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Thread: Observers duties

  1. #1
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    Default Observers duties

    Am I right in assuming that Observers were equally proficient in both Nav and B/A duties.?
    If so how was it determined whether an Observer would become a Navigator or a Bomb Aimer, was it decided by the men themselves when crewing up at OTU or was it out of their hands?
    Also, was it commonplace for them to switch duties, e.g. a few Ops as B/A and some as Nav when at a squadron. We're talking mid to late '42 if that helps any.

    Cheers

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    Whilst I don't answer your question, can I point you towards "Observers and Navigators" by C G Jefford.

    As you will find, there is no simple answer and navigators came in many shapes and sizes when they and Air Bombers were created.

    Old Duffer

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    Hi Pete,

    it is difficult to answer in short - I recommend to read as Oldduffer suggested.

    Only general overview - in early stage of was there was only one man - Observer who was doing the navigator and bomb aimer duty. Later the duty was divided into Navigator and Bomb Aimer, also I remember trade NAV B what I understand as Navigator for bomber plane.

    I think that both B/A and Nav have knowledge of the duty carried by the other man but they were not able to substitute fully each other - I can imagine Navigator releasing bombs in emergency situation but not the A/B navigating the plane home, I think that the skipper would be more capable in such a situation.

    Best regards

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Yes, an Observer could both navigate and drop bombs. I think you need to look at the type of aircraft being flown. Light and medium bombers could be adequately crewed by an Observer. Heavy bombers required a navigator and an air bomber. You also need to look at the time period, after 1942 the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan no longer trained Observers. You were trained as a Nav, an Air Bomber, or a Nav B. The first two are self-explanatory, a Nav B was a variation of the Observer trade and could navigate and drop bombs, but would only operate on certain types of aircraft; e.g. those operating on B25s would be required to navigate and drop bombs, those operating on heavy bombers, e.g. Lancasters etc, would be either a Nav or an Air Bomber.
    Regards, Terry

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    Pete
    My RAAF father trained as an Observer in Australia then [as far as I can make out from his limited service records] as a Bombaimer at West Freugh in Scotland as well as training courses in England .He was an Observer in 104 RAF on Wellingtons in Italy [but may have been a B/A as well] then took a refresher ? Bombaimer's course before being transferred to 31 SAAF in Italy on Liberators .On his last mission there was a young [aged 19 or 20] navigator as well as himself [aged 28] as B/A.

    Anne
    Last edited by aestorm; 6th October 2011 at 08:28.

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    My father was one of the last to be trained as an Observer in Canada and graduated in April 42. He got to choose whether he wanted to be a Navigator or B/A a couple of months later. His ability to choose may not have been available to everyone at the time they were dividing up the duties, he had done well in training and was made an Officer upon graduating. He was fully trained for both jobs.
    Some heavy Bomber squadrons such as 582 Squadron (Pathfinder Lancs) listed up to 3 Navigators on a crew but never list Bomb Aimers although someone was certainly dropping the bombs. I believe the one designated as Navigator II worked the H2S set. Only some of the aircraft carried someone designated as Navigator III and I am not sure what their duties were.
    Cheers
    Dave Wallace
    Last edited by David Wallace; 6th October 2011 at 15:07.

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    Thanks everyone, plenty of food for thought there and it looks like I'm going to be buying another book!

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