RAF Bomber Photos Part 2
More classic British aircraft!
More photos & memoirs of 14 Squadron (Canberras) from by Bill Yates
Below are some more great original photographs showing RAF Canberras in action, these are in addition to the other Canberra photos already sent in by Bill when he was involved with the Christmas Island tests. Below the photos are some memoirs sent in by Bill about his tour in Germany.
This air-to-air photo dates somewhere between 1966 - 1969 and shows XM278, a B.I.8 Canberra, of 14 Squadron, RAF Wildenrath.
The photo here shows members of 14 Sqdn at Wildenrath in 1967/8.
Thanks again to Bill, who flew Canberras (and other types), for sending me these photos to scan and show here. Some of his memories of flying with this squadron follow below.
In the 60's 14 Squadron was one of three Canberra bomber squadrons - B6's at Bruggen, BI8's at Laarebruch and 14 at Wildenrach, which was located mid way between Munchengladbach (home of the famous football team) and Roemund. The RAF Germany Bomber Squadrons were NATOs Nuclear Response to any outbreak of hostilities during the Cold War. The primary role was to drop bombs by the 'Lay Down Procedure', this was possible as the nuclear bomb carried could be released close to the target, once released the bombs forward speed by design caused it to lose it speed, whilst the aircraft continued to fly at speed in excess of 450 knots per hour, turning away from the target, making its escape from the detonating bomb.
The BI8 aircraft carried a crew of two, entry was by a small door on the starboard side, the pilot had an ejection seat under a 'bubble' canopy, wore a Mae West, and sat on a dinghy. The navigator sat with his back to the door, with a panoramic view through the perspex nose cone. To escape in an emergency, the navigator jettisoned the door, and left the aircraft in a forward roll, wearing a parachute harness over Mae West, and chest parachute clipped on.
The Primary War Time Role - to deliver a nuclear bomb on specified targets when the 'REAL ALERT' happened and was authorised. To enable this to happen, 2 bombed-up aircraft and crews were kept on 24 hour readiness within a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) compound, in full flying gear. These aircraft were only changed as and when necessary, whilst the crews rotated every 24 hours.
Training was the main role in peacetime. It involved high and low level navigation, and, weather-permitting, practice bombs were carried. Plan was to navigate to the Practice Bombing Range, drop the bomb, obtain a score, and then continue navigating back to base. Should the bombing range be unavailable, 'Simulated Bombing' was possible by navigating to the UK low level system. Once cleared by Air Traffic to enter the UK Low Flying Area, descend to 250ft then, when in contact with the Radar Bombing Unit, carry out a simulated bomb attack, and declare 'Bombs Gone'.
The Canberra BI8 had the ability to be converted from the 'Bombing Role' to 'Ground Attack Role' using Gun's and Shallow Dive Bombing, from wing pylons.
Once a year, crews carried out Gunnery/Shallow Dive Bombing at Bombing Ranges in Cyprus and North Africa. For this role, the bomb doors were replaced with a Gun Pack in the forward part of the bomb bay, shorter bomb doors to the rear. Air to Ground gunnery was carried out in a shallow dive angle, but Shallow Dive Bombing was carried out in an approx 45 degree dive. On the first practice, young and new first tour navigators might be forgiven 'if he had a personal accident'. Carrying out Shallow Dive Bombing meant you had to ensure your 'Safety Pull Out' was observed. Navigators duty at night - after the target illuminating flares had been dropped, but before commencing the target in a dive, ensure the correct pressure setting on both the pilots and navigators altimeter, and 'Bomb Switch Live'. This is where the navigators blood pressure rises. During this high speed descent the navigator calls out the fast decreasing height - 'Could be very hairy' when close to the release point and recovery height - the voice increased in volume and the Check Heights got louder and louder!
"All Work and No Play Makes Aircrew a Dull Person"
The benefits of serving in Germany at Wildenrath and on 14 Squadron gave me one of the best tours in my 22 years of flying. This, as a navigator in my mid 30s, having already had over 4 flying tours experience on Canberra Photo Recce, followed by 2 1/2 years on a Photo Recce Valiant V-Bomber aircraft. I found myself the 'old guy' amongst young 1st tourist navigators, all with the one thought in mind - to out-do this navigator both in Navigation and Bombing results. It was all taken in good spirit and was harmless, trying to knock me off the Bombing Result Table. More so, when as part of the RAF Germany team in the 1967 AFCENT Tactical Weapons Meet held at our home base (Wildenrath), my pilot and I were runners-up in the overall competition, and I took 1st Prize in the Night Bombing - the icing on the cake was being presented to Air Chief Marshall "Gus" Walker.
Arriving at Wildenrath caused many eyebrows to be raised, with my wife and three children, car plus sailing dinghy on the roof rack, and12ft caravan in tow. I mustn't forget our 'German Sausage Dog', or to give him his real breed Dachsund, who also went on to cause raised eyebrows with some locals. Luck was in, and we had temporary accomodation in the Officers Hostel, which was our home for a few weeks, then onto Quarters just across the road.
Once we had settled in, the benefits became obvious. Overseas allowance, petrol coupons, and an exchange rate of over 10 German Marks to 1 pound! in todays money, more like 15 Euros to the pound. On 14 Sqdn we had a Gentleman for a C.O., and his manner made a Happy Squadron, added to this the Mess life was great. Many parties, drinks, and cigarettes at low prices - when taking leave you were even paid a travel allowance, upto 50 miles beyond any German border. Most years we motored off to Italy twice, so the cheap petrol and travel allowances paid for the journey.
Going back to the 'young lads on the squadron' and the banter, they got their revenge on Mess nights. Travelling using my 3 wheeler car, made by a firm called Goggomobil, enabled certain single officers to pick it up and hide it in the woods - could have been worse, they could have taken the wheels off and re-assembled the car within one of the empty mess rooms!
Another bonus of being in RAFG was being sent on the Winter Survival School in Bavaria. For 2 weeks we lived in a nice German guest house. Prior to starting we had to go to the station gym, lots of torture in the form of exercise before being declared fit, then off to Bad Kolgrod in Bavaria. The first five days was spent Ski training, then we were dumped out in the mild regions and had to find our way to the 'Safe House', in the meantime being hunted by the German Army & Police, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. Dropped at night, in the snow, and temperatures below zero, and the next 48 hours was our own. Needless to say we were rookies, and within 24 hours most of us were caught, me included. After 36 hours of brutal treatment, and thinking that this was actually for real, plus interrogation, which in itself was mind bending, we were abused. Then back to the real world, the next few days we lived off the land, built some form of shelter from a parachute and branches. As for food, we had dry rations & living off the land - even killing a large rabbit supplied by the course instructors, which after drawing Lots the loser had to kill the poor animal - all that was left was bones and fir. Experiencing cold, sore bodies, then capture, being miserable, having hard physical treatment, and brutal interrogation, gave us something to consider should we go to war - we had no friends.
After that, back to the world we knew, three days of great skiing, good food, wine and beer, and we were on our way back to being normal, but fitter!!
One 'black mark' for me was to remove a water hydrant outside Flying Wing HQ driving the squadron Land Rover to collect an Ops immediate signal. I skidded on ice and demolished a water hydrant - the water display was great, but the SASO was not amused, so added a couple of extra SDOs and a fine.
My overseas tour came to an end after 3 great years, despite being 'specialist aircrew' my next posting was a ground tour - what a change.
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