At the outbreak of the Second World War the British government realised it did not have adequate resources to maintain the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the impending air war in Europe. While British factories could rapidly increase their aircraft production, there was no guaranteed supply of trained aircrew. Pre-war plans had identified a need for 50,000 aircrew annually, but Britain could only supply 22,000.

To overcome this problem, the British government put forward a plan to its dominions to jointly establish a pool of trained aircrew who could then serve with the RAF. In Australia the proposal was accepted by the War Cabinet and a contingent was sent to a conference in Ottawa, in Canada, to discuss the proposal. After several weeks of negotiations, an agreement was signed on 17 December 1939 which would last for three years. The scheme was known in Australia as the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS).

Under the scheme 50,000 aircrew would be trained annually, each dominion would conduct its own elementary training; advanced training would be conducted in Canada because of its closeness to the British aircraft factories and the war zone. From November 1940, some training was also conducted in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Australia undertook to provide 28,000 aircrew over three years. The first basic flying course started on 29 April 1940, when training began simultaneously in all participating countries.

The first 34 Australians graduated from RAAF Service Flying Training Schools on 18 November 1940, with a further 37,000 aircrew eventually trained in Australia. To meet this commitment, the RAAF established 2 Air Navigation Schools, 3 Air Observers Schools, 3 Bombing and Gunnery Schools, 12 Elementary Flying Training Schools, 6 Initial Flying Training Schools and 8 Service Flying Training Schools. In addition, 7 Schools of Technical Training and other specialised technical schools were established to train ground crews in the maintenance of aircraft and equipment.

The duration of World War II saw 15,746 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners and engineers sent to British squadrons and 11,641 to Australian squadrons. These men exemplified themselves in every major campaign. (

The following article was obtained from the website of the “Nanton Lancaster Society Museum” in Nanton, Alberta, Canada.

Avro Lancaster

A Lancaster crew numbered seven - the pilot, flight engineer, navigator, wireless (radio) operator, bomb aimer / forward gunner, mid-upper gunner, and rear gunner. Invariably all were very young, a man of twenty-five would likely be referred to as the "Old Man" or "Grandpa." They were of different ranks, came from all walks of life, and often from more that one country. However, they quickly bonded together to form a very special, tightly-knit group. This camaraderie was crucial to maintaining morale and efficiency in the air. Most felt that their crew was one of the best in Bomber Command. They generally spent many of their off-duty hours together as well as the first day or two of a leave.

The bomb-aimer's compartment was situated in the front of the aircraft at a level below that of the main cockpit. Lying on his stomach and looking through the bombsight out the large perspex blister, the bombaimer would guide the aircraft to the target and release the bomb load. As well, the bomb-aimer was responsible for operating the front gun turret positioned directly above him, although this was not necessary on most operations.

Regardless of rank, the pilot was always in command of the aircraft. Behind his head was the only piece of armour plating that a Lancaster carried.

Seated beside the pilot on a seat which was hinged to permit crew to travel to and from the bomb-aimer's compartment in the nose of the aircraft was the flight engineer. He assisted the pilot on take-off and landings by handling the throttles etc. In flight he was constantly checking his panels to monitor oil, fuel and pressure gauges to assess engine performance and fuel consumption from the Lancaster's six wing tanks. Although flight engineers were generally trained to fly the aircraft "straight and level" they had no formal pilot training and hoped that they would never have to try to land the aircraft.

Behind the pilot and flight engineer, the navigator worked in a curtained off compartment so that the lights he required would not give away the position of the Lancaster to enemy fighters. Few navigators had the time, or the inclination, to leave their station during a raid. They were constantly plotting the aircraft's course and making adjustments for wind and other factors. As electronic navigational aids developed during the war the navigator's work load became even greater.

The wireless operator's station was just in front of the main spar, in the rear part of the cockpit section. In addition to his official duties related to the radio equipment, the W/Op was also expected to have a working knowledge of the navigator's equipment, understand the aircraft's electrical and intercom systems, and administer first aid as necessary. As well, he was generally on duty in the astrodome in the event of contact with enemy fighters and over the target. The astrodome was a dome shaped piece of perspex which protruded above the aircraft's fuselage in order that the navigator could take star shots. As well it provided an excellent viewpoint.

The mid-upper gunner and rear gunner completed the crew. Both were extremely vulnerable and in the coldest part of the aircraft. Their duties were to continuously scan the night sky for enemy fighters from the moment of take off until the aircraft landed, sometimes ten hours later. A most important contribution was to spot the fighter and instruct the pilot to take evasive action. When this occurred the fighter generally broke off the contact and looked for another bomber with a less alert air gunner.

