Halifax III Guns

Norman Hood
Norman Hood

March 30th, 2007, 2:13 am #1

Could someone please explain about the Halifax III guns. I can understand the rear turrets operation but the mid-upper turret and nose guns defy me. Simply put, who fired the front gun? was it the Wireless Operator? and although I know who fired the mid-upper guns, how were they operated? Was there a seat etc., did the Air Gunner stand up to operate? Any information would be gratefully received, thank you.
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John A. Neal
John A. Neal

March 30th, 2007, 4:20 am #2

Norman, the front guns were my concern, as Bomb-Aimer, but were scarcely ever used at night. Finally, they took out the front turret and put the plastic nose in place, with one gun through the centre. Again this was little used, and gradually disappeared.

I was in the mid-upper turret a few times, but never while on ops. There was a bit of a step up and a seat for the Gunner, but the operation was much like the rear turret. There are probably a few mid-upper turrets available to see in some of the Air Museums over there, and certainly in Canada.

The Wireless Air Gunner was only a Gunner if we lost one of the other Gunners. I was trained to take over a turret also, if needed. I'm glad that nobody noticed that I was a better gunner than Navigator or Bomb-Aimer, although I was trained in all three.
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Darren Green
Darren Green

March 30th, 2007, 7:19 pm #3

Could someone please explain about the Halifax III guns. I can understand the rear turrets operation but the mid-upper turret and nose guns defy me. Simply put, who fired the front gun? was it the Wireless Operator? and although I know who fired the mid-upper guns, how were they operated? Was there a seat etc., did the Air Gunner stand up to operate? Any information would be gratefully received, thank you.
The yorkshire air museum has a whole room of gun turrets on display. Very informative & they also make you realise how uncomfortable these postions must have been on ops to Germany.
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Robert Fulford
Robert Fulford

March 31st, 2007, 3:33 am #4

The Air Gunners Memorial Museum & Collection has an excellent website and links which explains a fair bit about the various turrets.

The Halifax III had as armanent Boulton Paul Mid Upper and Tail Turrets and a Vickers Gas operated "K" gun in the one-piece nose fairing generally manned by the Bomb Aimer on those rare occasions when it might have been utilized.

The V.G.O. was, as I have been told, generally thought of as a bit of a "pop gun", more for show than for a serious attempt at defensive armanent. It was manually directed and used a ring and bead sight and was supported on a swivel or gimbal I believe was the term. Later on it was dispensed with for the most part as head-on fighter attacks were apparently a rarity.

My Dad wore the single winged brevet of an Air Bomber but had fairly extensive Air Gunner Training while at No. 8 B & G School (Lethbridge, Alta.) when in the BCATP. There he took his air gunnery in the turret of Bolingbrokes an aircraft he was not particularily fond of. Dad would recount that the exhaust fumes funnelled right down the fuselage and often made the gunners sick.

Dad's crew's Wireless op was a qualified Wireless Air Gunner. He took his A/G training at No. 2 B & G School (Mossbank, Sask). The motto of No. 2 was "Aim true, Shoot Straight" or something to that accord.

Their Tail Gunner trained on Fairey Battles at No. 9 B&G School at Mount Joli, P.Q. The crew affecvtionately named him "Dead-eye Dick" and had tremedous regard and confidence in him as their "rear guard". Apparently he could strip and assemble a .303 Browning m.g. better than any of the instructors - blind folded and behind his back. When asked how he was so proficent he pointed out that in the Army from where he had transferred to the RCAF one had to be able to do this in the dark in a trench as a necessary skill.

Their OTU craft were Wellington Mk. 10's at No. 20 RAF Elgin then onto the Halifax at 1663 Rufforth with the switch to Boulton Paul Turrets from the Frazer Nash of the Wimpey. The powered turrets all had reflector sights I believe.

Aerial gunnery is quite the learned "art" and placing or trading accurate fire when an aircraft is swooping, twisting, turning and diving is a whole lot different then ready, aim, fire. There's sighting, lead and deflection and a whole lot of other things of which I am terribly ignorant.

The turrets were for the most part electrical over hydraulic operation and the gunner rotated the turret by foot treadles.

The mid-upper seat was for the most part I believe a padded "sling" which the gunner attached after climbing a few steps up into position. I cannot imagine it was the most comfortable perch for long duration.

Having viewed a few actual turrets you can bet the position was a mite short on creature comforts but most gunners will recount the bitter cold with temps sometimes as low as -50 F or more at times when at altitude as the biggest discomfort. Dressing in layers was a real necessity and this was apparently done with the great care. Vision was often a problem and plexiglas was sometimes removed at the cost of exposure to improve field of vision. Protecting one's night vision was crucial and gunner's were well trained on how to scan the sky in patterned fields of visual search.

Surprisingly, it was not uncommon for gunners to fly complete tours and never fire a shot in anger. Their role was vigilance and the mark of a good gunner was often one who could spot trouble and give good evasive directions. Keen eyesight and alertness avoided conflict with enemy interceptors that were more heavily armed with cannon and larger calibre armament.

