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Schrage Musik?

Old 24th Dec 2005, 05:49
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Schrage Musik?

Having just read 'Bomber Crew' by James Taylor & Martin Davidson I was wondering what if anything Bomber Command did to prevent or reduce the losses to Schrage Musik installations in German night fighters? The book suggests that following the Peenemunde Raid the armament / attack method was understood by BC and that crews had little option but to concentrate on the banking / searching maneuvers to locate attackers below.

But why if this method of attack on bombers was so effective was not more done to afford protection to the bomber & crews? For a certain loss of payload would not a ventral defensive position have made sense?

Or what if anything could have been done?
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Old 24th Dec 2005, 18:49
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Working on memory here - and distant memory too, so corrections to my addled thoughts are welcome. Schrage Musik or "Jazz Music" was a very effective weapon and required the attacker to get underneath the bomber, where in Bomber command, there was no defensive turret or weaponry - but here, is a thought. I am sure that I read somewhere that one group of Bomber Command had their Lancs modified to have a single flexible downward firing gun, but that the commander of said group ordered these weapons to be removed, in order to allow a larger offensive payload.

Now, I don't know about this,but would welcome some clarification from others. Does the above ring true to anybody, or is it more a case of urban legend?

Martin Middlebrook wrote several absorbing and well researched books on the RAF bombing campaign - if you see any of them, go and buy. I did, but they are stuck in deep storage, so cannot refer to them at present.


Conan
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Old 24th Dec 2005, 19:42
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Conan,

I've read the same account regarding the deleted, unauthorized belly guns.
 
Old 25th Dec 2005, 02:28
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An advanced search in Google will bring up several hits about a ventral turret, but none that I could find about an unofficial mod.

"The ventral gun turret was fitted to some of the Mk 1 Lancasters but later removed because they were thought to be ineffective in operation and the weight could be better applied to the bomb load."
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Old 25th Dec 2005, 09:06
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Martin Middlebrooks book on the Nurenburg raid talks of the Canadian Group fitting ventral turrets, against bomber command wishes and suffering a much lower loss rate. I've lent the book out so I cant find the exact stats, its a very good read though.


Edit to add some great stuff on bomber gunnery tactics at the nanton lancaster society webpage

Last edited by Daysleeper; 25th Dec 2005 at 11:07.
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Old 25th Dec 2005, 09:48
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From www.kotfsc.com:

The ventral postion was soon deleted on most RAF Lancasters as it was thought unnessesary and took the same position as the H2S radome. Where possible, and unofficially, many crews installed a single 7.7 mm (0.303 in) or 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Browning machine-gun on aircraft lacking the ventral turret in order to deal with the ever increasing 'behind and below' attacks of German night fighters using Schräge Musik, which interesting, did not use tracer ammunition. These were hastily installed configurations usually consisting of the gunner sitting on a bicycle type seat with the ammunition box being bolted to the floor and the gun mounted in a hole cut into the floor. The British would eventually re-introduce the F.N.64 turret on aircraft equipped with G-H radar (an improved version of Gee) since that type of radar did not have the large radome as the H2S required. During 1943/1944 when the use of Schräge Musik on german Nachtjagd (night fighters) became widespread, the new twin-gun F.N.64 power-operated turrets became the most important gun position on the bomber.
F.N.64 turret:



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Old 25th Dec 2005, 17:01
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Cringe, that is brilliant! I wasn't dreaming after all!

On further thought, it may well be one of the Middlebrook books where I picked this up in the first place. Thinking even more, it may well be that I have loaned the book out and will, in the larger scale of things, never see it again.

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Old 25th Dec 2005, 18:09
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This adds to cringe's post. (What does she do for a living?)

I've guessed before - aviation museum curator.

PS. Drawing is from Garbett & Goulding book, Lancaster at War 2.

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Old 25th Dec 2005, 23:18
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From my research into FN64 turrets, it seems that they were only retro-fitted to the Mk. II Lancasters of 6 Group (and only then when said Lancs had the 8,000 lb bomb doors). These would have been lost to service when Canadian built Mk. Xs replaced them later in 1944. Also, and as stated above, to some Merlin Lancasters of G-H equipped Squadrons in No. 3 Group which a) also had 8,000 lb doors and b) did not have H2S (in other words, quite a small number). I've never seen evidence of any other units fitting them although I cannot discount the possibility.

