O Oboe Crew - End of Ops December 1944
Although this site mainly concerns Jim Glasspool, he of course flew as part of a tightly knit crew of seven.
As with many crews they were quite a mixed bunch with very different backgrounds and experience.
Most were, like Jim very young, but Frank McKenna (Mac) the Flight Engineer, was much older having served as a police officer, Bob Cameron, the pilot, was a New Zealander and Johnny Hamlett, the rear gunner was from the USA.
I was lucky enough to meet and get to know Bob when I stayed with him in New Zealand and also Mac to a lesser extent having stayed with him at his home.
Interestingly both Bob and Mac both stressed that although you needed luck on your side to survive, you increased your chances if every member of the crew did their job correctly and concentrated on the job in hand. Both told me of examples of this attention to detail and both stressed just how much they all trusted each other.
The Lancaster typically carried seven crew:
O Oboe Flight Crew & Ground Crew
Bob Cameron - Lancaster Pilot
Bob's workplace - Lancaster cockpit
Pilot - Bob Cameron
The pilot flew the aircraft from the left position of the cockpit and this was the only position in the aeroplane that had armour plating behind the seat. There was no “second” pilot available in the event that the pilot was killed. Bob had joined up from his native New Zealand, where his family farmed on the South Island.
Bob Cameron - Playing the Bagpipes
Navigator - Jim Glasspool
The navigator sat behind the pilot and behind the cockpit proper, facing out to the left and had a small desk for his chart work together with the systems he used, such as the air plot and H2S – the radar set. He was then also close to the astrodome at the end of the cockpit for use in taking star sights when required. This area was also curtained off as he needed a light to work by and obviously when on Ops it was important to show no lights.
Jim's workplace - Navigator's Table
Jim Glasspool - on top of Lancaster
Flight Engineer - Frank McKenna – “Mac”
The flight engineer had a position to the right of the pilot in the cockpit and was responsible for managing all the systems on the aeroplane and fuel management.
He sat on a folding seat and also operated the throttles on take-off for the pilot. Frank was older than the rest of the crew as he had been a serving police officer before joining up. During the initial stages of the war the police were a reserved occupation.
After the war the RAF set up a special unit to track down the perpetrators of the killers of the Great Escapers and Frank McKenna, due to his pre-war police expertise, was tasked with the leadership of this.
You can read more here:
Top 2nd Left - Frank McKenna Flight Engineer
Photo courtesy of Fletcher family
Wireless Operator – Nigel "Fletch" Fletcher
The wireless operator was behind the navigator’s position seated facing forwards.
(On Jim’s Op number 22, Fletch was replaced by F/LT Wright.)
Nigel Fletcher -
Bomb Aimer / Front Gunner - Donald (Don) Williamson
The bomb aimer effectively took charge of the aircraft during the final bombing run into the target using the bombsight. The bomb aimer also doubled as a gunner in the front turret with two Browning machine guns.
Bomb Aimer's workplace
Mid Upper Gunner - Bert Mead
The mid-upper gunner was positioned in the Frazer Nash turret in the middle of the aeroplane, operating two Browning machine guns.
Bert Mead -
Mid Upper Gunner
Rear Gunner - Johnny Hamlett
The rear gunner. or tail-end Charlie as he was known, was a long way from the rest of the crew sitting as he did in the rear turret and operating the four Browning machine guns. The turret was, obviously, separated from the fuselage to allow it turn and therefore as well as the two doors on the turret, there were a further two doors into the fuselage. The rear gunner’s parachute was kept inside the fuselage on a rack on the right-hand side. So to abandon the aircraft, he would have to first line up the turret, open the turret doors, open the fuselage doors, go into the aircraft, put on his parachute and then get back into the turret, rotate it and then exit rearwards! Johnny had come from the USA to join the RAF, although he was originally from the UK.
His obituary is here.