View Full Version : Bomber Crew

12-15-2004, 05:35 AM
I have been following the series on Channel 4 on Monday nights about a group of people who are gowing through the sort of training that RAF Bomber crews would have received. Once finished in the last part next week they get to fly in 'THE' Avro Lancaster as well as the B-17.

The subject that I found interesting in the last episode was about the attacks from night fighters. Most of the old gunners interviewed gave me the impression that the bombers where sitting ducks and pretty defenseless against these night predators. Yet when you go up against bombers in Il-2, FB, AEP they are like snipers.

I know I have asked about this before but was the Lancaster not that well armed? Was it harder for them to shoot at night? I am starting to get the impression that the gunners in Il-2/FB/AEP are a little over modelled regardless of what Oleg or anyone else says...


12-15-2004, 05:45 AM
I think the lack of a ventral gun position made the Lancaster (and most British bombers for that matter) a bit vulnerable from attack from below. Mind you, compared to the original release of IL2, bomber crews now appear to considerately shoot with one eye closed and cease firing altogether once the aircraft starts spiralling into the ground.

12-15-2004, 06:09 AM
Actually most British heavies (Stirling, Halifax, Lancaster) were designed with twin gun ventral turrets but these were almost always deleted in service (the Stirling evolved to a version with completely different gun arrangements anyway). The Hampden had a ventral position but was lightly armed.

British tail gun turrets had a large field of fire so in theory this could cover a lot of the rear ventral area, but not enough in reality.

The other difference between real life and IL2 is that in real life the bomber crew found it very had to see a dark nightfighter approaching below them over dimly lit landscapes in the dark. If the nightfighter was seen approaching then there was a chance of shooting it down. Shrage Musik, though, meant that the approach could be done from below, hidden against the dark ground with no chance of the bomber crew seeing a silhoutte.

Some crews apparently did jury rig a 20mm cannon firing through the rear floor of Lancasters. I am not sure what success they had with it.

12-15-2004, 06:41 AM
Lancasters, as far as I'm aware, had a rear turret with 4x.303s, a nose turret with the same, and a dorsal turret with either 1 or 2x.303.

At least, that's what I remember without checking.

12-15-2004, 07:33 AM
I think the key to understanding the controversies is that the Oleg's gunners see in the dark and in bad weather as if it were a clear day. Just another simplification of the software we must live with.

12-15-2004, 07:33 AM

Agh! A British Bomber expert? I know diddle squat about British Bombers, but did the Lancaster supercede the Halifax and the Stirling? From what I saw on the program, bomber crews were delighted to get onto the Lanc cos the others where a bit naff...

12-15-2004, 07:38 AM
Yup, the Lancaster superceded the Halifax and Stirling, it was based on a twin engine design called the Manchester, but was underpowered and a bit naff. Then a bright spark had the idea of using 4 Merlins and redesigning the wings to take em and the Lancaster was born http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif


12-15-2004, 08:31 AM
The Lancaster was normally in service with no belly turret, but the prototype (then called the Manchester III, but with 4 separate engine nacelles) had a belly turret.

A few production Halifaxes were seen with belly turrets, and the Stirling production originally sported a dustbin turret like the Ju 52.

The Manchester was much like the He 177 in the way the engines worked (pairs of engines coupled in a single nacelle).

12-15-2004, 08:34 AM

There is a picture about halfway down of a B. Mk 1 Lanc with what might be the twin gun ventral turret.

12-15-2004, 08:47 AM
the stats on that page are very interesting, it would be nice to find out how much "real" damage to the German war effort was done by the two forces.

12-15-2004, 08:49 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by VonShlagnoff:
the stats on that page are very interesting, it would be nice to find out how much "real" damage to the German war effort was done by the two forces. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Here is Albert Speer's view on that subject:

Albert Speer, Spandau, the Secret Diaries (1976)

The real importance of the air war consisted in the fact that it opened a second front before the invasion of Europe. The front was the skies over Germany. Every square metre of the territory we controlled was a kind of front line. Defence against air attacks required the production of thousands of anti-aircraft guns, the stockpiling of tremendous quantities of ammunition over the country, and holding in readiness hundreds of thousands of soldiers, who in addition had to stay in position by their guns, often totally inactive, for months at a time."

12-15-2004, 08:52 AM
It was interesting, one of the chaps said that basically if the German fighter pilot was any good he'd just sit behind at about 1000m and blast away with his cannon, the defensive guns weren't effective at anything near that range. I think that was in reference to daylight attacks.

With radar guidance the Luftwaffe night fighters seemed to have it awful easy against bomber crews, it must have been nearly impossible to spot them cruising in from below on a dark night.

Cheers, Spinner

12-15-2004, 10:29 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>With radar guidance the Luftwaffe night fighters seemed to have it awful easy against bomber crews, it must have been nearly impossible to spot them cruising in from below on a dark night. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
That would explain why the gunners weren't that effective then, except in Il-2/FB/AEP where they can see in the dark http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/88.gif

Was it mainly Me110s used for night fighter duties? I image with those deadly cannon in the nose they would have been quite formidable http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/blink.gif

12-15-2004, 10:31 AM
They used quite a lot of Ju-88's in the night fighter role as well as Me-110's.

