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Thread: Bomber pilot flying to the place where AA shell exploded - myth or truth?

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    Default Bomber pilot flying to the place where AA shell exploded - myth or truth?

    Hi all,

    I have read that some RAF BC pilots have adopted the method of flying to the place where AA shell have previously exploded saying that Germans would not fire twice to the same place. One of them should be the famous G/Cpt Pickard while with 311 Sq and he should be teaching this the Czech pilots too...
    I would like to know if there are more reminiscences of this method or it is just a myth?
    I personally cannot imagine for example a Wellington zig-zaging the sky from one AA shell burst to another and keeping the course at the same time.
    Or it was used just a for a short time when passing an AA barrage?

    Any sources, ideas and opinions would be much appreciated.

    TIA

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

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    My understanding is that A/A barrages were precisely that, the gunners simply attempted to fill a certain invisible "box" in the sky with exploding shells, generally in a position that a large formation of bombers might be obliged to fly through, and hoping that the shrapnel generated will hit something vital. I have never heard of gunners constantly changing the settings on their guns simply to avoid having one of their shells explode in a particular point in space where an earlier shell had exploded. As the aircraft are constantly moving, and there was probably no allowance made for the courses or heights of any particular aircraft in the formation, or stream as they were later in war, this sounds very much like a myth to me. Would be very interested in any other comments on this subject. There were many superstitions about all sorts of things in Bomber Command crews during the war, many of which will be mentioned in reminiscences, etc.
    David D

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    If there was a barrage, then such evasion would be of no use. However, not all AA was barrage, and even so there would be a matter of altitude. I have heard of pilots changing altitude to make the fusing problem of the AA more difficult, and heading for the previous unsuccessful altitude could appear appealing, under the assumption that the gunners would change to a different altitude and so miss again. I believe that I have read of such a manoeuvre, but in a tactical context rather than that of Bomber Command.


    However, this idea is only a slight improvement on the observed tendency of people in ground warfare to take shelter in a bomb or shell hole, on the logic that no bomb or shell will land exactly on the same spot as a previous one. After all, not everything that one does in battle is necessarily guided by cold-blooded logic.

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    Hi David and Graham, thank you for your comments, to be honest I have the same feeling about the described method...

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

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    No AA fired at the same spot, guns were constantly adjusted, either to sound detectors, radars or searchlights. If barrage was set, guns were moved in a constant deflection, to cover as much area as possible. So yes, the tactics early in the war had some sense. There were various tricks like closing throttles for example.
    https://www.facebook.com/Franciszek-Grabowski-241360809684411/

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    Franek thank you for your post and mentioning of the sound detectors used in the early stage of war. The other frequently method was setting a different rpm adjustment for each of Wellington engines to confuse those sound detectors.

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

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    Hello All

    I’m not trying to hijack this thread (honest!), but there is much comment on the various heights that the WW2 German AA (mostly 88mm?) rounds were set to explode at.

    This must have been before the days of the dreaded radar fuse? I was involved, for a short period, in looking after the UK Range Stations that experimented with this sort of thing!

    If so, then the trajectory of the round must have been determined solely by muzzle velocity? This, in turn, would have been determined by the type/amount/temperature of the pre-filled propellant in the cartridge? So, if you can have a good guestimate at the characteristics of the round as it went into the breech, then its detonation height must have been governed solely by time (which could be set before loading)?

    Is there a short paper, or papers, anywhere which lays out how “their” and “our” AA Units made the rounds explode at the right (designated) height? And the errors associated?

    Just asking!
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 19th February 2019 at 14:23. Reason: QSD
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
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    I had forgotten Proximity Fuses! Who invented them, and when? How "prox" did the round have to be to an a/c to explode?
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Peter,

    Not sure proximity fuses/fuzes come into it. Based on WW1 met papers I'm 99% sure AA shells were fused/fuzed to detonate at predetermined altitudes. Gunners also had to take into account meteorological conditions such as wind speed and temperature. In the UK the necessary data were passed by Meteor messages. The crucial information was passed to each gun crew by the HQ unit responsible for the battery. This was standard practice for artillery units, be they firing horizontally on a ground target or vertically at a 'spot' at some predetermined altitude. (See also AP1134 Chapter 1 pp. 20-21).

    Brian

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    AFAIK proximity fuses went in use for the first time during a V1 campaign, and they were deadly. In August number of V1s downed by AA surpassed those downed by fighters.
    As to establishing of altitude there were several ways of measurement or predetermination, optical, by sound, by aircraft performance envelope, by reports of friendly aircraft or by radar. In organised AA defence AA battery then received settings, and continued fire according to them. I do not know if it was already automatised during the war, but post-war Soviet 100 mm battery was almost fully automatic. A computer (big van) analysed data coming from radar, met conditions, etc., then it was sending by cable impulses to guns. Rounds were set automatically for appropriate height, then automatically loaded to automatically aimed guns, and fired automatically on order. The duty of gunners was to check if everything works OK and bring ammunition.
    https://www.facebook.com/Franciszek-Grabowski-241360809684411/

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