Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Discussions on all aspects of the The United Kingdom & its Empire and Commonwealth during the Inter-War era and Second World War. Hosted by Andy H
User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Post by Peter H » 17 Dec 2009 10:09

Of interest:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeman_Dyson
At the British Bomber Command, Dyson and colleagues proposed ripping out two gun turrets from the RAF Lancaster bombers, to cut the catastrophic losses to German fighters in the Battle of Berlin. A Lancaster without turrets could fly 50 mph (80 km/h) faster and be much more maneuverable.

“ All our advice to the commander in chief [went] through the chief of our section, who was a career civil servant. His guiding principle was to tell the commander in chief things that the commander in chief liked to hear… To push the idea of ripping out gun turrets, against the official mythology of the gallant gunner defending his crew mates…was not the kind of suggestion the commander in chief liked to hear


http://yarchive.net/space/politics/bomber_command.html
Freeman Dyson has estimated that 10,000 or more Lancaster crewmen died solely because Bomber Command did not *care* about their welfare, and was not interested in finding out why the survival rate from downed
Lancasters was so much poorer than from other British bombers. (Almost certainly it was because the escape hatch was two inches narrower. Mike O'Loughlin, one of Dyson's colleagues in RAF operations research, spent two years fighting totally unresponsive management to get the hatch enlarged. By the time he succeeded, the war was essentially over.)

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Re: Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Post by Peter H » 17 Dec 2009 10:16

http://www.bible-researcher.com/dresden/dyson.html
Bomber command might have been invented by some mad sociologist as an example to exhibit as clearly as possible the evil aspects of science and technology. The Lancaster, in itself a magnificent flying machine, made into a death trap for the boys who flew it. A huge organization dedicated to the purpose of burning cities and killing people, and doing the job badly. A bureaucratic accounting system which failed utterly to distinguish between ends and means, measuring the success of squadrons by the number of sorties flown, no matter why, and by the tonnage of bombs dropped, no matter where. Secrecy pervading the hierarchy from top to bottom, not so much directed against the Germans as against the possibility that the failures and falsehoods of the Command should become known either to the political authorities in London or to the boys in the squadrons. A commander in chief who accepted no criticism either from above or from below, never admitted his mistakes, and appeared to be as indifferent to the slaughter of his own airmen as he was to the slaughter of German civilians. An Operational Research Section which was supposed to give him independent scientific advice but was too timid to challenge any essential element of his policies. ...

http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/17847/page2/
Bomber Command told the crews that their chances of survival would increase with experience, and the crews believed it. They were told, After you have got through the first few operations, things will get better. This idea was important for morale at a time when the fraction of crews surviving to the end of a 30-*operation tour was only about 25 percent. I subdivided the experienced and inexperienced crews on each operation and did the analysis, and again, the result was clear. Experience did not reduce loss rates. The cause of losses, whatever it was, killed novice and expert crews impartially. This result contradicted the official dogma, and the Command never accepted it. I blame the ORS, and I blame myself in particular, for not taking this result seriously enough. The evidence showed that the main cause of losses was an attack that gave experienced crews no chance either to escape or to defend themselves. If we had taken the evidence more seriously, we might have discovered Schräge Musik in time to respond with effective countermeasures.

User avatar
The_Enigma
Member
Posts: 2270
Joined: 14 Oct 2007 14:59
Location: Cheshire, England

Re: Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Post by The_Enigma » 17 Dec 2009 22:51

Am i mistaken in thinking that Bomber Command mainly flew night sorties? If so, what would be the point of the gun turrets - i know there was German night fighters on the prowl it just seems, without looking into the subject, a little pointless shooting into the dark etc

Were the gunners manning those turrets at fending off or downing German night fighters?

User avatar
Ostkatze
Member
Posts: 344
Joined: 06 Oct 2004 03:08
Location: Ohio

Re: Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Post by Ostkatze » 18 Dec 2009 06:20

These excerpts may give a confusing view of the problem. If taken as just about Schrage Musik, sure, it was an effective system, late war, but accounted for a small percentage of losses overall.
The optimistic plans for Berlin on the arrival of the H2X sets can be judged with hindsight, but that's easy. Yes, I agree that they should have concentrated on the Ruhr. Shorter flight, heavier bomb load, better accuracy. We all know this now...It wasn't just Berlin, my dad was on the first Skoda raid, and it was a poor one, pretty much for the same reasons.
As far as the gun turrets - 50mph?? Maybe with a clean, empty Lanc, but surely not one fully loaded on the way out, on the return they're faster anyway. The gunners are also sets of eyes, not just letting a nightfighter know they're not asleep from the cold, but also warning the capt to hop into a nearby cloud. They didn't fly on total cloud nights, but also not on clear moonlit nights for that very reason.
My biggest issue is with the experience assertion - my dad's log book is merely anecdotal, but it shows all his returned earlies in his early ops with lots of different ships. The last 20-odd of his 50 ( as Flt. Engr. with 83sq pathfinders 42-43 ) were with the same capt and couple of Lancs over and over. What it shows is the FNG principle at work.
Sure, a wonder weapon like Schrage is going to decimate anyone unlucky enough to be trundling over it, just like flak bits can hit you even at better altitude, but a lot of losses were from inexperienced crews or just being the FNG's not getting the better machines.
I never understood this, although I should have, being a waiter and keeping the cook in booze and weed, until my Dad explained what should be basic. He was a Spit - Hurrybird mechanic 39-40. The popular pilots who'd been around got the better mechanics and better machines. I know it sounds like the Blue Max, but it's probably always the case.
For many reasons, crews who'd been around had a better chance on a given mission than the FNG's, there shouldn't be doubt about that. Neil.

