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  RAF Fulbeck - memories of gunnery training

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Updated: 20 Sep 10

J A Campbell, a mid-upper gunner who later served in 463 Sqn RAAF and 61 Sqn RAF has contributed his memories of a short spell of gunnery training in 1943 at Fulbeck to the site.

Before having our first flight in the Lancaster, all the gunners from our course were posted out to a special gunnery flight aerodrome, Fulbeck, for a special training session.

In aerial gunnery, deflection shooting was the name of the game, and absolutely essential because of the movement of the target as well as that of the aircraft firing. Point blank shots would only come at extremely close range, so deflection had to be applied and accurately, Five Group had developed a new evasive action for their aircraft to take when under attack, which would make it very difficult for an enemy fighter to get his fixed guns to bear.

We were now going to learn about this “Five Group corkscrew” as the evasive action was called, and the deflection to be applied during the action. All the gunners were sent out to the special Group Training Unit at Fulbeck. We were temporarily quartered at the Unit, and our four-day stay was to be spent using camera gun during simulated fighter attacks and evasive action. The second morning, our group of about six gunners went up in a Wellington piloted by a Canadian, Private Officer Oldham. This was a straight and level exercise for familiarization, with a single engined advanced trainer, a Miles Martinet, as the target aircraft. We were slated for a further flight at 1300 hours, same aircraft and pilot, using the corkscrew. Our films would be shown to us so we’d be able to see if our deflection was correct. We reported to the Flights for the one o’clock exercise, and were told that it was cancelled because of group of senior officers were coming from Group to see what this course was all about. They would be flying in the aircraft we’d have been using — Wellington BK235s. We returned to the barrack hut, and I took advantage of the time to write letters. At about 2:30, Dennis, my rear-gunner decided to walk up to the Flights to see what was doing. In about half an hour he was back. He rushed to the door, his face about the colour of plaster, and told me that during the corkscrew action, the Wellington “S” with the senior officers had broken up and gone straight in from about 2000 feet. No one had got out, and all had been killed. I quote from the RAF Historical Branch records:

“Wellington BK235 was engaged in a corkscrew fighter affiliation exercise on the 18th July, 1943 with Martinet HN877 piloted by F/O Jordan. Both aircraft operated with 1485 BG Flight. When F/O Jordan was about 200 yards astern of the Wellington he saw the starboard wing of the aircraft break completely off at the outboard of the starboard engine. The Wellington at once went into a dive, and crashed 1 ½ miles south of Appleby, Lincolnshire, killing the six crew members. The crew details: Pilot – W/O Heard; Instructor – Sgt. Breslin; students on Senior Officer’s Gunnery Course – Group Captain Low; Group Captain Odbert; Wing Commander Matheson; and Squadron Leader Brandon-Trye.”

At Fulbeck that day in July, those RAF senior officers had died in our stead. Now all flying in the Wellingtons was cancelled for them to undergo a major inspection. We returned to Wigsley on the following day, where we’d learn about the corkscrew in our own type of aircraft. Total flying time at Fulbeck: One hour and twenty-five minutes.

 

Read more in "The airborne years", a complete 131 page book covering J A Campbell's training in Canada and the UK. His memoirs span 14 OTU at RAF Cottesmore, RAF Saltby, 1654 HCU at RAF Wigsley, training at RAF Fulbeck and then operations on 61 Sqn RAF from RAF Syerston and 463 Sqn RAAF from RAF Waddington. Download or read the entire book free of charge.

J.A. CAMPBELL, MID-UPPER GUNNER IN 463 SQUADRON, RAAF, AND 61 SQUADRON, RAF


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