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GimmeAnF

Of Halifaxes and Wartime Franco-Canadian Friendship

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Hello,

Sorry if this is not the right place for this topic, but here goes...

I have sent photos (lent by the mid-upper gunner in my father's 346 Squadron Halifax crew) to a Canadian friend who's posted them here:

http://425alouette.wordpress.com/2011/12/0...ier-navigateur/

I've been interested in Halifaxes for a long time now, but what I can't understand is: what's the small fairing under the nose of the plane, just aft of the nose cone, in the photo where Pierre Gauthier is standing in front of it?

It seems the Halifax right at the top of the page has the same sort of fairing - did it protect electronic devices? Was it standard equipment on all Halifaxes? only on RCAF Halifaxes, or only on 425 'Alouettes' Squadron aircraft?

Thanks in advance!

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Hello,

I've been interested in Halifaxes for a long time now, but what I can't understand is: what's the small fairing under the nose of the plane, just aft of the nose cone, in the photo where Pierre Gauthier is standing in front of it?

It seems the Halifax right at the top of the page has the same sort of fairing - did it protect electronic devices? Was it standard equipment on all Halifaxes? only on RCAF Halifaxes, or only on 425 'Alouettes' Squadron aircraft?

Thanks in advance!

As far as I have been able to find (and it did not apply to all Halifaxes) it is a downward vision panel. On some aircraft it was a small square windown whilst on others it was similar to the photograph. The Merrick and Granger plans do not seem to show iit in their excellent drawings so it could be a field modification

Ken

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As far as I have been able to find (and it did not apply to all Halifaxes) it is a downward vision panel. On some aircraft it was a small square windown whilst on others it was similar to the photograph. The Merrick and Granger plans do not seem to show iit in their excellent drawings so it could be a field modification

Ken

Thanks, Ken.

At any rate, there's a close-up photo on the 420 RCAF Squadron 'Snowy Owls' site that clearly shows the same fairing, which it seems was open (?) looking aft. I'll try to post it here.

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I wish I could remember where I read about the fairing being used for a rear view - I think it was also on Lancasters. I believe it was to check the bomb bay as well. It was a "field" mod - which came in as daylight raids became more frequent.

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I have found some information....

In a letter dated 3rd February 1943 Harris had written to his Group Commanders commenting upon the serious problem of attacks by night fighters from underneath. He observes that 4 Group had provided an extra downward look out position by fitting what used to be the navigators blister from the side of the control cabin in the Halifax into the floor. Using this lookout position they have seen and avoided a number of attacks which might otherwise have been successful.

He continues... "I consider that the provision of such downward look - out in all night bombers while the bad view from the rear turret persists. is a matter of the first importance and I wish all Group Commanders to give this their personal attention...."

In a subsequent letter to Portal Harris says "I have just had to order group Commanders to cut holes in the bottom of their aircraft, put in perspex blisters and use an existing crew member, or an additional one, solely as lookout in support of the blind rear gunner. This has had gratifying results with the Halifaxes in avoiding action...."

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Great, thanks!

What exactly is your source, please?

At any rate, this was not installed on the French Halifaxes - or I haven't seen the right pix.

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The letters are in the PRO at Kew.

Don't know about French Halifaxes. And it may well be of course that not all British Squadrons obeyed his order immediately. The downward lookout was a temporary measure - until the new turrets could be installed which had a better "view".

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Many thanks again, miduppergunner.

Seems the Canadian Squadrons were quick to adopt the measure, not so the others. Or I never paid attention to that 'detail'.

Cheers

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I have found some information....

In a letter dated 3rd February 1943 Harris had written to his Group Commanders commenting upon the serious problem of attacks by night fighters from underneath. He observes that 4 Group had provided an extra downward look out position by fitting what used to be the navigators blister from the side of the control cabin in the Halifax into the floor. Using this lookout position they have seen and avoided a number of attacks which might otherwise have been successful.

He continues... "I consider that the provision of such downward look - out in all night bombers while the bad view from the rear turret persists. is a matter of the first importance and I wish all Group Commanders to give this their personal attention...."

