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Thread: Bomber Command Training - AFU, OTU and CU details?

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    Default Bomber Command Training - AFU, OTU and CU details?

    Further to my earlier thread regarding AUS 414349 W.K. Halstead, I'd be interested to find out more about bomber command training in the UK, particularly regarding the Operational Training Units and the Conversion Units.

    Halstead was mustered as a Navigator and posted to the following units in the UK:

    05Nov42 – No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre (3 PRC) (3 weeks)
    30Nov42 – No. 1(O) Advanced Flying Unit (1(O) AFU) (7 weeks)
    19Jan43 – No. 27 Operational Training Unit (27 OTU) (13 weeks)
    29Apr43 – No. 1662 Conversion Unit (1662 CU) (3 weeks)
    24May43 – No. 460 Sqdn (RAAF) (24 operations)
    16Dec43 - killed in air operations (Black Thursday)

    I understand the function of 3 PRC.

    I would appreciate further details on the training and aircraft used at 1(O) AFU and 27 OTU, and 1662 CU including the timing for the formation of crews, i.e. when did "crewing up" take place?

    I believe that 1662 CU was for conversion to Lancasters and that the Flight Engineer would join the crew at this point. There is no mention on Halstead's file of a 'Lancaster Finishing School'.

    Thanks

    Adrian
    Interests include Spitfires in Malta 1942 and 460 Sqdn 1943-44 (including Black Thursday)

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    Here is a little bit of info.

    1 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit - RAF Station Wigtown, Dumfries & Galloway, Avro Anson.
    Advanced training of both bavigators and bomb Aimers with some additional training of air gunners and wireless operators.
    Feb 43 intake was 60 Navigators, 11 Bombing & Gunnery and 21 wireless operators.


    27 Operational Training Unit - RAF Station Lichfield & Church Broughton, Staffordshire & Derbyshire, Vickers Wellington (mainly Mk.III at this time).

    I have had a look at the copies I have from the ORBs for both but don't have any course details relating to Halstead, I have only really been copying crash related info.

    Crewing up normally took place at OTU level with the addition of a Flight Engineer at the HCU. As Halstead wet through a Lancaster equipped HCU then he would not have gone to a LFS.
    Alan Clark

    Peak District Air Accident Research

    http://www.peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk/

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    Adrian - You can look on my RAF Lichfield web site www.raf-lichfield.co.uk for information on 27 O.T.U. Contact me directly if you need to find out anything else chrisATlichfield.plus.com.

    Chris

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    According to my father, who was a Pathfinder pilot, he picked his crew while at 81OTU Tilstock. He said the whole procedure was somewhat amateurish, in that maybe 12 pilots would be put in a room full of bomb aimers, flight engineers, gunners, navigators and wireless operaters and told to pick a crew. This consisted of wandering the room and talking to the various airmen, finally identifying a candidate you thought would do the job and then agreeing to crew up. Most of the pilots were new and as he said none of them were really sure what they were supposed to be looking for other than being lucky enough to find a flight engineer who had either an ability or an interest in flying. This was due to the Lancaster not having a co pilot and instructors had recommended they look for a flight engineer they could train to at least fly the aircraft long enough for the crew to bail out in the event the pilot was killed or injured. From the OTU, where they flew Whitleys, the whole crew then went to 1662 Conversion Unit to train on the heavies.

    Leslie

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    Leslie,
    It may have appeared amateurish, but it worked! There's the delightful story of two gunners teaming up and then approaching a likely looking pilot with the enquiry, "Are you any good?" His reply of, "Yes, are you?" was the foundation upon which they crewed together and completed a tour. I'm given to understand that all seven members of that crew survived the war.
    Bill

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    Hi Bill, I think what Dad meant was here are all these 18, 19, and 20 year old, inexperienced kids not sure what it was they were supposed to be looking for.

    To quote from my book "in order to enhance their chances of survival, it was imperative, a bomber crew be more closely knit than they were with their own family."

    My father's crew was a family and except for a change in navigator early on and the loss of a gunner, he and his original crew were together until the last fateful 44th sortie.

    Dad said he was closer to these boys than his own brothers.

