RAAF No.1 Squadron crew and their Lincoln.
Crews had no difficulty in converting to the Lincoln because it was an aircraft that had no vices and was a pleasure to handle, but it was understandable that pilots who had extensive experience of the Lancaster were unwilling to concede it pride of place to any other aircraft, even a bigger and better Avro machine. The sincerest tribute I can pay the Lincoln, after having such a tried and tested friend in the Lancaster, is to quote the squadron motto: ‘Corpus non Animum Muto’ (I Change My Body Not My Spirit). The bomb aimer had the luxury of a seat in the new faceted nose compartment. The aircraft had white painted upper surfaces to act as a heat reflector when used in the tropics and underneath was painted black. Ground crews regarded the Lincoln with affection from the point of view of servicing and maintenance because the aircraft was a definite improvement on the Lancaster; the motor cooling side sections were hinged to fall down and provide servicing platforms.’
Flight Lieutenant Frank Jones, commander of the Lincoln Flight at East Kirkby and Scampton, early September 1945 to January 1946.
In 1943 future plans to bring the Pacific War to a successful conclusion rested on an Allied onslaught against the Japanese mainland by long range bombers. Britain’s contribution would be ‘Tiger Force’ and a special long range version of the Avro Lancaster seemed the ideal weapon for its arsenal. Chief Designer Roy Chadwick and his team working to Specification on B.14/43, evolved the Avro 694, or Lancaster Mk.IV, with four 1,750hp Packard-built Merlin 68As Chadwick’s improvements had resulted in a much larger aircraft than the Lancaster with span increased by 18 feet to 120 feet and a much longer fuselage, at 78 feet 3½ inches, almost 9 feet longer than the Lancaster. The bomb bay could carry a 14,000lb bomb load. Little of the original Lancaster remained and so the B.Mk.IV Lancaster became a completely new aircraft, the Lincoln Mk.I. On 9 June 1944 PW925, the Lincoln prototype, was flown by Captain H. A. Brown at Ringway. Provision was made for heavier armament on the B.Mk.I production aircraft. Boulton Paul nose and tail turrets and the Bristol Type 17 Mk.II dorsal turret each carried two .5 Browning machine guns. Another design, the Lancaster B.Mk.V, became the Lincoln B.Mk.II RE289, the Lincoln B.Mk.II prototype, had four 1,750 hp Packard-built Merlins and revised armament. A dorsal turret now contained two 20 mm Hispano cannon, while a ventral position containing a .5 Browning was added and twin .5s in the nose were controlled remotely by the bomb aimer. The Lincoln III was to have been a maritime reconnaissance version and finally emerged as the Shackleton MR.I. On 23 August 1945 57 at East Kirkby became the first RAF squadron to receive the Lincoln. Following the dropping by US B-29s of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on 3 and 6 August, Japan surrendered on 15 August and there was no need for ‘Tiger Force’.
On 24 April 1946 Avro’s 168th and final Lincoln rolled off the production line. Up until 1955 Lincoln squadrons made annual Exercise ‘Sunray’ flights to the Middle East. The major post-war communist threat manifested itself in Malaya (now Malaysia). In 1945 the defeat of Japan created a power vacuum in the Far East which the emerging communist factions were quick to exploit. When the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) was disbanded in December 1945 and told to hand in all weapons, some 4,000 refused and took their weapons into hiding. In June 1948 emergency Regulations were passed and the guerrillas were forced into the jungle where a vicious confrontation broke out between the British and Malayan Security Forces and Chin Peng’s MRLA (Malayan Races’ Liberation Army).
Operation ‘Firedog’ – the air war against the CTS (Communist Terrorists) during the Malayan Emergency – began in earnest in July 1948 with the formation of an RAF Task Force at Kuala Lumpur. Reinforcements, notably Lincolns from the UK were sent to Malaya and Singapore on detachment. The first to arrive were Lincolns on 57 Squadron. On 15 March 1950, at a time when Chin Peng’s forces were slowly winning the war against the Security Forces, eight Lincolns on 57 Squadron arrived at Tengah from Waddington for operations against terrorists in Negri Sembilan. 57’s Lincolns were relieved in July by 100 Squadron. In December 1950 these were replaced by Lincolns on 61 and 148 Squadrons, the latter having converted from the Lancaster at Upwood in February 1950. The Lincoln seemed ideal for the task of bombing CT hide-outs in the jungle but while five Lincolns could effectively drop 70 1,000lb bombs on a jungle strongpoint the guerrillas had by now split into much smaller and more mobile units and were almost impossible to hit by ‘conventional’ bombing. One operation, in the Ipoh region between July and November 1954 involving Lincolns, 22 SAS and four infantry battalions, accounted for only 15 terrorists killed. From 1950 to 1958 eight Lincoln Mk.30s of 1 Squadron RAAF at Tengah dropped 17,500 tons of bombs but killed only 16 CTs and destroyed barely 30 camps. There were successes. On 13 May 1957 an operation by the RAAF Lincolns near Seremban killed a notorious Communist leader known as ‘Ten Foot Long’ and four of his followers. The Malaya Emergency officially ended in August 1960 and Operation ‘Firedog’ ended in October.
