Avro Lancaster (Crew Positions)

The Avro Lancaster was equipped to provide positions for the Pilot, Navigator (and the Set Operator when introduced), Air Bomber, Wireless Operator, Flight Engineer and Air Gunners

We Guide to Strike by Gil Cohen

The crew compartment in an Avro Lancaster consisted of a single deck to accommodate the Pilot, Navigator (and the Set Operator when introduced), Air Bomber, Wireless Operator and Flight Engineer. Gunners were accommodated in a mid and rear turret

Pilot’s Position

Flight Engineer’s Position

The primary role of the Flight Engineer was to “act as the link between aircrew and ground crew for the care and maintenance of the aircraft, to carry out engineering checks before, during and post flight and to assist the pilot during take off and landing”.

His position, which was situated to the right of the pilot, was equipped with a panel which enabled him to monitor the engines and the various hydraulic systems and to transfer fuel from one tank to another

During take off and landing, he was seated on a fold down seat, thereby enabling him to assist the pilot with some of the controls.

Lancaster FE.jpg

Navigator’s Position

The primary role of the Navigator was “to know the aircraft position at all times and to provide the pilot with courses to steer to achieve the sortie objective”

His position was situated on the port side of the aircraft, behind the Pilot and Flight Engineer and in front of the Wireless Operator’s position

Lancaster Navigator

Initially the Navigator relied on map reading, dead reckoning, astro navigation and visual aids to enable him to plot the position of the aircraft and the subsequent course.

However, the development of radar enabled systems such as Gee, H2S and Oboe to assist with the navigational process.

Some crews carried an additional navigator (known as the Set Operator [*]) whose primary role was to provide the navigator with radar fixes throughout the flight.

(*) Post War, these became known as the the Nav. [Radar], with the navigator known as the Nav. [Plotter] 

Air Bomber’s Position

The primary role of the Air Bomber was “to act as the eyes of the navigator throughout the flight and then, when approaching the target area, to move himself to the Air Bomber’s position to enable him to direct the pilot over the target, identify the aiming point and trigger the release of the bombs”

Whilst the Air Bomber’s position was in the nose of the aircraft, he spent the bulk of the flight seated beside the Navigator so that he could provide fixes, weather reports etc to assist the navigation process.

Wireless Operator’s Position

The primary role of the Wireless Operator was “to keep his aircraft constantly in touch with the ground by sending and receiving all information, reports and orders vital to the success of the sortie and the safety of the aircraft”

His position was situated in a compartment on the port side of the aircraft.

Lancaster Wireless Operator IWM CH8790

The position was equipped with a R1155 receiver which enabled the wireless operator (WOP) to listen to (and log) half hourly messages sent from Group headquarters which were transmitted in Morse code via MF [over UK] or HF [over Europe].

As well as operating the wireless equipment, the Wireless Operator was also required to act as an air gunner in an emergency, to discharge “Window”, and, when the concept of a navigation team was introduced, he was also responsible for monitoring the “Monica” or “Fishpond” equipment.

Gunners’ Positions

The primary role of the Air Gunners was “to be the eyes and the sting of the aircraft, by warning the pilot of approaching enemy aircraft, telling him what tactics to adopt to evade action, and, if combat does develop, to destroy or drive off the enemy”

Their positions, which were situated in the middle (mid-upper) and rear of the Lancaster, were fitted with the following turret types:

  • Mid-Upper Turret: Frazer-Nash FN50 (FN150 on later versions)
  • Rear Turret: Frazer-Nash FN20 (FN120 / FN121 on later versions)