User avatar
phylo_roadking
Member
Posts: 17487
Joined: 30 Apr 2006 23:31
Location: Belfast

Re: Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Post by phylo_roadking » 18 Dec 2009 18:08

The role of a tailgunner as an observer/lookout can be easily overemphasised. He wasn't as useful as you might suppose...

If you have ever flown at night at altitude in a commercial or military aircraft - then you know that at altitude, for a considerable part of the night after "dusk" the WESTERN horizon is still illuminated to a great degree...I.E. to the REAR of an aircraft heading to the Continent...

After the wee small hours, the EASTERN horizon is slowly illuminated by the upcoming dawn...I.E. to the REAR of an aircraft returning from the Continent to England...

So fighters attacking a bomber from the rear at its altitude WILL to a certain degree and depending on the light be silhoutted against the glow as it heads TO a target on the Continent....but only well towards dawn on the return leg will the tail gunner be able to eyeball the target...

That's two very narrow time windows on really quite long flights 8O

At OTHER times, he's relying on seeing a dark aircraft against a dark background! :lol: He COULD possibly pick out an attacker by the flare of his exhaust stubs - some of these were VERY obvious at night!...but the Germans learned this too, and equiped their night fighters with exhaust flame baffles :wink: It was these ruining the overall "tune of the exhaust as well as the growing weight of the aircraft, that reduced the overall top speed of the Me110G to significantly slower than a Me110C.

BUT....

...an aircraft passing BELOW a bomber, with darkened upper surfaces, will be virtually invisible; the bomber crew are looking down into the dark with no form of light to silhouette/illuminate the fighter!

"Schrage Musik" as a tactic was a step forward....for it obviated the need to build up ENOUGH speed to actually outmanouver your opponent :wink: You have to remember that MOST "nightfighter attacks" were actually long stern chases once a jaeger was tasked to a target by his ground controller. The LW pilot THEN had to be vectored onto the target until he was in range for his own radar to take over...THEN as well he was having to climb to around the same altitude and build up enough speed to catch the target, having been loitering on cruise in his respective Kamhuber Line box.

It was VERY difficult for most nightfighters to build up enough speed to actually outmanouver a target for an attack from the beam or any "known" weak point. Especially earlyish nightfighters whos power output was compromised by their flame baffles. Those little short exhaust stubs that look like an afterthought on inline engines had a VERY precise length and function!

So - the "schrage musik" installation was the LW's practical way of delivering a devastating attack that DIDN'T mean outmanouvering the target - they JUST had to overhaul it and slowly pass beneath it!

Part of the overall losses to schrage musik HAS to be down to the way the numbers averaged out - for ANOTHER problem with the Kamhuber Line was that...that pilot THEN had to return to HIS box to be tasked again to a new target by HIS controller as one passed through it. Therefore a nightfighter could only attempt to chase three or four bogies in a night...but if he saved fuel AND clock-time by a simple passing attack on a bomber from rear to nose - he could perhaps squeeze one MORE engagement out of his fuel load and the Bomber Stream before his evening's activity ended This is also why nightfighters gave up on bombers that tried to evade - they couldn't aford to waste the fuel and distance it meant chasing them even further down-range!

This was one of the main issues with the German air defence - the Kamhuber Line could ONLY "do" a certain number of attacks on intruding aircraft in a night. Therefore there was a relatively fixed percentage of Bomber Command aircraft in a raid could be targeted in a night. Hence the initial tactic of the Bomber Stream - to scatter an RAF raid in time across the K-Line And thus make it harder for LW nightfighters to move back and forth across the landscape in and out of position AND manage to be in the right place at the right time to be tasked to a new bogie.

And because of that only-barely-marginal speed advantage over their targets...if a lancaster pilot dived and corkscrewed his aircraft to build up speed, he was uncatchable - and most jaegers knew not to waste time trying. For THEN it was going to turn into exactly the kind of evenly-paced night time dogfight they didn't have any power advantage in :wink:

This is incidently ALSO one of the reasons for the deletion of ventral turrets (and occasional dorsal!) in several RAF bomber designs; that they were covering angles of attack that nightfighters couldn't build up enough speed to outfly the bomber and attack from 8O It was also in turn the idea behind the deletion of ALL but tail armament on designs like the Vickers Windsor and the high-altitude prototypes of the late-model Wellingtons...and THOSE fired by remote control from the pressurized cockpit :wink: A tail gunner didn't need to be IN the tail to SPOT an attacker...given that this would be so difficult...he could fight his guns from elsewhere in the aircraft...

