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Thread: Operational Sorties By Senior Commanders

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    Default Operational Sorties By Senior Commanders

    Hi everyone,

    Again sorry if this thread has been discussed before but what I would like to know; was there a requirement for Senior Commanders to fly operationally?

    Or if they did fly on raids was it to boost moral amongst some of the squadrons aircrews, who were at the time at a low ebb due to heavy losses.

    I'm not being flippant as this is not my intention where I am suggesting that the Senior Commander only flew to make him seem or seen to be doing what others have done many time before.

    Regards.

    Steve.

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    From people I have interviewed there was no requirement to fly. The emphasis was on spreading the load between the flight commanders and squadron commnader to avoid loss of senior management in quick succession as did happen on occassions.

    Embry flew many missions against the wishes of those above him and for choice would have led the Amiens Jail Raid. Tiny Evans-Evans who was recently mentioned was another case.

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    Taff,

    A question that has probably taxed senior officers since Pontious was earning his wings! As someone in a similar position right now (albeit in Afghanistan and albeit Army) I constantly wrestle with the need to see my troops, check on their welfare, see whether there are ways in which the support that they provide can be improved etc. Likewise, I feel I should be seen to do this in order to not be considered as an 'armchair' warrior. There is however the downside. Despite the fact that I didn't join the Army to be lodged at slipper city', no one really wants me at the FOBs and I would just be getting in the way! I certainly have sympathy with the chaps you refer to in your original post and guess that some things never really change.

    Rgds

    Jonny

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    There is the additional constraint, that senior commanders would have access to higher levels of classified information, information that would be particularly valuable to the enemy if they were captured. This was particularly strong in early 1944, where those with knowledge of D-Day were very strongly constrained.

    However, there is the other side of the argument, that being a senior commander should be a full-time job in itself, so those who took time off to "see the boys/keep in touch" ran the risk of falling behind in their prime task. A difficult balance to achieve.

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    Squadron Commanders (of heavy bomber squadrons) were not the only nominal "flying" officers in these units who were not required, as a matter of course, to fly on operations. All the "Leaders" (Navigation, Signals, Gunnery, Bombing, Flight Engineer), so far as I am aware, were NOT required to complete a normal tour of duty (that was the duty of the normal "line crews"), although neither were they prohibited from undertaking the odd operation. Of course their primary duties were the supervision and general training and performance of all the aircrew in their respective category within the squadron. This included (often) the checking of log books (although this was normally done by the Flight Commanders), as well as keeping all of their charges up to date on all the latest procedures and equipment, and general intelligence in their respective spheres. Leaders also took a prominent part in briefing and de-briefing, and this aspect usually kept them up to date with what was happening in the operational world. Flight Commanders also had heavy administrative duties, particularly later in the war, and this relieved the Squadron commander of much of these routine but time-consuming duties. Of course most of these comments also applied generally to squadrons operating larger aircraft, such as Coastal Command, Transport squadrons, etc.
    David D

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    Default Operational Sorties By Senior Commanders

    Gentlemen,

    Very informative replies to my thread, thanks for that. On my behalf the thread came about as to the reason why they flew operationally. As been mentioned, which was in the back of my mind, Senior Commanders were well versed on day-to-day running of their bases and had in depth knowledge of sensitive information vital to bombing operations.

    Whatever the reasons why Commanders flew on operational sorties will only be known to themselves, their experience would have been welcomed whatever course of action they took, whether it was flying into Germany or sat behind a desk making sure the airmen under his command were looked after and most of all safe and well. Or am I being a bit naive as to the thinking of Commanders during wartime on Bomber Command bases?

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    I know that certain commanders of squadrons (or even Station Commanders, usually rank of Group Captain) might accompany a crew of "their boys" on operations on random occasions. Is is also noticeable that rather than fly with one of their own Flight Commanders (in the case of Squadron commander), they might just decide to fly with one of the most junior crews on the squadron, perhaps with an NCO captain. Thus the occasion might be both an honour and a slightly frightening time for the particular junior crew to have "the boss" literally at their shoulder throughout the operation. Sometimes the senior officer would be listed as the Captain for the trip, sometimes he was obviously only the supernumerary crew member with no particular responsibilities so far as the operation of the aircraft was concerned. In such cases, in theory he was therefore "junior" to the aircraft captain, but in all probability his presumable vast experience might well be appreciated by a comparatively green crew (so long as the senior officer was up to speed on all the latest procedures, equipment, etc) I think that sometimes these flights with juniors was an opportunity to show the greener crews that their "boss" was not the firebreathing monster they imagined him to be, so it could be a very useful exercise in "staff relations" which ideally could work both ways.
    However occasionally the squadron commander could fly with a crew made up of his own "leaders" (specialist officers, although obviously this would be frowned on from upon high because the loss of all that experience in one lost aircraft would be difficult to replace at short notice. I know of an RNZAF PV-1 Ventura squadron commander in the South pacific who was lost on a routine transit flight in January 1945; he had on board his Navigation Leader (who had also flown with Bomber Command in UK), one of the squadron Operations Officers, and an Air Movements Officer as well as a member of the ground staff along as a passenger. They never arrived at their destination, although the weather along the entire route was fine and calm, with excellent flying conditions. A search revealed Ventura wreckage in the sea just 15 miles from point of departure (Piva strip, Bougainville) and on the intended track. Also located was other, unrelated wreckage, and it was conjectured that the most likely cause of the accident was that the captain and other occupants became so intrigued with investigating this wreckage and trying to identify it that they got too low over a glassy calm sea and simply clipped the surface with a wing tip and cartwheeled in. Although by no means the worst possible scenario, this does demonstrate the ease with which a highly experienced crew could be lost in one aircraft, particularly if they were in a relaxed state of mind as to their trip (as this crew obviously was). Also on board were 7 bags of mail for the squadron along with 15 boxes of Coca Cola intended for their base at Emirau!
    David D

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