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Thread: Operation Briefing

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    Default Operation Briefing

    Could someone please point me in the right direction to 'mug up' on:-

    1) What a Bomber Command Squadron Operation briefing' in 1944 consisted of.
    2) What the returning de-brief consisted of. Thank you

    Norman

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    Before the experts weigh in on this, I immediately thought of the scene in the Battle of Britain where they depict the debriefing of a pilot by a staff officer who then replies to his enthusiastic claim to have shot down a German a/c, "right, that's three of you who got 'im" or something like that before awarding a third of a kill.
    David

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    Default Sqn Briefing

    No doubt others can add or correct as necessary, but by this stage in the war I think things had got fairly sophisticated (raid tactics-wise) so didn't the 'PNB' team (pilots, navigators and bomb aimers) have a briefing (separate briefings?) first, to give them the details relevant to their tasks, and this was then followed up by the 'main' briefing for all the aircrew?

    I don't know if there was any fixed order at the main briefing but, from what I understand, there would have been a sort of introduction from the CO, announcing the target and the reasons for going there, with additional contributions from the Met man and the various 'speciality' leaders - navigation, signals, bombing, gunnery, etc to flag up all the relevant points for them all. No doubt ending up with a "Good luck and give 'em hell" exhortation by the CO at the end.

    Obviously the crews would need to know all about the times (take off and time on target), routes, heights, flak concentrations, latest gen on nightfighter tactics etc, target marking arrangements, alternative targets, the force involved and who else was doing what, beacons, expected weather, diversion airfields, and probably other things that I can't think of as well.

    I met a chap once who let me borrow a tape recording of an actual wartime briefing (I think it was something like 460 Sqn, can't remember the date or all of the details - sorry!). Haven't got a clue where he got it from but it was fascinating to listen to, knowing that this was 'for real' and some of the guys there might not have returned.

    Over to anyone else ...

    Ian

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    Norman, Hi,
    It was unlikely that there was a Sqn Briefing - as such. It would probably have been a Station Ops Briefing (even if only a single Sqn was involved). The CO, and the Met Man, were on the Station strength - as were the S Nav O, S Eng O, S Sigs O, etc, etc - NOT the Sqn Strengths although the individual Sqns would each have had a Nav Leader, Bombing Leader, Gunnery Leader, etc, etc.
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Ianh is pretty much bang on for the pre trip briefing. My father was a Pathfinder pilot and here is his description of his first briefing from his upcoming book:
    " All the crews listed on the Battle Order filed into this large operational briefing room. Service Police stationed at the entry doors, ensured only valid personnel entered. A large wall covered entirely with curtains as at the front of the room along with a podium for officers charged with briefing us. We saw all these curtains draped over the wall behind the podium and realized they were covering information that would soon be brought to our attention, but absolutely nothing in the room indicated the target for tonight's raid. The station C.O. enters the room and all present come to attention on the Squadron Commander's orders. The CO then takes his seat. Our Squadron Commander starts the briefing with "Gentlemen, this is operation number 1205, and our target for tonight is:" at which time one of the Sargeants in attendance opens one of the curtains displaying a very large map. Our Squadron Commander simultaneously say "the capital of Germany, Berlin!" The reaction in the room is one of ohs and
    groans followed by silence and he continues: "I am now going to turn you over to our Squadron's Operations Officer who will give you an initial briefing on the target." We are all sitting there with our hearts pounding and the roll down the rest of the curtains. The map is very large and very detailed. We are looking at it trying to figure out just where are target is located, when suddenly it hits us again. BERLIN! OUR FIRST TRIP!! This was rather disconcerting as a Berlin target was one of the furthest, distance wise into Germany and as expected, being the German capital, would be very well defended by their fighters and heavy flak installations. The Operations Officer points out target tracks to and from the target. We are advised what the expected weather will be during the operation. The Intelligence Officer gets up and shows us the location of all the main ack ack batteries, where all the Luftwaffe fighter bases were located en route, the type of fighter aircraft that would be trying to locate us and finally where our target aiming point was located. There were to be four hundred and forty Lancasters and four Mosquitoes taking part in the operation. There was also to be two diversionary raids on Mannheim and Ludwigshaven involving three hundred and ninety five aircraft. We learned later that the diversion forces met with heavy German fighter activity and twenty-three aircraft were lost. The specialist briefings continued for the best part of an hour, at the conclusion of which we pick up our parachutes, mae wests and other operational gear."