In a subsequent letter to Portal Harris says "I have just had to order group Commanders to cut holes in the bottom of their aircraft, put in perspex blisters and use an existing crew member, or an additional one, solely as lookout in support of the blind rear gunner. This has had gratifying results with the Halifaxes in avoiding action...."

The "blister" you mention was fitted towards the rear of the fuselage (behind the crew entry door), on aircraft with no MU turret. It was used by the "redundant" MU gunner to spot EA approaching from below and behind.

I know for a fact that was the arrangement on at least some of the 10 Sqn MkII aircraft in 1943.

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I'm really enjoying all these Halifax threads that have appeared. Whilst the new Revell kit has been a dissapointment until we figure out the best way of correcting it, it's certainly raised interest and discussion around the aircraft of which I'm hugely grateful :)

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The "blister" you mention was fitted towards the rear of the fuselage (behind the crew entry door), on aircraft with no MU turret. It was used by the "redundant" MU gunner to spot EA approaching from below and behind.

I know for a fact that was the arrangement on at least some of the 10 Sqn MkII aircraft in 1943.

That would make sense as the concern was with attacks from below and thus perhaps from the rear. However I do not recall any pictures of any blisters behind the crew entry door. but that is of course of no consequence.

On the other hand would not the location of the blister at the front of the aircraft give an even wider view area - e.g. directly below and to the rear? In his letters Harris does not mention anything about MU gunners being "spare". And I think some Halifaxes did have the MU turret at this stage.

As always often these discussions often raise more questions than are answered. But that is part of the enjoyment? Let us continue to delve.

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That would make sense as the concern was with attacks from below and thus perhaps from the rear. However I do not recall any pictures of any blisters behind the crew entry door. but that is of course of no consequence.

On the other hand would not the location of the blister at the front of the aircraft give an even wider view area - e.g. directly below and to the rear? In his letters Harris does not mention anything about MU gunners being "spare". And I think some Halifaxes did have the MU turret at this stage.

As always often these discussions often raise more questions than are answered. But that is part of the enjoyment? Let us continue to delve.

Let's deal with the "spare" MU gunner first. I have in my possession an air combat report for the night of 16/17 April 1943. This is where I started. ZA-R JB910, of 10 Sqn, was enroute to Pilzen. At 23.30 hrs the rear gunner saw an enemy aircraft identified "Me110".

The e/a was apprx 300yds range and 600 ft below. The e/a "closed in underneath and rear gunner lost sight of it". At this point the "blister gunner sighted it and told his captain to dive to port." the e/a was now 350 yards astern and opened fire. the halofax rear gunner returned fire observing hits on the e/a between the fuselage and port enfine. As the e/a closed to 100 yds it stalled and exploded. This was confirmed by the "blister gunner".

The rear gunner was F/sgt Hill and the "blister gunner" Sgt Tester. I have copies of 10 Sqn ORBs for this period and this night and Sgt Tester is shown as the MU gunner. I think it's apparent from the combat report that Sgt Tester was not in a MU turret. I think in the quote of Harris's you give he states that the new observation position should be manned by a crew member or other personnel. As at least some of 10 Sqn aircraft at this time were MkII series 1 (Special), then who better than the "redundant" MU gunner.

I should add that my interest in this action lies in the fact that my wife's cousin (Sgt J Hulley) was flying in JB910 on that night as the "spare bod" bomb aimer with F/Sgt. Virgo (RAAF).

Further I have photographs of Jack Hulley and his regular crew beside their usual aircraft ZA-K HR961. This aircraft has no MU turret, but it does have a regular MU gunner. On this point was I was speaking to the last surviving member of this crew, Tom Thackray, the flight engineer, only a week before Christmas. He confirmed that HR691 had a pespex blister fitted aft of the crew entry door. This was manned by the MU gunner lying on his stomach in the fuselage.

Finally, as confirmation of the above, ifyou check Merrick's book "Halifax, From Hell to Victory and Beyond", page 47, you'll see a profile of ZA-X BB324. The blister in the position Tom described is shown. Below the profile is a photograph of the above aircraft in which the blister can clearly be seen. Furthermore, Merrick attributes the addition of the perspex blister to be Mod 639B.

