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Thread: Bomb Leader question

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    Default Bomb Leader question

    Hi all

    I'm guessing this is a simple one but cannot readily find the subject via the search function.

    Who would have been the 'Bomb Leader' in a RAF bomber squadron during WW2? I have some logical thoughts on this but will defer to those who know!

    Thanks in advance.


    Nick

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    Nav, Bombing, Sigs, F Eng and Gunnery leaders were tour expired specialists on squadron strength as non-flying personnel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard View Post
    Nav, Bombing, Sigs, F Eng and Gunnery leaders were tour expired specialists on squadron strength as non-flying personnel.
    Hi Richard, thank you.

    My logical thoughts were not taking me down this route!

    Would these leaders be viewed with having gravitas and or authority?

    Would their role be one of tuition and/or mentoring?

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    Spot on Nick - the Nav leader led the Nav briefing, worked out Flight Plans and marked nav logs before sending on to base/group/command. The Bombing Leader role was described in Tee Emm as:

    The Bombing Leader – Who is he Anyway?

    ‘…the main idea in this air warfare game is, as we’ve said before, to transport loads of high explosive over enemy territory and explode them as close as possible to the aiming point. In other words, bombs are the thing.

    Now, put in its simplest terms, bombs are dropped by air-bombers who have to be not only carried accurately and efficiently over the target, but protected on the way by the rest of the crew working in conjunction. Air-bombers are therefore pretty important guys in the scheme of things.

    …the Group with the best record of successful air bombing is the one with the highest proportion of good air-bombers and the lowest proportion of bad air-bombers.

    This is where the Bombing Leader, whether Group or Squadron, comes in. The basis of his job is to co-ordinate, advise, instruct, and generally look after the air-bombers of his unit so as to ensure the highest possible standard of bombing accuracy.

    In brief, the Bombing Leader’s particular responsibility is the ‘bombing teams’ of his unit, whether the ‘triple alliance’ of pilot, air-bomber and navigator or the smaller team of pilot and navigator (B) [Mossie]. He is answerable to his C.O. for the following points:

    a) He must be enthusiastic. Only that way can he maintain the enthusiasm, and so efficiency, of his teams. Enthusiasm is contagious; so is lack of it.
    b) He must at all times ensure that his team gets the best from their training and that they learn all the lessons from their operations. This in turn means initiating and co-ordinating the unit bombing training (including Air Ministry teacher training); fostering the air-bombers’ map-reading, that most important part of their role; keeping up records of all practise and operational bombing; seeing that all members of bombing teams are present at the analysis of results and fully aware of just what their own part is in ensuring accuracy; examining photographic results in the presence of the crew and the photographic section; and generally keeping crews genned-up with all the latest tactics and equipment.
    c) He must always make sure that the bombing-teams are fully briefed and, in particular, that the air-bomber understands the details and method of release of his load.
    d) He must maintain close liaison with the navigation officer, gunnery leader and the photographic section on all ‘air-bombery’ matters; and with the armament and instrument section on the serviceability or failure of bomb-sights and other equipment.
    e) He must at all times be prepared to advise his C.O. (in conjunction with the armament officer) on operational bomb-loads and their distribution on the aircraft.
    f) He must also be ready to advise his C.O. and anyone else concerned, on matters affecting the discipline and welfare of air-bombers.’

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard View Post
    Nav, Bombing, Sigs, F Eng and Gunnery leaders were tour expired specialists on squadron strength as non-flying personnel.
    i don't believe this to be entirely correct, especially the bit about being non-flying personnel. In my own research I have found examples of these men being lost on operations and I have interviewed one ex-Sqn Gunnery Leader who had completed one tour and was on his second when he took on the role of Gunnery Leader. He did not fly on very operation and often only flew when there was a shortage of gunners due to sickness or when he felt the need to in order to keep his hand in or to be "enthusiastic" and set the example for others to follow. I doubt if they would be seen as credible if they were totally desk bound.

    Daz

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    Hi,

    I can only use my experience researching both 218 & 623 squadron.

    But, the various trade leaders were not always tour expired. Some, were 2nd tour veterans, some were just senior officers. I have yet to see a NCO "leader" on a squadron regardless of experience.

