Ex- Serviceman’s Son Builds Replica of RAF Waddington S-Sugar Bomber Fuselage

For the last eight years, Martin Willoughby has used his time to build a fuselage modeled on that of the Lancaster R5868, S-Sugar. This was an aircraft that flew from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, England, and it was the first Allied bomber to complete a staggering 100 missions during the World War II.

Willoughby was driven by the goal of wanting to provide an interactive experience for people. The plan is to take the replica to different schools so that children have a chance to experience what it was like in the cockpit of a World War II bomber.

Willoughby is from Grimsby and came up with the idea after helping his father Ted Willoughby, who served as a fitter during the war, with the restoration of the original S-Sugar. “Other kids had Airfix, I had the real thing,” Willoughby said. His father has since passed away.

Mr. Willoughby is currently the chairman of the 463/467 Lancaster RAAF Squadrons, which crewed the aircraft at RAF Waddington. The replica was unveiled last week at the Lincolnshire base to coincide with Anzac Day.

“All the crew stations have authentic Lancaster equipment, collected over all these years from places as far away as Australia, Canada, and the United States,” Willoughby said. “What you can see now is a hybrid of fabrication and real Lancaster materials.” The cost of the overall project is likely in the hundreds of thousands, but he is not too sure how much he has spent to this point. Mr. Willoughby just continued to put money into the work.

Sadly, he was diagnosed with Leukemia at about the project’s halfway point. He admits there were a couple of times he felt inclined to just give up. It was only due to the support of his family that he has gotten to where is he is today.

Willoughby’s goal is to transform the replica into a fully functional working flight simulator. He intends to have it equipped with wrap-around screens and interactive controls.

A brief history of Lancaster R5868, S-Sugar:

  • S-Sugar was reportedly involved in 137 operations during World War II. Some people have expressed doubts as to the validity of this number.
  • Lancasters completed on average just 21 missions before they became lost. Therefore, S-Sugar was by far the first Bomber to complete 100 operations.
  • RAF Scampton is where the bomber was first put into use. It moved to many different bases but eventually moved to RAF Waddington in November of 1943.
  • Steve G.W. Bethell, an air gunner who flew the aircraft, later wrote that S-Sugar was fondly thought of as capable of finding its own way back from any European target. Of course, a navigator onboard just in case.
  • The crew of the aircraft’s 96th mission faced a narrow escape. During a bombing raid on Berlin, it collided with another Lancaster at 20,000 feet above the target area.
  • In 1960, the bomber displayed at the front gate of RAF Scampton in No. 467 Squadron markings.
  • In 1969, it was rediscovered and then restored by its wartime fitter Ted Willoughby. Then in 1973, a ceremony was put together to celebrate the completion of the internal work.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE