Defiant aces

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Ironmachine
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Re: Defiant aces

Post by Ironmachine » 26 Oct 2009 18:24

frcoplan wrote:What i would like to know is any biography detail from life of those crews, tactis used, battle descriptions, tactics, how many of those victories were achieved in France, how many at day/night.
Frcoplan, a good beginning would be to obtain a copy of The Turret Fighters - Defiant and Roc, by Alec Brew.

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by Ironmachine » 26 Oct 2009 18:38

frcoplan wrote:I do not want to start a debate if Defiant was up to Me 109 or 110, as it was not.
I think that a pair of quotes from the book may be of interest:
There remained the problem of what tactics to utilize if the Defiants were faced by Bf 109 fighters. To investigate how the aircraft handled against a single-seater, Hunter arranged with Fg Off Stanford Tuck of No. 65 Squadron to attack in his Spitfire at any point as Hunter flew his Defiant on a steady course from Northolt to White Waltham. Tuck bounced the Defiant, and a turning fight ensued that lasted ten minutes.
During the dogfight Hunter's gunner expended all his cine gun film; he was ofthen able to fire at the Spitfire across the arc of the turning circle, whereas Tuck, on the other hand, never had the chance to bring his guns to bear, and did not expend any cine gun film. On one occasion Hunter even managed to get on the tail of the Spitfire and slightly below, so that his gunner could fire.
This showed Hunter that in a turning fight the Defiant could defend itself against single-seaters, provided the pilot did not let his speed drop below 160mph (275km/h). He had his squadron practise a defensive circle, or a spiral down to low level, for those occasions when they might be attacked by a large force of Bf-109s, something which did not seem very likely at the time, because German single-seaters were out of range, and there was no apparent likelihood of the Defiants being sent to France
On the 21 June there was a conference at the office of war tactics at the Air Ministry to evaluate the performance of the Defiant in combat, following its operation over Holland and Dunkirk, and to recommend future practice.
[...]
Sqn Ldr Richardson expressed the view that the Defiant needed a bullet-proof windscreen and two front guns to improve it as a fighter. They all agreed that the proper role of the Defiant was against bombers on home defence.

frcoplan wrote:But still it has some success.
Appendix III gives a total of 149 Defiant victories in aerial combat (52 He-111, 25 Ju-87, 28 Ju-88, 9 Do-17, 1 Do-217, 28 Bf-109, 9 Bf-110). That total includes night interceptions, that amounted to 65 enemy aircraft shot down (and the book states that the turret fighter had been envisaged as a night fighter as much as a day fighter from the outset). I do not know the criteria that the book followed, but as an example, for 29 May 1940 (a date for which phylo states that No. 264 Sqn claimed 65 kills) the book gives a total of 37 aerial victories. Nevertheless, it is previously stated in the book that it was an inherent problem with the Defiant that different gunners could be firing at the same target from different directions, and all claimed it destroyed when it fell.
On the other hand, Appendix II gives a total of 37 Defiants lost in aerial combat. That gives a ratio of somewhat more than 4 aircraft shot down per Defiant lost in combat.

Edited to correct the number of night kills.
Last edited by Ironmachine on 27 Oct 2009 10:08, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by phylo_roadking » 26 Oct 2009 20:16

I do not know the criteria that the book followed, but as an example, for 29 May 1940 (a date for which phylo states that No. 264 Sqn claimed 65 kills) the book gives a total of 37 aerial victories
I-M, when I posted that I specifically used the word "claimed" :wink: Fighter Command "claimed" kills didn't by any means always reconcile with LW losses when records could be crosschecked after the war...! If you rememebr the recent long discussion about losses claimed vs.real over Malta defending the Illustrious in harbour there, for instance...
Nevertheless, it is previously stated in the book that it was an inherent problem with the Defiant that different gunners could be firing at the same target from different directions, and all claimed it destroyed when it fell.
...which ALSO seems to have been an issue with Spitfire and Hurricane pilots' claims during the BoB :wink:
On the other hand, Appendix II gives a total of 37 Defiants lost in aerial combat. That gives a ratio of somewhat more than 4 aircraft shot down per Defiant lost in combat
I-M...BoB only, or through their wholecareer including as nightfighters?

