Avro Lancaster DV372 “Old Fred” (Preserved Forward Fuselage)

The preserved forward fuselage of Avro Lancaster DV372/PO-F "Old Fred" at the Imperial War Museum Lambeth in London.(Image: @planedailymag. Forward fuselage of Lancaster DV372 “Old Fred” at the IWM)

Despite its enduring fame and popularity among aviation enthusiasts, the iconic Avro Lancaster bomber didn’t survive the Second World War in large numbers. Many examples of Bomber Command’s mighty flagship were, of course, shot down over Occupied Europe, written-off in training accidents or while returning home, appallingly damaged, from raids across the North Sea. Many more were scrapped without ceremony after the conflict, all but forgotten by a war-weary public with little interest in or appetite for their preservation.

Among them was ED932, AJ-G “G for George”, the aircraft flown by 24-year-old Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC on the famous Dambusters raid of May 1943, codenamed Operation Chastise. Like other surviving Dams raid aircraft, ED932 had been extensively modified to carry Barnes Wallis’ famous Upkeep “bouncing bomb”, and could never be fully returned to conventional status. As such the Type 464 (Provisioning) Lancaster was only used occasionally on operations after Chastise, mainly employed for trials and training duties. G for George was scrapped at RAF Scampton on July 29, 1947.

Today, less than 20 complete Lancasters exist around the world (mostly in Canada) with four preserved in the UK. But there are many surviving parts, wrecks and significant fuselage sections, including the forward fuselage of Avro Lancaster Mk.1 DV372, known to crews as “Old Fred”. The bomber, which was coded PO-F and served with No. 467 Squadron RAAF, makes for a superb exhibit at the Imperial War Museum’s Lambeth branch in London. Old Fred flew 45 missions with 467 Squadron and affords visitors a close-up glimpse of the forward section that’s not easily visible on complete airframes.

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