Avro Manchester: The Legend Behind The Lancaster

20 June 2016

Royal Aeronautical Society


The unsuccessful twin-engined Manchester was the forerunner to the "war-winning" Lancaster, though the path between was tortuous. Only Manchesters used the infamous Rolls-Royce Vulture, effectively an engine test-bed, operationally.

The history is an amalgam of airframe & engine development, with enormous technical problems being overcome in both, chronologically-adjacent to personal experience reports of aircrew in action. The front line Manchester era began in November 1940, ending 20 months later in June 1942. From the lowest point in both Bomber Command & Manchester fortunes in August 1941, with the shocking Butt Report, the aircraft just hung on to participate in the earliest 1000 bomber raids, after which Manchesters were relegated to training.

Eventually 202 Manchesters, using 538 Vultures, managed 1250 sorties with seven RAF Squadrons. The key to the entire story is the temperamental Vulture engine, without a proper account of which history could not have been written. This was input by the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust.

In response to the question why the RAF persisted with such an unsuitable aircraft, the answer is that it was all they had. On the vexed issue of whether aircrews were ever told the depth of the Vulture’s problems, the categoric answer is - mercifully not!

Dr Rob Kirby gained his qualifications in Oceanography at Liverpool & London Universities in the 1960’s. Over his career, first in a government research institute & now in private practice, he has discovered oceangraphic phenomena new to science, knowledge of which has been spun-off into new engineering technologies. Latterly his work has been recognised in the awards of Distinguished Diplomate in Navigation Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers in Washington. Similarly he received the prestigious Telford Premium Award from the Institution of Civil Engineers in Westminster.

His parallel hobby of Second World War history was triggered at an early age and latterly became focussed on the, then, poorly researched Avro Manchester. The first edition of his book, which published in 1995, was upgraded and released in 2015 with 100,000 more words and new illustrations.

All RAeS Lectures are free to attend and we welcome both Members and Non Members. To RSVP, please click the Register button under Key Details and log in to your profile or create a user account. Alternatively, send your name and contact details to conference@aerosociety.com to reserve your place.







Speaker Details

Dr Rob Kirby, Author


Royal Aeronautical Society