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LAC aircrew WW2

Old 1st Oct 2022, 15:24
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LAC aircrew WW2

I have just seen a post on the British embassy in The Hague (I live here) FB page about a ceremony to bury the remains of a gunner who died in a Bolton Paul Defiant in 1940. He was an LAC. Was that normal to have LAC aircrew? I thought it was only NCOs and officers.

some info here: John Stuart Mee Bromley [Zuidfront Holland - Mei 1940]
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Old 1st Oct 2022, 15:33
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From Wikipedia:
At the outbreak of war in Europe, all ranks of the Royal Air Force could be Bomber Command aircrew, from the most junior Aircraftman 2nd class. Pilots were more likely to be commissioned officers than the other trades. From 27 May 1940 the Royal Air Force introduced a minimum rank of sergeant for all aircrew, instantly promoting all aircrew holding lower rank to sergeant.
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Old 1st Oct 2022, 16:15
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Thanks Beagle - I clearly used the wrong search criteria.
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Old 1st Oct 2022, 16:41
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If I can "correct" the Wiki entry above....Bomber Command Gunners were not technically aircrew until the Air Gunner trade was formed in early 1940. Gunners were drawn from volunteers from the ground trades (often armourers) who were paid a small bonus for their extra work. Indeed, SNCOs often believed that these early gunners were skiving, and it was not unusual to see them allocated a full work shift after flying an operational sortie. The gunners wore a brass "flying bullet" badge on their sleeves until it was replaced by the AG flying badge when the trade of air gunner was formally promulgated, with the minimum rank of Sergeant as mentioned above.
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Old 1st Oct 2022, 16:47
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A few years ago I was given a cassette with the recorded life story of a local man who I never met and who is probably dead by now. He joined the RAF in 1940 and was part of the ground crew for a Hampden bomber. In this role he was given some rudimentary training in the use of the machine gun used in the top turret of the aircraft. To his surprise, he was then frequently used as a gunner on bombing raids, mostly on leaflet raids. His career as aircrew came to an abrupt end when his aircraft crashed on landing after a raid. He was the only survivor and he reckoned that he only survived because he was still sitting in the gunners position. Apparently, he was not supposed to be in that seat for landing. He spent the rest of the war being a pain in the neck to the authorities. After the war he became a diamond cutter and seemed to know a lot about some of the infamous crimes involving jewelry.
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Old 1st Oct 2022, 18:10
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Around the same time a 12 Sqn Fairey Battle was shot down whilst doing heroic deeds in Belgium. The pilot (officer) and navigator (SNCO) were awarded posthumous VCs. The LAC gunner nothing.
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Old 1st Oct 2022, 19:17
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Originally Posted by pulse1 View Post
A few years ago I was given a cassette with the recorded life story of a local man who I never met and who is probably dead by now. He joined the RAF in 1940 and was part of the ground crew for a Hampden bomber. In this role he was given some rudimentary training in the use of the machine gun used in the top turret of the aircraft. To his surprise, he was then frequently used as a gunner on bombing raids, mostly on leaflet raids. His career as aircrew came to an abrupt end when his aircraft crashed on landing after a raid. He was the only survivor and he reckoned that he only survived because he was still sitting in the gunners position. Apparently, he was not supposed to be in that seat for landing. He spent the rest of the war being a pain in the neck to the authorities. After the war he became a diamond cutter and seemed to know a lot about some of the infamous crimes involving jewelry.
Pulse - have you considered contacting the Bomber Command Memorial folks up in Lincoln? They had a spoken history project going iirc with lots of spoken testimonials
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Old 1st Oct 2022, 19:32
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Originally Posted by Timelord View Post
Around the same time a 12 Sqn Fairey Battle was shot down whilst doing heroic deeds in Belgium. The pilot (officer) and navigator (SNCO) were awarded posthumous VCs. The LAC gunner nothing.
Garland and Gray of course. The Gunner was not included in the commemoration..
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Old 1st Oct 2022, 19:40
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Originally Posted by Haraka View Post
Garland and Grey of course. The Gunner was not included in the commemoration..
I think the 'thought process' at the time (and sadly often since) is that anyone not at the pointy end of the a/c was just along for the ride and thus weren't considered 'heroic'.

As an aside, during my time in the RAF I lived in both Garland and Grey blocks (both at RAF Stafford).
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Old 1st Oct 2022, 20:57
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Originally Posted by The Helpful Stacker View Post
I think the 'thought process' at the time (and sadly often since) is that anyone not at the pointy end of the a/c was just along for the ride and thus weren't considered 'heroic'.

As an aside, during my time in the RAF I lived in both Garland and Grey blocks (both at RAF Stafford).
The Victoria Cross is awarded for Gallantry above and beyond. Garland and Gray were in a position to 'avoid' the heavy flak but chose not to...the gunner was indeed considered "part of the Aircraft" and had no say in the prosecution of the attack - he died carrying out his expected duty. Yes he was brave - heroic even, but they all were: it was the decision process that went above and beyond and not just being there.
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Old 1st Oct 2022, 21:24
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There was an article in Flypast many moons ago about an LAC gunner on Defiants, most of the Sqn got shot down and his was one of the last aircraft to return to the U.K., upon landing he was stunned to find that all the gunners were now Sgts.

