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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 4th Jun 2009, 07:19
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I'm curious - how many of your 29 operational sorties where conducted while you were with sqdn 51 at Snaith? Did some (short hauls) only count for a 1/2 or 1/3?

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Old 4th Jun 2009, 09:49
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Cliffnemo: I see you managed to get the 800th post!!
Well done for starting such an interesting thread on 5th June last year, so almost up to the anniversary.

Would it be possible for either (or both) you and regle (hope you getting better) to just run through the entire course of an actual raid?
Did you orbit the airfield gaining height until all airborne or set off immediately? How did you maintain separation from not only other aircraft from your Sqdn but others whilst forming up? Were Sqdns allocated a certain altitude and ETA to be over the target? Were you aware of being in a certain part of the bomber stream, first second or third wave etc? How long would it generally take to cross the North Sea and to reach "operational" height?

I can get a general sense from reading various Bomber Command and Sqdn histories but as you are both so eloquent in evoking those times, I'm sure there is an awful lot more that has never brought home to us youngsters, how each crew performed during a raid, to better understand what you all went through.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 13:52
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Icare9Raid procedure

Very sketchily and remember, it was a long time ago.

A briefing for all designated crews would take place any time after midday on the day. The Target and the route would be disclosed and the position of the Squadron in the attack. ie. First Wave of X waves with a time bracket of X minutes . Specific point of attack on target for the Squadron ( Always subject to Master Bomber Corrections later as the PFF got better and better ).Specific Altitudes to be flown and adhered to . Separation was always your own responsibility so constant vigilance was the price of safety. There was NO formation flying and your gunners were your eyes. There was also "Monica" which gave a constant Sqwauk" if something got close to you and was such a b....dy nuisance it was often switched off.

As the organisation got better, various turning points were shown by flares dropped by the PFF and the times over these points had to be strictly kept to the point of slowing down or speeding up where neccessary.. NOte. NEVER circuiting as this was asking for collisions and there were many, believe me.

It took the average loaded bomber an average of 500ft, per minute to climb to the designated cruising altitude. Obviously this differed from target to target and from Station to Station. There was absolutely no R/T allowed between aircraft. Crew cooperation was vital and don't forget that "corkscrewing " and evasion manoeuvres were tantamount and contributed to an Almighty mass of weaving and twisting flock of aercraft, usually from four hundred to seven hundred strong making their tortuous way there and back over times ranging from five to nine hours.

You can imagine the dilemma of aircraft caught up in searchlights or engaged in a battle with nightfighters. They had to try and stay with the stream for safety and , many times, this was impossible. Very often the way chosen by these unfortunates was to get down as low as possible and try and make their way back by the shortest route.

Finally as an example of the concentration that was achieved I take , from my logbook, Nov.3rd.1943 Target. Dusseldorf. Bombed from 19,000ft. 650 aircraft concentrated over 20 minutes of attack I also note that there were hundreds of searchlights. How many of the casualties were from collisions or avoiding collisions or even from bombs from other aircraft I can only guess.. but it was not pleasant, I can assure you.

I do hope that the decription of organised chaos helps in a search for what it was like. I hope that none of you ever have to go through anything like it. Reg.
Old 4th Jun 2009, 14:32
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Reg. That's a fantastic description of the aerial dodgems you performed and your summary."organised chaos" is not over-egging the scene.

The thought of that many aircraft, flying that close, with differing flight-capabilities, loads,speeds and agilities, is truly remarkable.

In view of the "hundreds of searchlights" I'm surprised there wasn't a low-level (fighter?) attack coordinated on them. but there again, I'm not a military man.
I can only remain humbled by your courage,fortitude and skill ,continually launching into the darkness with such primitive resources.

