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Thread: Dual trade F/E - Bombaimer in pathfinder force

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    Default Dual trade F/E - Bombaimer in pathfinder force

    Hello , I’m wondering if anyone has ever seen or heard of a flight engineer doubling up as a bombaimer as well ?
    the reason for me asking is that I was shown a log book the other day where the chap started as an engineer on 626 Sqn did around 5 ops went to PNTU at warboys then on to 156 Sqn where he did around another 35 ops , but under the duty column in the logbook he writes both engineer and bombaimer ! There was no bombaimer training in the logbook though.
    was this a common thing in the pathfinder force ??
    thankyou for any help on this Nick.

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    I have seen references to Flt Eng being used to operate bomb release gear whilst working in conjunction with the Set Operator (H2S) and possibly not just on a pathfinder sqn.

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    From the Masterbomber Craig website


    http://masterbombercraig.wordpress.c...inder-methods/


    Pathfinder Force used 2 Navigators in each Aircraft, 1 termed the Observer, the other the Plotter
    Observer = Set Operator (H2S/GEE) - later known as Nav (Radar),carrying over to the V force,V bombers had a Nav (Plotter) and a Nav (Radar).

    Except on special Flights, Pathfinder Force did not use a Front Gunner nor a separate Bomb Aimer. The Flight Engineer was given the Training to enable him to Operate the Bombsight with additional information from the Observer. Depending on the Raid, either the Flight Engineer would drop the Bombs Visually, with information from the Observer & Plotter for Setting the Bombsight, and the Pilot would be given the Course to Fly to bring us over the Target on the proper Course. Then it was just set the Bomb Release Switches, hold the Plane steady and level for the last 5 miles to the Release Point, push the “tit”, and “Bombs Away!” and immediately change direction to get out of the way of Main Force. When it was a Blind Bombing Raid, the Observer Set the Release Switches, timed & released the Bombs & Flares from his position, based on his reading of the H2S Scan.

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    Excerpt from interview with Flight Lieutenant Donald Briggs DFC - Pathfinder Flight Engineer and post war RAF Pilot.


    https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.a.../document/1564

    The excerpt covers his crews training/conversion when joining the Pathfinder Force.

    And after attending a short course to learn the Pathfinder procedures we joined number 156 squadron Pathfinders at RAF Upwood near Peterborough. And as a new crew we had two weeks of training to complete during which time I took on the additional role of bomb aimer. I was taught how to run up on the, set the bomb sight up to start with and, and then how to run up and give corrections to the pilot, running up to the dropping point, aiming point. And we dropped practice bombs at a nearby bombing range which I seemed to get the hang of quite, quite well.

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    Thankyou very much bvs , that’s really great info and good to know.

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    Pleasure 22C
    Sometimes the wartime RAF was flexible and pragmatic in its approach to certain requirements and ISTR that Bomb Aimers and sometimes W/Op's became qualified set operators,I have looked at some crew lists and most included a Bomb Aimer - but he of course may have been back next to the Nav (Plotter) looking after the 'Set',and of course the 'mix' of aircrew might vary with the year and changes of procedures etc - but certainly some crews did have 2 Navs/Observers so I guess it varied depending on crew requirements and availability of specific crew 'specialists'.
    The Visual Marking Pathfinders would have had an experienced Bomb Aimer in the nose,in the Master Bomber Craig website it gives the different levels of Pathfinder Crew qualifications (ie the type of marking a specific crew were allowed to do).

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    I have a copy of Sgt H. Willoughby's logbook. Willoughby was the Flight Engineer on my Dad's crew, and flew with them at a regular squadron (420) and then on to Pathfinders (405). Starting from their 4th operation with 405 (on Aachen) he begins listing his duties as "Engineer and Bombaimer", as opposed to just "Engineer", so this tends to confirm the info given here, that Pathfinder engineers were given special training. However, I am a bit puzzled by the "no bombaimer" in Pathfinders, as my Dad's crew certainly had a bombaimer for all their 59 ops : Flying Officer Malcolm Dingwall. Perhaps the Canadian Pathfinder squadron operated a bit differently....?
    All the best, Clint

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    Hello

    Clint, from my knowledge about 405 Squadron, I confirm most crews had a bomb aimer, at least those I studied more in détails. The one I studied the more had a crew of 8, with two navigators/observers, one using the H2S set and the other navigating using the charts, etc...

