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Throat microphone use in WW2

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Throat microphone use in WW2

Old 11th Mar 2017, 14:33
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Throat microphone use in WW2

On a separate thread (A very good military read) on the Military Forum I have mentioned 'Warlike Sketches 1939-1945' by Arrol Macfarlane in which the author recounts in some detail his life as a AOP pilot during the advance through Italy in WW2.

In the book there are a number of references to the use of the 'Larynga-phone'. Am I correct in assuming this is what I would call a throat-mike? Not that I had thought much about it but my impression had been that these were something the USAAF used in their bombers but not used in RAF/Army aviation in WW2.

Would the AOP pilot have routinely used a headset plus larynga-phone rather than a helmet/mask combination?

In 'Warlike Sketches' the author recounts a couple of incidents where, having taken up a non-aviator fellow officer, he was treated to the larynga-phone amplified sound of his colleagues noisily throwing-up as a result of flak-avoiding manoeuvres.

Last edited by olympus; 11th Mar 2017 at 15:07. Reason: Correction to title
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Old 12th Mar 2017, 00:50
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We were equipped with British helmets and throat mikes up to 1975 when I left the service (Australia - flying helos). So I would assume it was a well used item in the British services.
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Old 12th Mar 2017, 07:00
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When I was in the Royal Signals in the 1960s we still had throat microphone kits left over from WW2. Bloody uncomfortable they were too with the mike stuck on a piece of standard Army issue webbing that went around the neck.
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Old 12th Mar 2017, 08:48
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I last used a throat mike when flying in a Wessex at Farnborough in the late '70s.
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Old 12th Mar 2017, 08:56
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They were in use in Whirlwind 10 at 2FTS, Shawbury until the aircraft type was replaced by the Gazelle.
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Old 12th Mar 2017, 11:03
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The RAF used throat mikes because they wouldn't flash out on noise cancelling boom mikes. Eventually they were forced to by the high ambient noise of the Puma in or about 1973.
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Old 12th Mar 2017, 13:16
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RN used them on SeaKings in mid '80s. Horribly uncomfortable things.
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Old 12th Mar 2017, 13:55
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Used them on chipmunks in early mid 60s
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Old 13th Mar 2017, 13:07
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The wartime AOP pilots were mostly Royal Artillery Officers and there are plenty of photos showing them flying Austers with a headset over their SD hat.
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Old 13th Mar 2017, 13:16
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Still have a throat mike in a box of junk in the loft. First used a couple from a war surplus shop near Leicester Square when at school, as cheap experimental guitar amp pick-ups. Used one briefly when flying chipmunks and Austers at Elstree @ 1961/2 with large padded earphones, but soon swapped to trad leather helmet with comfy shami leather lining plus mask for mike....all from that same shop. Much later, a colleague, briefly before joining Caledonian, used a throat mike when 'freelancing' on Mig 17s in Africa....sort of a quaint match for the bits of canvas showing through the tyres that he mentioned..
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Old 14th Mar 2017, 00:44
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sort of a quaint match for the bits of canvas showing through the tyres that he mentioned..
Seems to be a feature of Soviet tyre construction, presuming we weren't fed a line. We had a Mig 29 visiting Oz for an airshow, and canvas was evident, and were told "that's normal". Admit was not a good look to western eyes.
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Old 14th Mar 2017, 07:49
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Somewhere in the loft I still have a couple. I think the old "matchbox" type and certainly the later "button" ones.
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Old 14th Mar 2017, 18:02
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The ones we used at first on Whirlwind S&R were ex tank crew mics. When I turned up for pre-course briefing at 22 HQ the instruction included "Go to xxxxx's in Soho (Government Surplus dealer) and buy a throat mic" Did this and it was rewired for aircraft use by the S'quippers at Valley. Some time elapsed before we were issued with the 'button' jobs.
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Old 15th Mar 2017, 03:38
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The RNZAF in the South-West Pacific theatre later in WW2 used a lot of standard US Navy (and sometimes USAAF) flying gear, including throat mikes. I have seen the official instructions for using these items, and the equipment itself was designated with an ANB number (ANB = Army - Navy - British), an extension of the AN joint-service system for standardised equipment. The throat mikes were used mostly by fighter pilots, but also later by PV-1 crews, in association with the large, spring-steel headband-type earphones. For aircrew who did not have to continually breathe oxygen, this combination was a lot more comfortable than the traditional oxygen mask and helmet wired with earphones. I have seen photos of RNZAF Corsair pilots late in the war wearing an American fatigue cap (made from HBT), with large earphones and throat mike, apparently ideal for fighter-bomber duties below 15,000 feet. As has already been pointed out, throat mikes also rapidly became standard for armoured fighting vehicles, certainly with the Americans and Russians, and this was in WW2 as well. This was presumably because of the very limited room inside such vehicles, and tucked under your chin the throat mikes were well out of the way should you have to move vigorously around the interior without accidentally snagging any of the interior equipment. There are also some excellent colour photos of trainee USAAF pilots in P-40s wearing similar rigs in 1944 to be found in books such as Jeff Ethell's volumes, complete with caps, and sprung-headband earphones, and slid back canopies - probably in the mainland southwest, and real warm!
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Old 15th Mar 2017, 13:41
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The AAC had them on general issue for use with the Mk3 helmet, ostensibly for the occasion when we would be wearing the S6 respirator.
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Old 15th Mar 2017, 23:11
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That brings back memories! I was required to learn how to fly the Puma at night (or rather, attempt to), using the S6 respirator and PNG. One of the most frightening things I've ever had to do in training. Especially when the S6 misted up.....
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Old 16th Mar 2017, 01:26
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The throat mike was standard for all RN helicopter crews through the 60s and 70s, very much because of the ambient noise issues: especially for the crew when operating out of the door for winching, sling loading, landing clearance, etc. The use of the boom mike and a hot intercom rendered speech unintelligible for all on board once the wind got its say!

