Redbridge heritage: The Lancaster bomber part in my parents’ attic

David Martin aboard PA474 inside the hangar at RAF Coningsby. Photo: David Martin

David Martin aboard PA474 inside the hangar at RAF Coningsby. Photo: David Martin - Credit: Archant

In this heritage column, David Martin of the Fairlop Heritage Group tells the unusual tale of how a piece of a Lancaster bomber found its way into his possession, and how he found a new home for it.

After my parents died, there was the inevitable task of first clearing, then selling the house.

The loft seemed the worst with 50 years of accumulated items covered with dust.

In one corner I found a piece of electrical equipment I recognised as being part of a Lancaster bomber.

Why you may ask? Did my dad collect aeroplane parts? I have absolutely no idea.

The part was in mint condition, complete with a clip and safety chain, which ensured there could be no accidental changes.

There were options for the bomb aimer to choose to drop bombs in a specific order, incendiaries first, then other bombs, armed or in jettison condition, as such unarmed, before releasing the bomb load.

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I offered the part of distribution panel section reference number 5D/655 to the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (RAF BBMF) which operates from RAF Coningsby, a Typhoon and fighter base, in Lincolnshire.

After a discussion with Warrant Officer Barry Sears, they were pleased to accept my offer, as the panel in PA474 was not in very good condition.

The RAF BBMF aims to maintain priceless national artefacts in authentic airworthy condition (apart from dual controls) in order to commemorate those who have fallen in the service of this country, to promote the modern RAF and to inspire future generations.

Flown by regular serving aircrew, the flight operates six Spitfires, two Hurricane Mk 2Cs, Lancaster PA474 as well as a C47 Dakota and two Chipmunk aircraft (primarily used for training).

These aircraft can be regularly seen in the skies over the UK, celebrating and commemorating public and military events from state occasions to major air displays.

They have HRH Prince William, Duke of Cambridge as their patron and are currently commanded by Squadron Leader Andy Millikin.

Lancaster Mark 1 PA474 pays living tribute to the 55,573 Bomber Command personnel who did not make it home, and to their comrades who survived the war but had to live with their memories.

Each time PA474 – which flew past Fairlop in July 2011 – arrives back in Lincolnshire, it symbolises all those lost souls finally making it home.

Lest we forget.