Belly Defence

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smudgersmith218
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Belly Defence

Post by smudgersmith218 »

Gents,

Currently undertaking some research for a friend in Canada who is researching the development of RAF Bomber Commands trials & installation and operational use of under fuselage defences. Had to visit the TNA and copied the following doc’s which I hope are of interest.

What is apparent is that even in 1940 the vulnerability to attack from below was realised and deemed an issue, how unfortunate this was not followed up and how many crews would have been saved if it had been. :?: ( now thats a question !!!! )

PS: Richard Station ORB's on way mate ;)
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No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron 1918-1945
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K4KittyCrew
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Re: Belly Defence

Post by K4KittyCrew »

Many thanks Steve .............. such valuable information is always welcomed. Thanks for the post.
John
K for Kitty Crew - Winthorpe, 1661 HCU's - stirlingaircraftsoc.raf38group.org/
630 Squadron - East Kirkby
" There is nothing glorious about war with the exception of those who served us so valiantly"

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smudgersmith218
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Re: Belly Defence

Post by smudgersmith218 »

John,

No problem mate, to be honest was starting to think it is a waste of time posting documents like this, never get any feed back or comments. ;)

Just pm you mate.

Steve
Last edited by smudgersmith218 on Thu Aug 04, 2011 1:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Belly Defence

Post by Dave_Richardson »

Steve

It is interesting to speculate on how many aircrew coud have been saved if the under belly turret could have been developed especially after the Luftwaffe started using their upward firing cannon - "Schräge Musik". I wonder if the longitudinal stability problems mentioned for the Stirling and Manchester could have been overcome? It's also interesting to note the dates of these discussions. As you say the threat of attack from below was recognised as early as 1940. When did the luftwaffe start to use "Schräge Musik". I recall reading somewhere it was around 1943. I wonder if belly defence was reconsidered then?

Dave

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Re: Belly Defence

Post by Dave_Richardson »

I seem to be answering my own question here but a quick Google on "ventral turrets" brought up some interesting info. Here are some quotes from posts from a few years back on the PPRuNe forum:

"Martin Middlebrooks book on the Nurenburg raid talks of the Canadian Group fitting ventral turrets, against bomber command wishes and suffering a much lower loss rate."

"The ventral postion was soon deleted on most RAF Lancasters as it was thought unnessesary and took the same position as the H2S radome. Where possible, and unofficially, many crews installed a single 7.7 mm (0.303 in) or 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Browning machine-gun on aircraft lacking the ventral turret in order to deal with the ever increasing 'behind and below' attacks of German night fighters using Schräge Musik, which interesting, did not use tracer ammunition. These were hastily installed configurations usually consisting of the gunner sitting on a bicycle type seat with the ammunition box being bolted to the floor and the gun mounted in a hole cut into the floor. The British would eventually re-introduce the F.N.64 turret on aircraft equipped with G-H radar (an improved version of Gee) since that type of radar did not have the large radome as the H2S required. During 1943/1944 when the use of Schräge Musik on german Nachtjagd (night fighters) became widespread, the new twin-gun F.N.64 power-operated turrets became the most important gun position on the bomber."

"From my research into FN64 turrets, it seems that they were only retro-fitted to the Mk. II Lancasters of 6 Group (and only then when said Lancs had the 8,000 lb bomb doors). These would have been lost to service when Canadian built Mk. Xs replaced them later in 1944. Also, and as stated above, to some Merlin Lancasters of G-H equipped Squadrons in No. 3 Group which a) also had 8,000 lb doors and b) did not have H2S (in other words, quite a small number). I've never seen evidence of any other units fitting them although I cannot discount the possibility.

Just how widespread was the practice of fitting single guns in the belly is hard to tell as they were unofficial modifications and hence probably not recorded."

So it would seem that those making the decisions decided that the need to carry greater bomb loads outweighted the possible saving in aircrew and aircraft by not fitting ventral turrets. Perhaps I'm being a bit thick or have missed the point but wouldn't saving aircrew and aircraft lead to more aircraft being available to carry more bombs?

