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Bomber Command 'Heavy' Crewing

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Bomber Command 'Heavy' Crewing

Old 22nd Jan 2021, 23:08
  #21 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by 682al View Post
That's about as far as my research took me. What's missing from the narrative is just how much use was made of the installation by the Squadrons, i.e. were they enthusiastically received and put to use or just treated as another rush job with little practical value? I've seen individual accounts of an eighth crew member being taken on ops, sometimes a "spare bod" gunner and sometimes even a volunteer from ground crew, but I've never come across a comprehensive report from the end-users which perhaps helps explain the general level of ignorance about this topic.
There is an article I saw some years ago somewhere on the net that covers at least some of the stuff in your post 682al (maybe one of the RAF historical presentations).
The RAF had enough very experienced commanders and armament/technical/tactics specialist to be able to make fairly accurate assessments of enemy activity and tactics,'Fishpond' might have helped some H2S equipped crews escape the night fighters.
I think one of the main advantages of a ventral hatch was the ability to visually check below the a/c for any approaching night fighter.
The gunner manning any ventral position might well have varied with a/c and sqn - take the Halifax - if it was still equipped with a mid upper turret then either the WOp or a 'spare gunner/volunteer' would have to man it,conversely - if the mid upper turret had been removed then a ventral gun could be manned by the displaced gunner.
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Old 23rd Jan 2021, 17:20
  #22 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by stevef View Post
Somewhere amongst my book collection there's a reference to double navigators (Pathfinder Force?) sometimes being carried on Lancaster trips, maybe to operate the electronic apparatus. Also recall something about an eighth German-speaking crew member, presumably on board to confuse the German night fighter pilots and plotters.
This was 101 Sqn. They suffered the most unit casualties of any because of the nature of their work. They would often take off singly and fit into the bomber stream at various intervals in order to provide coverage for the full straem. Along with the eighth crew member, they also carried jamming equipmet particularly one that had a microphone in one of the engine compartments and whenever they discovered a night fighter frequency that was being used they would transmit engine noise to block it.
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Old 26th Jan 2021, 17:21
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I've edited my earlier post about the belly gun to correct a few errors.

On the subject of Schrage Musik and Freeman Dyson's oft-quoted assertion that the Operational Research people at Bomber Command never discovered this method of attack, I can only say he was wrong. My understanding is that he never worked on the study of damage to our bombers by enemy defences and he may therefore not have been privy to the information that some of his colleagues were.

As I've already stated, Operational Research staff at B.C. produced monthly reports "Enemy Tactics Against Bombers" which contained a mass of intelligence information and which duly noted the increasing ratio of night fighter attacks from below as against on the level or above, etc.

In January, 1944 the report included a description of the S.M. method :-
" In view of the relative frequency of attacks by unseen aircraft, attention is drawn to four reported cases this month in which the enemy fighter was seen to make its attack from almost vertically below. One, a Ju88, followed a Lancaster for a considerable time, positioning itself underneath the rear turret so that the gunner could not bring his guns to bear. From this position the fighter was able to open fire several times."

By July, 1944 Bomber Command had been handed an accurate description of a S.M. equipped night fighter:-
"Some fighters are carrying 20mm. upward firing cannon mounted at an angle of 70deg. to the horizontal. Aiming is done with a Revi gunsight inclined at the same angle as the guns. A tentative estimate of fighters so equipped was 10% or 20%."

I'll leave the last words to the big man himself, in correspondence with the Air Ministry:-


Last edited by 682al; 26th Jan 2021 at 18:54.
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 12:07
  #24 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by 682al View Post
I've edited my earlier post about the belly gun to correct a few errors.

On the subject of Schrage Musik and Freeman Dyson's oft-quoted assertion that the Operational Research people at Bomber Command never discovered this method of attack, I can only say he was wrong. My understanding is that he never worked on the study of damage to our bombers by enemy defences and he may therefore not have been privy to the information that some of his colleagues were.

As I've already stated, Operational Research staff at B.C. produced monthly reports "Enemy Tactics Against Bombers" which contained a mass of intelligence information and which duly noted the increasing ratio of night fighter attacks from below as against on the level or above, etc.

In January, 1944 the report included a description of the S.M. method :-
" In view of the relative frequency of attacks by unseen aircraft, attention is drawn to four reported cases this month in which the enemy fighter was seen to make its attack from almost vertically below. One, a Ju88, followed a Lancaster for a considerable time, positioning itself underneath the rear turret so that the gunner could not bring his guns to bear. From this position the fighter was able to open fire several times."

