Avro Manchester B Mk I
Avro Manchester B Mk I L7301 ZN-D
50 Sqn. 106 CF F/O Leslie Manser VC Cologne raid, May 1942.
The Avro Manchester is most famously known for being the precursor to the Lancaster, featuring only two Rolls-Royce Vulture X-line engines instead of the Lancaster’s four Merlin’s.
L7301 was the 28th Manchester to be built and was handed over to the RAF on the 21st of December 1940. Owing to the types reliability record it had been kept away from front line service spending its time in storage at 27 MU and being modified to later production standards. On the 28th of April 1942 it was issued to 106 Conversion Flight for second line duties.
Towards the end of May preparations were being made for operation Millennium, the brainchild of Air Marshal Harris, Millennium was to be the first 1000 bomber raid on Germany, the target Cologne. To make up the numbers second line aircraft were taken to replace those undergoing maintenance, L7301 was one such aircraft.
On the night of the 30th/31st of May P/O Leslie Manser took L7301 on his fourteenth operational sortie, operation Millennium. The Manchester was refuelled and bombed up with a full load of 1260 4lb incendiaries in 14 containers at Skellingthorpe, it was here on collection of the aircraft that the lack of a mid upper turret was noted leaving Manser with a redundant wireless operator/air gunner. A suggestion was made to take two Vickers Gas Operated machine guns and several pans of ammunition, in the event of an attack the gunner was to make a hole in the fuselage in order to fire at the enemy, surprisingly this was taken up.
And so L7301 departed for Cologne. Manser had decided to bomb from 7000ft rather than the briefed height of 12000ft much to the concern of his second pilot Leslie Baveystock. The bombing run went according to plan with Manser selecting a target area on the edge of the burning city, however they were picked out by searchlights and shortly after the release of the incendiaries they were hit by flak blasting off the rear of the bomb doors. Despite evasive manoeuvres they were again peppered by 20mm flak. At 200ft the port engine burst into flames which reached back as far as the tail, fortunately this died down without burning through the spar or setting fire to the fuel tanks. With the aircraft now on one engine and losing height excess weight was jettisoned. However the starboard engine could not take the strain, its temperature rose and the aircraft became increasingly difficult to control, at this point Manser gave the command to his crew to bail out. The last man to leave was Leslie Baveystock staying behind to assist. Manser finally lost control of the aircraft and it crashed into the ground killing him instantly.
L7301 had come down in farmland near Bree in eastern Belgium, but the remainder of the crew had survived, four of whom evaded capture and were eventually able to return to England. Based on the reports of the crew Leslie Manser was on October 20th 1942 posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
Scale 1:144 Wingspan 7.5″ (190.7 mm)
Base size 7.71″ (196 mm) square (No. 5)
Weight not including base 13.25 ozs (373 grams) Limited edition of 100 only