As I originally stated previously, I know that was the arrangement for at least some of 10 Sqn aircraft post February 1943. Otheraircraft and other squadrons may well have had different arrangements.

Indeed, lets continue to delve!

Cheers.

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The "blister" you mention was fitted towards the rear of the fuselage (behind the crew entry door), on aircraft with no MU turret. It was used by the "redundant" MU gunner to spot EA approaching from below and behind.

I know for a fact that was the arrangement on at least some of the 10 Sqn MkII aircraft in 1943.

Meant to ask before Chaddy, could you let me have your source for this - just for my "records", please?

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The "blister" you mention was fitted towards the rear of the fuselage (behind the crew entry door), on aircraft with no MU turret. It was used by the "redundant" MU gunner to spot EA approaching from below and behind.

I know for a fact that was the arrangement on at least some of the 10 Sqn MkII aircraft in 1943.

Meant to ask before Chaddy, could you let me have your source for this - just for my "records", please?

No problem; but I assume my post of earlier this morning covers that? Additionally Merrick also suggests that Leonard Cheshire was instrumental in backing Sgt Coates and LAC Layton of 76 Sqn, who fitted a perspex blister over the ventral well hatch of W7650. (page 40 of the aforementioned book). I have only just come to have this information from Merrick, as my wife bought me the book for Christmas! I was happy enough with the information I had already received and the conclusions I had drawn from the combat report, but the info in Merrick's book seems to confirm it.

My interest has been that I have always assumed this was a squadron level mod. That being so what was the size of the blister and how was it obtained? I like your suggestion that it was removed from the navigators compartment. It would make sense. Do you have a reference for that please?

Cheers

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Going back to the original question regarding the the perspex blister at the bomb aimers's position. Again Merrick has an explanation.

He attributes it to Mod 904, and suggests it is to enable the bomb aimer to follow the track of the bombs.

Cheers.

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Brilliant Chaddy - many thanks - I have the book you mention - but have not looked at it for a while.

My source for the use of the blisters was from a letter written by Harris to this Group Commanders on the 3rd february 1943. There is an extract in the "Relentless Offensive" by Roy Irons but the letter is at RAF Museum Hendon (Not PRO Kew - sorry) ref:H49.

Harris is explaining his actions concerning the bad view from the FN20 Turret and says

"Meanwhile however Number 4 group have provided an extra downward look out position by fitting what used to be the navigators blister from the side of the control cabin in the Halifax into the floor. Using a lookout in this position they have seen and avoided an number of attacks which might otherwise have been successful. I consider that the provision of such a downward lookout in all night bombers while The bad view from The rear turrets pesists, is a matter of first importance and I wish all Group Commanders to give this their personal attention...."

In a letter the following day to Portal (RAF H82) Harris mentions that he has put an order to Group Commanders to "cut holes in the bottom of their aircraft, put in perspex blisters and utilise an existing crew member or an additional one, solely as lookout in support of the blind rear gunner"

It does seem that at this time the dorsal turret had been removed from many Halifaxes although there was resistance from Stirling crews who claimed they would be blind as the rear gunner had little "view". I would suspect that Commanders also gave priority to installing the blister and dealt with the removal of the dorsal turret later where it was required.

Hope this helps.

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Brilliant Chaddy - many thanks - I have the book you mention - but have not looked at it for a while.

My source for the use of the blisters was from a letter written by Harris to this Group Commanders on the 3rd february 1943. There is an extract in the "Relentless Offensive" by Roy Irons but the letter is at RAF Museum Hendon (Not PRO Kew - sorry) ref:H49.

Harris is explaining his actions concerning the bad view from the FN20 Turret and says

"Meanwhile however Number 4 group have provided an extra downward look out position by fitting what used to be the navigators blister from the side of the control cabin in the Halifax into the floor. Using a lookout in this position they have seen and avoided an number of attacks which might otherwise have been successful. I consider that the provision of such a downward lookout in all night bombers while The bad view from The rear turrets pesists, is a matter of first importance and I wish all Group Commanders to give this their personal attention...."

