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Thread: Elsan aircraft toilets

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    Default Elsan aircraft toilets

    Hi guys

    OK, I know this is a strange request but does anyone have any details about the toilets on bomber aircraft? I believe they were called Elsans (was that the producer's name?).

    I have only seen passing references to them and some state that they were chemical and others say that they had a flush mechanism. Or were both types available?

    If flush, was the effluence literally flushed out of the aircraft or retained to be emptied at base?

    I always thought that the pilot used a bottle and/or funnel and pipe arrangement.

    cheers

    A

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    My late father, a former RAF navigator, once told me that in the Halifax the 'Elsan' toilet was a small curtained off area on a raised platform, close to the port entrance door and mid upper gunners station. It was not flushable but used blue coloured chemical tablets whose fragrance permeated the whole length of the fuselage. He added, however, that everyone did their best to go before flight and would only use the facility in a dire emergency -hopefully in straight and level flight. I understand the post war Handley-Page Hastings and Blackburn Beverly Transport Command aircraft used the same system. He knew or mentioned nothing about tubes and bottles as you describe. I feel a bit sorry for the grouncrew as my brother told me that the pre flight relief was often done over the tail wheel - though I find this a bit hard to swallow.

    Norman
    Last edited by namrondooh; 6th July 2009 at 17:37. Reason: sorting duplicate posting.

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    Amrit, Hi,
    Elsan was the manufacturer's name (still in business - see Google). But, like Hoover, became a generic name for a/c toilets.
    Mostly a small compartment partially filled with a highly corrosive, and powerful smelling, disinfectant. Contents were retained and emptied back at Base (much like the "Honey Wagon" on modern civilian a/c).
    The 'Experts' will tell where, when, and how - I'm too young to have experienced them in WW2 bombers, but I'll bet you get some ribald stories. And if the pace slows then I'll tell you about the Air Officer's wife, flying in a Herc (which used very much the same sort of kit!!) and the Loadmaster's Medal!!
    I look forward to the replies!
    Yrs Aye
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 6th July 2009 at 12:16.
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    duplicate to post 2, entered in error, my apologises.
    Norman
    Last edited by namrondooh; 6th July 2009 at 12:34.

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    hello Amrit,

    I have a picture of the Elsan toilet in Wellington N2980 'R for Roberts' displayed in Brooklands. If you want it, e-mail me (address in my profile)

    Cheers

    Joss

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    Gents,

    Ahem! 'Next came the problem of toilet facilities (in Liberators). In 'The B-24 Liberator', Allan G Blue recorded that when Ford started to build B-24s, they phoned Consolidated Aircraft to request drawings for the toilet paper hanger, but were told these were purchased whole-sale from a nearby small domestic hardware factory. Michael Nelmes, in 'Tocumwal To Tarakan' (Banner Books 1994) described solemn discussions between Consolidated and the RAAF to ensure the optimum length for the outlet tube from the crew urinal, to prevent urine blowing back and freezing on the rear turret, to obscure the gunner's view. As part of the conversion programme, Scottish Aviation fitted Coastal Command Liberators with Elsan Closets, a sort of scaled down version of the operational part of an Australian country dunny. Partly as an antiseptic and hopefully as a deodorant, the pan contained a thick black liquid prepared by distillation of high boiling point tars. In moderate to severe turbulence, this could and did splash up and adhere to the nether regions of anyone sitting on the contraption, making the rest of the sortie very uncomfortable. It became usual for aircrew to train themselves to use the Elsan solely for in-flight urination. It must be recorded that in a night attack, Flying Officer Jack Kelly, 53 Squadron, owed his life to an Elsan Closet which deflected a 20 mm cannon shell that might otherwise have scored a direct hit on his person. Kelly reported that he appeared covered in blood, so the crew swathed him in Irvin jackets and did their best to look after him all the way back to base. After landing, the medical orderly who examined Kelly refused to admit him to the ambulance when it was found the 'blood' in fact was the contents of the Elsan.'

    See:
    Endurance:A History of RAAF Aircrew Participation in Liberator Operations of RAF Coastal Command 1941-1945.
    Jay,Alwyn
    Maryborough:Banner Books,1996
    pp.126-7

    Sorry about the 'Toilet Humour', Chaps.

    Col.

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    No, No, Joss,
    Don't be shy! We all want to see what the Wellington "Throne" looked like.
    And if I remember rightly the Beverley "Throne" was somewhere up the back-end of the boom? The back-end of the boom used to sway about a bit (if the Co was flying it!) and one could end up in a similar predicament to the AOC's Moonbeam referred to earlier!
    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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    Thank you gentlemen. I think I have found the "level" of our interests and humour ;)

    Norman, that is very interesting about your father's recollections on the Halifax. The reason I asked the question in the first place was after reading about a Halifax crash, and some local German kids rummaged around in the fuselage. One recollected being amazed that the aircraft had a flush toilet when no one in their village did. Made me wonder whether the recollection was faulty.

    Peter, oh please do share. Would love to hear - there's nothing like a toilet story to brighten up a day :)

    Col, thank you for the details. Unlike the experts then, I had never thought about toilet arrangements.

    Joss, I would love to see a pic. Would it be possible to share it with the board via a photobucket link?

    cheers all
    A

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    Amrit wrote " always thought that the pilot used a bottle and/or funnel and pipe arrangement."

    In my day we called this a "relief tube."

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    Hi Amrit,

    Try this link for a photo,
    http://www.raf-lichfield.co.uk/Lincoln%20Corbett%20Elsan.htm

    Wayne.

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