12-15-2004, 11:04 AM
ya ju8 me110. picking up targets is rather hard in the dark which is why they bombed at night.

losses where not often really bad per raid, but lose a few % each night and it adds up.

the rear turret could aim up 60degrees, and down to -45, and 92 or so left and right. armed with 4 303 with a fireing rate of 4800rounds per minute. later ones had twin .50s, and some had various radar and other aids. including computing sight http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif. the front turret had a similer range of fire, but only 2 303's (frontal attacks very very rare at night due to view distance)
lanc could carry some 12,000 rounds of 303 ammo also.

also attacks from underneath would be very hard from conventional forward weapon fighters, and these where 3-4 crew aircraft, with bulky radar and stuff...
also a ventral turret = extra crewman, weight and performance loss and less bombload... and argueable weather he would be able to see the fighter...

personaly, my 3 ideas for a bottom gun are 1, copy system off blehiem, but mirrors and stuff needed my prove useless at night. 2 a iccle turret (which was fitted to some) and 3 a window and gun al la side guns on b24 but in floor for bomb aimer/radio man...

i think fireing from 1000metres would rely on the explosive power of cannon rounds, not the kenetic energy.

also remmber bomber command kept operatin throughout the war, while german bombers hadto stop attackin britain due to losses (and they went from france to somewhere in the uk and back) while lancs would go to berlin and even further...

sterling was replaced totaly in 44, and halifax carried on with lanc..

12-16-2004, 06:33 AM
The RAF did tests mid war (1943 I think) and concluded that the 4 .303 guns were the most suitable for night operations. The effect on attacking planes in terms of morale of 4 .303s (high rate of fire) with tracer tended to put them off their aim and at short ranges it was capable of causing reasonable damage (from which I surmise that the nightfighters were not well armoured against rifle calibre bullets from the front). In addition there were large stocks of .303 guns and not many .50s available.

Later when the RAF resumed daylight attacks the .50s were used.

.50s were used on some RAF planes for night operations, though, notably the front flexible gun on the later Halifaxes (replacing a flexible Vickers K .303) and on ventral blisters on a few Halifaxes, Stirlings, and Lancasters (sort of a bit like the blisters on a B17B).

Some remote ventral turrets with twin .303s were also tried on the Stirling , Halifax, and Lancaster (I've only seen a picture of one on a Halifax) but were felt to be unsatisfactory and were frequently deleted, sometimes replaced with the .50 mounts, although these were often deleted too!

I am not sure if the units that fitted a 20mm cannon in the Lancaster ventral position were reusing .50 ventral fairings or if it was just through a hole cut in the fuselage floor on a totally unofficial basis.

On the whole the attitude of RAF bomber command, despite planes coming back that had obviously been attacked via Shrage Musik was that the extra weight of the mountings wasn't worth it - that a bit more speed, range, or bomb carrying capacity was more worthwhile. I can see their point in a way - life in Bomber Command was depressingly brief and a ventral gun might have not extended average crew life by very much at the expense of the total tonnage dropped. A horrible decision to make, and potentially devastating for individual crews faced with a ventral attack with no means of defending against it. I've sometimes wondered if some sort of ventral flare system might not have been effective: set of a brief magnesium flash like a flash gun and ruin the approaching night fighters vision. A brief flash still gives the plane time to avoid subsequent attacks from other nightfighters if it corkscrews afterwards.

Ultimately the solution was to deploy Mosquito NFs of various marks to escort the bomber stream.

12-16-2004, 06:36 AM
"sterling was replaced totaly in 44, and halifax carried on with lanc.."

The Lancaster production was increasingly prioritised, though.

The Stirling gave excellent service in many glider towing and transport roles, and the Halifax saw some similar service, plus as a parachute drop plane.

The biggest two problems with the Stirling, though, was the limited ceiling (due to wing length restrictions) and the design of the bomb bays which meant that it was very difficult to carry more than 250lb bombs. It was reputed to be very maneouverable. And a very good looking plane too, of course.

What many people forget is the role of the Wellington. It was the backbone of the force into 1943, plus in its various derivatives was also important for coastal command and in AEW research.

12-16-2004, 11:31 AM
true http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

also a night fighter hadto be in visual range to manouver for the kill, what was radius of radar anyways? 45degrees if that, at a guess

12-17-2004, 03:57 AM
Radar performance and behaviour varied enormously during WW2, pingu. The earliest AI sets (both LW and RAF) had a minimum range - i.e. when you got closer than around 1000 yards the radar could no longer see the target and you were forced to use cats eyes methods to complete the intercept and a lot were missed at this point. The Do 217 NFs were often equipped with IR sights which might have helped with this phase. As centimetric radar became more common the minimum distance became much shorter.

As an interesting aside on radar the RAF conducted a complex series of dummy aircraft movements using various techniques to produce a larger radar signals as a diversionary tactic on D-Day.

12-17-2004, 08:15 AM
ya, 617 doing timed window drops over sea, at night. its one of the most impressive bits of flying ive heard of...

for those that dont know
lancasters with a full load of window (different size/shape for normal, i think) flew at LOW level droping window to make a convoy. the aircraft would haveto keep a circuit moving slowly forward, and drop at exactly the right time and place. this is in the dead of night, with VERY few nav aids, and any mistake would give the game away.. there where a few ships, with loadspeakers to blast out the noise of a full fleet http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

at dawn, german guns opened up... navel guns at the lancs, it was a success http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif

12-17-2004, 09:12 AM
Read Bomber by Len Deighton, it will tell you everything you need to know about bomber interception!