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Thread: Couple of questions about how Air Gunner Schools operated

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    Default Couple of questions about how Air Gunner Schools operated

    Hello everyone

    Further to my query about R.A.F. Morpeth, I have some questions about how the Air Gunner Schools operated in practice.

    4 A.G.S. at Morpeth was initially equipped with the Blackburn Botha as the trainee gunners' aircraft and the Lysander as the target tug. I understand the Lysanders were fitted with an electric winch. The firing took place over the North Sea north of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. How did these operations work? Was there a standard practice for every unit?

    Was the target tug was sent off first, to be on station with the target being winched out once in postition, and the trainees' aircraft (more than one Botha?) would follow and rendezvous with it? Or would they all go off together to the range?

    Once the gunners had done their stuff, was the target dropped at a pre-determined position to be collected for inspection, or was it towed back to base and dropped there before landing?

    Fortunately 4 A.G.S. got the Bothas replaced with Ansons eventually, but not before they'd lost at least 16 Bothas to mishaps. Serviceability of the Botha was also low - about 50% availability was average.

    I can't seem to find any info online about the day-to-day operations of the Schools, so wondered if anyone could help, or perhaps point me to an account somewhere.

    Many thanks,

    Regards

    Simon

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    Hi Simon,

    my information might be not fully correct but from my previous research I understand that:

    - both aircraft always met over the target area
    - I believe there was only one aircraft with gunner in the area at the time
    - the towing aircraft was dropping the target and then continue in gunnery practice with new target for another gunners. I am not able to say how many targets they were able to stove in the towing aircraft.
    - next aircraft with gunners took off and joined the towing aircraft for another round

    As for Bothas (if you have not see it before) there was also height limit for new Air Gunner cadets due to the turret limitations.

    So as I have stated at the beginning - this is just how I think the procedure was. I will be glad if anyone can add some bits and pieces or correct me if I am totally wrong.

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Thanks for your reply Pavel., that's very helpful indeed.

    Information seems to a bit thin on the ground about the A.G.S. operations, although I did find a copy of 'The Long Drag' by Don Evans I'd forgotten I had!

    Regards

    Simon

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    As far as I am aware - most live air firing practice against a Drogue or Flag target would have involved each trainee gunner having his rounds dipped in different coloured paint and after the Drogue or Flag was dropped at a designated area either on the airfield or close by then the Drogue or Flag would be inspected and the different coloured 'Holes' counted to give each trainee gunner their own 'score'.

    Some useful info on this website -

    https://wallyswar.wordpress.com/gunnery-course/

    A short excerpt -

    After the gunnery exercise, the flags were dropped at Hells Mouth airfield. Here an assessment of the strikes made by the coloured rounds that had been fired by the students was made.
    As a slight aside -

    Certainly up to the 1980's this method of scoring was still in use by the RAF,I had the pleasure of watching Canberra and Meteor TT's in action.
    Flt Lt'Puddy' Catt used to do some lovely 'Blue Note' runs over Brawdy after TT runs.

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    Youtube interview with ex Air Gunner Les Weeks in 2003,his A/G training starts at approx 11.00,the video clip includes details of multi gunnery trainees on board an Anson.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtQ94NNBJNM
    Last edited by bvs; 7th November 2018 at 12:31.

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    BVS

    Thanks for the replies, and for the links. They're both very helpful.

    As an aside, I do have photos of the pages from AM Pamphlet No. 183 'Towed Target Operator's Notes' dated 1946 which includes some details of the sleeve drogues, towed targets, aircraft winches and the in-aircraft procedure for launching the sleeves.

    Regards

    Simon

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    Hi Simon - I don't know if you have read this book - sounds interesting :)

    The Long Drag: A Short History of British Target Towing
    by Don Evans

    Written by Don Evans, who joined the RAF in 1942 and served as a Flight Mechanic working on Hurricanes and Defiants. Posted to Weston Zoyland in 1944 to service Martinet, Henley and Defiant target tugs, he was persuaded by the princely sum of ninepence a day flying pay to complete 90 hours as a target winch operator. He transferred to the Fleet Air Arm in 1945 until demobilisation in 1947, whereupon he began working at the A&AEE at Boscombe Down until his retirement in 1989. For 12 years he was supervisor of the Towed Target Development Section, where he was when awarded the British Empire Medal for the design of the Trident Target and the Rapid Target Exchanger.
    rgds baz

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    Baz

    Yes, I do have a copy - I'd forgotten I had it until I was going to order it on Amazon and it told me I'd bought it a few years back! It's quite focused on post-war Target Towing, but there is some great information and photos in there about the early years as well.

    Regards

    Simon

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