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Thread: Wellington 1c Ventral turret

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    Default Wellington 1c Ventral turret

    Hello, Forumites,
    I wonder if anyone can help. I am a Volunteer at the Brooklands Museum in the UK, and have a question. The ventral turret fitted to the early marks of Wellington was not a success, and they were removed early in the War.
    We are in contact with a person who lost a relative in Wellington 1c, R3236, of 37 Sqn on the 7th July 1940, who states that the aircraft was still fitted with the ventral turret (that from evidence from a German photo purporting to be of R3236 after it was shot down). Various books and articles on the subject state that 1c's had the ventral turrets retrospectively removed; was it possible that these turrets were sometimes still "in situ" some time after they were "officially" taken off the aircraft??
    ttfn
    Andy Wis

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    Andy,
    Strictly speaking not an answer to your question, but when the decision was made to remove these apparently next-to-useless turrets, an order would have been flashed out to all relevant stations to undertake this work, although no doubt some could have been removed by travelling working parties (just a guess). However each aircraft would have to be operated on in turn to extract the useless dead weight from its belly, so it could have taken several weeks to complete all removals, perhaps even longer. I have read somewhere an account of removing these turrets "on squadron", sometime in 1940 from memory, and it involved lifting the rear fuselage of the aircraft up above the horizontal (which as anybody who has ever lifted the tail of a "conventional for 1940s" aircraft will know, is almost guaranteed to result in the abused aircraft sudddenly "leaning forward" in a helpful gesture to assist the stupid humans, only to end up smashed down on its "chin" with the tail end up very high (maybe 20 feet or more in air for a Wellington). Thus this was a delicate operation to be undertaken by some thoughtful people observing all the rules drawn up for this type of operation. Incidentally although the date of the initial order to remove ventral turrts may well be known, it would also have included a reference to the priority or otherwise of this modifcation, which must also have included the counterbalancing of the whole aircraft to return the CoG to its original postion, possibly including some moving around of existing equipment. However this would be a rather complicated job in itself, although additon of a counterweight well forward of the CoG, probably in nose somewhere, would have the desired effect at the expense of an equivalent weight of payload. Also presumably all the hydralic lines would have been removed, and a fairing plate installed to fill the resulting "hole in the floor".
    David D

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    If the ventral turret was removed from aft of the bombbay, then rebalancing to the same cg position would mean adding ballast behind the cg, not in front. However, as moving the cg forward does not generally have the same stability implications as moving it aft, it may be that the aircraft continued to fly with the new forward cg position. At least, just as long as it wasn't so far forward as to give trimming problems in raising the nose.

    As the normal Wellington did not have a ventral turret, this suggests no handling problems needing ballasting without it. However, there are other trimming possibilities that can't be judged with the information I have, such as any limitations that might have existed on carrying bombs in the rear of the bay when fitted with the turret. Later Wellingtons had two side guns and a gunner in much the same position: this also suggests that the Wellington had no trimming problems.

    The difficulty is that descriptions in published text talk about changes to the armament such as adding or removal of turret, without going into descriptions of what ballast changes were involved. How much ballast did the normal Wellington carry, if any? Weapons changes could be coped with by adding or removing weight here.

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    Having looked up several different references on the internet, it would appear that the Wellington 1c was not built with the ventral turret but with the two beam-mounted guns. I think that this modification may well have led to the designation of "1c" as opposed to the earlier "1a". More than one source has stated that the "1c" differed from the earlier version in "Having the ventral turret removed and beam guns being mounted instead". If the aforementioned is the case, then the photograph from German sources is almost certainly spurious and I have to add that I have seen this picture, with the "dustbin" turret prominant, used in another context not related to a Wellington.
    Bill.

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    I've looked up the Putnam Vickers book, and it states that the Mk.IC had a redesigned hydraulic system and 24volt electrical system. It also claims that these mods (and others) were introduced locally and the designation applied retrospectively.

    It does say, interestingly, that difficulties with the Vickers turrets ..."combined with the cg problems caused by the Frazer Nash ventral turret.....hence the deletion of the ventral turret and the general introduction of the Frazer Nash nose and stern turrets" So removal of it wouldn't cause any stability or trim problems.

    The placing of this statement (in discussion of a proposed Mk.IB, effectively the service Mk.IA) suggests that only Mk.IA aircraft had this turret. It then goes on to state that the introduction of beam guns instead of the ventral turret was "introduced on the Mk.IC" which is somewhat ambiguous but in context implies (at least to me) that no Mk.IC would have this turret. However, the Air Ministry statement of 19th August 1940 says "Mk.IA and Mk.IC aircraft on which the mid turret has not been fitted are to be considered as the standard aircraft for their respective types." This implies to me that some Mk.IC were indeed built with the ventral guns - but the phrasing doesn't have to mean that so again full clarity is lacking.

    Are there any photos of Mk.ICs showing this turret? I assume not, or this discussion wouldn't be taking place, but what is visible when the turret is carried? Is it possible to say that an aircraft in a photo does NOT have the turret?

