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Thread: On keeping crews together

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    Default On keeping crews together

    I have just been reviewing my father's service record and I am trying again to account for his two stints at a conversion unit - 1664 at Dishforth and 1659 at Topcliffe.

    He once told me a story about some of the men in his crew becoming injured in a motorcycle mishap (three on the bike, back late from the pub, didn't see the gate was closed) and others who became sick. Could this be an explanation of why they did the training again? Would they have waited for the injured members to recover?

    Dad, an air gunner, once told me that, after expressing impatience over not getting on to an operational squadron, his skipper grabbed him by the lapels, pushed him up against the Nissen and said, "stick with your crew, you'll die soon enough." He did and they finished the war at the HCU.

    Here is the chronology, if anyone can offer their thoughts, I'd appreciate it:

    6 Sep 1944 61 Base, Topcliffe, Yorkshire, England (ACS Dalton)
    25 Oct 1944 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF Dishforth, Yorkshire (Halifaxes)
    12 Dec 1944 Promoted to F/Sgt.
    23 Mar 1945 61 Base, Topcliffe, Yorkshire, (ACS Dalton)
    20 Apr 1945 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit, Topcliffe, Yorkshire
    12 Jun 1945 RAF Middleton-St-George, to embark for Canada
    David

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    hello,

    I've seen occurence of double HCU postings in a training syllabus, and in one case, it was due to a crew in an operational Squadron losing its pilot when he was doing his "second dickey op". The headless crew went back to HCU (actually another than the first one), where they were picked up by a pilot about to start his second tour.

    Aircrew who were posted sick / wounded and lost their crew in the meantime could either stay in the Squadron as "extra", or go back in HCU to join a new crew.

    In the case of your father, can't the reason be that No. 6 Group switched to Lancasters in the closing stages of WW2 ? As they converted to Halifaxes, they had to convert to Lancasters, and as far as I know, there was never a No. 6 Lancaster Finishing School. Conversion to Lancaster was thus made in a Lancaster equiped HCU. My two pence worth.

    Joss

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    Hi David,

    I have one case when RCAF Halifax crashed after normal landing and the pilot was grounded. The navigator was moved to another crew and the rest of the original crew was posted back to HCU to pass the training once more with new captain and new navigator. When posted back to the same operational squadron except the new captain and rear gunner the entire crew got killed...

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Thanks Joss, Pavel,

    The reconversion to Lancasters would make sense, Joss, except Dad said he never flew in a Lanc, except to go home.... but you have just made a possible connection to another question I had about Dad's experience. He took photos of some of the Canadian built Lancasters that were flown back to Canada. I wonder if he was actually flown back to Canada in one?

    If only I could find his log books. Someone in the family has them but none of my brothers admits to it.
    David

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    dfuller: Your father was following my father's coat tails for a while. To answer Joss: Canadian crews in 6-Group trained on Lancasters at the operational squadron--at least that was my father's experience at 419, probably the same with 428. I know of another pilot with 434 who started on Halifaxes at 434 and part way through his tour changed over to Lancaster X's, while at 434. I'm sure other situations may have been different.

    WRT to HCU: I can only speculate: was his original pilot lost on a 2nd dickie trip? If so, the crew may have gone back to HCU "Headless" as it was known as. Also, if on arrival to the operational squadron, the crew's the training at HCU was deemed insufficient, that might have resulted in their return. Third: sufficient crews at the operational level, then sent back.

    A parousal of 419 ORBs indicated that there was a shortage of accommodations at the base, with so many screened crews awaiting transfer to other units or repatriation back to Canada. It might be that your father's crew went back to training bases as there was no room on the operational squadron.

    Your father may have flown back to Canada on a Canadian lancaster. However seats would have been at a premium. My dad finished his tour at the end of March '45, was screened in early april and was posted to RCAF 'R' Depot 27.4.45 (Repatriation).

    Just speculation!

    Jim
    Last edited by JDCAVE; 13th November 2009 at 22:42.

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