cold war: berlin airlift

An Avro York of the Royal Air Force sits at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift. The Western Allies supplied the people of West Berlin by air alone for the duration of the near one year blockade by Stalin, from 24 June 1948 to 12 May 1949. Yorks flew over 58,000 sorties – close to half of the British contribution.

The aircraft was developed from the wings, tail and undercarriage of the Lancaster bomber, given a new, much larger fuselage. It was an independent project undertaken by Avro, themselves seeing a need for a transport aircraft which they hoped could also find place in a post-war civil market. During the wars last few years individual Yorks were given to various VIPs including Churchill, who named his Ascalon - the lance or sword with which Saint George slew the dragon. The Viceroy of India and C-in-C South East Asia Command, Lord Mountbatten, also received one, repainted a light duck egg green.

“The scene in Berlin’s Republic Square, before the ruined Reichstag Building, on September 9, 1948, as Anti-Communists, estimated at a quarter of a million, scream their opposition to Communism. At the time, the Soviet Union was enforcing the Berlin Blockade, blocking Allied access to the parts of Berlin under Allied control. In response, Allies began the Berlin Airlift until the Soviets lifted the blockade in 1949, and East Germany and West Germany were established. When the meeting pictured here broke up, a series of incidents between Anti-Red Germans and Soviet troops brought tension to a fever pitch as shootings took place, resulting in the deaths of two Germans.”