Halifax - Crew cross-training

Halifax - Crew cross-training

Joined: April 30th, 2006, 7:05 pm

October 14th, 2008, 12:25 pm #1

I remember my father (ex hali nav) telling me that some/all of the crew were cross trained. I can remember him saying the bomb aimer stood in for him and vice-versa. Also, since some recent research I now understand wireless operators could fly as air gunners. Please could someone explain what the crew were cross trained in.
Norman
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Eddie Fell
Eddie Fell

October 14th, 2008, 3:12 pm #2

Hi Norman

There is no 'one size fits all' situation answer. It would depend on the time of service, the Command served with, the Air Force of the individual and the background of the individual plus the demands of individual aircraft captains.

We have already mentioned signallers - W.Op's (Air)- but this practice was not followed by the RCAF, RAAF and RNZAF who continued to train W.Op/AG's so if your AG is RAF trained as a straight AG then he will not be cross qualified as a W.Op whereas those from the other Air Forces mentioned would be. Whilst most W.Op/AG's were remustered as Signallers, not all were and some remained as gunners with others retraining to become A/B's.

A lot of Navigators and Air Bombers (and the other trades but in smaller numbers) may well have started out a Pilots under training but 'washed out' at EFTS or SFTS stage and thus would have some flying experience. Indeed it was originally Policy that the Air Bomber would act as the pilots assistant. This however changed in about mid June 1944 and the role was assumed by the flight engineer. Not all crews adopted this change though - if its not broke why fix it. This change did not apply to Lancaster crews as it did to Halifax and other crews and they retained responsibility with the A/B.

If the Navigator had trained as an Observer, he will have also had bombing training. However as a straight Nav (N instead of O brevet)this is likely not to be so.

Individual captains often liked to give cross training to crew members beyond what was official. In Coastal Command most crew had training to act as emergency gunners.

Remember also that what the brevet said did not always apply to the person wearing it. Some AG's would be W.Op/AG, whereas others would be pure AG. Due to a shortage of the S badge some retained their AG wing whereas others modified the E (worn by the engineer) to read S. Somebody wearing the O (at the time you are interested in) might be the Navigator or he might be the Air Bomber.

I hope this is helpful even if it is a bit confusing!!

Cheers

Eddie
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Norman Hood
Norman Hood

October 14th, 2008, 4:24 pm #3

I remember my father (ex hali nav) telling me that some/all of the crew were cross trained. I can remember him saying the bomb aimer stood in for him and vice-versa. Also, since some recent research I now understand wireless operators could fly as air gunners. Please could someone explain what the crew were cross trained in.
Norman
Many thanks Eddie for your kind reply. I can now see it was a very complex situation. About your mention of observers: I can remember my father(trained 1942-43, PoW June 1944) saying there was a light hearted outbreak of disapproval when the "N" brevet replaced the "O" brevet. I am presently looking at his "O" brevet held in a Balkan Sobranie tobacco tin. I seem to remember him saying they were virtually ordered to wear the "N" in the end and he held out to then. My brother joined the post war RAF as a navigator and trained in Winnepeg. When he came home in 1958 he was wearing what looked like pilot wings with a "N" in the centre. He was told to take this off. He also wore my fathers "N" on his grey flying overalls.
Norman
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Joined: July 9th, 2008, 8:32 pm

October 15th, 2008, 5:39 am #4

I remember my father (ex hali nav) telling me that some/all of the crew were cross trained. I can remember him saying the bomb aimer stood in for him and vice-versa. Also, since some recent research I now understand wireless operators could fly as air gunners. Please could someone explain what the crew were cross trained in.
Norman
Hi,
the web site below although related to Lancaster W/Op's may of some help.

