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Thread: Inter-War Bomb Types

  1. #1
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    Default Inter-War Bomb Types

    Does anyone have any information on the bomb types used by the bomber squadrons in the inter-war years. I am particularly interested in the types that would have been used by No 35 Squadron from 1929 to 1939 on the following aircraft types:

    • Fairey IIIF
    • Fairey Gordon
    • Vickers Wellesley
    • Fairey Battle


    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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    I have found conflicting information on this subject but that may be to do with the different types of squadron. I suspect there were three categories of bombs (excluding photoflash/flares/sea markers etc).

    1. Practice bombs ( the most numerous type used?), also referred to as sub-calibre.
    2. Live bombs (not commonly used until war loomed).
    3. Full calibre inert bombs (often called war loads for practising take off/landing and climbing to operational heights.

    Until the Armament Training Camps came into being there were very few places to practice the dropping of live bombs. War Department ranges such as Larkhill were used by arrangement. I suspect, but can't prove, that live bombing was carried out at sea and this may have by special arrangement.

    As war loomed there was concern that pilots, and also ground crew, had no experience of live bombing and the Armament Training Camps only offered a chance once a year for any unit. Was 35 Squadron allotted for special training for bombing capital ships? If so did it practice against HMS Centurion and was this with live bombs? (Centurion was a radio controlled ex-cruiser fitted out for gunnery and bombing practice).

    This isn't much help in answering the question and I would also like to know what they used during this time and also where they practised.

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    Thanks for the feedback.

    I have no idea on types, weights or loads that were carried.

    I do know that the No. 35 Squadron's ORB shows that it carried out bombing practice at Porton, Catfoss or North Fitties from 1930 onwards. Camera Obscura exercises were also carried out.

    It was also deployed to Sudan in 1935/1936 (Abyssinian Crisis), so I am assuming it had some form of "live" bomb during this period.

    UPDATE: Just found an interesting paper on the development of bombs at: https://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcms/.../F1...92D41C7406.pdf

    This suggests that 120, 250 and 500lb GP Bombs were available at that time (I don't think the squadron would have been carrying incendiary containers). Also, the specification for the Fairey IIIF and Fairey Gordon suggest that 500lb could be carried under wings. Would this be total or per wing?


    An interesting subject, which I hope (with the forums help) that I can learn more about

    Regards

    Pete
    Last edited by PeteT; 3rd August 2017 at 16:52.
    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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    Porton Down was the first post (WW1) war inland bombing range and was for practice bombs only. It was leased from the War Office and the bombing target is still visible in Google Earth at SU 24019 36206 (circle and cross type). Catfoss (Skipsea Ranges), and North Coates Fitties (Donna Nook Ranges), were both Armament Training Camps where whole or part of the squadron would deploy to for a couple of weeks intensive bombing and firing practice. This could include live bombing practice, although I believe this was not heavily used as the design of practice bombs was designed to mimic the speed and trajectory of their full sized counterparts negating the need to check accuracy using live bombs.

    I believe there was also a 112lb bomb which dated from WW1 but was still in plentiful supply.

    Heavy use was made of the Camera Obscura and it was common practice for pilots to be required to become proficient on this before they were allowed on the practice range.

    One final point. Many aerodromes had bombing targets within the aerodrome limits, ideally in the centre, and these were used quite frequently for practice bombing and by the mid thirties the break-up Bakelite bomb was available and this shattered on impact and did not require a detonator/burster. It also caused less damage to aircraft tyres. The targets are still visible at some old pre-war bomber airfields and each airfield range featured a direction arrow and quadrants, although the watch office was often used as one of these. The targets and arrows were half the size of a stand alone bombing range.

    End of waffle mode :)

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    PNK,
    Waffle? - Negative!
    There is nothing better than clicking on 'rafcommands' and being presented with a mini-tutorial from an expert.
    I got the impression that 'between the wars' was mainly the Fighter Pilot's time?
    It was only when I experienced 'bombing' (Lincolns, Canberras, V-Force) in BC in 50s/60s as a Met man that I realised that it, too, was an art/science. Being invited to the Sqn "social occasion!" - as a Met Man - when they'd won that years Bombing Trophy simply said "Team Game". We, in Met, broke some rules for 'our' Sqns (until Digby/BC told us to stop!) to give them an edge over the others!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    PS For a long time the NW corner of Barnsley railway station (inter alia) was the 'Target' for the V-bombers dropping a make-believe "bucket of instant sunshine" at the end of their astro-leg. Some tried to infiltrate a real weapon into the Laurence-Minot Trophy such was the dislike of that edifice! LOL!!
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Thanks, as always, for the interesting feedback.

    I think I have established that the Fairey IIIF and the Fairey Gordon had a TOTAL bomb load of 500lb, rather than 500 on each wing. Can anyone confirm (or correct me on) this?

    Based on Post 2, can I assume that for non bombing exercises, the full calibre inert bombs (*) would have been carried, for bombing exercises, the practice bombs and for live firing and/or whilst operational in Sudan, the live general purpose bombs?

    Regards

    Pete

    *[Note: I am struggling to find this terminology using google search]
    Last edited by PeteT; 4th August 2017 at 18:53.
    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]

  7. #7
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    For non-bombing exercises, I would assume that no weapons were carried of any kind.

    The earlier large bomb was shorter and fatter, and may be the 112lb one mentioned above. There was also a number of smaller bombs: memory suggests 28lb each carried in fours on a Light Store Carrier. These were descendants of the WW1 Cooper bombs.

  8. #8
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    The terms I use to make up "Full calibre inert bombs" were frequently used, along with sub-calbre in pre-war documents. Oddly not so much in wartime.

    Sub-calibre = Practice bomb which were a fraction of the size of their full calibre counterparts. By the late 1930's the 8.5 lb to 11.5 lb practice bombs were designed to mimic the trajectory of the 250 lb GP bomb. I am not sure if this applied to the 25 lb practice bomb that started to appear later in the war. Practice bombing ranges were often referred to as sub-calibre ranges, again mainly pre-war.
    Full-Calibre = Full sized bombs either high explosive or inert. Full calibre ranges were, as far as I know live ranges as I don't think inert bombs were regularly dropped on ranges, although evidence at the Goswick ranges suggests otherwise, but this was a special range.
    Inert Bombs = References I have come across state they were ordinary GP bombs but filled with sand. At present I don't know where they were filled but would guess they came pre-filled and already marked as inert, although I suspect most squadrons would be able to do this. As these were generally used for practicing take off, landing and climbing with a full war load it would suggest that quite a few different bombs would have been used. This is another of those grey areas where the records I have viewed are vague.

    I also assume that inert bombs were not the same as drill bombs although I have no references to drill bombs. My guess is that drill bombs would allow fuzing and de-fuzing as well as loading and unloading but without the risk of it going bang?

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    Thanks again for the information; your time and effort is much appreciated.

    Whilst this is a minor diversion for me in the overall scheme of things, I am always willing to learn more, so please keep the feedback coming

    Interestingly, whilst doing some post-war research last night [bearing in mind my No. 35 Squadron project covers 1916-1982], I noted that the Vulcan used 28lb practice bombs which perfectly simulated the ballistic of the WE177 nuclear bomb .... but that's a subject for another day, as I would like to tie down the inter-war aspect first.

    Regards (and thanks again)

    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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    I have now got side tracked and curious as to what "Target" was at Barnsley Station!

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