Thanks to all of you who are posting your recollections here.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 19:36
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22 and every one of them counted. Some of them should have counted as double but they were not that generous.They were.Hamburg, 23rd.July 43, Nuremburg, 10th. August, Milan,12th. August, Peenemunde, 17th.August, Leverkusen, 22nd. August, Berlin, 23rd. August, Nuremburg, 27th. August, Berlin,31st. August, Mannheim, 5th. Sept., Munich, 6th. Sept., Frankfurt, 4th. Oct.., Hannover, 8th. Oct., Kassel.,22nd. Oct. Dusseldorf., 3rd. Nov.,Cannes marshalling yards.,11th. Nov., Leverkusen.19th., Nov.,Berlin. 22nd. Nov., Stuttgart. 26th. Nov., Leipzig.3rd., Dec.,1943. Berlin. 20th.Jan. 1944 and finally Berlin ., 28th. Jan. 1944. I had started my tour on Oct. 27th.1942 with a daylight low level Mosquito raid on Antwerp Power station.
Much later on ,Mine laying and minor attacks on V1 and V2 sites were not counted as full Ops. During the attacks that I participitated in ,there must have been well over eight hundred ,four engined aircraft missing over the various targets. Each one with a minimum of seven crew members. I was a very,very lucky man. It did not matter how good a pilot you were . Well, it did matter, of course but luck played a huge factor...such as being in the first wave over Peenemunde. Probably the biggest bit was when the Me109 formated on me over Berlin on my very last "Op" as I was droppimng my bombs and pointed at his guns, shrugged his shoulders, saluted me and half rolled and dived away. I shall never forget that. Reg.

Last edited by regle; 5th Jun 2009 at 15:44. Reason: date error
Old 4th Jun 2009, 21:40
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For a long time I have felt ashamed of the way the bravery of our Bomber crews have not been properly recognised with a Campaign Medal. The stories of regle and cliffmemo have driven it home even more.

How ordinary men, who normally would have worked in shops, offices and fields, could go out over Germany every night against weather and the German defences has always amazed me. These stories have brought that home to me even more vividly.

Thanks chaps and please go on.
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Old 5th Jun 2009, 00:09
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Amen to that pulse1, but being the men they were, and in Cliff and Reg's case still are, little or no complaint at that slight, being more upset at the lack of ennoblement for Bomber Harris, alone among his peers. As a nation we failed him and his "Old Lags" and should be eternally ashamed. Thank goodness for Mr Gibbs and his campaign for a London Memorial. Later perhaps there may be a Bomber Command Heritage Centre at RAF Bicester, a perfectly preserved BC WW2 Training Airfield. And thank goodness for the Queen Mother who was always ready to stand up and be counted on their behalf.
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Old 5th Jun 2009, 02:33
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Probably the biggest bit was when the Me109 formated on me over Berlin on my very last "Op" as I was droppimng my bombs and pointed at his guns, shrugged his shoulders, saluted me and half rolled and dived away.

(more characters)
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Old 5th Jun 2009, 07:14
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I have just finished reading a brilliant book called "Men of Air" which details the life of Bomber Command crews from early 1943 on.

To be a crew member on just one of those raids would have been daunting enough, but the courage required to do it night after night, knowing what was waiting for you; flak, night fighters, collisions and weather is something that just humbles me.

To those who served, my total respect and thanks.
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Old 5th Jun 2009, 08:41
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Cliffnemo, Happy Anniversary for this extremely interesting thread.

Regle, glad you are back in action and giving us your memories.

I am thoroughly enjoying this thread, it has added information to the stories my dad (F/E with 36 ops on Halifax III's with 158 Sqn Lisset from June 1944 to the end) has told me over the years.
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Old 5th Jun 2009, 11:05
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Amazing! One year on and over 800 posts later this thread still has the power to interest and excite.

Congratulations and thanks to cliffnemo, regle and other posters from that era. Please, keep the information coming.
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Old 5th Jun 2009, 16:09
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A thought on the appearance of the Bomber streams over Germany

I suddenly realised that the use of the "Bomber Stream" that superseded the original practice of sending aircraft over a target for as long a period as possible so that the defences were constantly in action and the workers were kept sleepless; a tactic that led to far too many losses and was then completely reversed to saturate the defences. was comparable with the wonderful Television scenes that have recently been shown of Flocks of Starlings and other birds, wheeling and manoueuvering in their hundreds and thousands. Even more apt are the scenes of fish, once again, in what must approach a million, being attacked by predators and the comparison becomes very real to the line of boxes that the Luftwaffe installed from Norway to the French frontier with Spain , each box with it's complement of radar bearing and radar controlled nightfighters. As is clearly shown on these scenes, the unfortunate stragglers and outside edgers are the ones that are picked off and piercing of the entire mass becomes well nigh impossible, so closely packed are they. Unfortunately we did not possess the innate ability to wheel and make the instant reflex avoiding action that these creatures seem to possess so that the whole mass changed direction and speed without even thinking or so it would seem. Nevertheless, that is the nearest that you will get to a simile as to what the bomber stream became. The Americans adopted the stream tactics and , with the appearance of the Packard Merlin Mustang, added fighters to the daylight stream. This effectively paved the way to the complete air superiority that the Allies eventually achieved and the Germans found that their troops and their civilians were being slaughtered as had the inhabitants of Poland. Rotterdam and the many victims of the initial "blitzkrieg". The sowing of the wind had reaped the whirlwind.

