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Thread: Brits aboard RCAF Lancasters (405 Squadron)

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    Default Brits aboard RCAF Lancasters (405 Squadron)

    Hi all

    I read a quote recently from a past RCAF Navigator from 405 Squadron which said every Canadian flight crew had to have at least one Briton aboard. Joss Leclercq has kindly informed me that the Briton was usually the Flight Engineer due to the fact the Canadians had a shortfall of trained personnel in this area, but I am intrigued as to why the family of this particular Navigator should use the words "had to have", and we just wondered if anyone knows of any policy/instruction regarding an enforced mix of Nationalities, and what the benefit of this would be?

    Many thanks
    Deborah

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    I don't think it was a policy, it was simply a result of matching available crew skills with requirements. There are some cases of completely RCAF crews overseas in the Second World War, even in RAF squadrons. As Joss pointed out, there was no training of flight engineers in Canada until fairly late in the war, so it was most likely to be an RAF flight engineer in RCAF bomber crews for some time. However, there were a handful of RCAF flight engineers, trained in the UK, in Bomber Command before the Canadian school opened.

    The "Canadian" squadrons of the RCAF Overseas were in some ways a political construct. At lower levels in the RAF the various Commonwealth squadrons were pretty much interchangeable, and manpower and equipment went where it was needed. Pretty much every RCAF squadron overseas had RAF (and some RAAF and RNZAF) on staff up to the end of the war. As well, about 25% of the RCAF serving overseas (aircrew and groundcrew) served in RAF squadrons.

    For example, a lot of RCAF transport crews wound up in India, with some of the RAF Dakota squadrons having more RCAF crews than RAF crews late in the war. When the politicans in Canada heard of this, a clamor was raised eventually leading to the formation of 435 and 436 Squadrons in India in August 1944. Many of the crews found themselves flying the same airplanes from the same bases, on the same missions, but now being part of an RCAF squadron.
    Last edited by Bill Walker; 8th June 2013 at 00:09. Reason: spelling!

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    Hi Bill, thanks for your reply. This makes eminent sense but the wording of the ex-Navigator's memoires made me question it as he reported there to be animosity between Brits and Canadians being forced together. If no-one else has ever heard of such, I shall put it out of my mind! Thanks for taking the time to reply.

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    There are written reports of animosity between Brits and Canadians serving in the same units, mostly because the Canadians were better paid than the same RAF rank. The Canadian units sometimes had better rations because of gifts from sponsors and relatives back home, in those cases the Brits didn't mind serving with an RCAF unit.

    There were also some cases of RCAF and RAF units winding up in temporary quarters during times of rapid expansion, living in tents or converted barns and sheds until better quarters were built. The Canadians were very vocal with their opinions of this, while the Brits kept "a stiff upper lip". This probably led to some animosity.

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    Default RAF Op Casualties

    G'day Deborah

    I did an extensive report on Royal Air Force operational aircrew losses while serving with Royal Canadian Air Force bomber squadrons. Here are the stats for No. 405 'Vancouver' (B) Squadron.

    Cheers...Chris


    1942 -
    January 2
    February 0
    March 2
    April 12
    May - 3
    June 19
    July 13
    August 8
    September 7
    October - 9
    November 1
    December 0
    Total = 76

    1943 -
    January
    February
    March 9
    April 3
    May - 5
    June 2
    July 2
    August 17
    September 4
    October - 4
    November 7
    December 6
    Total = 59

    1944 -
    January 19
    February 3
    March 1
    April 7
    May - 6
    June 4
    July 3
    August 2
    September 2
    October - 0
    November 0
    December 2
    Total = 49

    1945 -
    January 4
    February 2
    March 3
    April 0
    May -
    Total = 9

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    Thanks Bill, that is rather a shame, as if they didn't have enough to contend with just doing their duty but useful info nonetheless, thank you. Wow, Dakota, impressive list and rather sad but very interesting, thank you for posting.

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    [QUOTE=Deborah

    I read a quote recently from a past RCAF Navigator from 405 Squadron which said every Canadian flight crew had to have at least one Briton aboard.

    It is an odd statement! The (as far a I recall) did not start producing Engineers until late in the war.
    Fortunately the RAF had spent much effort and money training riggers and fitters, many of
    whom were able to fill the requirement of the Flight Engineer when Bomber Command
    switched from 2 pilots to 1!
    The name Cranfield comes to mind! And did they produce these skilled people and
    then released then in case of a future need, much like the RAFVR for pilots.

    Robert

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    Robert

    For clarity, the need for a flight engineer on four engine heavy bombers and flying boats was recognised as early as 1941 and, as you say, Fitter II were rapidly trained to perform the role.

    The role was formally introduced by the Air Ministry in 1942 and a specialist training school (4 School of Technical Training) was set up at RAF St Athan in Wales. Acceptance onto the course was initially limited to Fitters but this was changed in 1943.

    The Flight Engineer normally "crewed up" with the rest of the crew at a Conversion Unit and, as previously stated, this may well be where the phrase "had to have one British member" came from.

    A small number of Flight Engineers were trained in Canada, South Africa and Australia (1944 onwards) and some Commonwealth personnel trained as Flight Engineers at RAF St Athan.

    Regards

    Pete
    Last edited by PeteT; 21st June 2013 at 17:43.
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Thanks for all your replies. If anyone wants to read the context of this quote, here is where I found it:
    http://thewhpfamily.com/anderson/pages/page1.html
    It just didn't read to me that this was in the context of not having enough trained staff, hence my question but as ever, I appreciate your opinions. :-)

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    I feel sure that it was a political thing. My brother - a Brit - was Air Gunner with 405 and after he was stood down his replacement was also Brit. (All lost in 1945). My brother lives today in Canada.
    Last edited by Jaymax39; 3rd February 2017 at 12:02. Reason: Clarification

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