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Thread: Navigator's parachute storage in Wellington

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    Default Navigator's parachute storage in Wellington

    Hi all,
    I would like to ask for few details about Wellinton Mk.IC.

    1. where was normally stored Navigator's parachute during the flight? According to some reminiscences there was some kind of hook behing his seat?
    2. when Navigator moved forward to bombsight he left his parachute on its place or he took his parachute with him to the nose?

    Any help much appreciated.

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

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    Pavel
    According to AP 1578A Vol I, Section 1 (Pilot's Notes for Wellington I, IA, IC), these aircraft were designed and equipped for a crew of four, comprising pilot, navigator (also acting as the front gunner and bomb aimer*), wireless operator and rear gunner.

    (My notes: Not mentioned in introduction, but appearing in various other places is the fact that if a mid (under) retractable gun position fitted in particular aircraft, an additional crew member would be required, although this unsatisfactory gun position was soon deleted. However the presence of any additional gun positions (including beam guns) could give rise to a nominal crew of five. Fairly soon in WW2, with the realization that the mid-under gun position was operationally useless, especially in view of the decision to abandon all day-light operations, Bomber Command standardised on a six-man crew - two pilots, observer, W/Opr (also a trained A/G) and two "straight" A/G's (for front and rear turrets, although one could in fact be qualified as a W/Opr A/G). Finally, by May 1942 the second pilot was dropped to give a standard five-man crew, although sometimes a second pilot was carried. Invariably this was a new captain on his "second dicky" trip to see what it was like on actual operations with an experienced crew before he took his own crew over Europe for the first time.)

    Fig 4 from this publication (Parachute exits and emergency equipment, issued with A/L No. 9) shows that there was stowage for a pilot-type parachute on right side of cockpit (presume for second pilot?), and stowage for (two?) more parachutes (type not stated, perhaps one bin was actually for a Mae West?) on port side of cockpit. Aft of cockpit was stowage for two seat-type parachutes (for radio operator and navigator), and there was stowage for a further parachute (type unstated - was this perhaps in case a supernumerary crew member had to be carried for some reason?) at rest bunk aft of the astrodome. In rear fuselage, just forward of tailplane, was stowage for parachutes for rear and middle gunners, as well as stowage for their Mae Wests. Presume other crew members wore their Mae Wests at all times. Apparently the rear gunner could also stow his 'chute near his turret on dangerous operations in case he preferred to bale out of his turret rather than trek forward to the aft cabin parachute exit, which was either a round hatch in place of the deleted under turret, or a small "push-out" panel which was further aft near the parachute and Mae west bins. Only the rear and central gunners were to use this exit - all others vacated aircraft by the forward exit which seemed to be under the pilot's cockpit according to Figure 4. If the aircraft was ditched, the astrodome was the approved exit for second pilot, observer and central gunner - the rear gunner exited from his turret by rotating it through 90 degrees to port, while pilot and front gunner exited aircraft through hatch in starboard side of cockpit roof.

    (* Unknown why the term "navigator" used in these captions rather then the contemporary term "observer", the latter trade of course implying the trades of navigator, gunner and air bomber). The copy of the publication in my possession if the November 1940 reprint, incorporating up to Amendment List No. 12 of Sept 1941.)

    To further add to the confusion of crew members and nomenclature, Fig. No. 5 (Dinghy Installation and Exits for use, also issued with A/L No.9), the second pilot (not mentioned in Fig. No. 4) makes his appearance, the under gunner is now referred to as the central gunner, and the navigator is referred to as the observer! And this is THE official publication!

    Further study of AP 1578A reveals that the second pilot's seat was of the folding variety with a parachute well, normally stowed folded against the starboard side of the cockpit and held in place with a clip, but could be easily unclipped, and raised into position, with a spring-loaded hinged frame on inboard side swung down "to rest in support groves on the floor, being locked in position by spring catches". "A padded back rest strap hinged to the cockpit rear bulkhead is hooked across the cabin door for use with the seat in conjunction with a head rest pad above the door. The seat is provided with a safety belt secured to the structure at each side of it, and folding footrests for use when dual controls are not fitted." (From para. 55)

    Para. 66 notes that "The pilot is provided with a seat-type parachute as are also the navigator and wireless operator. A parachute for the front gunner and a spare parachute are stowed in on the starboard side of the fuselage below the pilot's cockpit. Parachute stowages for the midship and rear gunners are provided on the starboard side of the fuselage forward of the rear turret and a further stowage is provided above the rest bunk".

    Para. 67 states that: "Life-saving waistcoats. When required, life-saving waistcoats are stowed in bags immediately aft of the central and rear gunner's parachute stowages."

    The normal practise in RAF aircraft of this period was to stow parachutes in what were called bins on interior walls of fuselage, usually near to parachute exits. Of course those crew members with Pilot-type 'cutes had to sit on them as they formed the soft part of their seats, so only "observer-type" (clip-on chutes) were normally stowed in the bins. Thus, despite the designation of the Observer-type chute, the observers in Wellingtons always seemed to have worn a Pilot-type chute if their seats were of the well-type. It is quite possible that later Wellingtons had normal padded seats so could have been issued with observer-type chutes. The advantage of these chutes was that movement in the aircraft was much easier as you didn't have to wear the chute unless you had to bale out - they were quickly attached to the harness (worn all the time) by strong but easy to use clips.

    Dave D

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    Dave as always many thanks for your comprehensive answer!

    Much appreciated also your own comments.

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

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