    Leslie

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    Leslie,
    Of course I understand what you say and, yes you are absolutely right! There was no criticsm of your dad intended. I was simply agreeing that to any casual onlooker it must indeed have seemed an amateurish way of going about such an important task. In all the conversations I've had with chaps down the years, not one has offered serious criticism of the crewing up process although some did admit to being a bit surprised when initially told "There, go sort yourselves into crews"! As for the bond between crew members, that can never be broken, even after many years apart.
    Bill

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    Default AFU, OTU, CU and LFS details

    As per an earlier post re AOS vs ANS courses, I can likely find some examples from my RCAF awards data base. However, I have a question of my own. How deeply do you wish to go into this ? Document Air 14/484 at Kew has, among other things, the curriculum of a Bomber Command OTU as of September 1944; I looked at a copy in Ottawa today - it runs to about 38 pages.

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    Default Training Examples

    Just sampling the beginning of the RCAF awards data base, the following examples jump out:

    ANDREWS, F/O Arthur Ellis (J25099) -

    There are two reports for his course at No.81 OTU, the first covering the period 9 November 1943 to 22 January 1944. This shows him flying Whitley aircraft (4.55 day dual to first day solo, 6.05 day dual, 27.30 day solo; 4.45 night dual to first night solo, 5.35 night dual, 30.20 night solo; figures include 1.40 in formation, 21 hours on instruments, 20 hours in Link). Subjects and marks as follows: Ground: Airmanship (256/300), Armament (261/300), Navigation (144/200), Signals (70/100). Air: General Flying (210/400), Applied Flying (100/200), Instrument Flying (50/100), Night Flying (50/100), Link (32/50). Qualities as a Leader: 55/100. Described as "A good average pilot who is very keen. He controls his crew very well and should develop into an excellent operational captain." The second report is for a course lasting 7 February to 28 March 1944. This shows flying tests in Low Flying (65/100), Glider Towing (60/100). Flying times are all logged against Whitley aircraft - 2.30 dat dual, 6.40 day solo, 55 minutes night dual, 6.40 night solo. In the specific area of "Glider Towing" he is shown as having flown 1.40 day dual (four lifts) and 1.25 day solo (one lift) plus 35 minutes night dual (one lift) and 1.05 night solo (two lifts). He may also have flown 45 minutes as passenger in a glide. "An above average pilot who has completed a successful course."

    His course at No.1665 Conversion Unit was 28 March to 1 May 1944. The actual conversion to the Stirling took 8.30 hours of day flying and 7.50 by night. His total cross-country flying time at the unit is given as 18.05 (day) and 16.50 (night). This included day cross-country exercises (4.55 dual and 4.40 solo) and night cross-country trips under "Bullseye" conditions (4.55 dual and 4.15 solo). Generally assessed as "Slightly above average - very keen and has a good knowledge of the Stirling."


    BAILEY, P/O Theodore Reginald (J86729)

    At No.18 (P) AFU, course was 27 July to 12 October 1943. Time spent in Oxford aircraft (4.30 day dual to first solo, 22.05 day dual, 25.20 day solo, of which 7.15 on instruments; 1.15 night dual to first night dolo and a total of 7.35 night dual plus 11.20 night solo (10.30 on instruments). Also spent 9.55 in Link. Flying Tests and marks as follows: General Flying (205/400), Applied Flying (110/200), Instrument Flying (130/250), Night Flying (60.100) and Link (30/50). Described as "Average. Should make suitable captain with more experience."

    A Progress Report from No.18 (P) AFU is interesting, although not all entries are legible. Samples as follows: 20 July 1943: Sequences 1, 4A, 5, 6,7A, 8A and 9A, "General handling OK. Stall recovery quite normal." 31 July 1943: Sequences 4, 6, 7B, 8A and 8B, 9A, 10A and 10B, 11, 13 - "Reactions very slow. Vital actions terrible. Needs to be told every time. In the air his flying is quite good, airspeeds OK." 3 August 1943: Sequences 4 and 5 - "Steep turns reasonable for first attempt, handling improving." 12 August 1943: Navigation, "Good. Map reading excellent. Ready for solo cross country 20 August 1943: D/N exercise - "Little slow in his reactions. Made good approaches and landings." 22 August 1943: I/F Test - "Very poor sjow. Swung off runway on two takeoffs, varied heights and airspeed. Needs more IF. FAIL." 22 August 1943 (again): IF Test - "Improvement. Heights and airspeed quite accurate." 23 August 1943: IF Test - "Made a good effort. Overshoot a little weak. PASS."