By July, 1944 Bomber Command had been handed an accurate description of a S.M. equipped night fighter:-
"Some fighters are carrying 20mm. upward firing cannon mounted at an angle of 70deg. to the horizontal. Aiming is done with a Revi gunsight inclined at the same angle as the guns. A tentative estimate of fighters so equipped was 10% or 20%."

I'll leave the last words to the big man himself, in correspondence with the Air Ministry:-


Interesting piece, thank you.
I think regardless of whether certain sections of BC Operational Research knew of, or didn't know about SM, is immaterial in light of the document you posted.

As I said previously , a cover up looks potentially to have taken place.
There are differing views on what was told to squadrons, if indeed anything was told to any at all.

Aircrew accounts from the period do not contain much if anything on SM attacks.
Many post war aircrew accounts make mention of not knowing about SM.
Even accounts by historical authors many years post war mention that BC had very poor intelligence and that they did not know about SM.


BC was very good during the war at supressing what it did not want known, or anything that may affect crew morale.
Jack Currie thought that the mentioning at the briefing on Peenemunde ( SM used operationally for the first time) that a new fighter was being produced, was in bad taste. Even if it was for security reasons.
Crews were told 'Scarecrow flares', (which were in essence an aircraft blowing up, possibly by SM) were a German shell fired to height.


Let us not forget as well, that the preferred method of attack by a Night fighter, with forward firing weapons, was slightly below and behind.
This may have been potentially what was seen by some aircrew.

However, if SM was known about and minuted by BC, then one wonders why more was not done to prevent SM attacks.
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Old 27th Jan 2021, 14:53
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I think it might just have been a stark choice between (say) a P-G turret or H2S and that H2S was adjudged to be more important vis a vis bombing results etc,with H2S fitted it would have been very difficult to have any sort of underside protection without (say) having a slightly extended nose Lancaster with the H2S blister fitted under the nose (similar to the H2X/'Mickey' Blister under the chin of B17's).With the B17 on daylight formation raids of course not all a/c needed H2X as the formation bombed/'toggled' when the H2X a/c dropped the bombs on target during 'blind' bombing raids.
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Old 15th Feb 2021, 10:17
  #26 (permalink)  
 
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Just found this in the book " Bomber Pilot " by Harlo Jones.........." This was because 408's Lanc IIs had a .50 calibre defensive machine gun on a free mount over a hole in the belly, meaning the crew had to have eight men. To provide the extra man, our gunners were "stolen". My rear gunner, Ralph, flew two ops while Hap, my mid-upper, flew one before the rest of the crew began our tours."
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Old 15th Feb 2021, 15:30
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Be interesting to know the dates if possible.
Early 44, 408 were still using 7 man crews. There were recorded losses of 8 man crews and even 9 man crews later in the first half of 44. The extra man was sometimes mentioned as being taken for operational experience, possibly 2nd pilot. Other times no reference was made to the 8th member.
There were however still 7 man losses at the same time.
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Old 15th Feb 2021, 15:39
  #28 (permalink)  
 
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I have just found 12/13th June 44.
408 lost 3 crews on Cambrai.
Two were composed of 8 members, with each mid under gunner mentioned.
The other had 7 members, so I am guessing no mid under carried.
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Old 15th Feb 2021, 15:57
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Family question.

Mr WHBM Senior was a Nav on Halifaxes (Topcliffe, 1942-3), and later on Dakotas in Burma (1943-5). Seemingly sat behind the pilot in both, not much of a view out. So just what did the Nav do on night bombing. Celestial navigation, sure, but it was commonly preferable to be inside cloud. Visual navigation ? Then why not position at the front. Radio navigation of some sort ? Dead reckoning ?

I got the impression that in Burma, necessarily daytime, it was mostly visual and dead reckoning, but difficult from that position surely.

How many of the bomber crew were officers ? He certainly said their pilot was a flight sergeant.
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Old 15th Feb 2021, 17:30
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Originally Posted by WHBM View Post
Family question.

Mr WHBM Senior was a Nav on Halifaxes (Topcliffe, 1942-3), and later on Dakotas in Burma (1943-5). Seemingly sat behind the pilot in both, not much of a view out. So just what did the Nav do on night bombing. Celestial navigation, sure, but it was commonly preferable to be inside cloud. Visual navigation ? Then why not position at the front. Radio navigation of some sort ? Dead reckoning ?

