View Full Version : WW2 Lancaster crewing arrangements.

9th May 2018, 12:28
I am reading a book of memoirs by a chap who was (amongst other things) the tail-gunner on Lancasters. He says that in *his* crew everybody had a reserve who learnt how to do the same job (so that if e.g. the navigator took a bullet a gunner could take over and get them home). And because he's had some pre-war flying in Tiger Moths his pilot chose him to be the reserve pilot. And therefore he did a couple of landings in training and even a couple on active operations. Would they really have chosen the *tail* gunner as a reserve pilot?

Does anybody know if this was normal? Online, I have found this reference:
which says that "the bomb-aimer could act as a reserve pilot in an emergency as he would have received some flying training".

Which rather suggests that it was official training...

10th May 2018, 17:12
The Air Ministry Order which introduced the new aircrew trades (Navigator instead of Observer etc.) set out the duties of each trade, including a secondary duty and I think everyone other than the pilot was expected to act as a gunner if need be. I don't have a copy, but Jeff Jefford's book on non-pilot aircrew will doubtless quote it verbatim.

Potential aircrew were selected either as PNB (Pilot, Navigator or Bomb Aimer) or as potential Wireless Operators and Air Gunners - Flight Engineers went by a different route - and I suspect that the PNB stream might all have had basic training at the grading stage.

10th May 2018, 19:33
It may have been possible, although the operational practicalities of a rear gunner getting to the cockpit in time after some sort of issue with the pilot, may not have been that easy. A number of Bomb Aimers were failed pilots, who thus had flying experience. I believe there were a number of cases where bomb aimers brought a stricken bomber home and were promptly put on a pilots course. I doubt very much a gunner could navigate to any extent. Some pilots taught their flight engineers straight and level, handy for using the elsan etc!

23rd May 2018, 17:14
The bomb aimer was of course the nose gunner in heavy bombers.

My Dad became a bomb aimer in 1942 after being trained as an air gunner. After being a bomb aimer he later became a navigator.

Lou Scannon
2nd Jun 2018, 18:58
Perhaps this comment from a friend who was one of the "Bomber boys" in that he was a Bomb Aimer on Wellingtons then Lancs, will help:

"Yes. At OTU I had 14 hours on the Link trainer (recorded in my log book). Also several periods of up to half an hour at the controls of the Wellington . That continued whenever possible on the Lancaster. Fortunately, I never had an emergency to deal with. I often wondered how I would manage to bring the Lanc back – jump out over the base or attempt to land it !"

I had personal experience with a Flight Engineer who had been on Lancasters. We flew a Hastings back from Germany in the 60's and he was delighted to take the co-pilot's seat from the top of climb (8,000ft) to the top of descent and hand flew it the whole time...as he used to do on ops!

7th Jun 2018, 19:48
My memory may be playing tricks after all these years but I remember talking to my late father who was a lancaster pilot and asking him about the crewing arrangements. He said that there wasn't a co pilot so I asked him if the flight engineer could fly the plane. He said that he could ... providing all four engines were turning and the skies were clear.