January 9. Launch of a legend – the Avro Lancaster. Roll of Honour

This day in 1918 HMS Racoon sank off Donegal. Four men from Belfast and Edward Roberts from Downpatrick were amongst the crew lost. Two of Edward’s brothers also died in the war serving with the North Irish Horse and the Royal Field Artillery. On this day in 1941 the RAF launched a legend, the Avro Lancaster (photo). 7,377 Lancasters were produced for the RAF and its Allies, delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties. The most famous bomb it carried was the ‘bouncing bomb’, designed by Barnes Wallis. No. 617 Squadron led by Guy Gibson took their ‘Lancs’ over the Ruhr valleys to destroy its hydroelectric dams. Known as the Dambusters ever since. Gibson’s navigator was from Ligoniel, Belfast. Two members of the Royal Navy from NI died this day in 1944. James Houston who had Ballymena roots was lost in HMS Spartan. Donald Smith was also from Ballymena. He took part in the Dunkirk evacuation and landings in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, and the Agean. He is remembered at Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt and on the Ballymena WM.

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