Lancaster turrets

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I seem to remember that the early MK,s of Lancs tried out a dorsal turret. If that was true , why on earth was the plan scrapped on all the later aircraft built??? It would have saved countless aircraft and lives. The main manufacturer for Lanc turrets was Frazer Nash (of racing car fame) Later , I believe it was Rose Bros? If so, were the two companies always installing their turrets or did Rose overtake and latterly supply all, if so when?? Were the Canadian Lancs turrets supplied by us or did Malton have their own?
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Profile picture for user Moggy C

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I think you mean ventral turret? Moggy

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IIRC it was ineffective and added to the weight and drag; not a good formula! Regards
Profile picture for user victor tango

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Well the one underneath anyway
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Orion So the B17 would have been improved without that ball turret? If they could have invented a sort of combined ventral/tail gun it would have got over the weight issue at least. Sorry, its been stuck in my mind over the years

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The Whitley, Wellington, Halifax, Stirling, Manchester and Lancaster all had ventral turrets at some point. The hole needed for the turret continued to be built in to the airframes long after the turret was no longer fitted but proved useful as a parachute exit or as a location for an anti-submarine searchlight or H2S radar scanner.
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The FN64 ventral turret featured a periscopic gun sight which proved difficult to use when trialled in daylight. When Bomber Command was forced to switch to night operations, it became impossible to use, so the turret was dropped. In 1944, it was being actively considered for the Lincolns of the Tiger Force for operations against the Japanese. There was the usual complaints and demands from the bomber people, i.e. they wanted under defence and H2S at the same time. They suggested moving the H2S to the under-nose and installing a Sperry ball turret in the belly. I think it was the problem of supplying enough electrical power which defeated the Sperry turret suggestion, and structural problems plus performance limitations (of the H2S set) which sank the nose mounted H2S installation (although they seem to have managed it in the early Shackleton). So it had to be H2S in the usual (vacated FN64) position. There were hundreds of FN64 turrets taking up valuable space and maintenance time at MUs. At one point they were going to install them in Mitchells of 2nd TAF but I don't think it ever happened. In the end, they were all scrapped, probably in 1945 or later.
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There was another form of ventral defence on the Lancaster, and there were some field mods on some Halifaxes on a few of the Canadian squadrons. In the case of the Lancaster, they could be fitted with a single .303 Vickers K in the aperture of the old turret mounting, but the gun was manually operated and just stuck out the bottom of the fuselage. They were often deemed unnecessary and removed, and the arrival of H2S meant the removal of all of them. On some Halifaxes in Canadian squadrons there was a "field mod" where an H2S-like blister was fitted under the fuselage and a belt-fed Browning .303 ( Edit : Actually a .50 ) was fitted. Once again the arrival of H2S saw them removed.

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Not a field mod but the Preston-Green turret - not sure that turret is quite the right term. Rose turrets were only ever few in number and supplied only to units close to the factory. They would have been replaced by the FN and BP twinx0.5 turrets which were seen late in the war. There was a lot of effort put into turret design, including for the ventral position, but once the bombers had been designed to take a tail turret then it would have taken major redesigns to fit any other kind of installation. This was intended for the later super-bomber specifications but they were overtaken by events, including the inability of the turret manufacturers to get the projected designs to work. But then flush dorsal and ventral turrets with 4xHispano has to be judged as over-ambitious.
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Thanks for the correction on the Preston-Green turret Graham, it appears I also got the calibre wrong. It was a .50 Browning rather than a .303, I've just been looking up a few details online on ventral guns. Must admit I'd never heard of the Type-R ventral turret. Here's an interesting link: http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/hphalifax/guns.htm

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Orion So the B17 would have been improved without that ball turret? If they could have invented a sort of combined ventral/tail gun it would have got over the weight issue at least. Sorry, its been stuck in my mind over the years
214 Sqn used Fortresses in the RCM role in 1944/45 and they removed the ball turrets as they were found to be of little use in night ops. Obviously different though for 8AF B-17s on daylight raids when you could see the ******s coming! : ) Ian
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We had a good discussion on under-defence for Bomber Command a few years ago. Diligent searching should throw it up. At the risk of repeating myself, under the agreed scheme which came with the full backing of "the top" of Bomber Command, all the main bomber types were to be given a single .5" Browning for under defence during late 1943: Lancaster, Stirling, Halifax and Wellington. It was acknowledged all round that the scheme was little more than a lash up but the urgent requirement had been realised by the statistics showing that attacks from underneath were becoming more frequent. (interestingly, this seems to defeat another myth that Bomber Command was oblivious to this form of attack.) The trial installations proved successful in the Stirling and Lancaster but less so in the Halifax. For the latter type, the installation had to be modified and resulted in what people call the Preston Green turret. As Graham suggests, it wasn't really a turret in the accepted sense. I've often wondered who, or what, Preston Green was? Was it an engineering firm who produced the fairing maybe? Or was it that the idea for the modified installation on the Halifax came from a Handley-Page representative at the design conferences - his name was P.T. Green. There was a very intensive push to get all the heavies equipped with the gun but delays in obtaining parts etc meant it was 1944 before the scheme really got going. Parallel to it was an equally intensive push to get H2S fitted in every bomber, so the under defence gun was quite short lived, except in 3 Group which did not have H2S aircraft. So, not the result of an initiative by Canadian Squadrons but a Bomber Command wide programme.

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In his biography, German night fighter ace Johnen speaks of encountering a Stirling with ventral gun(s), which was news to me then and is still difficult to find reference to in most sources. However, references for these on Lancasters and Wellingtons appear to be rarer still. In this context, it could be relevant that 0.5 Brownings were in such high demand by the US forces in 1942 and 1943, that it was only in 1944 when significant numbers became available to the UK.
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At the initial conference to discuss the idea, the various representatives were shown photos of a Stirling which had been fitted with a downward firing .303" in an escape hatch: this was a genuine example of squadron initiative. The .5" Browning installation became so standard that it is actually illustrated in the Volume I for the Stirling III & IV. All the details I've given here (from memory, so there may be slight errors) are based on Bomber Command files at The National Archives. They give the "central" view of the scheme. What cries out for further research is how the Squadrons viewed it - on the one hand you would expect any initiative to increase defensive armament to be thoroughly welcomed but it did require an extra crew member at a time of heavy demands and high losses (this was the period of The Battle Of Berlin). Did the Squadrons get the extra man power or were they expected to cope by using the "spare bods" that were on the station? Was the need for enhanced downward searching properly impressed upon them? Was the "lash up" actually of much use in spotting the nightfighter creeping up on them (it was more designed to allow rearwards and downwards view rather than straight down)? There are a few mentions in books and on the net but I cannot recall reading of any successes with the gun: perhaps it should be judged more on how it enabled the bomber to slip away from a night fighter threat through early detection rather than by how many were shot down by it?
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I'm currently away from everything at the moment but a work colleague's late father was a Lanc ventral gunner(.5). I posted an excerpt from hislog book a few years ago.

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a Stirling with ventral gun(s),
[ATTACH=CONFIG]231161[/ATTACH] The ventral turret and beam gun installation in a Stirling Mk I
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