Vigilance had to be maintained or even increased; at a time when tiredness was beginning to increase some airmen would have taken their issued Benzedrine "wakey wakey" tablets to keep them vigilant. Daylight bombing [221], Aircrew escaping were rarely shot although a small number of incidents are recorded, and one airman was killed when he was hit by a railway train while dodging the Germans. [125] They made ready to climb aboard canvas topped trucks to be driven out by WAAFs to where their aircraft waited dispersed around the edge of the airfield's perimeter track. [82][83] The pilot and second pilot of a Vickers Wellington of No. Within English-speaking squadrons manned primarily by British or Commonwealth airmen men from Belgium, the Caribbean,[74] the US and a huge variety of returned expatriates could be found. [8][9] Following completion of training at a graduation ceremony aircrew were presented with their aircrew brevet (the correct term is flying badge) and either handed their sergeant's stripes or commissioned as officers. [31] The pilot was often a commissioned officer but he could hold any rank from Sergeant up to Group Captain. [177] Crippled bombers flying on two or three engines or with wounded crewmen aboard sometimes could not make it back to base and would land at any available airfield they found; RAF Woodbridge was a recognised emergency landing place. [144] The heavy bombers flew as a bomber stream and banking on safety in numbers flew as a mass on their course. [211] Flight Sergeant Jim Rossiter of the Royal Australian Air Force was the rear-gunner of a Lancaster of No. To try to keep such instances to an absolute minimum, a "one solution fits all" approach was introduced which was known amongst aircrew as "LMF" (lack of moral fibre). [178][179], Vigilance was always maintained as Luftwaffe night fighters flying as "night intruders" sometimes followed the bombers home and attacked as aircraft came into land. Between March 1943 and the early summer of 1944 the life expectancy for bomber crews was very short, with fledgling crews often being lost during their first 12 operations and even experienced crews being lost right at the end of their tours. A total of 126 squadrons served with Bomber Command. [237], The "LMF" label could be applied equally to a young man who, after completing training, did not have the courage to fly on his very first operation or to a highly experienced member of aircrew who had flown almost enough "ops" to complete his tour but had been wounded in action and after recovery did not wish to fly again. During this time bombers were under constant attack. [160][161], Upon arrival in the TA (Target Area), usually in the middle of a barrage of heavy anti-aircraft fire, avoiding the glare of searchlights trying to latch onto a bomber and illuminate it for the flak gunners while dodging night fighters, crews were expected to "stooge around",[162] (fly circuits) around the target and await radio instructions from the "Master Bomber",[163] based on the different coloured marker flares or target indicators dropped onto/over the target at low level by the Pathfinder Force. The battle-equipped squadrons were operational in the Battle of France and suffered catastrophic losses when they were intercepted by Luftwaffe fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Messerschmitt Bf 110. Some of the cases amount to what is now recognised as PTSD or, by its older names, "combat fatigue" or "shell shock." [40] The Vickers Wellington continued in service with RAF Bomber Command in Europe into 1943 although the squadrons were being converted to four-engined bombers. [129][130] Most sorties were nighttime attacks and commenced with crews taking off at dusk or into the evening from bases in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire or Cambridgeshire. [175][176], On arrival back at base, the bombers were granted permission to land based on their fuel reserves, wounded crewmen and battle damage. [79] Another German-born casualty was a No. The Wellington-equipped squadrons were operational from the day Britain declared war on Germany initially dropping propaganda leaflets but then usually in night time bombing attacks or mine-laying (sea mines) in known enemy shipping or U-boat transit routes or even in enemy harbours. The RAF underwent rapid expansion prior to and during the Second World War. [195] Other crews completing their tours of operations could transfer at that point to Pathfinder squadrons for a further 15 or more "ops" before being "screened"; several crews went on to complete up to 65 "ops". Two incidents of individual escaped prisoners of war disappearing completely are recorded, Warrant Officer George Grimson, RAF[222] and Warrant Officer Roland Townsend-Coles, RAF. As the war progressed pilots and observers (later navigators and bomb aimers) were considerably more likely to be commissioned officers before the end of their operational tours, keeping pace with the enormous rate of losses; men could be promoted three times in a year. The Pathfinder crews in turn released their target indicators on different marker flares laid for them by their leader, who flew minutes ahead in a de Havilland Mosquito light bomber to identify the precise target buildings at very low level. 630 Squadron RAF killed over Germany on 4 December 1943. In this situation he would be referred to as a Second Dickie (second pilot).[50][51][52]. [226], Any aircrew who had already qualified for the Aircrew Europe Star group of medals, who flew operationally after 6 June 1944 (D-Day) would have been entitled to a small metal bar with the words "France and Germany" to sew to the ribbon of the Aircrew Europe Star. The flight engineer was usually a sergeant; promotion was very slow indeed. [216] It is reported that more than half of the escapers and evaders were RAF Bomber Command airmen. 166 Squadron RAF attacking a target at Duisburg in Germany. 