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by phylo_roadking » 26 Oct 2009 20:39

He said that the circling technique was a good way of getting down to ground level where you had more of a chance of surviving. When he did it he stated that his gunner made no attempt to defend his own aircraft. He was firing though.
Your challenge: Explain what the gunner was doing and why. In particular why did he not try to defend himself?
Hint: You won’t find the answer on Google! You’ll need to know what you are talking about or know someone who has the right kind of experience.
The "Lufberry Circle" wasn't true circle, but a shallow-ring spiral from altitude down to low-level, with each aircraft in the "circle" slightly lower than the matching one on the "other" side of the circle. As the Defiant's guns couldn't depress below horizontal - the gunner was firing UP and ACROSS the circle at aircraft attacking the underside undefended blind spot of the Defiant opposite AND ABOVE him...but thus in HIS field of fire :wink:

The system has one major weakness- if ONE aircraft is knocked out of the formation, there's a gap in cover/fields of fire created for someone who can THEN get inside the spiral.
ERROR. I was aware, since about 1957. That would have been the time when I was able to really understand what my father was telling me from his recollections of his wartime service days in the RAF. What pilots have said is that they could not have fired the guns with any hope of hitting anything other than the sky.
Reread my sentence - and apply CORRECT emphasis...

“1/ a pilot's lock-out lever that locked the rear turret in position AND slaved the guns to his control column so that the rear gunner couldn't fire when "locked";

THIS was an answer to your "They add that the turret would have to be put in that forward position by the turret gunner, so why does he not do the firing?"

The answer was - he COULDN'T; when the turret was locked...his switches were dead.
You wrote “5/ a reference to a magazine article that has almost zero to do with the discussion in hand; IF you had read it, you'd have found out that the fatal attack on 141 Sqn made on the 18th of July wasn't initially made to profit from ANY of the Defiant's weaknesses...III Gruppe of JG51 attacked them out of the sun before realising they were Defiants!”
CONGRATULATIONS! Passed the test. We wanted to know how widely you read – you correctly picked out the limits of the article. Well done for that!
Not much of a test...did YOU not notice me intentionally waving back? :lol: - "the fatal attack on 141 Sqn made on the 18th of July wasn't initially made to profit from ANY of the Defiant's weaknesses...III Gruppe of JG51 attacked them out of the sun before realising they were Defiants!"

And I love the use of the "Royal We" - maybe you could ask the rest of the team why when "They add that the turret would have to be put in that forward position by the turret gunner, so why does he not do the firing?" THEY didn't remember about the lock-down lever slaving control of the guns AWAY from the gunner?
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Re: Defiant aces

Post by Ironmachine » 26 Oct 2009 21:33

phylo_roadking wrote:I-M, when I posted that I specifically used the word "claimed" Fighter Command "claimed" kills didn't by any means always reconcile with LW losses when records could be crosschecked after the war...! If you rememebr the recent long discussion about losses claimed vs.real over Malta defending the Illustrious in harbour there, for instance...
That is why I said that I don't know the criteria that the book followed... to go from your claimed 65 kills to the 37 aerial victories shown in the book.

phylo_roadking wrote:I-M...BoB only, or through their wholecareer including as nightfighters?
The list in Appendix III (aerial victories) goes from 12 May 1940 to 17 April 1942. That of Appendix II (losses in combat) goes from 13 May 1940 to 17 July 1943.
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Re: Defiant aces

Post by phylo_roadking » 26 Oct 2009 21:44

a total of 37 Defiants lost in aerial combat
That of Appendix II (losses in combat) goes from 13 May 1940 to 17 July 1943.
A comment I read in passing last week hinted that a lot of nightfighting Defiants simply never returned 8O Do the Appendices only list combat loses or do they list any other loss classifications?

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by Dunserving » 26 Oct 2009 21:59

Phylo is very nearly there, just one bit missing.

He's got what the gunner was doing quite correct.

But, why was he doing it?

Just a bit more to get the prize......................

Will check again tomorrow. You'll like the prize..........it really is going to be a Sir Prize!

