A modern-day mission
Lancaster bomber crew prepares for
action 70 years on in remarkable set of airfield pictures
Posing tentatively in their uniforms, at first glance they could be a Lancaster Bomber crew preparing for a daring war-time mission.
But these photos were not taken 70 years ago, but this week at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre - the former Lancaster bomber base at RAF East Kirkby.
Admirers of the war-time planes stepped back in time to relive the sights, sounds and smells of the famous bomber which helped destroy the Nazi war machine.
They dressed up in original uniforms and sat
in the cockpit of 'Just Jane', one of only three Lancasters left in the world
capable of flying.
A modern Lancaster Bomber crew decked out in the original uniforms pose for a photo in front of the magnificent plane
A Second World War Lancaster Bomber is pictured at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre as the sunsets bathing the sky in a stunning yellow and orange glow
It comes as the long overdue RAF Bomber Command Memorial is just weeks away from being unveiled in Green Park, London in honour of the 55,573 airmen who died helping to defeat Hitler during the Second World War.
The monument near Buckingham Palace will recognize the extraordinary sacrifice, courage and dedication of the young men who lost their lives.
Forty four per cent of the 125,000 men who served in the Command were killed in action.
Part of the memorial will be constructed from sections of melted down aluminium from a Halifax bomber shot down over Belgium in May 1944 killing eight people.
The memorial is expected to be officially unveiled by the Queen on June 28 this year.
'Just Jane' was built at Longbridge near Birmingham, in April 1945, by Austin Motors.
Given the serial number NX611, she was due to join the RAF's Tiger Force in the Far East - but after Japan's early surrender, the plane was put in storage.
They look like members of Bomber Command preparing for a mission for in fact these pictures were taken this week - not 70 years ago
The 'crew' dressed up in the old -fashioned uniforms and sat inside 'Just Jane', one of only thee Lancasters left in the world capable of flying
In 1952, the French Government bought the plane, painted her midnight blue and she went on maritime patrol for the French Naval Air Arm.
Moved to New Caledonia ten years later, she
had another makeover - this time, painted white - and was used for air sea
rescue and cartography.
Four Rolls-Royce Merlin 24 engines (1640Hp each)
Length: 69ft, 11 3/4in
Height: 20ft 6in
Wing area: 1,300sqft
Weight, empty: 37,330lb
Max weight, all up: 72,000lb
Max bomb load: 18,000lb
Max speed: 275mph at 15,000ft
Range: 2,350 miles with 7,000lb bomb load.
Just Jane finally came home in 1965, landing at Biggin Hill in May, after yet another overhaul in Sydney a year earlier.
Public appearances were few, and brief, due to the costs involved - and in 1972, she was put up for auction in Blackpool.
After failing to reach the reserve price, she was eventually bought by the Rt Hon Lord Lilford - who sold her on to brothers Fred and Harold Panton in 1983.
They kept Just Jane in an old airfield they had acquired in East Kirby.
The Pantons, from Lincolnshire, had lost their fighter pilot brother Christopher on the Nuremburg Raid in March 1944.
In 1993, restoration work began on the plane's engines, thanks to the efforts of two ex-RAF engineers.
Work was later carried on the propeller blades - and local contractors checked all the wiring. Further tweaks were made on the motor, magnetos, fuel booster pump, ignition harness, throttle controls and fuel jettison system.
Finally, after several hundred man hours, the engine was ready, at a cost of £7,000. Repairs were then done on the three other engines - and all now comply with the taxiing standard.
The men of Bomber Command suffered 10 per cent of all the casualties in the war.
Few of the thousands of bombers, who came from all over the world including the Commonwealth, are still alive.
Night after night, the bombers climbed into their cramped and freezing aircraft to strike at Germany’s cities and factories – the odds on them surviving enemy jets and anti-aircraft guns growing longer with each raid.
In 1940, Winston Churchill praised them as Britain's 'salvation'.
But amid public disquiet at the allied strategy, the leader snubbed Bomber Command in his 1945 victory broadcast, thanking all other sections of the RAF but them.
Men dressed as members of Bomber Command inspect the famous plane
10-year-old Scott Huntley took many of these images of the Lancaster bomber and the crew at the historic airbase
After the war, there was widespread unease over the controversial tactic of carpet-bombing German cities which caused up to 600,000 civilian casualties.
The decision to build the memorial was a massive victory for campaigners who blamed Britain's failure to honour members of Bomber Command who lost their lives fighting tyranny on 'political correctness'.
Westminster City Council gave the green light after David Cameron stepped in saying it was 'time for the nation to show its gratitude' to the air crews.
The memorial recognises the extraordinary sacrifice, courage and dedication of the young men after the Nazis were crushed.
Seven bronze statues - 9ft tall on top of Portland stone plinths - form the centrepiece and will look to the skies like the airmen at the end of the Battle of Britain, watching for their comrades' safe return.
The crew relax and chat dressed in their wartime outfits at the airbase. The Bomber Command memorial will be unveiled in Green Park in June, 2012
The Lancaster Bombers helped defeat the Hitler war machine during the Second World War
The memorial's website, www.theygaveeverything.co.uk, says: 'The two flank walls of the inner part of the memorial will also be in large blocks of Portland stone and will have central niches cut into the masses of the walls and contain cast bronze lamps that provide a general overall soft level of illumination during winter days and evenings.
'Flanking the niches will be carved, into the stone walls, depictions of the principal aircraft of the RAF Bomber Command such as the Mosquito, Wellington, Halifax, Bristol Blenheim and the Lancaster and the badges of those squadrons who flew these planes.
'These depictions will provide an educational element within the memorial and serve to remind visitors of the extraordinary leaps in design and technology that occurred during the six years of the Second World War.'
Forty four per cent of the men who served in the Command were killed in action. Left, a crew member in the war-time uniform and right, a glimpse inside the cockpit
All aboard: The crew had the chance to sit inside the war-time planes and experience what it would have felt like to be at the controls
The plane bursts into life. 55,573 airmen died helping to defeat Hitler during the Second World War
The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre lets people relive the sights, sounds and smells of the famous planes at the airbase
The way they were...
brave airmen of the Lancaster bombers
The famous 460 Squadron (Australia) Lancaster bomber 'G' George resting at Binbrook, Lincolnshire, after completing 90 operations over enemy territory during WWII