101 Squadron RAF "Set Operator" aboard an Avro Lancaster lost on the night 12–13 August 1944, Sergeant Hans Heinz Schwarz (serving as Blake) who was a 19-year-old Jewish man taking enormous risks to fight for his adopted country. Flight Lieutenant Ted Stocker DSO DFC, a flight engineer leader, flew 105 operations. This crewman manned the nose-mounted gun turret (usually twin .303 machine guns) during the operation and provided assistance to the navigator[31] only to crawl into the bomb aimer's compartment in the lower section of the nose of the aircraft to operate the bomb sight and press the button to release the bomb load onto the target at the necessary time. Utilised primarily in night time bombing attacks or mine-laying (sea mines) in known enemy shipping or U-boat transit routes or even in enemy harbours. [66] [157] A radar countermeasure comprising millions of small strips of aluminium foil known as "window",[158][159] was released along the inbound route; this effectively blinded the German radar. Squadron Leader Robert Anthony Maurice Palmer VC, DFC and Bar of No. [133][134] If it was to be a distant target the aircraft fuel tanks might be topped-up by a fuel bowser immediately before taking off. After briefings had been completed aircrew would be permitted free time to prepare themselves, to write "just in case I don't get back" letters to parents, wives and children and to relax or sleep if they were able before their meal which was often referred to as "last supper". Once satisfied with the accuracy of one or more of the "markers", he would give the order to start the attack based on a particular marker,[164] and as the attack took place he would instruct bombers approaching to adjust their aim if the bombs were not landing as he required. Choose a category: Show all Air refuelling Combat Future Heritage ISTAR Multi-role helicopter Support helicopter Training Training helicopter Transport [20][21], During mid-wartime many crews trained using "tired" Vickers Wellington bombers,[22] at OTUs and then had to convert,[23] learning to fly the four-engined Stirling, Halifax or Lancasters which they would fly after joining their squadrons. [31] It was not unusual for these airmen to be a little older than their colleagues and often had prior mechanical experience. The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force.It was formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918 and is the world's oldest independent national air force. On joining the squadron their pilot would often be assigned to fly one or two operational missions as second pilot with an experienced crew in order to gain operational experience before taking his own crew into action. Under Article XV of the 1939 Air Training Agreement, squadrons belonging officially to the RCAF, RAAF, and RNZAF were formed, equipped and financed by the RAF, for service in Europe. 35 Squadron RAF,[201] although elsewhere his total is given as 99. During 1942 particularly, any maximum effort attacks such as the 1,000 bomber attacks on Cologne on the night 30–31 May 1942 and Essen on 1–2 June 1942 required more aircraft and crews than Bomber Command had available in its operational squadrons so crews at OTUs who were near the end of their courses and were rated as efficient, participated in the operation. [170] This was a highly dangerous period of time as the bomber had had to fly straight and level to bomb, making itself a perfect target for gunners on the ground or enemy fighter pilots. The flight engineer sat beside the pilot and assisted him particularly at takeoff, during the flight monitoring the engines and vitally the fuel efficiency, pumping fuel between the tanks as required. Following the Allied victory over the Central Powers in 1918, the RAF emerged as the largest air force in the world at the time. After the war, the RAF was greatly reduced in size and during the inter-war years was used to "police" the British Empire. [104][233], Either flying as a "spare bod" to cover for sickness in another crew or having a "spare bod" fly in their own crew was not popular. [106] The bombers would be carefully "bombed up" and "fuelled up", ammunition was loaded and all jobs checked and double checked by the NCO in charge, the ground crew took enormous pride in their work and laboured in sometimes terrible weather conditions to ensure that maintenance was always completed to the highest possible standards.[107][108]. Occasionally a second pilot might be aboard. In all squadrons of Bomber Command there were British airmen and it was very common for a bomber crew, in any squadron, to consist of British, Canadian, Australian or New Zealand airmen. This process occurred at Heavy Conversion Units. From the mid-war period pilots of crews posted from Operational Training Units to squadrons to commence their tours of operations had often already been commissioned, in some crews the navigator might also have been commissioned and occasionally the bomb aimer (trades regarded as more technically demanding). Airmen shared accommodation blocks, and it was normal to have spare beds or even a half-empty hut after a night operation. [129] The crew would urinate on the tail wheel prior to each mission. [91][92], A number of seventeen-year-olds were lost flying operationally with RAF Bomber Command during World War II, examples being, Sergeant Ronald Lewis serving as a wireless operator/air gunner aboard a No. The aircrews of RAF Bomber Command during World War II operated a fleet of bomber aircraft carried strategic bombing operations from September 1939 to May 1945, on behalf of the Allied powers. Pathfinders were awarded a special gilt metal Pathfinder wings to be worn on the tunic denoting their status.[193]. Such rituals were taken extremely seriously. 12 Squadron RAF lost on the night of 31 August 1941 attacking German shipping in Boulogne harbour were both members of the Royal Indian Air Force, Pilot Officer C P Khosla[84] and Pilot Officer R N Dastur. [228][229], Many biographies and auto-biographies of aircrew record that, facing a very limited life expectancy, airmen frequently adopted mascots and superstitions, holding to a belief that if they adhered to a particular custom or carried a specific talisman with them, then they would "get home in time for breakfast". [146][147] From that point onwards bombers crews were aware that highly efficient Luftwaffe night fighters crews would be stalking them, some operating based on their own on-board radar, others working on directions from chains of radar stations.