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by phylo_roadking » 27 Oct 2009 01:08

But, why was he doing it?
Are you referring to this?...
As the Defiant's guns couldn't depress below horizontal

....or to the principle of "no-allowance shooting" :wink:

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by phylo_roadking » 27 Oct 2009 01:48

Incidently, some more information on the Defiant's interrupter gear...
Boulton Paul turrets were electro-hydraulic with all the power equipment carried within the turret itself, the electric leads and other services, such as the intercom, coming in through a slip-ring unit on the axis of rotation. Fitting a turret was thus very simple. The whole self-contained unit was just dropped into position, lined up, bolted down, and the central leads connected up.

The main structural parts of the turret were the ball-bearing mounting ring, the support table, the gun plate assembly and gun recoil mountings. The mounting ring was attached to the airframe by twelve retaining bolts. Power for rotation of the turret and elevation/depression of the guns was supplied by a duplex electro-hydraulic generator. The speed of operation was controlled entirely by the amount of displacement of the control handle. Pressure generated in the hydraulic system varied with the resistance to its operation, so that moving the guns against the airstream was no different to moving the other way.

The turret control lever included a 'dead-man's handle', so that no power was consumed should the gunner be incapacitated. There was also provision for manual rotation of the turret in an emergency should the power supply be damaged. The firing button fired all guns at the same time, but there were automatic cut-outs so that the gunner could not shoot-off pieces of his own aircraft. They worked by contact brushes running over a metal cylinder which revolved at the same speed as the turret. A plastic insert in the cylinder corresponded to the shape of the aircraft structure, so that when the contacts ran over that, the guns ceased fire. As there was wide separation between the left and right guns, the cut-outs worked on left and right independently to maximise the field of fire.

The first electro-hydraulic turret manufactured was the A turret, basically the de Boysson four-gun turret with minor improvements such as electric firing, and Browning guns instead of the French Darne guns. This was fitted to the Defiant (A Mk IID) and Roc (A Mk IIR), differing only in the shape of the drum inserts in the interrupter mechanism.


http://airlandseaweapons.devhub.com/blog/2008/08/

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by phylo_roadking » 27 Oct 2009 02:15

I'll try to get over there sometime soon, will see if I can get better pics - we could do with some from inside - gunners point of view.....
....but in the meantime we CAN have a description from someone who HAS sat in that turret...

http://translate.googleusercontent.com/ ... hb9tQ_b9lA
I was invited to get into the turret (we were not alowed on the wing, or into the cockpit) and it's an experience I'll never forget. You are very cramped; even without flying gear. You are very cramped, even without flying gear. The view out is appalling, with blind spots, reflections and angle iron all over the place. Imagine (as I did) trying to draw a bead on a 300mph Bf109E in the heat of a manuvering battle while being flung about by your pilot's manoveres; getting out if your aircraft was hit... Imagine (as I did) trying to draw a bead on a 300MPH Bf109E in the heat of a battle manuvering while being flung about by your pilot's manoveres; getting out if your aircraft was hit ... .


....and some of HIS pics...

Image
Image

...and finally, from sitting INSIDE the turret...

Image

8O 8O 8O

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by Ironmachine » 27 Oct 2009 08:28

phylo_roadking wrote:A comment I read in passing last week hinted that a lot of nightfighting Defiants simply never returned Do the Appendices only list combat loses or do they list any other loss classifications?
Appendix II is titled "Defiants Lost in Aerial Combat", though it includes the following:
31 May 1940: Collision during Bf 109 attack
24 August 1940: Missing over Channel attacking a Ju 88
8 October 1940: Crashed on night patro, cause unknown, possibly shot down
29 May 1941: Collision with Blenheim, enemy aircraft in vicinity
21 May 1943: Missing over Channel, enemy aircraft in vicinity
17 July 1943: Missing over Channel, Fw 190 in vicinity
It certainly do not include non-combat losses, like losses in training flights or crashes.

I will take a look at the book to see if there is any reference to Defiants "simply never returning" in the chapters.
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Re: Defiant aces

Post by Ironmachine » 27 Oct 2009 10:11

I made a mistake when I said that of the 152 Defiant kills, only 23 enemy were night kills. I counted only those kills that were marked as night interceptions in Appendix III, but there were many others that were also made by night and were not so signified. 264 Squadron had 83 day victories and 141 Squadron had 4 day victories. The rest, that is 65 aircraft, were shot down by night.
I have edited my previous post to correct this.

