Category Archives: Lancaster Moon

Lancaster Moon

In the 1980s I met a man named Bill King, a transplanted Cockney living on Vancouver Island. At the age of 19 Bill had been a flight engineer on a Lancaster crew flying night sorties over Germany. The pilot of the bomber (the “Old Man” as he was referred to) was a 23-year old Canadian. Each mission from England out over the darkened continent was a cold, surreal mixture of every human emotion. Each return, exhausted, spent and battle- damaged, seemed like a miracle.

On their 16th mission the crew’s luck ran out. Deep into the blackness of Germany, their Lancaster was suddenly raked from below by a night fighter. The incindiary bombs in the belly of the Lancaster immediately began to expode into flame. The”Old Man” ordered everyone to bail out and Bill moved down to the nose hatch. Realizing the bombardier was injured, Bill snapped the man’s parachute static line to its ring and pushed him out of the hole. Bill quickly followed, tumbling out into deep, invisible nothing. Suddenly, he was quietly, gently alone, suspended in the empty black.

I asked him what it was like.

“Very peaceful. Very quiet. Nice. I looked up and the plane was now completely in flame, a beautiful giant burning cross, and it just kept flying, off into the dark distance, on and… bang! I hit the ground and broke my ankle. Dogs started barking and farmers started running. That was it. I was worth 50 deutschemarks to them, and yet they weren’t very happy to see me.”

In the image Lancaster Moon, garden steps from a terraced stone wall of my childhood are illuminated by a full moon… the favoured “bomber’s moon” that allowed targets to be seen more easily (and probably the hunter to be the hunted). The angled top edge of the form matches the seven degree wing profile of the Lancaster. At the extreme right a faint visual echo of the moon creates a roundel. Directly below the planters two tall, thin triangulations reach down past the steps of the base. These will contain a subtle three-dimensional curve to emulate the bomb-bay doors of the parked Lancaster we used to climb into as children.

The steps end abruptly, into darkness.