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Thread: Position of crew members in a Halifax (the dispatcher)

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    Default Position of crew members in a Halifax (the dispatcher)

    Hello.

    For the SOE special operations, the 161st squadron Halifax had 8 crew members including the Halifax DK119 (instead of 7 for the Halifax bombardment). I see quite well the position of the crew members on the plane except the one who is designated "the dispatcher".
    - What was his position on the plane? A photo would delight me!
    - What role did he have?

    thanks in advance

    cordially

    Michel03, France

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    Hi Michel,
    according to my knowledge "dispatcher" was repsonsible for the drop of SOE agents or material on the right time, he helped them to get ready and to get out.
    Unfortunately I do not know where was his place during the flight but I would expect he was sitting in the fuselage with the "freight".

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

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michel03 View Post
    Hello.

    For the SOE special operations, the 161st squadron Halifax had 8 crew members including the Halifax DK119 (instead of 7 for the Halifax bombardment). I see quite well the position of the crew members on the plane except the one who is designated "the dispatcher".
    - What was his position on the plane? A photo would delight me!
    - What role did he have?

    thanks in advance

    cordially

    Michel03, France
    The despatcher wold have been positioned roughly in the centre of the a/c as the hole for the agents/cargo to be dropped was under where the mid upper turret would have been.

    Taken from my book Runways To Freedom....The role of Despatching is one that calls for a considerable knowledge not only of parachute equipment, but also human nature.

    The Despatcher must be fully conversant with all types of equipment used on an operation, the method of attachment, employment and adjustment. He must be able to calculate and decide on the positions to be taken up by each man, and piece of parachute equipment in the aircraft, and the order of dropping and jettisoning for each particular operation, always bearing in mind that the aim is to reduce the length of the stick to a minimum consistent with safety.



    Furthermore he must appreciate the state of mind of the men, and by his own behaviour and efficiency instil the necessary confidence. He must be considerate, calm and cheerful, and at all times place the comfort and safety of the men before his own. He will readily realise that it is a ‘nervy’ business for those who in cold blood are launching themselves into enemy-occupied territory. They are individuals and have to be treated as such. The needs of each may vary. One will jump seemingly care-free, another, possibly the braver, will require cheerful (but not boisterous) encouragement. Some – but only at their own desire – may require a little gentle assistance out. Enquiries on all these points should be made beforehand at the rehearsal from the officer accompanying the men.



    The Despatcher, as one of the crew, comes of course under his Captain’s orders, but he is in sole charge of those within the fuselage, and this is a considerable responsibility.



    These notes are written so that the Despatcher may appreciate that there is more in his job than merely slinging out animate or inanimate objects. His work is highly skilled, and one that calls for quick thinking and courage. The Despatcher should take a pride in the highly skilled and important work he is doing and realise that upon him depends the success or failure of an operation, and even the lives of the men under his charge.”

    This piece came from the National Archives Kew

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    In 148 Squadron, which flew Halifaxes in a Special Duties role in the Balkans, the mid-upper gun turret was removed and the air-gunner became the crew's despatcher. On some operations, an additional crew member was carried as an extra despatcher, I believe. The job included manually despatching packages as well as parachutists ("Joes") - and I assume also the propaganda leaflets ("Nickels") which were frequently carried by the squadron in the final year of the war.

    Cheers, Pat
    Last edited by Pat; 1st September 2019 at 15:45.

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    There's a French film on Youtube called "Le Bataillon du Ciel" which shows paras being dropped from a Stirling, with a despatcher involved:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oe49SErjAJY

    It's right at the end from about 1 hour 12 minutes. Presumably the same with the Halifax?

    Some great reference for the interior of the Stirling IV too!

    Regards

    Simon

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    Wow! That really does give a very good idea of how they got those paratroopers out, REALLY FAST, to prevent them from being strung out too far as they land. And they were quite low too. This film does show that when in good condition, these B&W films are actually pretty sharp, unlike some of the dreadful so-called "restored" b&W films on Youtube.
    David D

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    Good evening and thank you all for taking some of your time to answer me.

    In the case of DK119, an eighth man, E.A. ALLEN was the despacher (not dispatcher). So, it probably stood where you say it: under the top turret at the drop hole. Thank you.
    In fact, will be severely injured in this aircraft, the navigator S.F. HATHAWAY and E.A. ALLEN and a dead, the rear gunner and captain L.M. LAVALLEE. I sought to appreciate the seriousness of the injuries according to the place of the men on the plane. The French gendarmerie report says that only the cell was intact, the fuselage disintegrated, some say that LM LAVALLEE was ejected and crushed by its turret but I did not find any source on this subject. The reports of escape do not mention it, nor the testimony of the French on the parachuting ground.
    For the video, I'm sorry: "Video not available. This video includes content from Pathe who blocked it in your country for copyright reasons. "So I can not watch it!

    Another question :
    The testimony of a man on the ground says that the British planes dropped between 200 and 250 m in height; it seems very low, what do you think?

    Regards
    Michel03

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    I have copies of debriefing reports showing agents dropped from 600 - 700 feet and containers from as low as 450 feet

    Michael, please check your email,
    Bob
    Last edited by Bob; 3rd September 2019 at 08:43.

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