Bielefeld, western Germany, 14th March 1945. The Lancaster B.1 (Special) heading towards its target had been unable to reach more than 14,000ft (4,250m). Beneath it bulked the outline of the largest and most destructive bomb ever used in war; the Grand Slam, weighing more than 22,000lb (10 tonnes). In the nose lay the bomb-aimer, holding the graticule of his sight on the target. The seconds ticked away interminably until at last the computer automatically released the huge bomb. The pilot, Squadron Leader Calder, felt the bomber lift as the weight came off, and the wings, which previously had taken on a distinct upward curve, resumed their normal shape. Lying prone in the nose, the bomb aimer watched as the huge weapon plunged downwards, dwindling in size as it did so, spinning as it went for greater accuracy. At first it appeared that it was going to fall short, but this was illusory. In the final seconds of its fall it seemed to sweep forward and hit about 90ft (30m) from the target. The Bielefeld Railway Bridge had survived previous attacks, but succumed to the first Grand Slam dropped. The impact was not very spectacular; from that altitude there was just a tiny splash of mud as the Grand Slam, travelling faster than sound, penetrated something like 75ft (25m) into the earth. After an 11-second delay, however, a gigantic underground explosion erupted, flinging earth and mud some 500ft (150m) into the air, and forming an enormous cavity into which a large section of the target, a rail viaduct that was vital to German communications during the closing months of the war, collapsed. The Lancaster had not been flying alone; that would have been far too risky, even at this late stage in the war. It was accompanied by 14 others, each armed with a Tallboy, a smaller (12,000lb/ 5.4 tonnes) version of the Grand Slam. Even as the huge bomb went off, Tallboys were falling around the viaduct, their combined effect destroying several more arches of the now sadly battered target, and ensuring that it would never again be used to carry German reinforcements to where they were most needed. The Gran Slam, the largest bomb of all. Only 41 of these were dropped during WWII, all by Lancaster Specials of #617 Squadron. The Lancaster had, in the space of three short years, become the backbone of RAF Bomber Command. A total of 7,366 were built, of which s almost half were lost on operations. They carried, out something like 156,000 operational sorties, an average of about 21 sorties each, which says much about the hazards they faced, and dropped more than 600,000 tons of bombs; an average of more than 81 tons each. They carried greater bomb loads farther than any other wartime bomber. 1,000lb bombs n storage. Lancasters dropped no fewer than 217,640 of these between 1942 & 1945. Lancaster’s formed the main equipment of the Pathfinder Force; they pioneered low-level marking and precision attacks, and, far more than any other heavy bomber type before or since, they proved amenable to modification to carry special weapons. With all this, the Lancaster retained its docile handling, even when badly damaged, which undoubtedly saved the lives of many crewmen. Long after the war, the Lancaster retains a mystique unequalled by any other bomber, and the affection of those that flew to war in it remains even now, over 50 years later.