Last edited by regle; 5th Jun 2009 at 18:49. Reason: addition
Old 5th Jun 2009, 19:20
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pointed at his guns, shrugged his shoulders, saluted me
Jammed guns/out of ammo? - what other explanation could it be? That, Reg, is luck but given that you often had Charlie Porter on board you and the rest of your crew must have been considered elite.

As with Icare9 I would like to hear about the daily "routine" details leading up the actual raid and the post raid debriefing.

I watched Night Bombers last night - for me this movie is not so easy to get due to country code formats - no one on this side of the pond sells it. I found a website FactualTV - Free videos and documentaries, watch online or download where is can be downloaded for a small fee in a country code independent format and then burned to a dvd. This website seems legit however I have never used them before.

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Old 6th Jun 2009, 15:44
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Duration Of Fire

Rmventuri. Jammed guns/out of ammo?

More likely out of ammo. Can't remember duration for .303 or .5s. but read recently that the Mustang 's duration of fire was only twenty seconds. Not the minutes, for which the aces on film keep their finger on the button.

During instruction on air to air gunnery, we were taught 'wait til you see the whites of their eyes' ( below 250 yards), and don't waste ammunition.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 19:58
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daily routine and de.briefing

An Air test was nearly always carried out on the morning of an Op. The flight usually took around an hour and was made at around 5,000 ft. This was in order to practice some three engine flying and to check the feathering procedures and I would refer you to previous threads of mine when I related what went on when all four engines feathered when a single button was pressed.
Crew cooperation in getting out of an aircraft was sometimes practised. (Up to a point of course !) A lot was left to the Captain and very little checking was ever done by more senior Officers. I was never a strict disciplinarian but discouraged idle chatter over the intercom as you never knew when it would be vital that the intercom was was clear in case of an emergency or in the sighting of an aircraft which could be vital to take the appropriate action.
The various categories of the crew members would make their checks very differently. The Gunners would be testing their turret manoeuvres and also their guns. By the way, we always had live ammunition available for night flying and air tests. The Bomb aimer would be cooperating with the navigator on the checking and rechecking of their respective instruments and Gee or H2S and most Captains would pose various emergencies such as sudden violent turns and dives whilst inthe middle of parachute drill. This was very unpopular and obviously had to be limited in it's scope. The parachutes were all of the chest type and it was vital that everyone knew the position of his own 'chute as well as the position of the others.
The W/op would be sending and receiving although this was sometimes forbidden to prevent the enemy getting some foreknowledge of impending raids from the amount of radio messages that would be picked up. The F/E would be the one whom the Captain would probably be giving a spot of flying practice as he was the one most likely to take over if the Pilot was incapacitaated or worse. This would be very limited in trying to show how to hold the aeroplane straight and level. Sometimes the Bomb aimer or Navigator would have been on a pilot's course and had failed but this was rare and I have never heard of a non pilot crew member bringing an aircraft back and landing in England or even in succeeding in the crew bailing out
Some people were able to sleep for a while during the afternoon but I can't remember getting very much. I know that a lot of letters were written and given to crews to hand on, who were not on Ops that night. During the day the various fitters and armourers would be loading the aircraft with their deadly cargo and the Bowser people would be very busy fuelling up the aircraft. The amount of fuel going on would soon become very well known around the crews who would make educated guesses as to the whereabouts of the target. The Ruhr, or Happy Valley, as it was known would mean a much lighter load than Berlin or Munich.
It would soon become time to pile into the transports that were all awaiting and we would go to the parachute section and draw our chutes to the usual stale jokes "If it does'nt work, bring it back..."etc. and then we would be dropped off in crews at the various dispersals where the ground crew who had been working all day were there to welcome us. The "Chiefy" would tell the Captain all the little things that had been done to his precious "Kite" and we would get in to our respective places, go through the Check lists meticulously and await the start up signal, usually a "Very Light " but sometimes by R/T. Then the ponderous, waddling , heavily laden 'planes would start their taxying to the Takeoff point. There would always be a huge crowd of the Station personnel to see you off and it was a very emotional moment when your Green light came and you opened up the four engines and slowly gathered speed to the waving and ,I know for a fact, tears of the many onlookers from the Station Commander down to the lowest airman and airwoman.
From there on it was the slow climb to cruising altitude which would not always be reached until you were well over the North Sea and you would see the myriads of others all pointed in the same direction scattered all over the darkening sky but with the sun setting behind them they would be very clear.
Then, all too soon, the Navigator would say "Enemy Coast ahead" and the battle was on. Reg