Of all the personnel who were housed on a wartime Bomber Command airfield, only ten percent were aircrew. Dozens of others were required to prepare each Lancaster for flight and the ground crew were most appreciated by the aircrew. Generally working outside, the conditions especially in the winter were often windswept, wet and cold. Their contributions to the successes of the effort cannot be overemphasised. The ground crew which were associated with each aircraft took immense pride in "their" aircraft and would joke that they were only "loaning" the bomber for a few hours and that the aircrew were "not to break it."


The following article was obtained from the website of the “Nanton Lancaster Society Museum” in Nanton, Alberta, Canada.

The PFF (Path Finder Force) was established on 15 Aug 1942. Pathfinder aircraft fly ahead of the mainbomber stream dropping target-marking flares over the main target.

Markers, Target Indicators (TIs)

Each TI contained 60 pyrotechnic candles. A barometric fuse set to operate at low altitude (3,000 ft) blew the TI open, cascading the candles onto the ground, igniting as they went. Seen from above, each TI would appear as an intense pool of light, about 900 ft (275m) in diameter. Burn time was about three minutes so they were replenished at frequent intervals.

To prevent German decoy fires from drawing bombers off the intended target TIs were made in a series ofcolours; red, yellow, green, etc., and used in a predetermined order which varied from raid to raid.

Sky Markers - parachute flares in a variety of colours dropped by specialised aircraft equipped with radio navigation aids. Sky markers required a complicated offset bombing technique and the procedure was only used when clouds covered the target.

Newhaven - codename for visual marking with TIs, etc.

Parramatta - codename when TI marking was supplemented by bombers which were equipped with terrain reading radar.

Wanganui - codename for sky marking.


Armament Information:

HC Bombs use by the RAF Bomber Command:

The 4,000 lb High Capacity (HC) bombs referred to in the Operations Record Books (ORB’s) were often referred to as ‘Cookies’. These bombs were constructed with a relatively thin, light casing and incorporated a greater proportion of explosive material. Most 'normal' bombs (termed ‘Medium Capacity’ by the RAF) at that time contained about 50% explosive by weight, the rest being made up of the bomb casing.

The 4,000lb (HC) bomb was little more than a cylinder full of explosive - it was un-aerodynamic and had n fins. The thin, light casing maximised the ‘air blast’ effect and were used in conjunction with the smaller 4lb Incendiary Bombs. These particular HC bombs were used only by RAF Bomber Command.

Loading a 4,000lb 'Cookie'

(An HC [high capacity] air-blast bomb used in conjunction with clusters of 4lb Incendiaries)


A Full Load

(A full bomb load ranged from 7,000lb ~ 12,000lb depending on fuel requirements)


The following item was obtained from the website of the “Nanton Lancaster Society Museum” in Nanton, Alberta, Canada.

Battle of Berlin

November 18, 1943 - March 31, 1944

35 major air raids (16 against Berlin, 19 against other cities to dilute the German air defences)

Berlin 23/24 August 1943 (56) with another 67 lost in two more raids against Berlin over the next two weeks).

Munich 2/3 October 1943 (8)

Stuttgart - 7 October

4 major raids against Berlin in both November and December with a total loss of 180 bombers

Berlin - 18 November

Berlin - 22 November

Berlin - 16/17 December 1943

Magdeburg - 21 January 1944 (55)

Berlin - 28 January 1944 (43)

Leipzig - 19 February 1944 (78) [1]

Stuttgart - 15/16 March 1944

Berlin - 24 March 1944 72 (16th RAF raid on the city in a little over 4 months)

Nuremberg - 30 March 1944 96

1,047 aircraft lost with more than that number damaged.

[1] Ernie and his crew lost on this raid.  Biggest single loss to date (78 aircraft).  Refer 'Notes' for commentary from two surviving crew members from another aircraft on that fateful night.


The following comment on the “Berlin Air Offensive” has been extracted from the BBC online archives and covers the question of cost effectiveness of Bomber Command’s operations over Germany during 1944 in the light of increasing Bomber loss rates.

Berlin Air Offensive

November 18, 1943 - March 31, 1944

“Widespread damage to the city of Berlin at a high cost to British aircraft.”

“By March 1944, it became clear that the area offensive had fallen short of its goals and that Bomber Command was facing destruction by night fighters just as it had earlier faced destruction by day fighters.” (Noble Frankland, historian and Bomber Command veteran).

Eight raids on Berlin in November and December 1943 reduced much of the city to rubble, killing over 4,000 Berliners and making half a million homeless; 220 aircraft were lost to German night fighters during the raids. Six raids in January 1944 did limited damage on the ground but cost 192 aircraft.

A raid [on Berlin] on February 15, with a cost of 43 aircraft, caused extensive damage but little loss of life; much of the population had already fled the city. A final raid on March 24 was scattered by bad weather with the loss of 72 aircraft.