In a letter the following day to Portal (RAF H82) Harris mentions that he has put an order to Group Commanders to "cut holes in the bottom of their aircraft, put in perspex blisters and utilise an existing crew member or an additional one, solely as lookout in support of the blind rear gunner"

It does seem that at this time the dorsal turret had been removed from many Halifaxes although there was resistance from Stirling crews who claimed they would be blind as the rear gunner had little "view". I would suspect that Commanders also gave priority to installing the blister and dealt with the removal of the dorsal turret later where it was required.

Hope this helps.

Thanks very much for that. That's really very interesting.

This photo (courtesy of Tom Thackray) shows the MU and rear funner of ZA-K, HR691 posed by the rear turret. This is a Mk II Series 1 (Special). This photograph was taken, I believe, in September 1943 just after the crew were screened. Unfortunately the under-fuselage blister cannot be seen.

ZA-K_4.jpg

Cheers.

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If there is a reference to firing a gun from this position, then this is probably a case of the Preston-Green ventral position fitted as an alternative to the H2S. This was not just a perspex blister but a shielded gun position that was commonly seen on RCAF aircraft. The side blister would not have had space for a gun. The surviving stock of perspex side blisters from the Mk.I and early Mk.II would not have lasted very long as increasing numbers of Halifaxes entered service. There is a photo on another Halifax thread of an unusual blister underneath the rear of an early 10 Sq Halifax: I wonder if this is an example of what the memo is describing? I must admit that it doesn't look too much like the side window blister, but it isn't the best of photographs.

The under-nose blister seems to be present on much later Halis.

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If there is a reference to firing a gun from this position, then this is probably a case of the Preston-Green ventral position fitted as an alternative to the H2S. This was not just a perspex blister but a shielded gun position that was commonly seen on RCAF aircraft. The side blister would not have had space for a gun. The surviving stock of perspex side blisters from the Mk.I and early Mk.II would not have lasted very long as increasing numbers of Halifaxes entered service. There is a photo on another Halifax thread of an unusual blister underneath the rear of an early 10 Sq Halifax: I wonder if this is an example of what the memo is describing? I must admit that it doesn't look too much like the side window blister, but it isn't the best of photographs.

The under-nose blister seems to be present on much later Halis.

The blister the OP was referring to was, I believe, the one later provided in the bomb aimer's position to allow the track of the bombs to be observed.

The photograph of the blister shown on the other thread is the blister I have referred to in my earlier posts to this thread. I have commented upon that in the other thread as well. It's worthy of note because these old photographs generally don't pick up these "transparent" objects very well, if at all. I have confined my previous comments to 10 Sqn aircraft as I have information about them. On this squadron the blister was manned by the MU gunner where the aircraft had no MU turret. The blister had no armament fitted.

As I have said, other sqaudrons may have made different arrangements in implementing Harris's instructions.

The use of spare or removed side blisters seems an entirely feasible proposition to me, especially as a stop gap measure to be applied on the squadron. If there is evidence that specially built blisters were supplied I'd be interested to hear it.

Regards

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Yes, it is entirely feasible to me too, but Harris's memo of February 1943 referring to earlier use will have little relevance to photos of Mk.IIIs in 1944. All the spare side blisters will have been used up, and were never produced in enough numbers to equip the entire (growing) fleet. Which perhaps may be one explanation why photos of them are so uncommon. However, such blisters were fitted to other aircraft and would be equally adaptable.

Although transparencies don't show up well on many photos, there are a lot of photos that are of high enough quality to tell that these blisters do not exist on the aircraft shown. This, and the familiar tale of the effects of Shrage Musik, perhaps shows that this lesson about vision below was forgotten in the intermediate period.

If Harris was complaining about the lack of rear view from the FN20, then this would indeed apply to Stirlings and also to Lancasters, but the Halifax had the Boulton Paul E turret. It may or may not have had the same problem, but whereas tail gunners did remove the central panel on the FN turret I don't recall any such photos of this with the BP. It seems that 10 Sq thought there was a problem, but other units may well have thought that the penalties of carrying an extra crewman with such limited duties exceeded the potential benefits.

