Some basic early WWII French/British fighter questions

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by wheatPasta, Feb 10, 2007.

  1. wheatPasta

    wheatPasta New Member

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    Hi-

    I have been fascinated by military history for some time now, but I am just recently turning my attention to the Air. I am particularly interested in early WWII Britain and France fighter planes and pilots. I have read a few things and watched a few movies, but I was wandering if anyone could help answer a few really basic nagging questions have I haven’t been able to answer or maybe recommend some reading materials or accurate movies. Again some or really basic and please excused my ignorance on the matter.

    Early WWII 1940 era British and French fighter pilot and plane questions:

    What about the canopies? In some movies (ones noted to be accurate) I have noticed that the canopies remained open and some pilots seem to be closing it after they have been up in the air for some time. Did the pilots fight with the canopies open sometimes?

    Did most fighter planes have rear view mirrors?

    What about the armament for the fighter planes I have noticed the some WWII era fighters have machine guns mounted in the wings and some also have what seem to be machine guns on top of the engine behind the propeller, like on the Curtiss P-36, wouldn’t they be shooting the propeller if those are in fact machine guns?

    What about the radio? Could the pilots talk to every plane in the squadron their squadron commander and ground control?

    What about the tactical formations? I read somewhere that the French and British flew in threes and where slow to adopt pairs. If you fly in threes do you have what is considered a wingman?

    What did the pilots usually call their planes birds, ships, by the make or model, something else?

    What about the airfields? Were most paved or did fighters take off mainly from grass fields? Did most airfields in France and England have anti-aircraft guns for protection?

    What slang did the pilots use for up in the air or having to go up again?

    Thanks for any help in advance.
     
  2. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Welcome to the forums.

    Most closed the canopy when in flight although some did fight with it open in order to get out quicker if they had to bail out.

    I'm not entirely sure but I would say most did but there were some who didn't have them. The Spitfire had one and so did the Hurricane.

    They have an interruptor gear which stops the bullets hitting the propellor. Essential the guns would stop firing when there was a propellor blade in the way, this decreased firing rate but kept the armament in the nose allowing for more concentrated fire.

    Would depend on the frequency the flights were communicating on. Generally a whole flight/squadron would be able to speak to each other as well as receive orders from ground control.

     
  3. wheatPasta

    wheatPasta New Member

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    Hi Gnomey-

    Thanks for the welcome and the fantastic answers. Looking forward to reading some of your past posts – I just stumbled on the site today.

    -wheatPasta
     
  4. bigZ

    bigZ Member

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    Hi wheatPasta.

    I believe in 1940 rear view mirrors where not fitted on both the Hurri and the Spit, although field modifications did occur judging by the various shapes of mirror and attachments shown in photos.
     
  5. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    The early radios were not very good with a limited range sometimes as little as 5 miles depending on atmospherics and all tube construction which with the stresses of combat flying made them inherently unreliable, and very heavy 70-100lbs which is weight that must be subtracted from useful load eg. ammunition or fuel. The frequencies were preselected using crystals rather then being able to switch frequencies. Most times you were only able to talk to your base and squadron and fighter controller . If you saw another friendly aircraft from another unit you would be more then likely unable to communicate with him as chances were he was using a different frequency.
     
  6. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Hey Wheat, flying with the canopy open is a little easier to spot other aircraft and might make the bird slightly slower. As you get higher, it gets colder. 3F per 1000 ft. So a lot of guys may've started out low with the canopy open but closed it as it got colder. Simple as that.
     
  7. wheatPasta

    wheatPasta New Member

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    Thanks everyone, all your posts were enlightening.

    I saw some pictures of the P-36 cockpit but I couldn't tell where the firing button was - does anyone know if the firing button is on top of the stick or is it somewhere else.

    Also I have gleamed from some movies that squadrons were named after colors sometimes, so the squadron leader could be called 'squadron leader Blue' for instance. Does anyone know what the French pilots used in the Battle of France? Maybe since their squadrons seem to be numbers would the squadron leader be called 'squadron leader 2' for example?

    thanks in advance.
     
  8. ndicki

    ndicki Member

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    It was RAF SOPs for fighters to take off with the rearward sliding canopy open and locked, just in case. You didn't want to forget to lock it, though!
     
  9. pejayte

    pejayte New Member

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    I used to now an old lad flew hurricane and spits. i asked him the question about flying with the hood open or closed. "closed" he said, "nobody wanted a 2 to 300 odd mile per hour wind whistling round them. Plus (he said), not only the cold and the wind, it was also a lot noisier with the hood open because of the wind". He said the idea of flying with the hood open is a romanticism from the films.
     
  10. Civettone

    Civettone Active Member

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    Especially Italians liked to fly without a hood. The Fiat G.50 had a canopy but later versions were delivered without it.
    The reason was that it improved visibility. The Mediterranean was of course warmer than NW Europe.

    Kris
     
  11. Cyrano

    Cyrano Member

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    #11 Cyrano, Feb 27, 2007
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Aggie08

    Aggie08 Active Member

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    It wouldn't surprise me that Il-2 pilots did that, mainly working at low altitudes and such. I wonder if this group of pilots saw action anywhere else?

    I don't believe many fighters utilized a rear-view mirror until 1944 or so. I know that at some point Mustang pilots started to jury rig small mirrors and eventually they got real ones.
     
  13. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    Pilots called their planes many things, some good, some bad.

    I think Navy pilots tended to have their canopy open when taking off and landing on a carrier, just in case things got a little wet.
     
  14. Morai_Milo

    Morai_Milo Banned

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    John Freeborn, Spitfire pilot

    John has a poor opinion of the TR9D HF radio-telephone fitted to his Spitfire and confirmed its short range of around 30 miles and said he was out of contact beyond this. One sector controller, Ronnie Adams, used to joke “call us when you're out of range”. When out of contact with the sector station the squadron pretty much had to muddle through as best it could.

    The TR9 set's reception was fairly awful. John says that 74 Squadron was reequipped with TR1133 VHF between Dunkirk and the beginning of the battle. With the new radio they never suffered the range problems suffered using HF. Communications with the TR1133 were crystal-clear.


    The Spitfire Pilot Notes can be found at Zeno's site. In it is described the operation of the 2 radio types mentioned above.
     
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