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Thread: Wind finders

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    Default Wind finders

    I know that some aircraft were designated "wind-finders" when flying over enemy territory, their results being sent back to HQ and advised to the bomber stream. Can anybody tell me how this wind-finding was achieved? I know the FAA dropped smoke-bombs into the sea, and I've just found a reference in an ORB report for 9 squadron that says:
    "Yellow W/F (wind finding?) TI not seen so no wind passed." (as it were!!)
    A second crew said "Unable to find wind as TI only burnt for about 40 seconds."
    Seems like a similar method to the FAA? Any help much appreciated.
    Regards
    Max
    Last edited by Galgos; 30th December 2008 at 20:17.

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    Max,

    Try "Uncommon Valour" by A G Goulding published in 1985. It's a rather slim volume (186 pages) that claims to tell the story of RAF Bomber Command; I make no comment but it is one of the few books that include a description of wind finding.

    Basically the object of the exercise for a number of aircraft at the head of a bomber stream to be nominated as wind-finders, and, using the various positioning techniques (GEE) would signal the found winds over 30 minute legs back to Group. From there the winds were telephoned to HQ Bomber Command and ETA - the code name for the Met Office HQ at Dunstable.

    At both places the winds were plotted on a special diagram and the mean wind for the 30 minutes calculated from all the reports. These were compared with the forecast wind for that leg and an amendment broadcast as necessary. The object of the exercise was to ensure all the aircraft were using the same basic data for navigation. The procedure continued throughout an operation - both out- and in-bound.

    The idea was introduced during the winter of 1943-44 and certainly brought about an improvement in both navigating and time-on-target.

    It did not always work mostly through human frailties. The night of the 'Big Wind' (24/25 March 1944) is a case in point. The target was Berlin, the outbound leg being slightly north of east over the North Sea, across Denmark, then south-southeast to Berlin.

    The forecast was for a NNW wind of 20 mph increasing to N 45-50 mph towards Denmark. Immediately from take-off the wind-finders reported stronger winds than forecast, matters were then complicated by the GEE signals being jammed along the second part of the leg towards Denmark. When fixes were made on crossing the Danish coast the navigators found the wind at 20000 ft had actually increased to values in excess of 100 mph. This was unheard of at such a low level at the time causing many navigators to disbelieve their calculations so they reduced the found wind speed to more like that forecast. Others did report what they found, and the result was that the winds being reported to the Groups were far more variable in strength than normal.

    In some cases (I believe) Group nav officers further compounded the problem further by assuming the strong winds were in error and reducing them to the values forecast. Consequently the winds that eventually reached the meteorologists were contaminated, and in the end they had no choice but to issue a 'no change' forecast.

    The end result was that the bomber stream was torn apart and scattered all over the sky and the raid deemed a failure.

    I won't go into the reasons for the original forecast not picking up on the belt of strong winds as I guess I might have sent you to sleep already.

    Brian

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    Hi Max. Very precient of you! Just today, I've been going through the 6-Group ORBs for February 1945 and there are several pages on wind finding that might be right up your ally. It's quite an extensive analysis and a good critical review of the difficulties. Not all pages are particularly legible but I could send it by email if you wish. I should add that I could contact my father's Navigator to see if he participated in wind finding.

    Jim

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    Thanks Brian,
    I just knew you'd help out, and no, you didn't send me to sleep by your detailed explanation. I've seen GEE and the API mentioned in wind-finding, where do the comments about the TIs in the 9 squadron ORBs come in? Possibly a visual sighting made over a timed period and then re-sighting and noting the position in comparison to the first?
    Jim, this relates as you'll know to a discussion we've been having over on the Lanc-archive forum. I'd be very interested in anything you can contribute in any way on this question.
    Regards
    Max
    Last edited by Galgos; 30th December 2008 at 20:46.

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    Further to my last you could also try AIR2/5029 which discusses the matter in detail. Unfortunately the NA website appears to be down at the moment so I don't have the exact file name.

    Brian

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    Since the bomber streams were flying in excess of 10000 ft I can't imagine smoke bombs come into the equation - the technique would not work, especially at night. Do the references refer to the pre-Sept 1942 period when 9 Sqn was engaged on anti-shipping sorties?

    See my email which shows the form on which the found winds were plotted and the technique to calculate the mean wind.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 30th December 2008 at 21:09. Reason: See email off-board

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    Brian: I would expect that the "Higher Level" documents (AIR2/5029) would be more complete than the Group level ORB's that I have access to. At some point I would be interested in learning more about how you have accessed these documents (NA in Kew) and how one might be able to source the indexes by internet.

    Max: will send by email to the Galgos one.

    Jim

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    Thanks Jim!
    Max

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    I have a curious piece of salvaged equipment at home that is marked:

    WIND FINDING ATTACHMENT
    MK 1A
    6B/308
    FOR
    API MK1A
    821/45
    It has a 360 graph with time in minutes and a compass rose engraved upon it. Was this a later addition to wind finding technology within RAF aircraft? I would imagine it provided greater accuracy by early computor over air dropped smoke indicators.

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    Max,

    I think I might have resolved your TI query.

    Quoting from 'Uncommon Valour':

    "Two methods were used to attempt to keep the stream concentrated; Pathfinder aircraft dropped target indicators as 'route markers' at selected points along the route to rally any aircraft wandering off track, and experienced crews with H2S were selected as windfinders."

    Could it be that your man was describing these TIs? If they were dropped at selected points it would be a simple matter to compute airspeed and wind direction/velocity.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 31st December 2008 at 14:42. Reason: spelling

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