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Thread: Pathfinder Squadrons

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    Default Pathfinder Squadrons

    Please can anyone confirm that i have the correct understanding of Pathfinder Sqds in my Case No 83 Sqd .

    Am i correct in thinking that a pathfinder Sqd would go to a Target in waves with each wave having a Master bomber leading each wave he alone would locate the Target with TI's and the rest of this wave would bomb on the Master Bombers TI's? what happens if this Master Bomber was hit or unable to lay down his TI's ?

    Apart from the Above am i correct in thinking that this Master Bomber would also mark the Route to the Target ?

    in a nutshell apart from 83 Sqd being a Pathfinder Sqd they would also take bombs to the Target ?

    Hope someone can help explain this to me

    TIA Phill Jones

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    My understanding is that there was a Master Bomber who would direct the whole raid. A deputy Master Bomber would step in if the Master Bomber was unable to perform the task.

    The role of the Pathfinders was to “find, illuminate and/or mark the target so that the remainder of the bombing force could accurately bomb the aiming point”

    There were various marking methods (eg Parramatta, Newhaven), with the selected method forming part of the brief before each raid.

    Each Pathfinder aircraft had a specific role to play in the marking, with some (known as Visual) marking the target visually and others (known as Blind) marking the target using navigational tools such as Gee. The Operations Record Book normally shows what role each aircraft performed (eg visual marker, blind marker, visual centerer, supporter, backer up).

    Route marking was introduced to ensure that the bomber stream reached the target but was abandoned (1944?) as it clearly gave away the position of the bomber stream.

    I do have some documents on the subject if you are interested.

    Regards

    Pete
    Last edited by PeteT; 7th January 2017 at 14:13. Reason: Additional Information
    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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    Hi Pete,

    Thank you for replying to my thread , you have answered what i needed to know many thanks bw Phill

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    Phil,

    Please do let me humbly suggest you one of the most comprehensive books I ever read about the subject (written by a former LNSF Navigator): https://www.amazon.com/Pathfinder-Fo.../dp/0354010174

    Some of the Brazilians in the RAF (theme of a work of mine) flew with 83 Squadron as well. As Pete informed (and this information can be checked on the relevant ORB or RAF Logbook), some of those PFF airmen acted as "Wind finders, route markers, backer up, etc...".

    I do not know though, how a sprog crew (just arrived to the Squadron) went on to become (during their Tour our Second Tour) a visual marker, route marker, backer up, etc...PROBABLY, there should be some kind of ranking amongst the whole Squadron pilots and crews, about the percentage of accuracy. Do have read in some cases, errors being computed to some 700 or 2,000 jards from the aiming point. In some cases, the best results achieved on a particular night (computed distance from the aiming point) were informed officially. THERE MUST be some kind of "natural selection" inside the Squadron, other than Seniority, about a crew being "labelled" Wind Finder (a special task detailed to some excellent Navigators); Visual Markers (generally one of the excellents Bomb Aimers); etc...

    About your last question: YES, they also carried bombs too....so, they generally marked the target and also dropped their "Cookie" or other kind of bombs onto the target!

    Am not sure IF the MASTER BOMBER would mark the route...there must be some kind of Schedule for the night, amongst the Squadrons. I understand that some of the route marking was made by other Squadrons of the Pathfinders, like the 139 Squadron equipped with Mosquitos (several Marks), who would go first and mark the route at specified TIME. From what I do have read, the most importante thing amongst the PFF Squadrons and crews was to ARRIVE at a pre-determined point (it could either be a waypoint to a change of route - ROUTE WAYPOINT - the bombing run waypoint, the aiming point, etc...) at the PROGRAMMED hour. In some narratives, we see some aircrews reporting that the Markers were late (H-Hour plus 1 or 3 minutes!!!), etc. Please do remember that:
    a) Those guys were flying when there were no GPS, the winds informed at Briefing were less precise than what can be predicted nowadays,
    b) They were flying by themselves (radio silence, security discipline, etc),
    c) There was the blackness of the country (Black-Out all over Europe)

    I have read some Navigation reports of airmen arriving at 30 seconds from the planned H-Time over the aiming point, etc....Believe me, those PFF airmen were ALL of the highest breed of airmanship....All volunteers...all wanting to give their best to the task ahead. I do have a TREMENDOUS admiration for those RAF airmen of the 40's...

    Hope to have helped you with what I have read, interviewed some ex-airmen, etc...

    Most sincere and humbly yours,
    Adriano S. Baumgartner, ASV 00.344

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    Hi Phill

    Just to let you know sprog crews to PPF (supporters/backers up) would only carry only high explosive bombs no indicators/incendiaries so if they missed the target it would not draw bombs from the main force who thought it was the target.

    Regards,

    John.

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    Adriano and John ,

    thank you very much for these detailed replies and indeed thanks to all you have all taught me something about this very interesting topic .

    bw Phill Jones

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