Meanwhile, in October 1952 Britain sent RAF squadrons and troop reinforcements from Egypt to Kenya to put down insurrection by Mau Mau terrorists. The Mau Mau were a secret society among the Kikuyu tribe. In November 1953 part of 49 Squadron was detached to Shallufa, Egypt and part to Eastleigh (Nairobi) Airport, Kenya. Both elements were reunited at Eastleigh late in November and remained there until January 1954 when a 100 Squadron detachment began three months of operations. In March 1954 a detachment of Lincolns on 61 Squadron arrived at Eastleigh and these bombers made repeated strikes on the Mau Mau until June that same year. Another Lincoln squadron which saw action in Kenya in 1954 was 214 Squadron, which had received Lincolns in 1950.
Wing Commander Alan Newitt DFC who commanded 49 Squadron from 1 April 1953 to 1 May 1956 recalled that on 26 December 1954 he had been briefed to bomb a Mau Mau hide on Mount Kenya which had been designated a prohibited area for the duration of the emergency. ‘It was an unusual assignment in so far as the terrorists were operating in and around Nairobi and the surrounding British farming community, although it was known that one or more Mau Mau gangs were hidden up in the forests covered slopes of Mount Kenya. Intelligence reported that several detachments of the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers, one of which was commanded by Major Terry Troy (subsequently Brigadier T. M. Troy CBE), a native of Jersey, were on patrol in the area. As the exact positions of the detachments were not known, we were warned not to drop any bombs above an altitude of 13,000 feet as the patrols would be above that height on surveillance missions.
The flight was a routine affair. We located the hide and dropped a string of bombs across the target where there were obvious signs of recent activity in the forest. Major Troy, from his vantage point, was able to observe the whole operations below him, little suspecting that the pilot of the aircraft was an old school pal and also a native of Jersey. The sequel to the bombing was to cause some discomfort to him and his soldiers, but that is best described by the Brigadier in his own words.
‘In addition to the patrols mentioned above, a large number of ambushes had been laid astride game tracks, outside the bombing area, in the hope of catching terrorists fleeing from the bombing. In the event, the soldiers lying in wait were suddenly and frighteningly faced by very enraged wild animals charging down the game tracks as they fled from the bombing. Impressed as they were by the accuracy of the RAF bombing, the soldiers’ language, as they hurled themselves off the tracks and deep into the surrounding undergrowth, was highly expressive.’
‘Sadly, it has to be admitted that there were many animal casualties from the bombing but the rumour is quite unfounded that our agile Brigadier was last seen shinning up a tree faster than the first rhino which came thundering up the track.’
Apart from the 168 Lincolns built by Avros at Manchester and Yeadon, a further 281 were built by Armstrong Whitworth and another 79 by Metropolitan-Vickers, bringing total production in the UK to 528. Although few in number compared to the heady days of the Lancaster, the Lincoln equipped no less than 21 squadrons in Bomber Command, as well as three squadrons in 90 Group. On 25 May 1951 101 Squadron became the first squadron to receive the Canberra B.2 and traded in its Lincolns. In January 1952 617 also converted to the Canberra. 138 disbanded on 1 September 1950 and reformed on 1 January 1955 as the first V-bomber squadron on the Vickers Valiant. In July 1951 199 Squadron, which had played a key role in 100 (Bomber Support) Group in WW2, flying RCM operations, had reformed at the Central Signals Establishment, Watton and was equipped with Lincoln and Mosquito NF.36 aircraft, which were operated in the RCM role until late in 1957 when the unit was re equipped with Valiants. 214 Squadron disbanded on 30 December 1954 and reformed in 1956 as part of the V-force. The last Lincolns in service were operated by 151 Squadron in Signals Command at Watton, Norfolk until they were finally withdrawn in March 1963.
The valuable role played by the Avro Lincoln in Malaya and Kenya is often overlooked. They also held the line in Bomber Command for ten years before pilots swapped the unpressurised and noisy cockpits on these piston-engined bombers for modern flight decks in the V-Force.