    On debriefing he said:
    "We would then proceed to debriefing, get a coffee, maybe with a little rum in it and then our Intelligence Officers would interview crew after crew on what took place for each one individually.
    The debriefing team the target films which they recovered from each aircraft when it returned to the dispersal area. These films quite often provided the team with considerable intelligence information as to where the bombs were dropped in relation to the actual designated aiming point or had the target even been hit. In all fairness to the crews, more often that not, their aircraft's photos would be of little or no value to the de-briefers because the many explosions on the ground, or heavy smoke from target fires would obscure the photo. The de-briefing also provided crucial information regarding the enemy Luftwaffe fighter activity over the target as well as to and from, what ground defences we encountered and where, weather encountered over the target as well as to and from and the accuracy of all aspects of the pre take-off briefing. In conclusion, anything garnered from the actual sortie that may be of value for forthcoming operations."

    Leslie

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    Leslie, thanks for the extract, and it raises a point. I understood that Pathfinders conducted their breifings (and presumably debreifings) in a manner different from the accepted norm in other groups, because of the specific nature of their task.

    I am not sure when Bennett introduced this, but it may be possible that others on this forum can either say (or figure out) whether the style of breifing you describe was peculiar to Bennetts men. As the Pathfinders developed new marking techniques and BC learned to rely on them, experience would have shown the main force squadrons following behind that their own breifings had to adapt to the new methods.

    Years ago, I got an impression of 'old dogs learning new tricks' by listening to a converstaion between two Guinea Pigs. They were recalling the changes in instructions they received as bomber stream discipline tightened up to reduce the time over target: it really sounded like they had to scrap much of their previous experience and learn new terminology, and it also seems they received these instructions in an entirely new manner that caused alarm by the lack of opportunuty to 'have a chat about it'. In hindsight, they could easily have been describing the transition to the process in Peter's posting.

    Hope this helps,
    Bruce

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    Default Sqn Briefings

    I know it's not my thread but jolly interesting replies from t'others. Thanks chaps.

    I always thought it would be fascinating if they could set up a 're-creation' of a briefing like this, up at East Kirkby on the days when they do the night-time runs of their Lancaster.

    Maybe have a hut fitted out as a briefing room with a few dozen 'actors' ('spare' actual RAF personnel?) dressed appropriately and filling-up the stage and the front half of the room, with Joe Public visitors watching / listening-in from the back half. Having such a re-creation, followed then by seeing the 'crews' leaving and a crew getting into the Lanc and moving off would be amazing. I'd go and see it!

    Cheers

    Ian


    ps Peter - Of course you're right. It would have been a 'Station' briefing not just a 'Squadron' one. Sorry for the misleading heading on my previous note.
    Last edited by ianh; 1st July 2009 at 18:08.

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    Added to Leslie's posting would be such things as, "Did you see any of our aircraft go down?", followed by where, when, what time, any parachutes seen?
    "Was the marking accurate? From how far were the markers visible? How long were they visible?"
    Overall Norman, I would say that all postings on this thread pretty well covers all aspects of briefing and de-briefing. Of course, there were bound to be some variations from station to station and from group to group, but the overall situation was the same throughout.
    Bill

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    Thank you everyone for such an intersting response. One further question:

    Where would the groundcrew fit in to the 'debrief' (before, after at). I'm thinking of the Form 700 - faults, servicing, damage repair, re-fuel, re-arm etc.

    Norman
    Last edited by namrondooh; 1st July 2009 at 18:51.

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    Hi Bruce
    The extract posted was Dad's recollection of the briefing prior to him embarking on his first ever sortie when he was stationed with 101 Special Duties Squadron at Ludford Magna. He never mentioned any differences in the briefing or debriefing process for Pathfinders, although I would guess they would be more concerned with accuracy of the target markings and whether or not the main bomber streams were on point.

    Leslie

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