    Just a thought, but initially 156 was flying Wellingtons, in which there's usually no flight engineers. Perhaps the Squadron adapted its own procedure when converting to Lancasters, gaining a flight engineer in the process ?

    Joss

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    Quote Originally Posted by ClintCoffey View Post
    However, I am a bit puzzled by the "no bombaimer" in Pathfinders, as my Dad's crew certainly had a bombaimer for all their 59 ops : Flying Officer Malcolm Dingwall.
    All the best, Clint
    It depend on how experienced the pathfinder crew were and what category of pathfinder marking they were qualified for and would probably vary from year to year and with which 'RAF Group' they operated...

    Again - From the Pathfinder Craig website


    Squadron Crew Ranking – Every Squadron had its Crews qualified for different categories. These were…
    Supporters. – These were usually the newest Crews. They flew in Support of the rest of the Squadron, same timing, same Target, and carried the same Bomb Load as the Main Force. Their Role was to support the Early Marker Crews and help achieve saturation of the Ground Defences. Their 1st Duty was to arrive at the Target on Time. Their Log & Camera picture of the Target were analysed, as were all the Logs & Camera pictures taken during all Training Flights. On all these Flights a high standard of H2S Operation was required. As they became more efficient they could be qualified for a higher ranking, and assigned to more demanding Marking Duties with Bombs & Flares.
    The Categories were, in ascending order of Competence from Supporter were…
    Primary Visual Marker.
    Visual Centrer.
    Blind Illuminator.
    Blind Marker.
    Primary Blind Marker.
    The names generally indicate their Role in the Attack, and exceptional standards had to be met before a Crew could qualify for the next step. Except on special Flights, Pathfinder Force did not use a Front Gunner nor a separate Bomb Aimer. The Flight Engineer was given the Training to enable him to Operate the Bombsight with additional information from the Observer. Depending on the Raid, either the Flight Engineer would drop the Bombs Visually, with information from the Observer & Plotter for Setting the Bombsight, and the Pilot would be given the Course to Fly to bring us over the Target on the proper Course. Then it was just set the Bomb Release Switches, hold the Plane steady and level for the last 5 miles to the Release Point, push the “tit”, and “Bombs Away!” and immediately change direction to get out of the way of Main Force. When it was a Blind Bombing Raid, the Observer Set the Release Switches, timed & released the Bombs & Flares from his position, based on his reading of the H2S Scan.
    Some of the Highly Qualified Crews would always have a very experienced Bomb Aimer in the nose.
    Any other category of crew might have a different mix of trades - I get the feeling that as the war progressed many crews would have had the fairly standard 2 x Navigators,but earlier crews could be made up of different trades.
    Some Highly Experienced Crews had 2xBomb Aimers (BA 1 + BA2) - one of them would be in the nose and the other I would assume was the 'Set Operator' -
    so depending on the Sqn/Year/Group/Crew Qualification Category -there probably is no simple 'one size fits all' answer,but it seems certain that many crews did use the Flight Engineer as the 'Bomb Aimer' but ....... that does not necessarily mean that the Crew did not still have a Bomb Aimer on board (as a Set Operator [H2S] ).

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    Very interesting, and now that I read this information, I am reminded that (although I don't have a copy) I did have a browse through Dingwall's logbook , and he did list his duties during their time in PFF as "bombaimer and 2nd Nav.", so that is making more sense now. I hadn't realized before how much more cross training was involved once they joined the PFF....
    Thanks all, Clint

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