The ear also had to attune to the vagaries of throat speech, which has significant differences to (for instance) the aluminium death tube drivers talking into their mask or Flyco into the ships system through a boom mike. A throat mike tends to be quite muffled and the high frequencies aren't always picked up, so commonality is a desired feature in order for all crews to understand each other.

Mind you, I had a doctors chit for a boom mike on my Mk 2A which caused all sorts of issues. A story for another day.
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Old 16th Mar 2017, 11:50
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Throat mikes were used for cadet / instructor intercom by the Air Cadets in the Venture motor glider. We instructors got very good at identifying the onset of air sickness in our cadet passengers (a good instructor could recognise the signs before the cadet!) and whilst being in close proximity to someone filling a Bag - Air Sickness is not exactly pleasant, listening to someone vomiting amplified by throat mikes is a once heard, never again, experience. This is where the skill of the instructor came in, at the first sign of the cadet feeling unwell we instructors would throw our headsets onto the shelf behind us and simultaneously turning the aircraft towards the airfield.
The later headsets with boom mikes were better, but we had to ensure that the cadet removed the mike 'out of the line of fire' if they felt unwell.
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Old 16th Mar 2017, 14:46
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All interesting replies, thanks guys. It seems throat mike usage was much more extensive than I had imagined. Was 'larynga-phone' (as mentioned in the original post) a brand name?

As young teenagers, my mate Dave and I would go to the local park armed with military surplus headphones and throat mikes and see if we could talk to each other using the wire fence around the park as the circuit - him at one end and me at the other. We could, but it got better when we managed to acquire a couple of sets of tank crew headphones and hand mikes (the ones with the conical rubber mouthpiece and pressel switch on the side) and reception got better still when we cobbled together an amplifier and introduced that into the circuit. (There was a lot of military surplus radio gear available in those days [mid 50s] and we were always down the local surplus store to see if anything new was in!)

The start of a lifelong interest in radio and telecoms/electronics generally!
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Old 17th Mar 2017, 10:59
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Russian tyres....a typically simple explanation of the canvas showing through. The tyres remains serviceable with up to 3 layers of canvas visible (iirc)...4 layers and you have to change them. No measuring or guesswork or complicated inspections!! That was on a MiG 15, but I assume they still work the same way.
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