F.N.64 Under turret in R.A.F. Mitchells?

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I've studied many files at Kew on the subject of bomber defensive armament and one topic which crops up occasionally is the installation of the Frazer Nash F.N.64 under defence turret, originally intended for the Lancaster and Stirling, etc, into the Mitchell in place of the original U.S. Bendix turret.

I don't have much reference material on the Mitchell in R.A.F. service so have had to rely on Google. One post (this one)...:

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/hyperscale/re-bendix-ventral-turret-on-raf-b-25-c-d-s-t145506.html

...suggests that the mod. went ahead but I'm wondering to what extent the turret was fitted in Mitchells used on operations?

The post I've indicated above suggests photos of FN64 equipped Mitchells can be found in the book Mitchell At War, but not having access to a copy, I wonder if the author is confusing images of Mitchells with their original U.S. turrets rather than actual F.N.64 turrets? I've studied every photo of a R.A.F. Mitchell that I can find, on the internet and on my bookshelves and I can't positively identify a F.N.64 in any of them.

Can anyone help shed a light on this topic, please?

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Can I bump this up please as it was posted just as the Forum descended into its upgrade doldrums and probably passed most people by.

I'm looking for (preferably) photographic proof that the FN64 under turret was installed in operational Mitchells in RAF service (Mitchell II).

Here are comparative photos of the original Bendix turret, which was retractable and the FN64, which wasn't. The profiles are quite different and the prominent cartridge ejection chutes on the FN64 should help to positively identify it.

Hoping someone can help, and thanks in advance...

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That's a great start, DaveF68, many thanks.

I expect it will be a 320 (Dutch) Sqn. Mitchell II, ex 2nd TAF.

As far as I can tell, this mod. only applied to the Mitchell II as the III had no provision for an under turret.

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Can't quite tell definitively from the angle, but this (attached link) Mitchell II of 320 Sqn seems to have the FN ventral turret installed. Photo is part of the Australian War Memorial collection, so perhaps a closer look at their website might show more photos.
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C22576

This photo from the Harold A Skaarup collection (2nd photo) appears more like a FN64 turret.
http://silverhawkauthor.com/warplane...chell_868.html

...geoff

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Great links, bearoutwest, many thanks.

I've seen enough now to intrigue me. I'll have a look through the catalogue at Kew for relevant files on the subject.

I've read that at a fairly late stage in the war, there were 300 FN64 turrets stored in a hangar at Scampton, presumably held in case there was a need to fit them for daylight raids?. Perhaps these were the ones switched to the Mitchells of 2nd TAF when the drive to install H2S in all heavies prevented their use.

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So having peaked your interest, I was also quite curious about these "factory/field mods".

I had a closer look at the "tapatalk" discussion, and looked up their suggestion of Shores and Thomas volumes on 2.TAF. Additionally, I dug through Bowyer's book on 2 Group. Attached are a number of scans of Mitchell II's with the distinctive FN64 turret bumps. Both books indicate that 180 Sqn RAF had FN64 equipped Mitchell IIs (via the photo captions) and detailed the actual airframes.

EV- 180 Sqn FW166
EV-V 180 Sqn FW172

I've also attached blow-ups of areas of the photos. So happy hunting for more details. I hope you will get a chance to share your findings.

...geoff

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The Frazer Nash under turrets did not replace the  Bendix ones; they filled a blank.

The Mitchells to which you refer were near the end of B-25D production that was under modification in response to a USAAF requirement for armament upgrades prior to B-25J production. Those changes were: addition of waist guns and windows, addition of tail cupola and gun, elimination of ventral turret (made redundant by waist and tail guns).

At the start of these modifications, there were occasions of material supply problems and some Mitchells were shipped without some of the described mods. All were shipped with the ventral turret removed and its space faired over.

The aircraft to which you refer must have been received without the waist and tail guns, leaving an obvious vulnerability; and some enterprising RAF individual or group thought to remove the ventral fairing and install the left-over FN64s.

There were not a great many of these instances; and the supply problems were soon fixed.

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Many thanks 2tafmba for taking the time to sign up and post this info, it's much appreciated.

 

I'm currently wading through dozens of Operations Record Books, trying to gauge the extent to which the 0.5" Browning under-defence gun was used by Bomber Command in the Lancaster, Halifax and Stirling (****** hard work it is too!).   It occurs to me that while the National Archives' free downloads continue, I could divert some time to looking at FN64/Mitchell operations in 2nd TAF.

 

Good timing - thanks again!

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Best of luck Air Ministry; I've been through all the ORBs for 2TAF Mitchell Squadrons (98. 180, 226, 320, 342) and have not seen any mention of armament types. The few that had Frazer Nash under turrets installed would have been in the 'FW' serial series that Michael Bowyer referred to as Mitchell II series II.

The only way I've found Mitchells with FN turrets is through photos; and there are never enough!

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Maybe I am being simplistic, but wouldn’t the number of crew on board help identify if an under turret was fitted? Would there have been 1 waist gunners, or a single air gunner who manned both guns?

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Ah, if only life was so simple...

The ORB proforma may have been standard issue, but the way in which the returns were completed varies enormously from Squadron to Squadron.

If you are lucky, then yes, a third Airgunner is a strong clue.  Even then you have to be wary because in some (Lancaster) units, a third Gunner was occasionally carried  to man the front turret.

Some units (mostly Canadian) clearly label the third Gunner as a "mid-under gunner", but in many other units, no crew position is listed, leaving you guessing as to who an eighth crew member may have been (2nd Air Bomber, 2nd Nav, 2nd Pilot, etc).  The most frustrating unit ORB I've yet come across refers only to "Sgt. Bloggs and crew", with no other names, ranks or role recorded.

On one unit, I've found a reference to Air Bombers being trained on the 0.5" Browning, so it seems the intention was for him to man the under-gun when not directly engaged in his main duties.  On another, I've found combat reports in which the Mid-upper Gunner was manning the under-gun during the combat, leaving you pondering if he deserted his original post or split his time between the two?

I could go on and on but it's early days yet and I'd like to do a more thorough survey before reaching too many conclusions.

Bear in mind that this was not some local scheme from within 6 Group (as you'll often read elsewhere), this was a 1943 Bomber Command-wide iniative, resulting in  2,000 of these installations being ordered, enough to equip every single operational (and non-operational) four engined heavy (unless already equipped with H2S).   

I have a theory though, that the under-gun was (with a few exceptions) not put to much use at all ("too little-too late"), resulting in a few (possibly quite Senior) red faces when the efficacy of the S.M. equipped night fighter was finally realised.  I think this may help explain why it has, in effect, been airbrushed out of Bomber Command history.

Mind you, I love a good conspiracy theory!

p.s.

From what position in the aircraft was this famous image taken?  If I was on the lookout for a night fighter sneaking in for an underside attack I think I would have been grateful for this view, wouldn't you?

 

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