    BUCK, WO1 Percy Lloyd (J23022)

    At No.82 OTU course lasted 12 October to 26 December 1943. In this time he flew on Wellington III and Wellington X aircraft - 7.10 day dual to first solo (total 7.10 day dual) and 37.05 day solo; 5.45 night dual to first night solo (his total night dual) and 35.05 solo at night. Ground Subjects and marks as follows: Airmanship (216/300), Armament (183/300), Meteorology (not taken), Navigation (172/200) and Signals (72/100). Flying tests and marks as follows: General Flying (700/400 which suggest a typing error), Applied Flying (120/200), Instrument Flying (70/100), Night Flying (70/100) and Link (33/50). Described as "An above average pilot and captain." (W/C R. Kirkby).


    Course at No.20 (P) AFU was 28 August 1943 to 1 February 1944. All flying on Oxford aircraft (3.25 day dual to first day solo, 17 hours day dual total, 20.15 day solo; 3.45 hours night dual to first night solo, 10.25 night dual total, 19 hours night solo; eight hours 35 minutes flown on instruments, 20.25 in Link). Flying tests and marks as follows: General Flying (305/400), Applied Flying (165/200), Instrument Flying (195/250), Night Flying (75/100), Link (37/50). Character and leadership assessed as 70/100. S/L J.R. Havers wrote, "An officer with considerable experience. He has tackled the course in the right spirit. Has marked ability both as an officer and a pilot. He is confident and popular and has all the qualities which are necessary for good leadership."

    Course at No.1519 Beam Approach Training Flight was 13-18 October 1943. All flying on Oxford aircraft (13 hours dual, all by day, all of it beam flying and instrument flying). Also spent five hours five minutes in Link and flew two hours ten minutes as passenger. Flying tests and marks as follows: Beam Approach Procedure and "Q" Code (Link Trainer), 134/200, Receiver Operation (65/100), Instrument Flying (175/250), Cloud and Night Flying (175/250), General Application and Beam Approach Procedure while flying (150/200). Described as "Very satisfactory course. This pilot is very steady and should find no difficulty in using the beam in an emergency."

    Course at No.10 OTU was 1 February to 12 April 1944. All flying on Whitley V aircraft (2.34 day dual to first day solo, six hours day dual, four hours as captain with a passenger and 28 hours 30 minutes day solo without passenger; 2.30 night dual to first night solo, five hours night dual, four hours night solo with passenger, 31.35 night solo without a passenger. Also did ten hours on instruments by day and 13.30 on instruments by night. Various exercises as follows: cross-country (five by day and five by night), cross-country flights at oxygen height (five day, five night), Nickel exercises (nil), Bullseye exercises (nil), Fighter Affiliation (four by day and one by night), "Conversion Landings" (27 by day, 33 by night), "Operational Landings" (14 by day, six by night), Dry Dinghy Drills (seven by day, two by night), Parachute Drills (seven by day, one by night), and Wet Dinghy Drills (two by day). Ground tests and marks as follows: Airmanship (180/300), Armament (228/300), Meteorology (no marks), Navigation (114/200), Signals (75/100). Flying tests and marks as follows: General Flying (220/400), Applied Flying (100/200), Instrument Flying (120/250), Night Flying (50/100), Link (35/50). Character and Leadership assessed as 75/100. Described by CO named C.W. Fisher, OBE, DFC as follows" "An ex-SFTS instructor with vast experience, who quickly converted to Whitley aircraft. He is keen but appears to be ‘slap-dash' with his flying, possibly due to being over-confident. Should develop into quite a good captain with more heavy bomber experience. His standard of discipline is good with excellent self-control. He has mastered his crew and works together with them in good harmony.