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    Sorry for making a complete pig's bottom of rebalancing a Wellington with the ventral turret removed - what was I thinking of?! To make some amends, I quote from AP 1578A-PN ("Pilots' notes for Wellington I, IA, and IC aeroplanes") of June 1940, amended up to November 1940.

    The Wellington IA aeroplane.
    12. The Wellington IA aeroplane is similar in general design to the Wellington I but is provided with a larger undercarriage unit is consequence of increased load. Nash and Thompson gun turrets are substituted in the fuselaage nose and tail and and an additional retractable one is introduced amidships in the undersurface, all being hydraulically-operated and carrying an armament of two Browning .303 in. guns each; the mid-turret is operated by an additional pump driven by the starboard engine. The provision of a further gun station increases the nominal crew complement to five. An additional soundproof bulkhead with a gangway door is built across the frame at the rear of the pilot's cockpit, and armour plating is provided behind the wireless operator's seat, giving protection to the wireless operator and pilot against gunfire from the rear.
    (Rest of notes in separate post).

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    AP 1578A continues.
    13. Provision is made for jettisoning the fuel from the four main plane tanks. An armour plating protection is provided for these tanks but will give place to the provision of protected tanks. The oil tanks, similarly, are being replaced by protected type. A fluid de-icing system is provided for the carburettor air-intakes. Floation (sic) gear, consisting of inflatable bags, is provided in the fuselage bomb cells. A T.R.9.F. transmitter-receiver and beam approach equipment, both operated by the pilot, are installed.

    Wellington IC Aeroplane.
    14. The Wellington IC aeroplane is almost identical to the Wellington IA, with the main exception that the electrical system, including engine starting, is operated from a 24-volt supply provided by two 12-volt accumulators in series, in conjunction with a 24-volt generator driven by the starboard engine. A complete re-arrangement of the wiring system is also involved, and an automatic bomb distributor unit is added. The pump for the general services hydraulic system is replaced by one of a different design and the same hydraulic system is modified.

    And that's it! If anybody want's further clarrification of the original Wellington I, I will see what I can do, but the technical descriptions are very detailed and lengthy! However thses do include some intersting descriptions of early war modifications, both built-in at manufacture as well as retrofits. As may be aduced, some production modifications introduced would be impractical to attempt to incorporate in existing (earlier) aircraft. However the original armament scheme for this version simply lists the original Vickers nose and tail turrets, nothing else. Also at some point, it is noted that "On later aeroplanes, sound-proofing material is inserted inside the fuselage fabric covering forward of the leading edge frame which is itself provided with a sound-proof bulkhead." Also worth noting is that this version is described as having a nominal crew of four; "pilot, navigator (also acting as the front gunner and bomb aimer), wireless operator and rear gunner." (In other words a pilot, an observer, a W/Op and an A/G, all my own words!)
    These notes also give an idea of the early primitive state of Wellingtons, most built in peace time and ill-suited for modern war; a good description of the early cabin heating system is also included.
    David D

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    Default Wellington Ventral Turret

    Hi, All
    Thank you very much for your responses - If anyone is interested, I can give a link which shows the wreckage of R3236, with the ventral gun in the shot. I would be interested to find out if that photo is indeed of that particular aircraft....
    Andy WIS

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    The whole story of ventral turrets on again/off again RAF Bombers is fascinating and ill-told. I presume it was the same turret as fitted to the first armed Halifax? It is clear from the Putnam text that the Wellington had stability problems with the turret on, which (with hindsight, perhaps) would appear to have been predictable. It may have been a matter of how limiting they turned out to be in practice. Turrets did have a habit of ending up heavier than predicted. If the FN tail turret was heavier than the Vickers, then it was the whole package that was causing the problems, and removal of the ventral turret the easiest solution. We know from elsewhere that it was not a particularly good system: suffering from high drag, poor visibility and awkward to use, unlike the tail turret.

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    It's me again!
    Sorry, nothing to do with ventral turrets this time, but definitely stimulated by (and study of) the relevant documents. H F King's "Armament of British Aircraft, 1909 - 1939" (Putnam's, 1971) on page 419 - 423 describes the planned armamant of the original production Wellington (which of course became the Wellington I), and the unusual "Vickers" (B N Wallis designed) fore and aft turrets, with streamlined fixed ICI "Perspex" tops. These were originally designed to have manual operation but apparently the Air Ministry insisted (probably quite rightly) that they should be power operated, and requested that they embody Frazer-Nash "power control units." The illustration shows a twin-gun (nose?) turret of this type (page 423), and all reference to these turrets seems to indicate that both fore and aft turrets were to be fitted with two Brownings. However the Pilots Notes (AP1578A) insists (in Para 7) that only the tail turret had twin guns, with nose turret mounting but a single Browning. Anybody wish to comment on this apparent discrepancy?
    David D

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