Most of the LAC’s were Engineers that got roped into being gunners when not working on the aircraft.


​​​​​​…

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Old 1st Oct 2022, 23:51
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I believe most pre and early war air gunners were either riggers of fitters, but there were also junior NCO crew members who were wireless operator/ air gunners.I think the pay for volunteer air gunners was sixpence a day.
Those in ground trades who flew on missions , lasting several hours, would often be made to attend to their ground duties on landing by over zealous NCOs.
When the NCO aircrew rank was introduced, many ground NCOs resented their new found status.
When the shooting started, many who had volunteered for air gunner duty, quietly went back to their ground trades.
Apparently the ground crew NCOs became more sympathetic to the new air gunner NCOs when casualties started occuring.

All that above was from memory from reading Max Hastings 'Bomber Command', many decades ago.

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Old 2nd Oct 2022, 01:35
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Re Garland and Grey, at that time, and for many years well into the post war period, the only awards which could be made posthumously were the Victoria Cross and a Mention in Despatches. So,for example, had the gunner survived he might well have been considered for a DFM, but there were no posthumous awards for that medal. The conditions for the award of the Victoria Cross are so exacting that it would have been unheard of for all three crew members to have received one. It could be said of course that it was unfair for the gunner not to have been given a posthumous MID, if indeed such was the case
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Old 2nd Oct 2022, 07:52
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On 92 at Leconfield our F/S line 'Boss' wore and AG badge. He was a rigger by trade and started off as described above on Blenheims . He flew as an AG long enough to to be promoted but I cannot recall when he reverted to his ground trade,
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Old 2nd Oct 2022, 09:02
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My father joined as a WOP/AG in 1941. Post training he was a Sergeant and posted to a Wellington squadron. By the end of the war he was a Wing Commander pilot. He said it was because he was good looking ! He really didn't like talking about the period, looked uncomfortable. I suspect the massive personnel losses aided his transition to pilot and promotion. He went on to work for BOAC until he took early retirement upon the merger of BOAC and BEA, then took part time jobs that interested him until his premature death.

212man may not recall me leaving for 2 weeks during our conversion course to bury him and sort out his affairs.

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Old 2nd Oct 2022, 09:18
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As nobody has yet mentioned his name, the Gunner in the 12(B) Sqn Battle when Garland and Gray were awarded posthumous VCs was LAC Roy Reynolds.
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Old 2nd Oct 2022, 13:36
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Originally Posted by OJ 72 View Post
As nobody has yet mentioned his name, the Gunner in the 12(B) Sqn Battle when Garland and Gray were awarded posthumous VCs was LAC Roy Reynolds.
Thank you OJ.

So, a Posthumous Mention in PPRuNe at least.

Thank you for your sacrifice, Mr Reynolds; you have the eternal respect and gratitude of your Brothers in Arms. At the end of the day, that is the accolade we all aspire to.
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Old 2nd Oct 2022, 14:17
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My father (RAF 1936-1962) served in 142 Fairey Battle Sqn in France 1939-40. He recalled that the officers would seldom speak to the lowly LAC gunners who were indeed sometimes given ordinary duties on return from 'joyriding in aeroplanes' as one NCO put it. The hapless LAC gunners were proud of their 'winged bullet' badges but were not even told the target on those early raids. My father's friend Dandy MacLaine survived the Battle and was promoted to Sgt just in time to be killed in his Wellington rear turret as they returned from Germany.

About five years ago our matchless Brevet thread, preserved as a sticky above, carried the story of 19-year-old Rupert Parkhouse, who joined 12 Sqn at Amifontaine in France on June 5 1940, just as the news of Garland and Gray's VCs came through. A week later he was shot down on his second raid, spending the rest of the war in captivity. I'm now preparing another e-book on his experiences, for which long-standing contributor Chugalug has given me the following quote:

“One of the regular attendees at our annual 30 Squadron reunions had been a rear gunner on Fairey Battles in those early months of WWII. Somehow he had survived the suicidal daylight ops against heavy flak and Me109s alike.

"The barrels of our guns would overheat as they engaged attacking fighters, which they duly reported. The solution? Then fire them less often".

A Battle well fought, e-book on the lines of Danny 42C's In with a Vengeance, will be offered on this forum shortly if the mods kindly permit.


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Old 2nd Oct 2022, 14:28
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A former GF’s father was an Aircraftman WOp/AG on 5 Sqn Wapitis over the NW Frontier pre-WW2. He was an Armourer. Retired as a flt lt and ended up as WpnEng (something) at MoD as the Desk for all rifled weapons in the RAF … including Tornado 23mm and 76mm in the Regt Scorpion tanks. Quite a span of history.
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Old 2nd Oct 2022, 22:57
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Thinking about it, this was really strange in the light of the turret fighter concept. OK, so the main armament is in the turret and that's the whole point of the aircraft, so...the gunner is some guy who was available, rather than having specific training?
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