Lancaster by Leo McKinstry, 592pp
a long book which has enough space to get into everything to do with the Lancaster bomber, from its manufacture, to the heroics of the aircrew, to the still-controversial area bombing of German cities. Certainly Arthur Harris was determined to area bomb all German cities as thoroughly as he could manage, but at the time almost everybody agreed with him. It was only after Dresden that politicians started to distance themselves from this strategy and point the finger of blame at Harris. Few books go into the detail of the disagreements between Harris and his superiors in the Air Ministry, but this one does. Harris was clearly a difficult man and the bosses had great difficulty in getting him to do anything he didn’t want to do. He refused to attack point targets even after his force demonstrably had developed the capability to do so. He was an enthusiast for the Lancaster and repeatedly demanded that production of all other heavy bomber types be wound down.
Surprising facts: 1) While in 1939 the RAF bombers had difficulty in bombing within 5 miles of the target, by 1944, using the best bombsights and electronic aids, they could achieve a degree of accuracy that would be thought not bad even in 2010. It was quite good enough to demolish individual factories, bunkers and troop concentrations. 2) The Lancaster could carry a slightly greater bomb load than the USAAF’s huge B29, and with its single bomb bay could accommodate a much longer bomb. Hence it was briefly considered for use in dropping the atom bombs on Japan. 3) 10% of Lancaster crew fatalities occurred during training.
I was sufficiently impressed with this book to order the paperback for my library after reading the public library’s hardback.