I got the impression that in Burma, necessarily daytime, it was mostly visual and dead reckoning, but difficult from that position surely.

How many of the bomber crew were officers ? He certainly said their pilot was a flight sergeant.
On the Halifax, the navigator was in the nose below the pilot. I assume he was to the rear of the pilot on the Dakota.
The navigator role changed throughout the war with the advent of radio navigation aids such as Gee and H2S. Celestial navigation giving way to those developments, although it was used as a back up.
Dead reckoning was all they could do in the early years of the war.
The Nav would call the time to set course, call the turns, check wind etc. His tasks were varied. On him the lives of the crew depended. Not noticing a change in wind, not turning onto a new course at the correct time could be disastrous.
The majority of aircrew were NCOs, I believe around 70%, but I stand to be corrected on that. Although promotion was rapid, some individuals going from sergeant to Squadron Leader in a year.
The RCAF towards the end of the war insisted all its aircrew were commissioned.

Last edited by rolling20; 16th Feb 2021 at 07:40.
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Old 15th Feb 2021, 17:54
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Originally Posted by rolling20 View Post
On the Halifax, the navigator was in the nose below the pilot. I assume he was to the rear of the pilot on the Dakota.
The navigator role changed throughout the war with the advent of radio navigation aids such as Gee and H2S. Celestial navigation giving way to those developments, although it was used as a back up.
Dead reckoning was all they could do in the early years of the war.
The Nav would call the time to set course, call the turns, check wind etc. His tasks were varied. On him the lives of the crew depended. Not noticing a change in wind, not turning onto a new course at the correct time could be disastrous.
Thank you. Don't know how I got the impression that the Halifax position was behind the pilot. I didn't get these details first hand, unfortunately. They were more in the way of stories. I'm pleased you describe "on him the lives of the crew depended", because that's something I did hear first hand, but never since. Some navs were better than others, known to the pilots and indeed to the Squadron Leader. Mr W had worked in the bank previously (and subsequently), and got picked out as "good with figures". Which he always was. He had all the calculation aids of the era (I'd love to know what they were), but said he took his old school log tables booklet along with him for a bit of amusement on the way home to do the headings etc from first principles !

In the bank in the 1930s a traveller came in with a lot of US dollars to change, including an 1886 US silver dollar. So he put his own money in, surely calculated to the penny, and kept it. It went on every trip with him. I believe this was not unknown for crew members to take something along with them. As you might possibly guess, it now goes in my flight bag too. And I've long said, after hearing the repeated detail, that I reckon I could fly from Rangoon to Mandalay without charts .
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Old 15th Feb 2021, 19:09
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Here is a picture of a PG Turret on a Halifax out of Croft, mid '44, 434 or 431 squadron. Of my dad's 34 ops, he flew his last ops with a bottom gunner 5 of 8 times and all from the 26th of June44 to the end of July44. Not all were equipped with that gun position and they switched A/C randomly.

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Old 15th Feb 2021, 19:33
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Originally Posted by WHBM View Post
Thank you. Don't know how I got the impression that the Halifax position was behind the pilot. I didn't get these details first hand, unfortunately. They were more in the way of stories. I'm pleased you describe "on him the lives of the crew depended", because that's something I did hear first hand, but never since. Some navs were better than others, known to the pilots and indeed to the Squadron Leader. Mr W had worked in the bank previously (and subsequently), and got picked out as "good with figures". Which he always was. He had all the calculation aids of the era (I'd love to know what they were), but said he took his old school log tables booklet along with him for a bit of amusement on the way home to do the headings etc from first principles !

In the bank in the 1930s a traveller came in with a lot of US dollars to change, including an 1886 US silver dollar. So he put his own money in, surely calculated to the penny, and kept it. It went on every trip with him. I believe this was not unknown for crew members to take something along with them. As you might possibly guess, it now goes in my flight bag too. And I've long said, after hearing the repeated detail, that I reckon I could fly from Rangoon to Mandalay without charts .
Pleasure. Of course every crew member had a job to do and they were all a team relying on each other. If one man made an error, they all potentially suffered.
The Nav of course was a skilled job and some might argue more demanding than the pilots. They generally had at least matriculated from school and were thus well educated.
​​​​​Good luck charms like the silver dollar were common place, aircrew were a superstitious lot.I guess flying in SE Asia was interesting weather wise, compared to NW Europe ​​​​

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Old 15th Feb 2021, 20:53
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Seeing as I'm in good company here, some more questions if you don't mind.