...taking this a step further - was the Victory Bomber deisgn of Barnes Wallis in the early years of the war, before he became involved in the above two projects; the six-engined Victory (Vickers Victoria? :wink: ) would spiral up to its service ceiling over the UK, THEN head for the continent...mandating any even HIGH-level interceptor to pursue them UP to their ceiling and up to their already built-up speed advantage :wink: ...a chase that could take a fighter HUNDREDS of miles downrange :wink: In THOSE circumstances..... the Victory would again only need a tailgun...or no guns at all 8O

User avatar
Ostkatze
Member
Posts: 344
Joined: 06 Oct 2004 03:08
Location: Ohio

Re: Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Post by Ostkatze » 19 Dec 2009 01:28

Rats! Darn you Phylo for catching that typo!
When I read it I came over all Christmassy....
King of Steven.... deep and crisp and even... reminded me of boyhood carroling for Oxfam. We'd stop by the Headmaster's every night, for spiced rum punch in trade for a couple of tunes. Wouldn't be politically correct for 12 yr olds in the US, though...
Nice post - I wasn't trying to say the gunners could see much, just sometimes?
My old man hated carrots, they had to eat so many and still couldn't see a bloody thing. They used to laugh when the BBC claimed the Germans were deliberately targeting churches and hospitals; geeze, those guys were good...
Speaking of Christmas tunes, my higgorant American wife thought it was a Piggy Pud'n.
I had a Palestinian waiter ( not into booze, of course ) who came up one night - " Boss, we have pork wine? "
Port, Fawaz, port.
Those damn Christians will do anything with a pig....
Season's greetings, Neil, king of stevenly.

User avatar
phylo_roadking
Member
Posts: 17487
Joined: 30 Apr 2006 23:31
Location: Belfast

Re: Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Post by phylo_roadking » 19 Dec 2009 01:40

Nice post - I wasn't trying to say the gunners could see much, just sometimes?
Question is....enough to make them worthwhile?

Deleteing the rear turret of a Lancaster means loosing -

the weight of the GUNNER
the weight of four Browning .303s , mounting frames etc.
the weight of four MGs-worth of ammunition
the weight of the turret itself, frame, panelling, perspex
the weight of its traversing mechanism, motors, gear ring etc.

That's a not inconsiderable amount! :wink: It's quite suprising what all THAT would come to...

....and loosing it would add to the overall top speed of the aircraft as mentioned!

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Re: Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Post by Peter H » 19 Dec 2009 04:40

I think it would have also flown faster because drag would have been reduced.i.e removing the mid-upper turret.

Weight of Lancaster( http://www.warbirdalley.com/lanc.htm )

Weight: Empty 36,900 lbs, Maximum Takeoff 68,000 lbs i.e it could carry nearly its own weight.

Dyson's proposal,to eliminate both the mid-upper and tail turrets,would have reduced the crew by two.

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Re: Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Post by Peter H » 19 Dec 2009 04:49

Escape rates from aircraft,the hatch problem again:

http://www.valourandhorror.com/BC/Issues/Bomb_1.php
Officially, the word was that airmen had an excellent chance of survival if the plane were shot down. They would simply jump through the escape hatch, pull the rip cord on their parachutes and float down to earth.

The facts suggested otherwise: 50 percent of crew shot down in an American bomber escaped; from the older types of British night bombers such as the Halifax and the Stirling, 25 percent escaped; from the Lancaster, 15 percent....one chance in seven of getting out of the plane alive.

Something on turrets as well: http://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com ... nners.html
Air gunners in the RAF bemoaned the lesser hitting power of the .30-caliber round, but were stuck with it. To make up for the lesser power, RAF bomber rear turrets mounted four machine-guns, as opposed to the two fitted to USAAF bombers. Also, for special operations, RAF gunners would sometimes load a very high proportion of tracer rounds, making it look as if their guns were shooting cannon shells.

User avatar
phylo_roadking
Member
Posts: 17487
Joined: 30 Apr 2006 23:31
Location: Belfast

Re: Freeman Dyson-- OR Bomber Command

Post by phylo_roadking » 19 Dec 2009 20:20

I think it would have also flown faster because drag would have been reduced.i.e removing the mid-upper turret.
The dorsal turret WAS removed in some versions - most famously on 617 Sqn's Lancaster B Mk.1(Special)'s...though some versions of those for the "Dambusters" ALSO had the nose turret removed too!

One thing to remember is that - like ALL long-range bombers - the Lancaster's "performance" was a fine balance of bombload vs. all-up weight vs. fuel load vs. engine power :wink: Over the years, most of the weight paring that was done by removing turrets etc. was ACTUALLY done to allow the bombload to increase; across its 4 year WWII combat history, the Lancaster's bombload rose from it's originally-spec'd 8,000lbs to a whopping 22,000lbs - ten tons....with little ultimate range loss because this increase came along with ruthless weight reduction AND more powerful engines through its service development.

Return to “The United Kingdom & its Empire and Commonwealth 1919-45”