Just how widespread was the practice of fitting single guns in the belly is hard to tell as they were unofficial modifications and hence probably not recorded. In all my years of peering at every Lancaster photo I can lay my hands on, I don't think I've ever spotted one.

If you read W.R. Chorley's Bomber Command losses for 1944 and 1945, you will come across only a few references to a mid-under gunner being carried.

Most losses with eight crew members on board is explained by them being extra set operators (101 Sqn with A.B.C.), navigators (P.F.F. or 5 Group's own Marker Force) or "second dickeys" along for their initial operational experience, etc.

Don't forget that the Halifax III units responded to Scrage Musik in the same way, i.e. installation of the Preston Green mid-under turret or unofficial lash ups.
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Old 26th Dec 2005, 00:25
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Just a quick note that of course the early war 'heavys' were initially equipped with ventral turret, later removed in most cases as they were clumsy and regarded as not much use - the Wellington and Whitley had turrets - the hole for the removed turret on the Whitley was used as the dispatch hole when they were used to trial paratroop ops.

The Hampden had a flexibly-mounded underside rear gun position as well of course, but throwing brinks was probably as effective as using the Vickers K from there.
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Old 26th Dec 2005, 02:13
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Cringe: "equipped with G-H radar (an improved version of Gee)".

I think the source of the quote has got that wrong.

Gee was a parabolic nav aid having a master and slave transmitters.
The aircraft equipment measured the time difference between received pulses.

My understanding is that GH was a refined version of Oboe, which is completely different in that it used transponded signals.
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Old 26th Dec 2005, 08:51
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Very interesting topic, if I remember correctly Middlebrook attributes a lot of losses to S-M as due to Bomber Command not believing crews reports. The Germans decision not to use tracer and the point blank effect of cannon rounds into the fuel tank ment there was little to see.

Had they actually listened to reports then perhaps an effective defence could have been worked out.
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Old 26th Dec 2005, 11:37
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Thanks for the replies so far. Excellent.

I have searched the net and there are sources that indicate that no one knows whose decision it was to not advise the crews. Or indeed if there was ever a decision - to be 'not advised'.

Hindsight is wonderful but my feeling is that given the immensity of the entirely justified attacks on Nazi Europe the loss in payload compared to the savings in aircrew and airframes should have dictated some sort of ventral defense.

It is humbling to read of the losses of crews but especialy saddening to speculate that something could have been done to minimise losses.

Another thought prompted by the responses is 'How widespread were the 'unofficial' modifications.....?' I'd love to hear if a BC veteran had any comment.

Cheers.
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Old 26th Dec 2005, 12:11
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Load Toad - may be of some interest. From Bomber Command 1939-45, by Ian Carter.

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Old 26th Dec 2005, 16:21
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Just a thought but would the ventral gun have required a further crew member or would they have used the W/O?
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Old 27th Dec 2005, 09:15
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Just a thought but would the ventral gun have required a further crew member or would they have used the W/O?
I think the original idea was for the turret to be manned on an as and when basis, like the front turret. The problem with the FN64 being that the gunner had no free view, only what he could see through his periscopic sight. He would have had to rely on help from the other gunners to "acquire" his target.

Those Squadrons that re-installed the turret in 1944 may well have carried an extra gunner, given that a night attack using Scrage Musik could come at any time and without warning.

Also bear in mind that the turret would be useless in the event of an attack if the oil had not been regularly circulated to keep it warm. That requires someone to operate the controls and exercise the turret quite vigorously for several sessions per hour.

So, our poor Air Gunner would have had to sit in the freezing temperatures of the fuselage for hours at a time, squinting through the periscopic sight into a very limited field of vision in the hope of spotting that shadow before it got into a firing position.

The turret traversed 100 degress either side of the centreline and elevated to +2 degrees and -67.5 degrees from the horizontal.



As an extra comment, I read yesterday that there were official trials to install a fixed .5 in gun into Bomber Command aircraft, specifically to counter the Schrage Musik attack. This is mentioned in Sir Arthur Harris' Dispatch On War Operations. It does not state how many operational aircraft actually got them - my guess is very few.
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