Given the post this morning about NE181 JN-Mike ‘The Captains Fancy’, its perhaps a little bit ironic that I suddenly find myself talking about at least 1 and perhaps another 2 Lancasters from the Squadron that at least (might have) reached the figure of 100 Ops.
Funnily enough Ian emailed me earlier this evening to politely question my description of ‘Mike’ being the ‘only’ Lancaster to reach 100 – I was happy to admit a mistake, but Ian came back (he said sheepishly) to perhaps agree I was right. Then Chris came back, clutching more goodies from the New Zealand Bomber Command archive. I have to be honest, these 3 images (1 above and 2 below) left me, well, speechless.
The aircraft in these pictures is PB418 AA-C with 100 Ops clearly marked on her nose – the 3 images come originally from F/O Neville Selwood RNZAF, Navigator with F/O Wynn Russell RNZAF and crew, who did 23 op’s in her. Now, I defer to Chis and his patient sifting of the Squadron ORB’s – so far for this aircraft, he thinks he has found 95 of these Ops + 3 ‘Manna’ Ops – though he wonders if perhaps he might have missed a few, or even perhaps a few Ops might have been recorded before the aircraft arrived at Mepal.
Ian’s entry in the Lancaster database for PB418 is as follows;
‘On Sqn Aug 1944,to 514 Sqn Jul 1945 from IWM. Serial from ORBs. Total op’s = 95 (95th achieved on 22 April, to Bremen, with the Lukins crew), plus 3 Operation Manna supply drops to Rotterdam, plus 5 POW repatriation flights from Juvincourt, May 45, from ORB’s (Newey). AA-C from 3GBC and AIR14/3463.’
Which suggests, depending on how the food dropping and prisoner repatriation flights were counted more than 100 – I am aware that the crews considered the ‘Manna’ flights as Ops – the aircraft were fully crewed (for early flights) and armed – and they had instructions to fire back if fired upon…..
Built by Avro at Manchester, PB418 joined 75 (NZ) Squadron as AA-C in August 1944. Allocated to Flying Officer Wynn Russell in January 1945, his Navigator Neville Selwood recalled in “Kiwis Do Fly” that it was a real old timer with narrow propeller blades.
“Enough to get us to 19,500 feet and no more. It certainly did over 100 trips but that may have included some DNCO and the Manna drops of 30th April and 7th May 1945.”
“It was a lucky kite and eventually was re-engined. We did 23 operations in her, the last being a 5 hour 25 minute trip to Keil with 10,092 lbs. My last trip with 75 (NZ) Squadron was with PB418 on 29th June 1945 when we flew a ‘postmortem’ run to Flensburg. Apparently ‘C went to 514 Squadron and was scrapped in March 1948. What a shame, she had looked out for us.”
(Kiwis Do Fly: New Zealanders in RAF Bomber Command, by Peter Wheeler. 2010, New Zealand Bomber Command Association)
If this isn’t enough, Chris says that ‘Buzz’ Spilman reckons that LM276 AA-S ‘Sugar’ reached her hundred – though further research needs to be undertaken to prove this claim and additionally, HK562 AA-L ‘Love’ was (according to Jim Haworth, Mallon crew) “retired” on 99, so Chris reckons based on these aircraft alone, there may have been another one or two that came close, or perhaps even achieved the ton, but NE181 ‘Mike’, still probably beat them all………