Last edited by regle; 6th Jun 2009 at 22:24.
Old 7th Jun 2009, 01:39
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Reg that is a wonderfully evocative description - thank you. It's the small details (parachute jokes etc) that bring it all alive.

What I'm interested in is the daily routine stuff. For example, does anyone know who would have completed the weight and balance for each aircraft, or even if it was calculated for each individual aircraft at all? I remember seeing a metal cut-out silhouette of a Manchester with weights hanging off it at the BBMF visitors centre at Coningsby last month - which was apparently used by captains to calculate the trim for their aircraft. But was that a daily thing or was it completed by the 'powers that be' for operations?
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Old 7th Jun 2009, 10:37
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There would always be a huge crowd of the Station personnel to see you off and it was a very emotional moment when your Green light came and you opened up the four engines and slowly gathered speed to the waving and ,I know for a fact, tears of the many onlookers from the Station Commander down to the lowest airman and airwoman.
A very moving account and it does give a real feel for what the mood of these operations was like. More please. The detail is really interesting!
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Old 8th Jun 2009, 12:26
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I think this will interest most of you. Regle

I receive a monthly "News Letter" from Belgium where I flew with Sabena for thirty years. The latest contained a story of a desperately damaged B17 that was trying to get back to England.... the story is told on snopes.com: Charlie Brown and I think will interest most of you.
When I recall the Me109 that formated on me over Berlin and virtually escorted me on my bombing run before pointing to his guns, shrugging his shoulders, saluting and then half rolling into a dive away, I can empathise with the incident described in the above link.
When one hears of the agonising atrocities that war, inevitably brings it is heart warming to hear of the acts of chivalry that still survived the conflict. Reg.
Old 9th Jun 2009, 04:47
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regle, thanks ever so for your insight into this period of history. One question, your opinion on the RAF practice of only one pilot against the US two pilots on bombers. I guess it was not a subject of discussion at the time. I dips me lid.
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Old 9th Jun 2009, 10:45
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Two Pilots

The answer was simple, Brian. It was a luxury that we could not afford. The earlier days of the war , we did not have enough pilots to replace the losses. The Battle of Britain was , probably a far closer run thing than the Battle of Waterloo as we were down to our very last few pilots. Thanks to Beaverbrook we had the mqchines but the training programmes in the U.K. were virtually useless due to our weather problems and the far flung Empire Training programme was a long and arduous process. The US came to our rescue with the Arnold and, later the Towers schemes but it took time.
The decision was made that second pilots were not to be used except for training purposes and, even then, only very rarely as we just could not afford the loss of two pilots with one machine.
From about mid 1944 the position changed and the unfortunate trainees found themselves destined for the Glider pilots lost at fiascoes like Arnhem. By that time though, the Air superiority had become ours. The US Air Force by the very nature of their Operations which, apart from the strategic selection of daylight targets was also deliberately designed to bring the Luftwaffe up and to destroy as many of the Fighters as possible also brought on the real danger of the Pilot being incapacitated and by very nature of the long and tiring Formation Flying, two pilots were necessary and , like their magnificent capacity for churning out machines and machinery, they were able to provide the neccessary pilots. We stuck it out and turned the tide but we have a lot to thank the USA for.

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