Monday, 8 February 2010

153 Sqn. 8th Feb 1945 - Politz

How not to impress the CO....

These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

From Dads squadrons base at Scampton on the 8th February, 15 aircraft were sent to Politz - a small town north-east of Berlin, on the German/Lithuanian border, midway between Stettin (aka Szezcin) and the Baltic sea - which housed a synthetic oil plant; it was also within 30 miles of the advancing Russian forces. Taking off into a cloud base of only 600 feet, the force flew through continuous cloud and atrocious weather until east of Denmark - a nerve-wrecking 2 hour experience. Fortunately, clear skies over the target assisted by a relatively low (i.e.14,000 feet) dropping height enabled a very accurate attack to be mounted; no further supply of oil was produced by Politz.

Naughtily, the homeward flight was routed over neutral Sweden. The Swedes fired A/A but, as noted by P/O Tom Tobin "they aimed to miss by miles."

All aircraft returned safely.

A Lancaster Bomber had a crew of 7 each of whom had specific duties and positions within the aircraft.

Crew accommodation.

Starting at the nose, the bomb aimer had two positions to man. His primary location was lying prone on the floor of the nose of the aircraft, with access to the controls for the bombsight head in front, with the bombsight computer on his left and bomb release selectors {known euphemistically as 'the tit'} on the right. He would also use his view out of the large transparent perspex nose cupola to assist the navigator with map reading. To man the Frazer Nash FN5 nose turret, he simply had to stand up and he would be in position behind the triggers of his twin .303 in guns. The bomb aimer's position contained the nose parachute exit in the floor.

Moving back, on the roof of the bomb bay the pilot and flight engineer sat side-by-side under the expansive canopy, with the pilot sitting on the left on a raised portion of the floor. The flight engineer sat on a collapsible seat (known as a "second dicky seat") to the pilot's right, with the fuel selectors and gauges on a panel behind him and to his right. The pilot had a sheet of steel behind him for protection. This was the sole armour plating on the aircraft.

Bomb aimer position down below
Behind these crew members, and behind a curtain fitted to allow him to use light to work, sat the navigator. His position faced to port with a large chart table in front of him. An instrument panel showing the airspeed, altitude and other details required for navigation was mounted on the side of the fuselage above the chart table.

Navigator position

Towards the cockpit
The radios for the wireless operator were mounted on the left-hand end of the chart table, facing towards the rear of the aircraft. Behind these radios, facing forwards, on a seat at the front of the main spar sat the wireless operator. To his left was a window, and above him was the astrodome, used for visual signalling and also by the navigator for celestial navigation.


The Bomb Bay - 14,000lb payload
Behind the wireless operator were the two spars for the wing, which created a major obstacle for crew members moving down the fuselage even on the ground. On reaching the end of the bomb bay the floor dropped down to the bottom of the fuselage, and the mid upper gunner's Frazer Nash turret was reached. His position allowed a 360° view over the top of the aircraft, with two .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns to protect the aircraft from above and to the side. The mid-upper gunner had perhaps the most uncomfortable ride of all the crew, as he was seated on a rectangle of canvas that was slung beneath the turret once the gunner had occupied his position. He could be required to occupy this seat for up to eight hours at a time.

The Elsan Chemical toilet
To the rear of the turret was the side crew door, on the starboard side of the fuselage. This was the main entrance to the aircraft, and also could be used as a parachute exit.

At the extreme rear of the aircraft, over the spars for the tailplane, the rear gunner sat in his exposed position in the Rose Rice turret, entered through a small hatch in the rear of the fuselage, and depending on the size of the rear gunner, the area was so cramped that the gunner would often hang their parachute on a hook inside the fuselage, near the turret doors. In the FN20 and FN120 turrets, he had four .303 in (7.7 mm) Brownings, and in the Rose Rice turret he had two .50 in (12.7 mm) Brownings. Neither the mid upper or rear gunner's positions were heated, and the gunners had to wear electrically heated suits to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Many rear gunners insisted on having the centre section of perspex removed from the turret to give a completely unobstructed view.

Tail end Charlie external, note chutes for spent cartridges.


coastkid said...

great post Al,havent seen the lancaster fly over here on airshow day for 2 amazing sight,imagine the sky covered with them..and the noise!

Bovey Belle said...

Another interesting post - I'll show it to OH later. D'you know, I never gave a thought to the possibility of there being a loo on board. I suppose, logically, there had to be, but it made me smile all the same. bet they had to be careful what they ate leading up to a bombing raid then . . .

Alistair said...

Hullo BB,

I laughed too when I saw the toilet photo - especially as the bloke - typical - is reading. Even in a bloomin' Lancaster, eh....

The more I find out about what they went through the more I am touched by understanding stuff I really should have had the nous to do some digging about while 'The Paw' was still here.

Makes me think too that probably they didn't eat very much before an op - I know Dad always looked forward to a full cooked breakfast when they got back. They did take sweets and chocolate as emergency rations on flights.

I think use of the toilet may have been dictated more by nerves at times rather than anything else.

Coast kid - I have experienced the sound of only one of these machines at a time. It's something that I physically felt as much as heard. The sensation of dozens or hundreds in the air at one time must have been an unforgetable feeling, especially if they were at a low level around the airfields. They skyscape of Linclnshire is very open and the planes must have been visible from a long way off. I wish I could have experienced it.......

Anonymous said...

very interesting article, my father was a tail end Charlie on that operation, he was in Lancaster number J2,it was a night operation and is in his log book as having taken 8 hours and 20 minutes, his pilot was F/O Heffer.

Alistair Robertson said...

If you have a 153 Squadron crew photo I'd be happy to include it on a post as a mark of remembrance and respect.

Anonymous said...

Interesting information. My uncle was lost on the Politz raid on 8/9 Feb 45.

He was rear gunner SGT V A Edwards - The crew were originally thought to have been on Lancaster PB 759 but were in fact on Lancaster ME443

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...