Dave

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Re: Belly Defence

Post by smudgersmith218 »

Dave_Richardson wrote:I seem to be answering my own question here but a quick Google on "ventral turrets" brought up some interesting info. Here are some quotes from posts from a few years back on the PPRuNe forum:

"Martin Middlebrooks book on the Nurenburg raid talks of the Canadian Group fitting ventral turrets, against bomber command wishes and suffering a much lower loss rate."

"The ventral postion was soon deleted on most RAF Lancasters as it was thought unnessesary and took the same position as the H2S radome. Where possible, and unofficially, many crews installed a single 7.7 mm (0.303 in) or 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Browning machine-gun on aircraft lacking the ventral turret in order to deal with the ever increasing 'behind and below' attacks of German night fighters using Schräge Musik, which interesting, did not use tracer ammunition. These were hastily installed configurations usually consisting of the gunner sitting on a bicycle type seat with the ammunition box being bolted to the floor and the gun mounted in a hole cut into the floor. The British would eventually re-introduce the F.N.64 turret on aircraft equipped with G-H radar (an improved version of Gee) since that type of radar did not have the large radome as the H2S required. During 1943/1944 when the use of Schräge Musik on german Nachtjagd (night fighters) became widespread, the new twin-gun F.N.64 power-operated turrets became the most important gun position on the bomber."

"From my research into FN64 turrets, it seems that they were only retro-fitted to the Mk. II Lancasters of 6 Group (and only then when said Lancs had the 8,000 lb bomb doors). These would have been lost to service when Canadian built Mk. Xs replaced them later in 1944. Also, and as stated above, to some Merlin Lancasters of G-H equipped Squadrons in No. 3 Group which a) also had 8,000 lb doors and b) did not have H2S (in other words, quite a small number). I've never seen evidence of any other units fitting them although I cannot discount the possibility.

Just how widespread was the practice of fitting single guns in the belly is hard to tell as they were unofficial modifications and hence probably not recorded."

So it would seem that those making the decisions decided that the need to carry greater bomb loads outweighted the possible saving in aircrew and aircraft by not fitting ventral turrets. Perhaps I'm being a bit thick or have missed the point but wouldn't saving aircrew and aircraft lead to more aircraft being available to carry more bombs?

Dave
Hi Dave,

The whole question of additional defence either in terms of calibre or positioning is one interwoven with bureaucracy and arguments at all levels of Bomber Command, sadly the crews paid the penalty ultimately.

I have spoken to a few ex 75(NZ) and No.514 Squadron crews who had the modification on their Lancaster's (equipped with larger doors to accommodate the 8,000 and I think 12,000lb).

Some found it more of a psychological advantage than anything else, it was basically useless at night ( I have been told ) ;) and during daylight raids the additional crewmember and weight of gun, ammo etc was not considered worth while ( I have been told ) ;)

I am not aware of any claims by any group using the mid under, like to be proved wrong.

Cheers

Smudger
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149NUTS
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Re: Belly Defence

Post by 149NUTS »

Hi Steve,

There is a short but very good write up in Boyer's "Stirling Story", Appx 9, detailing the various fitting and who had them. If you need verbatim, give me a yell :)
Alan F

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Re: Belly Defence

Post by Bob Wilton »

Dave_Richardson wrote:Steve

It is interesting to speculate on how many aircrew coud have been saved if the under belly turret could have been developed especially after the Luftwaffe started using their upward firing cannon - "Schräge Musik". I wonder if the longitudinal stability problems mentioned for the Stirling and Manchester could have been overcome? It's also interesting to note the dates of these discussions. As you say the threat of attack from below was recognised as early as 1940. When did the luftwaffe start to use "Schräge Musik". I recall reading somewhere it was around 1943. I wonder if belly defence was reconsidered then?