This is certainly an interesting area for searching on photos for things overlooked. We should also see such blisters on Lancasters and Stirlings, were Harris's memo to have been adopted for use Command-wide. However not every memo, even from the CO, would necessarily lead to an idea being adopted.

Edited by Graham Boak

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Yes, it is entirely feasible to me too, but Harris's memo of February 1943 referring to earlier use will have little relevance to photos of Mk.IIIs in 1944. All the spare side blisters will have been used up, and were never produced in enough numbers to equip the entire (growing) fleet. Which perhaps may be one explanation why photos of them are so uncommon. However, such blisters were fitted to other aircraft and would be equally adaptable.

Although transparencies don't show up well on many photos, there are a lot of photos that are of high enough quality to tell that these blisters do not exist on the aircraft shown. This, and the familiar tale of the effects of Shrage Musik, perhaps shows that this lesson about vision below was forgotten in the intermediate period.

If Harris was complaining about the lack of rear view from the FN20, then this would indeed apply to Stirlings and also to Lancasters, but the Halifax had the Boulton Paul E turret. It may or may not have had the same problem, but whereas tail gunners did remove the central panel on the FN turret I don't recall any such photos of this with the BP. It seems that 10 Sq thought there was a problem, but other units may well have thought that the penalties of carrying an extra crewman with such limited duties exceeded the potential benefits.

This is certainly an interesting area for searching on photos for things overlooked. We should also see such blisters on Lancasters and Stirlings, were Harris's memo to have been adopted for use Command-wide. However not every memo, even from the CO, would necessarily lead to an idea being adopted.

I fully realise that it has "little relevance to photos of Mk.IIIs in 1944". My original reply was to the suggestion of another poster that the blister the OP was asking about may have been covered by Harris' memo of Feb 1943.

I think I made it clear that, in my opinion, this it was not the case. and the memo applied to the earlier provision of supplying a means of checking below the aircraft, out of the field of view of the rear gunner. That has nothing to do with the removal or not of the central panel of the rear turret. Merrick himself states that Cheshire had a Perspex blister fitted over the ventral well hatch position on W7650. One might easily conjecture that this was in fact the "inspiration" behind Harris' memo. The point being that at least one other aircraft of another squadron had the blister mod. Hence it wasn't necessarily confined to 10 Sqn alone, although it might have been. It's an area of further reasearch.

I'm reluctant to state that all 10 Sqn aicraft had no MU turret, during the time frame of which I am speaking, however my understanding is that on the aircraft with no MU turret the the "redundant" MU gunner "manned" the blister position. I have seen them referred to as "blister gunners" at times (albeit they had no guns). Therefore there was no penalty regarding carrying an extra crew member, as there wasn't one.

I have previously posted a photograph of HR691 showing the MU and rear gunner posing by the rear turret, and there is no MU turret.

However, as you say, not all instructions get implemented by everyone, all the time. I agree with you that this is yet another area of porential interest for things overlooked.

Regards

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There are a couple of files, in Kew, which might give a clue, but, looking at one of the photos, the blister appears to be open at the rear; does this mean that it might have been designed for "delivery" of Window, which was often the task assigned to the bomb-aimer?

Edgar

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There are a couple of files, in Kew, which might give a clue, but, looking at one of the photos, the blister appears to be open at the rear; does this mean that it might have been designed for "delivery" of Window, which was often the task assigned to the bomb-aimer?

Edgar

Edgar,

Assuming we are discussing the query raised by the OP regarding the blister in the nose, I still think it's probably "Mod 904" fitted to allow the bomb aimer to follow the track of the bombs. Ref "H P Halifax" by K A Merrick.

This seems a reasonable explanation to me. Wether it was also used for delivering window, I don't know. All I would say is that it wouldn't have needed to be Perspex for that. The use of Perspex suggest it was used for looking out through. I'm interested in the files held by Kew though.

Cheers

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Strangley enough, I've been lookin through my Halifax book (can't remember the name, but it's got the Wellintgton in it too) and many of the side profiles do indeed show a blister behind the lower turret position. Never noticed this until this thread arose.

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