The position in the glazed nose below the pilot seems in Halifax photos to have guns. Was the navigator expected to man these as well or were there two of them in there ?

Were the officers paid more than the sergeants for the same role ? In the family we didn't really know what the pay was, as the bank maintained him on the employment roll from 1942 to 1945, RAF pay was direct to his bank account, and they made up his military pay each month up to his (quite well paid for the time; he was in his 30s) bank position there. I don't know how many employers did this.

He more than once made contemptuous remarks about there being separate daily ration packs in Burma for officers and for men, and that the contents were exactly the same except that the men's daily pack had two pieces of toilet paper and the officers' one had three. Can that be true ?
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Old 15th Feb 2021, 22:48
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Originally Posted by WHBM View Post
Seeing as I'm in good company here, some more questions if you don't mind.

The position in the glazed nose below the pilot seems in Halifax photos to have guns. Was the navigator expected to man these as well or were there two of them in there ?

Were the officers paid more than the sergeants for the same role ? In the family we didn't really know what the pay was, as the bank maintained him on the employment roll from 1942 to 1945, RAF pay was direct to his bank account, and they made up his military pay each month up to his (quite well paid for the time; he was in his 30s) bank position there. I don't know how many employers did this.

He more than once made contemptuous remarks about there being separate daily ration packs in Burma for officers and for men, and that the contents were exactly the same except that the men's daily pack had two pieces of toilet paper and the officers' one had three. Can that be true ?
In the Halifax nose was the bomb aimer as well. He would have been tasked with firing any guns. During night ops I doubt they were fired, but daylight raids may have seen their use.

On pay, I think a newly qualified sergeant pilot earnt around 210 a year,. Pilot Officer around 230.
I am not totally sure , I would have to reference it.
Maybe other users have a better idea?
Either way compared to the US services, the RAF was underpaid. There was a story that a Group Captain earned a similar amount to a Lieutenant in the US airforce.
Having a bank account was a rarity in those times.
It seems he was very fortunate being paid up by the bank.

Last edited by rolling20; 16th Feb 2021 at 07:47.
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Old 16th Feb 2021, 12:48
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Some quick research shows ( in the book The Paladins by John James ) per annum pay scales in 1938 as follows......
corporal observer 164
sergeant observer 200
sergeant pilot 226
flight sergeant pilot 273
pilot officer 264
flying officer 331
flight lieutenant 428
squadron leader 562
wing commander 660
Presumably there was some increase in the war years but I think it shows a fair picture.
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Old 16th Feb 2021, 13:53
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Originally Posted by papajuliet View Post
Some quick research shows ( in the book The Paladins by John James ) per annum pay scales in 1938 as follows......
corporal observer 164
sergeant observer 200
sergeant pilot 226
flight sergeant pilot 273
pilot officer 264
flying officer 331
flight lieutenant 428
squadron leader 562
wing commander 660
Presumably there was some increase in the war years but I think it shows a fair picture.
I remember reading that Jack Currie ,when commissioned as a P/O ,earnt just over 20 a month.
So that would have been slightly less than the 1938 rates if he was correct.
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Old 17th Feb 2021, 07:33
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Originally Posted by papajuliet View Post
Some quick research shows ( in the book The Paladins by John James ) per annum pay scales in 1938 as follows......
corporal observer 164
sergeant observer 200
sergeant pilot 226
flight sergeant pilot 273
pilot officer 264
flying officer 331
flight lieutenant 428
squadron leader 562
wing commander 660
Presumably there was some increase in the war years but I think it shows a fair picture.
I have a recollection (perhaps erroneous) that officers had to buy their own uniforms, sergeants not. Perhaps that is still the case? Anyway, it means the financial differences were in practice less than they seemed.
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Old 17th Feb 2021, 12:43
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Uniforms: yes, long standing practice that junior ranks and NCOs were issued with uniforms from stores, but officers were and are required to buy their own. Flying kit, though, is not "uniform", it is specialist role equipment, so is all stores issue. Just as well, considering the cost of stuff such as NVG and helmet-mounted sights.
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Old 17th Feb 2021, 13:37
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When my father's Stirling was shot down over Belgium all eight on board were killed because he had a second dickey with him otherwise it would have been seven. Feb 1943

In Jan 1942 my mother's brother had a second Pilot with him so I guess between those dates the RAF went to just one Pilot. No doubt due to losses? He survived coming down close to Hamburg in the sea and was saved by a Doctor fresh from the Russian front who was used to low temperatures .
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