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Thread: Halifax Heavy Conversion Unit syllabus

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    Default Halifax Heavy Conversion Unit syllabus

    Heavy Conversion Unit 12 week course syllabus

    I have recently read the 1941-1945 ORB for No. 1663 H.C.U. A Halifax conversion unit based at RAF Rufforth in Yorkshire during WWII. There, twin-engine experienced crews were converted to the heavier 4 engine Halifax aircraft At the start of conversion training, a additional air-gunner and flight engineer, joined the 5 man crew from the OTUs. The crew now totalled 7 and depending on the nature of the flying lessons throughout the course, varied from 4 to 7. After graduating, the crew were posted out to a operational squadron. The HCU course involved air and ground subjects listed below and although linked to the Halifaxes I'm sure Lancaster HCUs were similar and followed a standard Bomber Command instruction. Could those familiar with this type of training please check if there are any glaring errors and/or omissions, thank you.

    GROUND SCHOOL LESSONS - mornings
    1. Pre flight checks. Starting the Halifax
    2. Running Up the Halifax
    3. Breaking the Halifax
    4. Aircraft, airfield and local area
    5. Day and Night Landings
    6. Overshoots
    7. Three-Engine Flying generally
    8. Feathering propellers procedure
    9. Three-Engine Landings - instructors demonstration and pupil pilot.
    10. Three-Engine Overshoots
    11. Fire Drill - action in the event of Fire
    12. Cross-Wind Landings
    13. Ditching and emergency procedures
    14. Automatic Pilot 'George'. Fighter Affiliation
    15. Familiarisation with the new Halifax III

    AIR SCHOOL - Flying lessons.
    1. Aircraft pre flight checks, airfield, releif airfied, local area, approach and departure familiarisation. 8 crew
    2. Dual - General air experience flying - flying instructor, pilot, navigator, wireless operator. 4 crew
    3. Dual - Circuits and landings, overshoot procedure, 4 crew
    4. Dual - Three-engine flying. 4 crew.
    5. Solo - Circuits and landings, 7 crew
    6. Dual - Check overshoot procedure, forced landings, 8 crew - usual 7 plus instructor
    7. Solo - no instructor. Circuits and landings, three-engine flying, 7 crew
    8. Solo - no instructor. Circuits and landings. 7 crew
    9. Dual - Three-engine landings and overshoots, two-engine airborne flying, 8 crew
    10. Solo - no instructor Bombing practice, Wireless operating, map reading, radar operating. 7 crew
    11. Solo - no instructor, Air to Air Gun firing practise, aerial combat day &night, evasive flying, corkscrew flying. Evacuating/Baling out. 7 crew
    12. Dual - Fighter affiliation exercises with Spitfire, Hurricane, Beaufighter & Mosquito aircraft. 8 crew
    13. Solo - no instructor Fighter affiliation, three-engine flying. 7 crew
    14. Solo - no instructor Bombing practice. 7 crew
    15. Dual - Night circuits & landings - completed in two nights with check dual second night prior to solo, 8 crew.
    16. Solo - no instructor Night circuits and landings, 7 crew
    17. Solo - Day cross-country, 7 crew
    18. Solo - no instructor, Night bombing, 7 crew
    19. Solo - no instructor, Night cross-country, 7 crew
    20. Solo - no instructor, Operational exercise, 7 crew

    Compiled from several sources including those here on the forum, my reading of the ORB and my fathers own course notes. Only where I have found a common lesson have I included it. Nothing is made up from parts or guessed at. I do not know the lesson length but hoping others may know.

    Thank you
    Norman
    Last edited by namrondooh; 28th August 2012 at 20:34. Reason: Adding last two lines before the salutations

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    Norman

    no glaring errors to my untraied eye, but I do have evidence that some of these exercises were completed once joining the Squadron. Not sure if this was done because they were missed at the HCU or if they were done to refresh the pilot/crew or perhaps as a retest.

    Regards

    Daz

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    Norman, Hi,
    Just to be a bit parochial can I quote from the HQ 38 Grp Met WW2 AAR in respect of another HCU?

    After the transfer to 38 Group, similar cross country flights were made to those at Ashbourne, with some glider towing flights, mainly from Sleap. At the end of Jan 44, 1665 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) moved from Woolfox Lodge to Tilstock and 81 OTU moved to Sleap. With the arrival of the HCU at Tilstock, work increased considerably with much day and night cross country flights, the crews trained at Ashbourne (plus some second tour bomber command crews) being “converted” from two engine to four engined aircraft (Stirlings) at first but a Halifax flight was added in Sep 44). As the pupils at 81 OTU had had preliminary meteorological lectures at their previous flying schools, meteorological instruction at Tilstock was largely confined to practical discussion of the charts, one crew at a time being admitted to the meteorological office, although a routine meteorological lecture on the conditions for airborne work was usually given to the courses. Appendix 3 gives a full account of the work at Tilstock and Sleap in May - Oct 44.

    I would think that these Met lectures would mainly be about the dangers of the WOP winding out his trailing aerial in thundery conditions, and making sure that the FE knew about carb intake icing conditions (to name but a couple!).
    I have also just seen a long clip on Op BLACKBUCK. There were fuel problems in ferrying thousands of gallons of jet fuel down/up the S Atlantic. The volume occupied by fuel at sea-level is different to that occupied "up-stairs".
    Nice reconstruction, Norman.
    Yrs Aye
    Peter
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Danny
    Is it possible that your relative had completed his course, was sent to 466 Sqn, then returned to the HCU as a result of an accident or crash and was then posted to 10 Sqn? I have seen this happen before. Surviving members of a crew being returned to the HCU either for more training or to crew up with another crew. A lot of crews would pick up a Flight Engineer or second Air Gunner on arrival at the HCU.

    Regards
    Daz

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    1663 HCU did send pilots to fly as 2nd dickie with operational squadrons, unfortunately these went unrecorded in the ORB - unless the pilot failed to return.
    In February 44 they lost F/O Cant detached to 640 Squadron for 2nd pilot duties and F/S Everett detached to 51 Squadron for 2nd pilot duties, both on the 21/22 to Leipzig.
    I agree with the above comments regarding the length of time spent there, 4 months is too long for an HCU conversion course.

    Pete

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    Quote Originally Posted by pete102 View Post
    I agree with the above comments regarding the length of time spent there, 4 months is too long for an HCU conversion course.

    Pete
    Impossible to know from ORB what other factors were in play. Just as an e.g., there was an outbreak of flu in early 1944. If a crewmember went sick, the crew might have finished on a later course. That's only conjecture, but there would be many other real life things that happened without troubling the archivists.

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    Thanks Pete. All good additional info. My uncles daughter said that he like many bomber vets didn't talk much about the war since few civilians understood it so piecing the time line together is helpful.

    Do you know if the HCU or OTU kept course nominal rolls or photos?

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    As for completing the course and posting to 466 - not sure. I only have one entry for him between Jan and Apr in 466 Sqn. I will have to check all the ORBs in 4 Group eventually!! I know his last one was 10 April 1944 becuase he was shot down and taken POW (I visited the crash site a few weeks ago).

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    If it is possible could you post the applicable page of his record Danny, or at least his name.
    Last edited by pete102; 30th June 2016 at 18:00. Reason: spelling

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    funny that the ORBs always record the trivia like weather and Gp Capt so and so visiting but not the important stuff like peoples names!

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