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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 19:34. 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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    Hello Daz,
    Thanks for that. I've plonked another thread about the first two weeks on a squadron
    Norman


    Hello Peter,
    Thank you for your examples. They were certainly not parochial but instead, allowed me the opportunity to drink copiously from Readings 'Fountain of Knowledge'
    Norman
    Last edited by namrondooh; 28th August 2012 at 14:42.

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    Great stuff Norman,
    I assume the course was four weeks long. According to service records my uncle, rear gunner, was posted to HCU 1663 on 24 May 1943 followed by a one week leave beginning 25 June with susequent posting to 51 squadron.

    His first log book entry at 1663 was 1 June - so the first week must have been all ground school?
    He has 13 flights in his logbook more or less matching up with the 7/8 crew in your syllabus but by my count four flights short of the full syllabus?

    One interesting point is on all the instructor flights there was a 9th crew member (another pilot - Sgt James). Sgt. James was also later posted at 51 squadron with his own crew so I don't quite understand his participation as a 9th crew member on these training flights?

    Would it be possible to send me the ORB from 23 May 1943 to 25 June?

    Thanks
    Rodger
    In remembrance of the crew of Halifax HR732
    51 Squadron Snaith - All LWT Leipzig 4 December 1943

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    Hello Rodger,
    I have long understood it to be a 12 week course. Perhaps your uncle was on a refresher course or perhaps returning to continue a 12 week course. I have not previously come across a 4 week course of conversion training though I'm sure the syllabus was adapted to meet the current needs of the RAF and/or crew or individuals .

    The ninth pilot u/t may have been using the same flying classroom for the same lesson. It could be he had lost his crew and was waiting for another and the flight was keeping him current/up to date. Eventualy joining 51 with a new crew who had lost their pilot. Perhaps the answer may be in the 1663 HCU or 51 Sqn ORBs. I'll gladly send you the 1663 HCU ORB - please send me your e-mail address. Mine is in my forum details.
    Norman
    Last edited by namrondooh; 28th August 2012 at 21:34.

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    That's a fascinating posting, thank you for it. Do you have the flyng hours associated with each of the training missions?

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    Norman,
    I just sent you an email. They definately were not on a refresher course. The pilot was trained in Albany Gerogia and thus graduated with more hours than the typical BCATP pilot. Also after they completed 10 OTU Abingdon (Whitleys) instead of being posted to an operational BC squadron they were loaned to Coastal Command 10 OTU detachment St. Eval (Whitleys) for 3 weeks of more training and 6 anti-sub patrols lasting about 10hrs each. Possible this additional experience put them in a fast track at 1663? However the flight engineer (quite sure his 1st tour) would have abreviated training. Then again the course may have been driven more by the pilot's experience than any other. Dropping from 12 wks to 4 wks rather drastic!

    Graham,
    From my uncle's logbook I see the training flights where anywhere from just under 2 hrs to just over 4 hrs (mostly 3 to 4 hrs) except for X-country which were 5 and 6 hrs. One exception was a second flight on the same day denoted as "Bad Weather Flying" 1hr. Four of their 13 flights were at night. One night with instructor aboard on landing a/c swung abruptly (landing gear malfunction?) and a/c was a total writeoff (scrap) however no injuries.

    Cheers
    Rodger
    Last edited by rmventuri; 28th August 2012 at 21:11.
    In remembrance of the crew of Halifax HR732
    51 Squadron Snaith - All LWT Leipzig 4 December 1943

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    Hello Graham,
    Unfortunately I do not have or know the flying hours per lesson at the HCU but others may. Also, I do not have my fathers flying log book which would have shown the flying hours per flying lessons. while at the HCU. I wish I did but in June 1944 he was taken PoW. By the time he was repatriated to England - he just wanted to get home and get over the war, his interest in retrieving his log book had gone. Years later, I believe it was in the late 1960s, he decided to claim it and wrote to the Air Ministry but discovered thousands of unclaimed flying log books had been recycled -perhaps into Tesco egg boxes. Only a few notable log books i.e. VC holders, were retained. The only log book of my fathers crew that I know exists is the Australian Air Bombers. His book was handed back to his family by the RAAF after the war. Unlike having to spot a three line advert on the bottom of page 23 in a national newspaper and submitting witnessed triplicated forms etc. I keep meaning to but I must write to the Australian family and request their help with the HCU flying syllabus entries - but it will be for a Air Bomber who was only involved with the '7/8' crew flights. I'll keep you posted
    Norman
    Last edited by namrondooh; 28th August 2012 at 21:33.

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    Nice list Norman,

    From what I can gather training was in two stages, Conversion Training first (Nos 1-9 on your air school list) and then Operational Training including night flying (10-20) The syllabus obviously changed over the years depending on the whims of those in charge and arrival of new methods, H2S etc. and a few exercises seemed to have been dropped along the way, the old Halifax squadron Conversion Flights, the precursers to the HCU's, used to have exercises such as draining of fuel from one tank to another in flight, bomb load take-off and bomb bay opening at different air speeds. Whether these were incorporated into other exercises in the HCU's I'm not sure but I've never seen them listed as individual HCU exercises in any examples I've seen.

    I must admit I've only ever heard of crews spending around a month at HCU, I've just had a check in Jefford's "Observers and Navigators" and although information is scant on HCU's, on page 179 he says: "It is impossible, therefore, to be precise but a heavy bomber crew passing through the system in late 1944 could generally expect to spend ten weeks at an OTU during which they would fly about 80 hours, and six weeks at an HCU where they might accumulate another 40 hours"
    When you look at the figures for crews trained in 1663's Orb it always says X amount of crews trained this month or only Y amount trained this month due to bad weather etc. I have always read this as meaning it was a monthly course.

    Regards

    Pete

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