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by Dunserving » 27 Oct 2009 10:12

Nice pictures, shame about the low resolution. The best gunners eye view though is from looking into the turret it would appear, and does not show exactly what the gunner would have seen when peering through a gunsight. Excellent pictures though - certainly show the problems that a gunner would have had despite all the tricks of the trade to improve visibility. I'll see if I can get some pictures of the turret once restored, hopefully with a gunsight sourced to replace the missing one. It would be interesting to see just how much can be seen at different positions/rotations of the head relative to the turret.

Now, as to the puzzle I set....

Phylo has got the best answer so far, but has not yet properly solved the last part - why did the gunner fire across the "circle"?

When the Defiants were turning in a tight enough circle to prevent an enemy aircraft getting in amongst them, and flying at a sufficiently high speed (over 160mph has been quoted) the aircraft had to be banked over at a steep angle, the turn being tightened with application of up elevator.

Thus, the undefended undersides of the Defiants were being presented to enemy aircraft outside the circle. The turret gunner could still fire of course, but thanks to the orientation of the aircraft his fire was not now at various angles upwards around the aircraft, but more like down to the ground and up in the air. Hence, he could not defend his own aircraft, but could defend those on the other side of the circle.

Defiant Pilot reported that his gunner was firing at high elevations relative to the Defiant throughout the engagement he survived.

Hopefully that explains it. Phylo has come up with the best answer, incomplete, but is still the winner.

Now, as to the Prize, or Sir Prize, for what follows is a surprise I suspect.

I was thinking that perhaps a flight over southern England terminating with being machine gunned by a marauding Messerschmitt might be the ideal thing. However, these days there’s never a Messerschmitt around when you need one – unlike 70 years ago. The ideal thing though would be to experience what it must have been like in those days to fly over the coastline with France in the distance in a relatively slow aircraft and then suddenly have a fighter all over you.

Well, that can now be arranged...................

A local company has just started a rather special treat which might just give that Defiant crew sort of feeling. There’s various options but the best is to go to Manston, near Ramsgate, and fly from there in a helicopter. You head to Canterbury and are met there in the sky by a Spitfire which treats you to your own personal flying display, buzzing all around you for 30 minutes before flying off. You then fly over more of the sights of that part of England, including the area where 141 Squadrons Defiants were slaughtered. You then land at what is regarded as the best hotel/restaurant for many a mile to have lunch. You are then flown back to Manston where you’ll see the Spitfire being checked and prepared for its flight back to its home base at Duxford. You get a chance to meet the pilot and examine the aircraft.

You are all probably thinking that this is a wind-up of monstrous proportions, and indeed in part it is. The flights do exist, but as a pensioner I can’t even afford to do it myself let alone send someone else, but a dream is a dream nonetheless. And so the prize can now be revealed. And it is one you can all share, all together now... “I have a dream!”

The company has a website, and details of the various options can be seen at:

http://goactionstations.co.uk/

Now, that kind of fun day out is obviously only for the wealthy, but what I can do, once I work out how to do it, is post on here pictures I took flying over the area at a height of 2,000 feet in July of this year. It might give you all an idea of what aircrew in those days would have been seeing.

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by Dunserving » 27 Oct 2009 10:22

Can anyone offer advice on adding photos?

I've used the upload attachment button, but it just tells me the file is invalid.

Pictures are jpg files of around 2Mb in size.

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Re: Defiant aces

Post by Ironmachine » 27 Oct 2009 10:26

phylo_roadking wrote:A comment I read in passing last week hinted that a lot of nightfighting Defiants simply never returned
It seems that there were a high number of accidents, but probably they were produced by causes not directly related with the Defiant. A pair of quotes may shed some light on this:
When No. 307 Squadron was being formed, the cream of the available Polish fighter pilots were posted to it, but when they discovered that they would just be drivers for back-seat gunners, their pride was touched, and they objected strongly, demanding transfers to single-seaters. These requests were largely granted, and they were replaced by pilots of lesser quality -which may explain the high accident rate suffered by the squadron in the early months of its existence.
Such a catalogue of accidents was experienced by all the night-fighter crews, whether they were flying Defiants or not. Losing radio communications was often enough to claim the aircraft, as navigation at night in British weather, above cloud and a blacked-out countryside, was often impossible.

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