RAF Service

Ron Hedges
Britain could not cope during the second world war with just the regular forces and so it appealed for volunteers to join the war effort. Bill had a hobby interest in aviation, and when the war call came for volunteers he joined the RAF while his friend, Ron Hedges, signed up for the army.

Bill started out as a gunner in bomber command, but he had always wanted to be a pilot. Following this dream he trained as a radio operator, hoping to eventually get to be the pilot he wanted to be. He completed his training in 1941, a time when Britain was the only Nazi-free country in Europe. The battle of Britain had been won, but we were really struggling - things were not looking good.

The Lancaster Bomber

Avro, a major aircraft manufacturer, had been commissioned in 1936 by the government to build a twin-engined bomber to utilise the new "Vulture" engine from Rolls-Royce but the resulting plane, the "Manchester" was a spectacular disaster. The Vulture engine, built in an X configuration, was overcomplicated and ahead of it's time. Experts believed that it could have been a great success but in 1940 there was no time to allow for adequate development; although the Manchester went into service, it was a nightmare to fly and very vulnerable to attack damage. In July 1940, displaying uncharacteristic foresight, the Air Ministry issued a new specification which called for a four engined bomber capable of carrying 10,000 lb (4.36 tonnes) to a range of 2500 miles with a cruising speed of 280mph @ 15000 feet. A talented designer at Avro, Roy Chadwick, saw an opportunity to turn the ugly Manchester duckling into a proverbial swan by installing four tried and tested Rolls Royce Merlin engines into a modified airframe - the Lancaster was born.

Rhodesia squadron
The prototype first flew on the 9th of January 1941 and immediately impressed her test pilots but, even in wartime, developing a new class of aeroplane is a complex business. The third prototype took to the air on the 26th November of that year and the 44(Rhodesia) squadron based at Waddington in Lincolnshire took delivery of the first three off the production line on Christmas Eve 1941. During the first three months of 1942 the Lancasters were used operationally for mine laying around the coastal waters of northern Europe, losing one plane to enemy anti aircraft fire - all the crew were killed. During this time intensive training was also being carried out - one sortie to bomb Calais docks and another to drop incendiaries on Hamburg being part of the programme. Bill Seagoe was then selected to join the aircrew *of L7565 (call sign V-Victor) piloted by Warrant Officer John Beckett DFM. They were part of an elite group selected to fly a bomber that was still classified on the secret list for a daring daylight raid in partnership with 97 squadron from Woodhall Spa - the only other squadron equipped with Lancasters at that time.