Shoreham Airshow 2009
PA474 is one of only two Lancasters remaining in airworthy condition out of the 7377 that were built – the other being in Canada. She was built in Chester in mid-1945 and was earmarked for the ‘Tiger Force’ in the Far East. However, the war with Japan ended before she could take part in any hostilities. She was therefore assigned to Photographic Reconnaissance duties with 82 Squadron in East and South Africa. While operating with 82 Squadron, PA474 had her turrets removed and carried the identification letter ‘M’.
On return to the United Kingdom PA474 was loaned to Flight Refuelling Ltd at Tarrant Rushton to be used as a pilotless drone. However, before the conversion started, the Air Ministry decided to use a Lincoln aircraft instead and PA474 was transferred to the Royal College of Aeronautics where she was used for trials on the Handley Page Laminar Flow wing. The trial wings were mounted vertically on the upper rear fuselage.
In 1964 she was adopted by the Air Historical Branch (AHB) for future display in the proposed RAF Museum at Hendon and was flown to Wroughton where she was painted in a camouflage paint scheme, though without squadron markings. During this period PA474 also took part in 2 films, ‘Operation Crossbow’ and ‘The Guns of Navarone’. Later in 1964 she was moved to RAF Henlow in preparation for display at the RAF Museum. The first unit to be equipped with Lancasters was 44 Squadron and in 1965 the Commanding Officer of this unit, which was now flying Vulcans from RAF Waddington, sought permission from the AHB for PA474 to be transferred to the care of the Squadron. An inspection found that the aircraft was structurally sound and permission was granted for PA474 to make a single flight from Henlow to Waddington.
At Waddington a restoration programme on PA474 began, that would take several years to complete. By 1966 work was progressing well and both the front and rear turrets were in place. Permission to fly PA474 regularly was granted in 1967, although restoration continued. The aircraft eventually joined the Battle of Britain Flight in November 1973 prompting the change of the Unit’s name to the ‘Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’. Restoration work on various parts of the aircraft has continued ever since. A mid-upper turret was discovered in Argentina and was brought to Britain aboard HMS HAMPSHIRE and fitted to PA474 in 1975, the same year that the aircraft was adopted by the City of Lincoln. During the winter of 1995/6 PA474 received a brand new main spar, extending her life for the foreseeable future.
After major servicing at Air Atlantique in Coventry during the winter of 2006/07, PA474 wears the markings of EE139, the ’Phantom of the Ruhr’, a ton-up Lancaster that flew her first 30 ops on No 100 Squadron based at Waltham before completing a further 91 ops on No 550 Squadron at North Killingholme. She sports the letters HR-W of ‘The Ton’ on her port side and BQ-B of 550 on her starboard, effectively commemorating the crews of both Squadrons.