on Germany’s Baltic coast, on August 26 and 27, 1944. The Lancaster was hit and damaged by flak. On its return to North Killingholme, pilot and Flight Sergeant R. Hopman, RAAF, was attempting a flapless landing, but it seems he ran out of options and ditched the Lancaster in shallow water on mudflats in the River Humber Estuary. Its five Australian and two British crewmen were uninjured and paddled ashore in their dinghy, but it was the end for W5005, which had narrowly missed out on becoming a “Centurion” Lancaster. It is a telling fact, that of the 6,500 Lancasters that flew on bombing operations in WW II, only 35 individual aircraft completed more than
100 ops each. Across all squadrons and throughout the war, the average life of a Lancaster was 22.75 sorties.
By the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, 460 Squadron RAAF had flown 6,264 operational sorties, participated in 386 bombing raids, and dropped over 24,000 tons of bombs (more than any other unit in RAF Bomber Command). These achievements came at enormous material and human cost: the squadron lost 169 aircraft on ops and another 31 in crashes. With 1,018 aircrew killed in action (589 of them Australian), the squadron was effectively wiped out five times over during the war.
BBMF Lancaster PA474
RAF BBMF Lancaster B1 PA474 is a flying memorial to those who served with RAF Bomber Command during WW II, especially the 55,573 who sacrificed their lives. The nose art from Lancaster W5005, as shown in the photographs taken on September 9, 1943, is now faithfully replicated on BBMF Lancaster PA474. It provides a snapshot in time of W5005’s remarkable wartime career and specifically commemorates the eclectic mix of Australian, British, and other Commonwealth nations of 460 Squadron RAAF who crewed and maintained Lancasters.