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Thread: Crew positions Handley Page Harrow

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    Default Crew positions Handley Page Harrow

    Dear all,

    Has anybody information about the crew positions in a (pre war) Handley Page Harrow?

    Am I right with the next functions?
    Pilot
    Second Pilot
    Observer
    Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
    Air Gunner

    Thanks in advance,
    Hans Nauta

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    Hans, Hi,
    And what - one might ask - were the arrangements for any passengers being carried?
    One of our Met WW2 casualties was a Fg Off W M Henderson who was lost, in transit from UK to the Med, in Harrow K7011 on 19 Dec 42. The use of a possible bomber as a transport a/c does give some indication as to how moving persons from one theatre of operations to another was fraught with some difficulties!! Send them by ship and you risk being torpedoed. Send them by air and you risk being shot down, or even the a/c failing to do what it should do.
    Any more info gratefully received.
    Rgds
    Peter Davies

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    I cannot find a quote for the number of crewmembers, but your list excludes a bombaimer, and the aircraft had three turrets. I suspect a list might be:

    pilot
    navigator (observer)
    bombaimer/front gunner
    wireless operator/dorsal gunner
    tail gunner

    That is only my guess. However, it was originally drawn up to specification C26/31, which had the transport as the primary role and the bomber as secondary, and only called for a total crew of two, sharing the duties of pilot, navigator, wireless operator and bombaimer, with two gunner's stations. Presumably the gunners were ground personnel called up for duty when required, as common elsewhere in the RAF prewar and in some types in the early war years. This clearly only called for one pilot, with the capability for being modified to two pilots for conversion training. This was normal for large RAF bombers in WW2. When ordered the priority was reversed leading to some redesign being necessary. It was designed to carry 20 passengers. C26/31 only required 10.

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    Just a note that the "trade" of "Bomb Aimer" (actually a popular slang term for the official title of "Air Bomber"), a trade which did not exist in the full-time sense prior to mid-1942, the duties of aiming the bomb load previously being one of the manifold duties of the Observer (or, in official jargon, "Air Observer"!). The Air Observer was Navigator, Air Bomber stand-by Air Gunner, Photographer, and, from fairly early in WW2, had the additional duty of "Fire Controller". The Fire controller had the specific duty in larger aircraft of co-ordinating the actions of the pilot and the (one or more) gunners when the aircraft came under attack from enemy aircraft (thus was more usual in daytime operations, although it officially covered any attack regardless of time of day). When a warning came from any crew member (usually the gunners) that an attack from enemy aircraft was imminent, the Air Observer would abandon all other duties and assume his "Fire controller's" position under the astro-hatch where he had a fairly reasonable view of the sky above, around and particularly to the rear of his aircraft, and from here he became the "master of ceremonies", giving instructions to the gunners as well as to the pilot (the latter not being able to see anything that might be taking place to the rear), and was particularly important in advising the pilot to suddenly turn hard to port or starboard just as the enemy aircraft came within range and opened fire. I doubt that Observers prewar (when there were actually very few of them about anyway, their duties frequently being occupied by another, usually junior pilot) would have known anything about "Fire Controller" duties, but he was certainly familiar with the other duties detailed above. Incidentally the usual "work station" in many of the earlier WW2 RAF multi-seat multi-engine bombers was in the nose of the aircraft, very near to his beloved (?) bomb sight, usually the rather simple CSBS (Course Setting Bomb Sight), which was also a very useful navigational instrument.
    David D

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    Peter,

    K7011 had two pilots in the transport role (at least it did on this flight (F1180)), plus three other crew members; positions unknown but at least a navigator and WOp.

    Brian

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    Hi Hans
    The 2 sources that I have , Frank Mason-The British Bomber, and Owen Thetford-Aircraft of the RAF, both give the crew of the Harrow Bomber as 5, but don't specify what categories.Pictures of the a/c show 3 gun positions and a radio aerial support mast just behind the pilot.There is also mention of a possible Ventral Gun and it seems to be shown on a photo in Thetford's book(the large format edition published in 1995). The Radio need not have had a separate operator, at that stage of the war/pre-war it could have been pilot operated as it was in single seat fighters.As bombers they were issued to 37,75,115,214 and 215 Sqns although they were never used for bombing. If someone has access to the early ORBs of those Sqns there might be some guidance there.
    If you try http://www.feltwell.net/raffeltwell/75sq_index.htm, which is part of the Feltwell Village website you might get in contact with someone who has information from the pre-war history of 75 Sqn when they flew Harrows before they converted to Wellingtons
    Regards
    Dick
    Last edited by Dick; 18th July 2008 at 13:59.