Losses were running at the unsustainable rate of 6-7 per cent per raid, with no prospect of a German surrender. With Germany re-asserting command of the air and the Normandy landings in prospect, Air Chief Marshall Arthur Harris's dream of defeating Germany through bombing was slipping away. (

Berlin was considered to be the most dangerous target as it was situated deep inside enemy territory resulting in increased exposure to enemy defences. Berlin was considered by all to represent a target of special importance and consequently the enemy defences were greatly strengthened in the vicinity.

It is understood that night bombing operations by Bomber Command over northern Germany were temporarily curtailed somewhat around this time.


The following information on German Anti Aircraft Armaments was obtained from the following website:

German Anti-Aircraft Armament “Flak”

Light Flak typically consisted of heavy 12.7 mm machine guns and 20 mm towed cannons that could be set up quickly. These guns were light, fast firing and quite effective against aircraft at low altitudes.

The towed 20 mm Flak guns were served by four men with some set up in Flak wagons, a light tank body with four 20 mm cannons mounted on it.

Medium Flak guns were typically 37 mm towed guns operated by a large crew. They were slower firing than the 20 mm guns, but had a longer range and were more deadly. Their streams of shells could be seen rising into the bomber stream as globes of yellow or red. They were contact bursting shells only.

Heavy Flak (88 MM) typically consisted of the highly effective 88 mm cannons set up in anti-aircraft mode. By 1942 over 15,000 of these 88 mm cannons formed the main Flak defences for Germany, arranged in belts stretching across Holland and Germany, in places 20 Km thick. Many batteries were radar directed and worked cooperatively with searchlight batteries. Heavier guns of 130 mm and 150 mm were also used. The heavy Flak shells exploded at pre-set heights.

Flak was the nightmare of bomber crews as it wasn't predictable. They exploded in daylight with puffs of  black smoke with little red interiors, and at night they flashed yellow or red. When one hit close the fragments (shrapnel) banged through the aircraft and pinged off more solid members. With a direct hit from an 88 mm or larger shell the aircraft would stagger and stall, sometimes a wing would fold up and the bomber would go straight down in flames. Other times the entire aircraft would simply vanish in a dirty ball of fire and smoke. Many other times the aircraft and men would fly on, riddled with holes but still fighting, only to have to try to land somewhere without lights, damaged under carriages, missing engines and wounded or dead crew. Often they bombed their targets only to die in a crash landing.

The 88 mm heavy Flak guns were typically set up in semi-permanent batteries intended to provide long-term protection in a Flak belt or in a city. However, they were mobile and could be quickly relocated. When directed by radar and, or working in conjunction with searchlights they were quite deadly, often downing more aircraft over a city than the German night fighters. They fired altitude-fused or proximity-fused shells up to 49,000 feet at 3 shells per min.


The 200CM German Scheinwerfer-43 searchlights were rated at 2.4 Gigacandela. Powered by a 120 kilowatt generator, it could detect targets at distances of up to 13 kilometres.

Typically the 200CM searchlight was deployed at the centre of a triangle formed by 3, 150CM searchlights spaced about 2 kilometres from the central "master", 200 CM searchlight. The master searchlight would find the target, and the 150CM lights would ‘cone’ the target.


Heinkel 219 Uhu (Owl) German Night Fighter

Without doubt the best German night-fighter of the war, the He 219 Uhu (Owl) possessed in abundance all three attributes essential for such combat: high speed, heavy gun armament and efficient radar. Fastest of all the He 219A series versions was the He 219A-7/R6 with 2,500-hp engines and a top speed of 435 mph (700 km/h ). Most aircraft were equipped with radar. Of all RAF Mosquitoes lost during night operations more than 60 per cent (estimated ) fell to He 219s.

Powerplant: two 1,800-hp Daimler-Benz DB 603E inline pistons Max speed: 416 mph (670 km/h ) at 22,965 ft (7000 m) Two 30mm MK 108 cannons in wing-roots Two 30mm MK 103 and Two 20mm MG 151/20 in ventral gun tray in Schräge-Musik configuration. Two upward-firing 30mm MK 108 cannon in rear cockpit. (


Junkers 88 Night Fighter

From May 1940 onwards, the appearance of ever increasing numbers of RAF bombers at night over Germany had forced the Luftwaffe to set up a powerful night air defence organisation which soon became involved in a bitter see-saw battle for supremacy in the night sky. The Junkers Ju 88 night-fighter was a key weapon in this crucial battle.

Power Plant: two 14 cylinder, air cooled, BMW 801D-2 radials of 1,700 HP each. Performance: Maximum level speed 356 mph (573 kph) at 27,890 ft with SN-2 but no upward-firing guns. Normal range 1,553 Mls (2,500 Km); Maximum endurance on internal fuel 4.75 hours. Armament: Four fixed forward-firing 20mm MG 151 cannon in ventral tray with 200 rounds each and one flexible 13 mm MG 131 machine-gun at rear of cockpit with 500 rounds. Optional 'Schräge Musik' installation in upper fuselage with two 20 mm MG 151 cannon firing obliquely forward.





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