The Avro Manchester Bomber

Probably one of the least successful WWII bombers built, it ended up parenting of one of the most revered.

The Manchester was produced by Avro in response to the British Air Ministry’s requirement for a twin engine, medium bomber, capable of shallow dive bombing, be able to carry heavy bomb loads and be equipped for catapult assisted take offs. These specifications resulted in a robust air-frame, the biggest bomb bay of any Bomber Command aircraft, a well-designed bomb aimer position, good crew protection armour and bullet proof cockpit glass. Many Manchester’s survived severe damage from enemy fire and flak and were able to fly back to base successfully.

By Daventry B J (Mr), Royal Air Force official photographer

Unfortunately, the robust air-frame design failed to make up for the under-powered and unreliable 24-cylinder, 1750 HP Rolls Royce Vulture engines.

The Manchester was designed to be able to fly on one engine which it ended up doing often, not just due to enemy fire but from unrelated engine failure. Many of these aircraft failed to remain airborne on one engine proving the designers wrong in their single engine flight theory.

“They did not give enough power for the aeroplane, so we ended up with two extremely unreliable 1,750 hp engines having to haul a 50,000-pound aircraft. We should really have had 2,500 hp engines. You felt that if you'd lost one, that was it, you weren't coming home. It didn't matter if you feathered the propeller or not. There was only one way you went and that was down.” Before the Lancs: Early Days, Personal Stories, The Bomber Command Association

“Manchester responded lazily to the controls in the air. It had poor climbing ability because the Vultures were under-powered and inefficient for such a large aircraft, especially under bomb-load conditions. Also, operating height over enemy territory was much lower than desired.” The Avro Manchester: The Legend Behind the Lancaster by Robert Kirby

In addition to being under-powered, the Vulture engines were renowned for their failures.

“I have seen an aircraft doing a run up on the ground and have two pistons come right out through the side of the engine. The original bearings were made without any silver as an economy measure, so they weren't hard enough. The bearings would collapse the connecting rod and the piston would fling out through the side of the engine and bang! Your engine just destroyed itself.” Before the Lancs: Early Days, Personal Stories, The Bomber Command Association

By Daventry B J (Mr), Royal Air Force official photographer

The aircraft’s first operational mission was on the 24th February 1941 and by the 13th April 1941 they were grounded due to the high number of engine bearing failures. A second grounding in June 1941 forced obsolete bombers such as the Handley Page Hampden back into temporary service. After some modifications by Avro the Manchester returned to service in August 1941. This time more problems were encountered - excessive tail flutter, hydraulic failures, and faulty propeller feathering controls.

Production of the aircraft was stopped in November 1941 with it’s last mission flown in June 1942, a short 16 months after beginning it’s career as a bomber.

Of the 193 operational Manchester's, 78 were lost in action with a further 45 non-operational losses of which 30 were caused by engine failure.

Despite the Manchester’s abysmal and short life as a bomber, it does have one claim to fame – being the base design for the legendary Lancaster.

The Manchester is another average aircraft that didn't impress anyone enough to make it to our Flight Simulators.

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