"Far better to evade and run away and live to fight another day" was a line my Dad often employed.
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matt
matt

April 3rd, 2007, 9:14 pm #5

Could someone please explain about the Halifax III guns. I can understand the rear turrets operation but the mid-upper turret and nose guns defy me. Simply put, who fired the front gun? was it the Wireless Operator? and although I know who fired the mid-upper guns, how were they operated? Was there a seat etc., did the Air Gunner stand up to operate? Any information would be gratefully received, thank you.
Let's not forget the short lived Preston Green mid-under turret!
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Robert Fulford
Robert Fulford

April 4th, 2007, 1:34 am #6

... the introduction of the Preston-Green mid-under turret in Feb of '44 was an attempt to contend with underbelly attacks. As I understand from behind and underneath was the preferred attack approach position of the German Night Fighter defenses and Shrage Musik (the upwards firing cannon) may have negated this defensive turret to a large degree anyhow.

I believe some Squadrons even doubled the # of .5 in Brownings in the Preston Green position an effort to augment the underbelly firepower. Either way the use of the PG turret was relatively limited as the much more common outfitting was the large H2S radome and this ultimately displaced the ventral defensive position.

I always wondered why the RAF never truly seemed to have the same development of waist gunner positions as the USAAF did in Forts & Libs? And as a corollary why the calibre was never upgraded either. One explanation maybe the primary operation of RAF Bomber Command in a night bombing offensive role although in the later stages of the war Bomber Command undertook a large amount of daylight ops as well but perhaps this was at a point where the German Fighter forces had been weakened.

Another maybe that the sheer weight of the necessary extra ammunition would have reduced the bombload and range. There may well be additional rationale behind the decisions of defensive limitations.
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Joined: November 27th, 2003, 10:23 am

April 4th, 2007, 9:18 am #7

Hi,

The very early halis tried waist guns didn't they... Wonder why it wasn't developed.

I was told (off the record so don't know how true it was) about the calibre of the guns that they were paranoid that at night in relitively close proximity to each other gunners would end up shooting each other down...

Some Lancasters had .5in brownings towards the end of the war but that was a field modification.

I've often thought that larger calibre guns and permanantly worn fighter pilot type parachutes would have saved many crews.


Paul.

p.s: My mothers brother was lost in a hali with a preston green turret so it obviously didn't do them any good unfortunately.
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Joined: March 13th, 2007, 8:44 pm

April 4th, 2007, 7:53 pm #8

... the introduction of the Preston-Green mid-under turret in Feb of '44 was an attempt to contend with underbelly attacks. As I understand from behind and underneath was the preferred attack approach position of the German Night Fighter defenses and Shrage Musik (the upwards firing cannon) may have negated this defensive turret to a large degree anyhow.

I believe some Squadrons even doubled the # of .5 in Brownings in the Preston Green position an effort to augment the underbelly firepower. Either way the use of the PG turret was relatively limited as the much more common outfitting was the large H2S radome and this ultimately displaced the ventral defensive position.

I always wondered why the RAF never truly seemed to have the same development of waist gunner positions as the USAAF did in Forts & Libs? And as a corollary why the calibre was never upgraded either. One explanation maybe the primary operation of RAF Bomber Command in a night bombing offensive role although in the later stages of the war Bomber Command undertook a large amount of daylight ops as well but perhaps this was at a point where the German Fighter forces had been weakened.

Another maybe that the sheer weight of the necessary extra ammunition would have reduced the bombload and range. There may well be additional rationale behind the decisions of defensive limitations.
As you've pointed out some squadrons experimented with two .50 claibres installed. 431 sqn was one, they eventualy were ordered to reomve the second gun by the air ministry. I would like to know if there was ever a claim made by a gunner using a Preston Green.

431 sqn manned the turret for daylight ops but when on night ops it was usually unmanned but was armed. My cousin and his crew were also lost in Hali that had a Preston Green turret. I would love to get some schematics of this turret to see it in detail.
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R. Fulford
R. Fulford

April 5th, 2007, 12:51 am #9

Of the Halifax books on my shelf there seem to be very few that offer decent shots of the Preston Green mid-under installation. None feature close-ups and I've never seen a schematic.

Sources referenced state that the dome shaped turret cupola had five transparent windows but that these were often painted over or faired in to reduce glare. An outline sketch I've seen of one features six windows though.

Another reference seems to allude that the .5 in a ventral defensive position was only on RCAF aircraft.

I can't seem to pinpopint how many aircraft actually were outfitted with the Preston Green and if all the Marks so outfitted were B.IIIs exclusively. One text cites it as "a fair number".

Re: Beam gunnery positions - apparently the early Marks of Halifax were outfitted with staggered beam gun positions manned as necessary by dedicated aerial gunners. The weapon seems to be the same Vickers .303 "K" gun as utilized in nose armanent later. It would seem the crew compliment was augmented to allow for this position and perhaps the position was necessarily eliminated when crew compliment was fairly near standardized at seven members.

I wonder if the Preston Green was exclusive to the ETO or if it was used in the a/c of the ME Theatre of Operations or on Coastal Hallies as well?
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jettisoning
jettisoning

April 5th, 2007, 8:58 am #10

identified as MOD 871 LOWER GUN MOUNTING (.5" BROWNING)- in the official HP Ltd 'The Halifax Aircraft - DESCRIPTIVE AND INSTRUCTIONAL MANUAL' .

also see BRITISH AIRCRAFT ARMAMENT Vol I RAF Gun Turrets 1914 to the Present Day - R Wallace Clarke . Chapter 5 - Turret Designs from other British Manufacturers . Section 'Preston Green under defence mounting Mk II' reasonably full description including development and final removal . two photographs - 1.The interior of the Preston Green under defence turret and 2.Gunner's services on the port fuselage wall .
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