    On 2 June 1944 (1400 hours) at No.1658 Conversion Unit engaged in a Fighter Affiliation exercise (aircraft "TTX") with Deluca as tail gunner and Dugdale as mid-upper. Accompanied by a F/O Jenkins as Flying Instructor and P/O Milne as Air Gunnery Instructor. Fighter pilot assessed this as ranges being "erratic", tactics "OK", evasive action "fair" and track "OK". The Air Gunner Instructor noted that rear gunner's commentary was described as "needs lot more practice", was poor at estimating range and in tactics was "all OK but for first attack." Mid-upper gunner was okay in commentary, tended to overestimate range, and tactics were "good."

    On 6 June 1944 (0930 hours) at No.1658 Conversion Unit engaged in a Fighter Affiliation exercise (aircraft "TTS") with Deluca as tail gunner and Dugdale as mid-upper. No instructors aboard. Fighter pilot assessed this as ranges "good but sometimes close 600 feet", tactics "No turn for beam attack", evasive action "good" and track "poor". The Air Gunner Instructor noted that rear gunner's commentary was described as "needs lot more practice", was poor at estimating range and in tactics was "all OK but for first attack." Mid-upper gunner was okay in commentary, tended to overestimate range, and tactics were "good."

    On 9 June 1944 (1130 hours) at No.1658 Conversion Unit engaged in a Fighter Affiliation exercise (aircraft "TTS") with Deluca as tail gunner and Dugdale as mid-upper gunner. The fighter pilot was mixed in his assessment; tactics were "Okay except once turned off track too far."

    By way of contrast, I give you the following for an early-war fighter OTU course:

    STERNE, F/O John Rutherford (J5831)

    Course at No.53 Operation Training Unit lasted from 23 August to 7 October 1941. He flew 2.55 day dual and 50.05 day solo, four hours on instruments, 17 hours in formation and 30 minutes in Link. Graded as "Above Average" in all the following categories - Natural Aptitude, Skill in Landing, Airmanship, Aerobatics, Cockpit Drill, Instrument Flying, Formation Flying and Map Reading. Fired 800 rounds air-to-air, 800 rounds air-to-ground. The following points were noted under "Distinctive Qualities":

    Persistence: Does he keep on trying or is he easily discouraged ? ("Keeps trying")

    Sense of Responsibility: Has be common sense or is he over-confident ? ("Plenty of common sense.")

    Endurance: Does he put up a consistently satisfactory performance under conditions of strain ? ("Yes")

    Leadership: Has he taken the lead in any activities ? Would he make a good captain of aircraft or Flight leader ? ("Inspires confidence".)

    Method: Does he work systematically to a plan ? ("Methodical")

    Deliberation: Does he act decisively for reasons or on impulse ? ("Acts for reasons")

    Initiative: Does he want to try things on his own ? ("Yes").

    Dash: Is he quick and decisive in action ? ("Yes").

    Distribution of Attention: Does he find it difficult to do more than one thing at a time ? ("No")

    Self-Control: Does he get flustered ? ("No.")

    General Assessment of Suitability as Operational Pilot: ("An above average pilot who can be relied upon.")

    At the conclusion of OTU, the following assessment was entered: "A quiet and reliable type. All his flying is well finished and his formation was good from the start. He should be an asset to his squadron."

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    Quote Originally Posted by HughAHalliday View Post
    As per an earlier post re AOS vs ANS courses, I can likely find some examples from my RCAF awards data base. However, I have a question of my own. How deeply do you wish to go into this ? Document Air 14/484 at Kew has, among other things, the curriculum of a Bomber Command OTU as of September 1944; I looked at a copy in Ottawa today - it runs to about 38 pages.
    Thanks Hugh. I appreciate your posts. I don't need to go that deep for two reasons - one is that he is not a particularly close relative (grandfather's cousin) and I have plenty of work around more immediate relatives. Secondly, I am under a time constraint to finish this in the next week or so. So your following post where you provide examples for 81 OTU, I will paraphrase the elements of the course just so the family have an idea of the type of training undertaken.

    Would the examples around the (P) AFU be relevant for a navigator? That is, did the Pilots and Observers AFU courses run concurrently at the same location?
    Interests include Spitfires in Malta 1942 and 460 Sqdn 1943-44 (including Black Thursday)

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