    Regards

    Steve
    No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron Association Historian
    No.623 squadron Research

    ~~IN TIME ~~

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    Absolutely agree that the various Leaders were apt to 'keep their hands in'. However, the roles were intended to be for screened aircrew and were held on ground establishment. There are always going to be exceptions (think 617). However, a typical ORB entry for a new sqn in the Berlin period reads:

    X Squadron was formed at R.A.F. Y under the command of W/C A and worked to establishment WAR/BC/362. The Squadron was comprised of two flights (16 + 4 Lancasters). A Flight of the Squadron was formed by the transfer, in toto, of C Flight from Z Squadron, R.A.F. Y. The Flight Commander is S/L B and the following captains of aircraft and their crews formed A Flight of X Squadron: F/L B, F/L C, F/L D, F/O E, P/O F, P/O G, P/O H, W/O I, W/O J and F/S K.

    The following specialist leaders were posted to the Squadron: F/O L (Signals Leader), F/L M (Bombing Leader), F/O N (Navigation Leader), F/O O (Gunnery Leader), F/L P (Flight Engineer Leader). No flying training or ops were carried out. Admin control was at the present being carried out by Z Squadron.

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    NB - in the Bombing Leader's case, the fact that he was screened could cause problems with liaison with aircrew, hence the creation of the Flight Bombing Officer's role:

    1 - Tee Emm Jan 44
    ‘We pointed out last month that to be a GOOD bomber pilot requires a pretty fair knowledge of the air bomber’s job… many Squadron Bombing Leaders report that they frequently find difficulty in co-operating with Flight Commanders, and in passing gen on pilots. “A certain lack of interest in the business of actual bombing” is how one of them put it.

    One or two Groups have taken the matter up in a big way and have started a system designed to remedy it. This is the appointment of one pilot in each flight to be the official link between the Bombing Leader and the pilots. He is known as the Flight Bombing Officer.

    The first requirement of the Flight Bombing Officer is Knowledge. He must know what he’s talking about and a short course of bombing in its specific relation to the pilot provides the answer. He must know too the air bomber’s job by carrying out bombing details himself… to be able to get other pilots to know and practise the importance of careful and correct flying during the bombing run. He must know what errors the absence of this can cause and prevent a chaplet of undeserved blame being hung around the air bomber’s neck.

    Next comes Enthusiasm for the job – though we’re not certain this shouldn’t come first or he may not gain the necessary knowledge. His enthusiasm must be contagious and spread to the other pilots in his flight. And, if he is enthusiastic, he’ll be more likely to spread the word and instruct pilots in the latest tactics, technique and equipment. He’lll be able and willing to advise them on flying requirements for bombing, wind-finding and timed runs, on photographic procedure, and on P.F.F. work so far as it affects the bombing attack. He’ll be keen to explain how some bombing errors are due to faulty flying and not to an air bomber with finger trouble.

    The third aspect of his job will be Liaison. He is the link to the pilots, without which the Bombing Leader may bring home some vital points to the air bomber, but the rest of the crew will carry on in happy ignorance of their share in it.

    Above all, he must make the pilot realise that he is largely responsible for the bombing, and not a mere chauffeur taking an air bomber across to do his stuff. One way of doing this is to see that all results of bombing details are entered in pilots’ logbooks. This very definitely – and rightly – makes bombing errors the captain’s responsibility.’

    2 - V Group News Aug 43
    Squadron Bombing Officers

    Steps have been taken during the month to emphasise the importance of crew co-operation. Pilots in particular are rapidly becoming ‘bombing conscious’. We always knew that much depends on the accuracy of the pilot’s flying on the bombing run, but we may now look forward to the day when Pilots, Navigators and Bomb Aimers discuss bombing over a quiet pint in the Mess.

    This new attitude can be attributed mainly to the creation of Flight Bombing Officers. These are pilots noted for their enthusiasm for bombing and promoted to a leadership role to take responsibility for bombing technique and training. They are to be congratulated for the progress they have made to date. At last, the pilot is being brought back into the bombing picture, the Flight Commander is proving far more accessible on bombing subjects and the Bombing Leader is discovering the great value of liaison between the Pilots’ and Air Bombers’ Unions.

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    Many thanks all for the input, especially Richard. Really interesting stuff.

    You've answered another question I was going to make, which was would their rank be of officer status. It seems it would.

    If I was looking to establish who the Bombing Leader was for a particular squadron at a point in time, would that be possible? The 540/541 ORBs would be hit and more likely miss in this regard so presume I would need an alternative source.

    Nick

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    The Summary ORB for No 35 Squadron shows all senior officers (including the Bombing Leader) on a monthly basis. I don't know whether this was standard practice but you may find that the ORBs do help answer your question.

    Regards

    Pete
    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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