Dave
Hi Dave,

I have read also that they started using it in 1943,and I wonder if they got the idea
from the RAF Boulton Paul Nighter Fighter which used the same method to down
German bombers.Incidently,I wonder if there are any records of how many were shot
down by the RAF using this method of attack?

Bob
Dicam ex animo. Sed nostri evocatis, ut debemus eis libertatem.

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Re: Belly Defence

Post by Bob Wilton »

Dave_Richardson wrote:Steve

It is interesting to speculate on how many aircrew coud have been saved if the under belly turret could have been developed especially after the Luftwaffe started using their upward firing cannon - "Schräge Musik". I wonder if the longitudinal stability problems mentioned for the Stirling and Manchester could have been overcome? It's also interesting to note the dates of these discussions. As you say the threat of attack from below was recognised as early as 1940. When did the luftwaffe start to use "Schräge Musik". I recall reading somewhere it was around 1943. I wonder if belly defence was reconsidered then?

Dave
Hi Dave,

I have read also that they started using it in 1943,and I wonder if they got the idea
from the RAF Boulton Paul Nighter Fighter which used the same method to down
German bombers.Incidently,I wonder if there are any records of how many were shot
down by the RAF using this method of attack?

Bob
Dicam ex animo. Sed nostri evocatis, ut debemus eis libertatem.

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Re: Belly Defence

Post by K4KittyCrew »

Here is an example of "Schräge Musik" from my fathers' crew, as told by his Flight Engineer. Harry was none the wiser of it, at the time and recalls this story as such ..........
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Caught by Searchlight by Harry Parkins

As we were getting closer to our target [Kiel, Germany] we started to see huge balls of flames and black oily smoke in front of our aircraft. This was frightening and gave us shivers, as we knew another plane had been shot down carrying our mates, and we wondered if we would be next. Needless to say we always ‘carried on regardless’ to reach our targets.

On our way back there was plenty of ack.ack fire but at 20,000 feet we were above it. A terrifying thing happened, however, when we were caught in a searchlight. This was like being naked on stage with everyone looking at us. Our skipper, Joe Lennon, was an excellent skilled pilot and immediately took evasive action with a vicious corkscrew that felt as though the wings or engines would drop off. Luckily it got us out of the searchlight, but minutes after he levelled out I spotted a German fighter, JU88, homing in on us. I shouted “fighter on our starboard side, near the tail”. Once again the skipper did another amazing corkscrew, just as the fighter fired off his machine guns with tracer bullets, which you could see coming straight for you. The bullets hit the fuselage just as our mid upper and rear gunners, Joe Malloy and Joe Pollard, took aim with their guns and down went the fighter in flames. After the skipper was level and on course for home again, I took my torch and connected on a bottle of oxygen to walk down the plane to see if we had any serious problems (no luxury of pressurised cabins on Lancasters!). I couldn’t see any bad damage except for many holes, which I reported back to the relief of the crew and that we could land safely back at base, provided we encountered no more trouble.

When we landed our dedicated ground crew were very upset when they counted ten bullet holes and thought our plane may not be in a position to be patched up for flying again. Nevertheless they were always pleased to see us safely down without injuries.

At our debriefing we mentioned planes being shot down in front of us and how frightening this was. The officer in charge told us that not all these sightings would be planes shot down, as the German fighters were dropping explosive air fire bombs in front of approaching bombers deliberately to frighten us and lower our morale. We never found out whether or not this was propaganda to put us at our ease.


Our ground crew were unsung heroes. Apart from servicing our Lancasters, one of the important jobs was to keep the Perspex windows perfectly clear. When we were on night bombing raids any marks on the windows could often be mistaken for an enemy night fighter, which would be extremely unnerving.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Cheers,
John
K for Kitty Crew - Winthorpe, 1661 HCU's - stirlingaircraftsoc.raf38group.org/
630 Squadron - East Kirkby
" There is nothing glorious about war with the exception of those who served us so valiantly"

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