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Thread: Target Tow Operator

  1. #1
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    Default Target Tow Operator

    I'd be grateful for an explanation of the description Target Tow Operator.

    This is given as the trade of LAC Ian Martin (Sn 924725) who was acting as a meteorological observer on Hudson FK752 of 251 Squadron when it was lost during a met reconnaissance sortie on 9 November 1944. A surviving 251 Squadron Met Air Observer (MAO) has explained that the squadron was experiencing a shortage of MAOs at the time and as a stop gap a small number of TTOs were trained to make up the shortfall. Sadly for Martin this was his first operational sortie.

    251 Squadron was based at Reykjavik at the time. My contact is 96 years old.

    Brian

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    Default Re: Target Tow Operator

    TTO's were enlisted men mustered for Target Towing duties, and I imagine that being also called on to undertake meteorological observer duties may have stretched their brains somewhat! I have always thought of TTO duties as quite a physical and uncomfortable job, and frequently dangerous. Needless to say, most TTO's were required to man the rear cockpit of (mostly) single-engined aircraft engaged in providing targets for air-to-air gunnery, ground-to-air gunnery, or ship-based A/A gunners. Larger aircraft were sometimes assigned for towing targets, often obsolete ex-operational aircraft, such as Fairey Battles, Defiants, Lysanders, Harvards, Hinds, Avengers, Vengeances, Bermudas and multi-engined examples (in RAF) would include Miles Monitor, Mosquitos and Beaufighters. In American air forces (and US Navy) such aircraft as Hudsons, Venturas and B-26 Marauders (in US Navy) were employed. Such more powerful aircraft were used to haul targets at more realistic (higher) speeds than was possible with low-powered aircraft.
    Last edited by David Duxbury; 10th September 2022 at 01:21.

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    Default Re: Target Tow Operator

    Much obliged David. I'd not seen the term previously but wondered if it was something similar to your description.

    Brian

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    Default Re: Target Tow Operator

    As an afterthought were TTOs permitted wear a brevet specific to the trade similar to other aviators?

    Brian

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    Default Re: Target Tow Operator

    Quote Originally Posted by Lyffe View Post
    As an afterthought were TTOs permitted wear a brevet specific to the trade similar to other aviators?

    Brian
    Hi Brian

    No, they were not classed at aircrew as such.

    Malcolm

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    Default Re: Target Tow Operator

    As ever, my thanks Malcolm. I've found a description of a TTO's work from an American viewpoint, and I guess RAF procedures were much the same:

    https://napoleon130.tripod.com/id640.html

    As with the RAF, American TTOs were denied a brevet.

    Brian

    Brian

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    Default Re: Target Tow Operator

    I believe they got extra pay for flying duties so may have been popular with those who were passed over for aircrew training - 8d per sortie springs to mind but I may be wrong. There was quite a bit of responsibility in the role as towing a cable about 8,000 feet long would cause a fair bit of damage if not wound in or jettisoned, using a special cable cutter fitting.

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    Default Re: Target Tow Operator

    I think you are almost certainly correct, PNK, and probably enjoyed aircrew rations as well. American TTOs were rewarded in the same manner, from my #6 link:

    The towed target operators were unique, in that they were volunteer aircrew, but they had no award of an aircrew wing, (brevet), to indicate their airborne duty, but they did enjoy their few additional Dollars flying pay and aircrew rations.

    Brian

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    Default Re: Target Tow Operator

    Don Evans wrote a book entitled The Long Drag
    Don was a TTO and later was at Boscombe Down on target trials/development.

    He does not say too much about being an operator but did write that he lost 3 friends whilst they were on towing duties.
    He also states that '' I look back to my days as a winch operator as one of the most enjoyable in my life.I was in fact an engine fitter,but like several in my squadron,was enticed by the princely sum of ninepence per day to hook on a 4 thousand foot tail.It was not just the money,we were able to lounge around the crew room when not flying,wearing boots and a mae west.The WAAFS thought we were great - so did we !'' :)

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    Default Re: Target Tow Operator

    Like it, BVS, and my thanks to all have have contributed.

    Brian

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