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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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With the release of the Rolls-Royce Vulture 24-cylinder engine the Air Ministry issued Specification P.13/36 for a twin-engined medium bomber which would use the new engine. Avro, who already had a design in the works before the specification was issued, were to compete with a Handley Page design, before they withdrew to focus efforts on their four-engined bomber the Halifax. So with only Avro's design available a prototype was ordered and two were produced with the first flying on the 25th July 1939 with the second flying ten months later on the 26th May 1940. Although before either of these two prototypes flew an order for 200 Manchesters had been placed, although these were to meet a different specification of 19/37 on 1st July 1937, with another 200 ordered later. In any case the design had been ordered straight of the drawing board with the usual process skipped due to the expectation of war breaking out and the Royal Air Force was undergoing expansion.

After undergoing flight trials it was decided to increase the wing span of the Manchester by a further ten feet and to add a central fin on top of the twin fins and rudder, these would be classed as Mk Is. However after a number of Mk Is had been delivered the Mk IA appeared and this had its central fin removed and the area of its twin fins increased. The prototype and first two production Manchesters were then sent to Boscombe Down where the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment would perform tests whilst the second Avro Manchester prototype would end up at Farnborough and the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

The first squadron to receive deliveries of the Avro Manchester was No. 207 Squadron which reformed on the 1st November 1940 at RAF Waddington and received their first Manchesters on the 10th November. Three months later on the night of 24/25th February 1941 six Manchesters of No. 207 Squadron undertook the types first operational mission with an attack on the French port of Brest. As Manchesters rolled of the production line they would equip more Bomber Command squadrons, including No. 49, 50, 57, 61, 83, 97, 106, 408 and 420 and Coastal Command also received a few Manchesters enabling No. 144 Squadron to form a single flight.

A Manchester Mk II version had been planned with either Bristol Centaurus or Napier Sabre engines, replacing the Rolls-Royce Vulture engines, ultimately none would ever be built. This was due to the unreliability of the Vulture engines as well as the fact they could not reach the performance they had been designed to achieve and as a result the Manchester project was doomed to fail and this would be compounded by the Manchester airframe having a number of defects and so would be removed from service. So on the 25th June 1942 the Avro Manchester performed its last operational mission, which was a raid on Bremen, Germany.

Out of the ashes of the Manchester project a future legend was born for on the 9th January 1941 a four-engined Avro Manchester flew for the first time and this aircraft would go on to be the Avro Lancaster one of, if not, the finest Royal Air Force bomber of the Second World War (1939 - 1945).

A total of 202 Manchesters were built, flying 1,269 sorties with one Victoria Cross being awarded posthumously to Flying Officer Leslie Thomas Manser when on the 30th May 1942 his aircraft suffered numerous hits and with a wounded rear gunner he kept the aircraft flying and after the crew bailed out the Avro Manchester crashed with Flying Officer Manser still aboard.

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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