Mike.

http://www.626squadron.org/
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Joined: March 9th, 2004, 5:14 pm

April 15th, 2018, 6:16 pm #5

In Yorkshire there is an old airfield preserved as an od WWII field, with a non flying Hallie. Lots of old guides were there when I visited. One told me that there was no co-pilot and the flight engineer was his backup. He had to stand and watch and learn that way.... scary......
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Joined: March 21st, 2018, 12:44 am

April 16th, 2018, 2:03 pm #6

My father volunteered for the RCAF in 1942.  In initial training all air crew were considered potential pilots.  Except for landings, a fairly important part of a flight, he did quite well in pilot training.  After being washed out as a potential pilot he began training as a bomb aimer.  He was a bomb aimer for all 42 of his operations with the RAF but also did double duty as navigator during those ops. 

So in his case I suppose he was cross trained for three flight crew positions.
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Joined: March 21st, 2018, 12:44 am

April 16th, 2018, 2:03 pm #7

RBeetham wrote: In Yorkshire there is an old airfield preserved as an od WWII field, with a non flying Hallie. Lots of old guides were there when I visited. One told me that there was no co-pilot and the flight engineer was his backup. He had to stand and watch and learn that way.... scary......
What is the name of the airfield?
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Joined: March 9th, 2004, 5:14 pm

April 16th, 2018, 3:58 pm #8

Had to check with my wife & mr, google. It was originally RAF Ellington, looking at google it’s grown quite a bit since I was there lol.

http://yorkshireairmuseum.org/
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Joined: March 8th, 2016, 9:17 pm

Yesterday, 2:16 pm #9

I have a copy of "Flight Engineer's Duties" as an Extract from A.M.O. A.538/1943. which lists the duties and responsibilities of Flight Engineers.
Apart from his own engineering duties to the pilot and the aircraft it also states "(ii) In certain types of aircraft, to act as pilot's assistant to the extent of being able to fly straight and level and on a course." It also states "(vi) To act as stand-by air gunner."

I know from my own research that my father, a Flight Engineer first with 76 Sqdn and then with 77 Sqdn that before he started his FE training he spent some time at number 7 Air Gunnery School at RAF Stormy Down. They operated a moving target range at Baglan, near Port Talbot. At the time he was just AC2 so he was just killing time before his first big posting to the land of sand and flies, The Sudan, but no doubt he did apply himself to learning something about air gunnery.

It was only after his return to the UK that he started his FE training, first at St Athan and then at 1652 HCU at Marston Moor.
Following a crash landing in August '44 he returned to 1652 HCU where he undertook some extra training including some hours in the Link Trainer, the flight simulator of the day before joining 77 Sqdn at Full Sutton.

I do remember him telling me of one training flight which he was on when the skipper called "OK, all change" and he found himself out over the north sea and he was then the "navigator". To get them home he decided that the easiest way was to fly a heading of 270 degrees until they crossed the coast where he could identify some landmark then turn north until the came to the Humber estuary and follow it until the found their home airfield.
After Bomber Command's aircraft and crews were transfered to Transport Command following the end of hostilities in 1945 he eventually found himself operating the Avro York. On the flight deck of the York the FE occupied and worked from the second pilot's seat and many Flight Engineers joined civil airlines as second pilots after demob.
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Joined: March 8th, 2016, 9:17 pm

Yesterday, 9:32 pm #10

RBeetham wrote: In Yorkshire there is an old airfield preserved as an od WWII field, with a non flying Hallie. Lots of old guides were there when I visited. One told me that there was no co-pilot and the flight engineer was his backup. He had to stand and watch and learn that way.... scary......
On the Halifax the Flight Engineer's normal station was in front of his engine instruments panel just behind the pilot and facing aft, back-to-back with the pilot. There was a "drop-down dickie seat" on the side of the fuselage to allow him to sit next to and to the right of the pilot to assist with take-off procedures and throttle handling, although on many crews that job was often done by the Air Bomber.
By it's very nature, the Flight Engineer spent much of his time between keeping his regular logs of engine performance and fuel levels wandering up and down the fuselage attending to any minor or even major problems that might occur during the sortie.
To anybody thinking of visiting the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, it is well worth a visit. The 77 Squadron Association hold their annual reunion there every September. It will be my third visit this year.
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