Avro Manchester - Harry Holmes. Designed by Roy Chadwick (specification Avro 679). Designed to be powered by the Vulture (Rolls-Royce 24 cylinder ‘X’ configuration) but development problems (with the Vulture) forced Avro to look at the Napier Sabre and Bristol Centaurus. Prototype (L7246), powered by two Vultures, flew on the afternoon of the 25th July 1939. Soon clear that performance was a problem. Small area on twin tails created a stability problem, a central fin was added to the fuselage.
Wing span altered from 24.4m (just over 80 feet) to 27.4m (just over 90 feet) by replacing the wing tips, elevators redesigned. Second prototype (L7247) carried full armament (nose, tail and retractable belly turret). Tailplane span increased from 8.5m to 10m (28feet to 33 feet). A larger fin and rudder assembly designed but not tested until fitted to the Lancaster. Order received for 1200 machines, concern over one engine performance. First squadron (207) supplied with Manchesters became in effect an operational trials unit. First operational flight took place on the night of the 24th/25th February 1941. Second operational squadron was 97. First operational loss (L7313) on the night of 13th/14th March 1941. During 1941 small groups of Manchesters joined larger groups of other bombers. 61 Squadron third unit to be equipped with Manchesters. First machine (L7388) delivered in April to 61 Squadron had the taller fins and rudders and no central fin. 61 Squadron not operational until August. Four other squadrons (49, 50, 83 and 106), all seven squadrons being attached to 5 Group, equipped with Manchesters. In March 1942 207 Squadron moved onto Lancasters.
In the same month Guy Gibson took over as CO of 106 Squadron, told by his air crew that they were not happy with the power units of their machines.
On the night of 25th/26th June Manchesters flew their last operational flight. In all there had been 1269 sorties flown. Manchesters continued flying with Conversion Units until August 1944. Only 202 Manchesters built, of the remaining order some cancelled, some converted into Lancasters.