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Crew Duties on a Liberator

11 years 2 months ago #623 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: Crew Duties on a Liberator

Yeah, the posting of the logbook page came out nicely...and it was only a 146 KB scan of a black and white photocopy. Great service you provide! Can more than one photo be posted per message? I'll wait for your answer before trying it.

Here's the one and only Air Gunner/Pilot F/Lt Robert W. Ustick. By the way, he's one of those chaps in the US who risked losing their US citizenship by crossing the border to Canada to join the RCAF in pre-Pearl Harbor days. A college educated minister's son from Ohio, and a buoyant personality. He became 159 Sqn's Gunnery Leader, as well. Here's a 159 Sqn photo of him on the left working on a Lib beam gun, directing Air Gunner W/O Billy Clegg (right) and LAC Norman Chambers, groundcrew. Bob kindly sent me the print.

Take care,


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11 years 2 months ago #624 by brianj
brianj replied the topic: Crew Duties on a Liberator
Thanks Matt,
More very intersting information. I am also interested in Wellington crews as my Dad spent about 3 years flying them before converting to Liberators.
Gary - the Photo posted by Matt is displayed OK but the Log book page is not - maybe it has something to do with my PC at work will try again when I get home.



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11 years 2 months ago #630 by PeterClare
PeterClare replied the topic: Crew Duties on a Liberator
The following is taken from a short service biography of Frederick Fray DFM (no idea of rank) relating to the early days of Flight Engineers recruitment and duties.

"Only men in certain highly skilled trades were eligible for training as Flight Engineers and were recruited from suitably qualified tradesmen"

"Following approval for the establishment of Flight Engineers, an Air Ministry Order was published to outline the duties and responsibilities they would be fulfilling. these were listed as follows:-

1. To operate certain controls at the engineers station and watch appropriate gauges.
2. To advise the captain of the aircraft as to the functioning of the engines, fuel, oil and cooling systems both before and during flight.
3.The ensure effective liaison between the captain and the maintenance staff, including debriefings after flight.
4. To carry out practicable emergency repairs during flight.
5. To act as a stand-by gunner.

"Training to fulfill these duties was met through a series of short courses based on the acknowledged expertise of the volunteer tradesman. A three-week course of air gunnery training at a Bomb & Gunnery School was followed by a short course of training at manufactures works.

"On satisfactory completion of these courses, operational training was carried out at the Conversion Units and at the end of this phase the Flight Engineer was, if necessary, promoted to Temporary Sergeant. Once the scheme had become established these basic training requirements were extensively developed and included a specific Flight Engineers ten-week course at St.Athan in South Wales.

"In addition, the responsibilities of the post increased and the Flight Engineer managed all the aircraft systems, including hydraulics and electrics"

"The Flight Engineers 'E' Brevet did not appear until September 1942, although a number of unofficial brevets with 'FE' had appeared in the meantime. It seems that up until then Flight Engineers had worn the 'AG' brevet which was awarded at the end of their course at the Bombing & Gunnery School"

The official 'E' brevet was promulgated in Air Ministry Order 1019 published in September 1942, which also authorised the 'B' (bomb-aimer) brevet. It was also this order which changed the 'O' brevet (Observer) dating from WWI to the 'N' brevet (Navigator)


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11 years 2 months ago #634 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: Crew Duties on a Liberator
Brian, Gary, and Peter,

The logbook image has disappeared for me, too. I suspect that I caused the image deletion. Gary, when I went to post a second photo, in a separate reply from the first, I hit the delete button on the form to get rid of the logbook image before choosing the Ustick photo for inclusion in my newest message. As a test, I'm resubmitting the logbook photo below without first deleting the Ustick photo from the Attachments box.

Good material there, Peter. Seems like an FE had the opportunity / responsibility to become a technical wizard and very much a vital member of the crew on typically long Lib flights. Elwyn Jones really downplayed his own contribution as a Lib FE, as if he never felt confortable with the engineering complexities of his role, but he was a very self-effacing, modest man. He most likely was a valued member of his crew, having flown a full tour which included being shot up badly by an Oscar night fighter attack on the night of 1/2 April 1944 over Rangoon. With two AGs suffering gunshot wounds from the rear attack, their Lib, EV870 "T", crashed in a spectacular heap at Alipore (Calcutta) with all crewmen surviving, remarkably, with no serious physical injuries from the prang. No petrol left in the tanks = no fire, thankfully. (The serial no. was erroneously recorded as BZ870 in the 159 Sqn ORB, and the Oughton book is wrong in stating that EV870 was "missing on delivery flight 7.4.44". The RAAF Casualty File for Clive Swan, the navigator, holds official paperwork which correctly gives the EV870 "T" code.)

Straying from the theme of actual Liberator crew functions, here is a bit more on Elwyn's FE training experience at St. Athan, taken from my interview with Elwyn at his Port Talbot, Wales home in 1991. He was no vainglorious line-shooter, that's for sure:

Matt: Your training as a flight engineer must have been technical: engines and the workings of an airplane?

Elwyn: That's it, yes.

M: A fitter's and rigger's course, as well?

