Last Remaining Lancaster Bombers Perform Tribute Flight

Of the numerous Lancaster bombers that flew during the Second World War, two remain which are still capable of flight. These two aircraft recently flew together in honor of the famous Dambusters raid. Thousands of spectators gathered in order to witness the honorary flight of the two surviving Lancaster bombers, which took place over the site where the Allies involved in the Dambusters raid held their practice during the Second World War.

The two historic aircraft actually took part in a series of events, but their flight over Derwent Dam was one of the more monumental events. Leaving the Southport Air Show, the two planes flew for RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. On the way, they flew over the Derwent Dam in Derbyshire three times. The Lancaster bombers were not boarded exclusively by newcomers to the Royal Air Force. On board one of the aircraft was Sydney Marshall, a flight engineer who worked on similar planes during the Second World War. His presence was not made widely known, although BBC Radio Lincolnshire was given the right to record him.

One of the two remaining planes, Vera, is of Canadian manufacture. This is especially significant when considering that twenty-nine Canadians took part in the Dambusters raid. The second of the two Lancaster bombers is a British aircraft, known as Thumper. Their tribute flight was meant to honor not only those who took part in the Dambusters raid, but also all of those who lost their lives over the course of the Second World War. After a nationwide tour in the UK, their flight over Derwent Dam served as a climax to the series of events in which the planes took part.

One of the planes has already taken part in a similar tribute flight before. This previous tribute flight took place in 2013, on the seventieth anniversary of the Dambusters raid. To mark the event, one of the Lancaster bombers made a similar flight over the Derwent Dam. According to retired Squadron Leader Stuart Reid, this is sensible given the importance that the planes had in the Dambusters raid, the BBC News reports.

The Dambusters operation was famous enough to have inspired both a book and a movie. Despite its popularity, it is not common to see both remaining Lancaster bombers in the air at the same time. The fact that Vera took part in the memorial flight is especially poignant given that nearly a third of those who served in the Dambusters operation were Canadian. Of the twenty-nine Canadian airmen who joined the 133 total crew members involved in the raid, only fifteen returned unscathed. One was captured, and thirteen died during the operation. Needless to say, they were among those honored by the tribute flight of the Lancaster bombers.

Ian Harvey

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