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    In Putnam's "Armament of British Aircraft 1909 - 1939" by H F King (1971) details of the armament of the Harrow is quite detailed. It states "In terms of armament, it marked the arrival of power-operated turrets for British bombers, but these were not at first installed, their places being taken by fixed glazing. The turrets were two in number, although a third (dorsal) powered installation has been mistakenly recorded. Designed by Handley Page themselves, the turrets (nose and tail), had Nash and Thompson driving mechanism, and housed in each were the guns - two Lewis (rear) and one Lewis (front), aimed by means of reflector sights. Vickers G.O. guns were later fitted."
    "Into the nose turret was built a projecting section incorporating an optically flat panel for the bomb aimer".
    The dorsal position (which was NOT a powered turret) comprised a single Lewis gun in a manually operated cupola resembling that of an Armstrong Whitworth turret.
    The official bomb load of 3,000 pounds was carried internally. "The bomb bay extended beneath the floor of the fuselage centre-section, and above this ran a walkway connecting all crew stations."
    A photograph in this book also clearly shows the large aerial mast mentioned by Dick; on top of the mast is mounted the pitot head, rather as it was on the prototype Airspeed Oxford.


    However the important thing here is that the Harrow WAS designed and built as a bomber first and foremost, although obviously readily adaptable for transport duties. Practically all the squadrons listed by Dick were dedicated Bomber squadrons, and they all trained as such. The Harrow was considered an "interim" type of aircraft during the rapid expansion stage of Bomber Command, so it was probably rather clever of the planners to call for such an aircraft, which could then have a "second life" as a reasonably useful transport, much as the Luftwaffe did with the Junkers 52/3m and the Junkers 86 (although latter was rather a skinny transport). I have read the brief history of the Harrow with 75 Sqdn prewar, and they trained as a Bomber squadron, with much of the flying comprising cross country navigation exercises (many at night), etc, but also included air gunnery training, bombing (usually with practice bombs) and some formation work. Crews in pre-war days were not "stabilised"; that is they were "scratch" crews, and could change from day to day.
    David D

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    Another point I should have mentioned was to respond to Dick's suggestion that "at that stage of the war" a dedicated wireless operator was not required as the radio could be operated by the pilots. This could not be further from the truth. The "wireless apparatus" as it was known at the time could NOT be operated by pilots (who were completely untrained in their use) as these sets (1082/1083) were quite difficult and temperamental and required a lot of patience and understanding (according to the official series of narratives on the history of Signals in the RAF). At this time (1937/39) the Group II trade of Wireless Operator was NOT a flying trade; the only official full-time job for W/Oprs was a a ground-based Operator. However for flying duties, qualified W/Oprs were expected to volunteer their services (and were paid a daily rate) for their troubles and risk. It was only after the outbreak of war that the flying trade of W/Opr existed as a full time trade. This was the same for Air Gunners, who were often (Ground) Wireless Operators as well, although they could in fact be any ground trade who volunteered for training and had the initiative to study up all the technical notes and get to know the intricacies of the weapon concerned. In pre-war days (and even in wartime training) gunners were taught about each type of weapon in turn, and you qualified on each weapon separately (although obviously once you had learned about and qualified on the first, later weapons would be comparatively easy and straight forward), then you would have to qualify on each type of turret.
    Normally the only type of "wireless apparatus" that pre-WW2 RAF pilots qualified on were the "voice" type (R/T, at that time the infamous TR.9) and the Morse key (for various uses, such as operating the identification and signaling equipment, such as Aldis lamps, and understanding aerodrome identification, etc). However early bombers often did not carry any R/T (which only had a short operating range, and was most prominent in fighters), with all long-range communications carried out by Morse, but later on TR.9s (and later VHF sets) became more common, mostly for taxiing and circuit communications, and all these could easily be operated by pilots.
    David D

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    Dear all,

    Thank you for your extensive answers!

    Best regards,
    Hans Nauta

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    [QUOTE
    However the important thing here is that the Harrow WAS designed and built as a bomber first and foremost, although obviously readily adaptable for transport duties. [/QUOTE]


    I refer you to the Putnam Handley Page Aircraft, where you will find the reference to the initial design of the Harrow as a late entrant to C.26/31. The author does specifically refer to other sources, claiming the Harrow was initially designed as a bomber, as being in error. The Harrow as it first appeared was a bomber, but that is not how the design began.

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