A Smashing Time.
Lancaster Bombers Beware!
I arrived at 58 MU Sutton Bridge in late 1956 and during my time there, whilst working on Derwent Engine Field Servicing (DFS) as an engine mechanic, I was loaned out to the Salvage and Recovery Section. This was the prize section on the unit, everyone wanted to work on "S and R". It could mean detachment to civilian MU's and other establishments or recovery trips to places far away from RAF eyes. No parades or inspections. No duties. Civvy digs, often stopping in hotels (with a bar). Special cold weather clothing including boots one didn't have to clean.
On the social side there were village dances with the possibility of an attractive country lass to impress. How about a 48 every weekend? On detachment, S and R lads got expenses for travel and food. I forget the details but seem the remember that it was possible to acrue a little profit with a bit of economising.
The Bad News for Me (and the Bombers).
I thought it was too good to be true! And it was. For I soon discovered that my task would be to work on the airfield at Sutton Bridge smashing up some Lancaster Bombers left over from the war. They were probably those used after the war for maritime-reconnaissance, photo-reconnaissance and rescue. No excused parades or inspections or anything for me. No wonder there had been a vacancy for the post! No cushy number for Joe I realized as I reported to the Senior NCO i/c destruction and his team of two Corporal Techs and at least a dozen other ranks waiting for the first Lancaster to arrive.
The Lancaster Bombers' Graveyard.
A big sledge hammer was the tool of the trade and the resulting scrap heap was carted away on low loaders to various civilian scrap merchants.
The task, although brutal, was very technical. One needed to know which bits to hit with the sledge hammer to render the aircraft component u/s (unserviceable).
How to Render a Lancaster Helpless:
- Remove the propellers and the Merlin engines.
- Attach a large bowser, with stout ropes, to the aircraft.
- Undo the geometric lock on the undercarriage ( and quickly run clear).
- Drive the bowser forward and
All components were then damaged beyond use. My favourite was to leap on the starboard wing, undo the dingy hatch, drag the dingy out and attack it with a sharp implement. Smashing instruments was also fun.
Sometime later I heard that at the same time we were causing distruction, there was a shortage of the same items on some active bomber squadrons. But that's nothing new.
Nil Desperandum: Some Lancasters Did Survive.
Some Lancaster Bombers were of course saved, to be later set alight and used for aircraft fire fighting and rescue practice. No wonder there ain't many Lancaster Bombers around today. I saw a Lancaster at Hendon Aircraft Museum when I visited with the lads of the famous 74th Entry on the occasion of their 74th Entry Golden Graduation Reunion in March 2006. Fortunately I didn't have my sledge hammer with me.
Good job we didn't get our hands on the Spitfires.
Joe Bosher (74th).