E: Everything. On that one particular aircraft, though. Liberator. B-24. Six months, in St. Athans. [The RAF personnel file of Elwyn's fellow trainee, Norman Davis -- also destined to be a 159 Sqn FE -- has a 9 June 1943 date for his posting to No. 4 School of Tech Training at St. Athan, and his next posting to 15 OTU was 12 Oct. So Elwyn is slightly off in his recollection of a six month course at No. 4 SoTT, but it was a long course.] Thousands of us were there, congregated one day. We all volunteered for aircrew. They had to divide us into Lancs, Libs, Halifaxes, Stirlings, Fortresses, Sunderlands, Catalinas. There you are, that's the seven. They were all multi-engine [he meant four-engine] except the Cat. I don't know if the Cat was included for flight engineers. They had to pick six lots of us. We had no say. All airmen with a service number ending in aught, stand over there. And mine is 1653030, so mine ended in aught. And we were picked for Liberators. I'm not sure if [159 Sqn FE Norman] Davis' ended in aught (IT DID: 1545800), or Baverstock, but that's how they picked me. Taffy Squires, I don't know. [Ken Baverstock and Penry Squires also went through FE training at St. Athan and became 159 Sqn FEs in early '44.]

That's the way it happened, I know it did. And you went in the shops, and they put you through massive amounts of hours of listening to turgid squadron leaders, professors in civil life who'd come in to talk about electrics and this and that and stuff that didn't mean a blind, bloody thing to you. Oh! Boring in the extreme! But they wanted aircrew so they passed us out whether we were good or bloody bad!

M: And how were you?

E: Bad! (Chuckles)

M: Well, that's an honest assessment of yourself.

E: Well, I didn't learn, I was living in Myrthyd, which is up the road from St. Athan. I was away there every weekend, I wasn't going to sit down there with a book. I've got it all upstairs [in his attic], so I used to write in a little book what I THOUGHT I'd need, and that book is upstairs, too. I wanted to know where the fuse boxes were.

M: As flight engineer, you would have had to know all about fuel transfer, flight deck operations...

E: Aye, of course. But you knew it, a practical knowledge... And of course we went to these tremendous lectures and sat (snoring noise) sleeping away and writing this down. And I've got two, three books upstairs full of hieroglyphics and bloody rubbish. If I live to a million I wouldn't understand half of it. And we did a bit of practical work in there with engines, but of course they didn't have a Lib there, did they?

M: You must have had a Pratt and Whitney engine.

E: No, no. They had cut outs of different carburetors and different things, and you were supposed to learn the hydraulic systems, and you couldn't expect to remember all the air systems, the hydraulic systems, the electrical systems. So you wrote them down. I tell you what, I guarantee after I came out of the air force and became a man 20, 30 years of age, I'd have made a better engineer after than I did before. It's true. But then, of course, we went to Salbani and ...

M: Started learning on the job.

E: [Downplaying his Liberator FE duties] Go down and check the undercarriage, check the nose wheel. He said check it to make sure it was locked down. You could walk down into the nose compartment, and there was the wheel - DOWN. How were we gonna check a bloody great wheel...

M: They didn't make you see the Consolidated movies of how to fly a Liberator?

E: Whee! Lord no! It was '43. They wanted aircrew... I suppose they didn't care.

M: This is a color film, step by step how to start up an engine, all the controls, and...

E: The instruction we had was tremendous, it must have been, but whether we took it in is another thing. Some of us must have taken it in, but the instruction in the huts, this very high falootin type of instruction, we couldn't understand at all. It was way beyond our...What would we want to know how electrics work in differt conditions, this, that, and the other. It wouldn't do us any good. We only replace a bulb or a bloody fuse, or something like that, or bypass a system and go on to something like hydraulics or air system or something like that. It's the only thing we could do.

And of course Libs were notorious for, buggers for, crashes, you see.

M: How did you feel about going on a Lib?

E: It didn't make any difference what aircraft it was. We didn't know what the Lib was. Anyway, it was a 4-engine job, and I was only 19, coming up to 20. I didn't know what a bloody Lib was. I knew (chuckle) it was a 4-engine aircraft. I knew what a Lanc and everything were. Hell, I'd been in the air force ... [for a period of time I can't quite make out]. I'd had a few trips up in Ireland in Catalinas. I was an airframe mechanic. Except for those couple of trips, which weren't recorded, anyway, in Ireland we sat in the blister and did a few trips up and around as a mechanic. Check a couple of rivets here and things, that's all. The skippers said jump in, and off we went.


Good ol' Elwyn Jones, salt of the earth. Rest in Peace.



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11 years 2 months ago #639 by brianj
brianj replied the topic: Crew Duties on a Liberator
Matt, Peter,
Thanks for that information it is great to get the personal as well as the official duties of these crew members.
The historical value of this information is immense and is rapidly disapearing as the old timers pass away. Matt's interviews are a great way to retain details of these brave young mens lives and give details you could otherwise not get.



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11 years 2 months ago #675 by DougClews
DougClews replied the topic: Crew Duties on a Liberator
Hi there Brianj

I have been through most of this forum and haven't noticed the same question asked before, but I apologise if it has ...

My Uncle was Sergeant Observer on the ill-fated AL624 and I wonder what his duties/responsibilities would have been please ...

Whilst I'm here, is there any chance I might find a photo/picture of the aircraft (or a similar one) anywhere on this site ...

Thanks in advance ...

Doug Clews
Western Australia

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