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Avro Manchester

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The twin-engined Manchester had a short operational life with the Royal Air Force, spending just 16 months in service. This was in part due to the unreliability of its Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. It was to be from the ashes of the Avro Manchester project that the famous Lancaster bomber would emerge from.

Quick Facts
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First flight
25th July 1939
Entered service
10th November 1940
Total built

Front view
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Side view
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Rear view
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During September 1936 the Air Ministry issued Specification P.13/36. This requested a twin-engined bomber which would use the Rolls-Royce Vulture engine, have a top speed of at least 275 mph with a minimum range of 2,000 miles. Bomb load was to be 8,000lb. The Avro 679, as their design was known, was to compete against the Handley Page H.P.56, before Handley Page withdrew to focus on their four-engined bomber, the Halifax. So with only Avro's design available, two prototypes were ordered.

The 25th July 1939 saw the first prototype fly, piloted by Captain Harry Albert Brown, minus its gun turrets. After undergoing flight trials it was decided to increase the wingspan of the Manchester by a further ten feet. These changes would be incorporated into the second prototype, which flew for the first time on the 26th May 1940. Three months later, on the 5th August 1940, the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment took delivery of the first production Manchester Mk I for testing. Before either of the two prototypes flew an order for 200 Manchesters had been placed, to meet a different specification of 19/37, on the 1st July 1937.

The Manchester Mk I housed a crew of six, made up of two pilots, navigator/bomb-aimer, wireless operater/gunner and two gunners, and was powered by two 1,760-hp Rolls-Royce Vulture I engines, which gave the aircraft a top speed of 265 mph, range of 1,630 miles and a service ceiling of 19,200 ft. Armament consisted of eight 0.303-in machine-guns, two each in the front and dorsal turrets and four in the rear turret. Bomb load was 10,350lb. Early Manchester Mk Is had a central fin, however, after a number had been produced, the Manchester Mk IA appeared and these had the central fin removed and the area of its twin fins increased.

It would be No. 207 Squadron, who had reformed on the 1st November 1940 at RAF Waddington, which would be the first to be equipped with the Avro Manchester, when they received their first on the 10th November 1940. Three months later on the 24th February 1941, six Manchesters of No. 207 Squadron undertook the type's first operational mission, an attack on the German cruiser Admiral Hipper, which was docked in the French port of Brest, and was not damaged by the raid. No. 97 Squadron would be the second to be equipped with the Manchester. Four aircraft would take part in the squadron's first operational mission with the type, as part of a force sent to attack naval targets in Kiel, Germany on the 8th April 1941, all aircraft returned. A further two squadrons would be operational with the Manchester by the end of the year.

Due to the unreliability of the Rolls-Royce Vulture engines, as well as the fact they could not reach the performance they had been designed to achieve, a Manchester Mk II, powered by either Bristol Centaurus or Napier Sabre engines was planned, but none were ever produced. This would be followed by the Manchester Mk III, this would have an increased wingspan and be powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. It was this aircraft that would be developed into the Avro Lancaster.

With production of the Rolls-Royce Vulture ending and with Bomber Command's four-engined bombers entering service the Manchester began to be removed from service. So, on the 25th June 1942, the aircraft performed its last operational mission with Bomber Command, which was a raid on Bremen, Germany. Prior to this on the 30th May 1942, No. 50 Squadron pilot Flying Officer Leslie Thomas Manser was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. His aircraft had suffered numerous hits, and with a wounded rear gunner, he kept the aircraft flying. After the crew bailed out, the aircraft crashed, with Flying Officer Manser still aboard. In total 1,269 sorties were flown by Manchesters.

Only 202 aircraft were built, the original order and two prototypes.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Manchester Mk I 265 mph 1,630 miles 19,200 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
10,350lb bombs
Manchester Mk II To be powered by either the Bristol Centaurus or Napier Sabre engine, none were produced.
Manchester Mk III Four engined version which would become the Avro Lancaster.


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(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

No known examples currently on public display in the UK.

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