Famous Lancaster bombers bridge the Atlantic - and the generations

Veteran 'Rusty' Waughman gets ready to welcome the Canadian Lancaster
Veteran 'Rusty' Waughman gets ready to welcome the Canadian Lancaster

He’d travelled from Wolverhampton, carrying a home-made Canadian flag.

Some would have wondered if eight-year-old Tommy Lyons realised what was happening around him.

The Canadian Lancaster at RAF Coningsby

The Canadian Lancaster at RAF Coningsby

Like everyone else, he’d come to see witness history being made at RAF Coningsby.

Last Friday marked the long-awaited date when the world’s only two surviving Lancaster bombers were ‘teamed up’ for the first time.

Not surprisingly, the crowds - and Second World War veterans - had travelled from miles around to witness the event.

Perhaps the turn-out wasn’t as big as expected, there again, it was pouring with rain.

Tommy stood clutching his flag for ages.

He’d heard all about the rumours that the Lancaster would be diverted...because of the bad weather.

It was almost surreal - not even the might of the German war machine had been able to halt the bombers in the Second World War - last Friday, it looked like an untimely summer storm might do the trick.

The BBMF Lancaster did not take off.

It waited patiently on the ground...just like Tommy and his family.

Their patience paid off. Just after 2pm, the Lancaster touched down to cheers - and a few tears.

It had flown from Canada - via Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland.

Cruelly, a couple of hundreds yards from its final destination alongside its BBMF counterpart, its engines shut down.

The problem was later diagnosed as brake failure.

For the last section of such an epic journey, the iconic aircraft had to be pushed into place.

No-one cared...not least Tommy, the smile on his young face said it all.

At the other end of the scale, there were veterans like Rusty’ Waughman who flew in Lancasters during the Second World War.

He was based at Ludford Parva airfield, between Louth and Market Rasen.

He explained: “A crowd of us used to catch the bus into Louth every Friday night - when we weren’t on ‘ops’ of course.

“We used to go to the Marquis of Granby. What a time we had. By...those Louth girls were something else!”

No-one could deny the Lancaster crews did not deserve a chance to let their hair down.

As Rusty explained, out of every 100 crew members, more than half lost their lives, or were reported a missing in action.

“It was a difficult time,” adds Rusty, who visits Ludford every year with other veterans.

“You’d get to know a chap pretty well - and then you’d never see him again.

“The strange thing is, when you were in the air, you couldn’t afford to think how dangerous it was. It was a job, Your duty. You just got on with it.”

Rusty can still recall the night his Lancaster was picked out by German searchlight above Nuremberg.

“We honestly thought that was it,” he says. “Fortunately, we managed to get out of the light - otherwise we’d have been a goner.”

Other veterans - like Lincoln’s Harry Parkins - were based at East Kirkby. The biggest threat to life wasn’t always the Germans. He and his crew-mates were lucky to survive a mid-air collision over the airbase.

The sight of the two Lancasters brought memories flooding back for the former aircrews.

It wasn’t just about memories, though.

There’s every chance new friendships will be forged, friendships that will span the Atlantic.

Harry Swierenga, a key member of the Canadian team, has been involved in their Lancaster project since the very start in 1988.

Little wonder he breathed a huge sigh of relief when the two Lancasters finally sat together on the runway.

He said: “This closes the final loop. I never thought this day would happen. It’s taken a lot of years, a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

“But hell, you know what, it’s been worth it.”