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Thread: Lancaster tail-turret ammo load?

  1. #1
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    Lancaster tail-turret ammo load?

    I typically see the ammunition load for a Lancaster's tail gunner as having been 6,000 rounds, but I also see that Bill Sweetman gives it as 10,000 rounds in his book "Avro Lancaster." Says the load was carried in "10,000-round tanks" (I can only assume he means tanks totaling 10,000 rounds) aft of the end of the bomb bay, fed to the turret by "long steel chutes."

    Which is correct--6,000 or 10,000 rounds?

  2. #2
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    I'd always understood 2,500 rounds per gun (10,000 total) as maximum capacity, with 600 rounds in the tracks / chutes and the remaining 1,900 in the tanks.

    Moggy
    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.

  3. #3
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    Don Bennett ordered the Pathfinder force to reduce the ammunition carried for each turret (and the reserve fuel carried by the aircraft) in order to lighten the aircraft. Can't remember the reason: to increase speed, ceiling or to carry a larger target-marking load?

    Ammunition load, and the make-up of the belts, was different for day or nigh operations too (and the Lancaster was designed as a day-bomber).

    I've seen photographic evidence that some Bomber Command squadrons, particularly (the special) 101 Squadron, did not even carry guns (let alone ammunition) in the front turret.
    Last edited by Creaking Door; 30th August 2017 at 17:32.
    WA$.

  4. #4
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    The AP for the FN121: 10,000 rounds

    Mike

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    I suppose the answer depends on the question that was actually being asked. Lancaster rear-gunner: what ammunition load could be carried or what ammunition load was carried?
    WA$.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moggy C View Post
    I'd always understood 2,500 rounds per gun (10,000 total) as maximum capacity, with 600 rounds in the tracks / chutes and the remaining 1,900 in the tanks.

    Moggy
    I found this note.

  7. #7
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    Looks pretty convincing evidence that this loading was possible, if not used every time. Thanks.

    Moggy
    Last edited by Moggy C; 2nd September 2017 at 08:55.
    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.

  8. #8
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    I think many people miss the irony about the "1900 rounds in the tanks and 600 in the ducts" thing.

    It stems from a call from Bomber Command for greater armour and more ammo for the rear turret. This was based on thinking that future operations would feature long running battles between bombers and fighters on daylight raids.

    By the time the new generation turrets were ready for service, the call was for greater visibility from the turrets on night operations with attacks "from beneath and the rear" particularly in mind, something that was hampered by all that armour plate in front of the gunner. Hence, the "Filleted 20", i.e. FN20 evolved into the FN120, with much of the armour stripped out, reduced superstructure, plus clear vision panels, etc.

    On that basis, it strikes me that given the fleeting nature of night combats, some of the ammo might have been left out on operations as well - less weight, more bombs, fuel, height, etc.
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  9. #9
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    From the photos I've seen, it was not armor directly in front of the gunner but a sheet of Perspex. That is what was stripped out to give the tail gunner a "clear vision panel." (Armor may well have been stripped out as well, I don't know.) It was initially done by gunners acting on their own and then became standard. So the clear vision "panel" is in fact the absence of a panel. It didn't help that the Lanc had an abysmal heating system and that the tail gunner was most neglected of all; removing this Perspex made the turret all the colder. I've read of gunners finding themselves with hands literally too cold to operate the triggers.

  10. #10
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    FN20 turret, with cupola removed, showing the original armour plating.

    A quick google of FN20 rear turret images throws up many photos, most of which are of modified FN20s or more probably mis-identified FN120, FN121, FN4, etc, most of which do not have this armour.

    The clear view panels "gunners acting on their own", well, you and I have obviously read the same books!

    I doubt it was quite as simple as that. I think an individual gunner would have to have had the consent of at least the Squadron Engineering Officer, if not Higher Authority, before defacing a piece of His Majesty's war equipment. My research suggests the CVP was the result of a single trial, subsequently receiving Official sanction and being then rolled out as a Command wide Modification on existing turrets and also incorporated on the production line.
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  11. #11
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    It would be helpful if authors did the correct thing and give the primary source for the claims they make.

    Far too many lazy writers about.

  12. #12
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    I wonder how often they carried the gun camera? All I know is that I wouldn't want to be stuck with it.

    Mike

  13. #13
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    Far too many lazy writers about.
    It depends whether you're writing for a relatively casual, popular audience or for a more scholarly crowd. There are writers who, for example, will provide day, date, time, squadron number, aircraft call sign and everything else they can think of to slow up the narrative, plus footnotes and obscure references. I, for one, try not to do that, since I am not writing for a scholarly audience.

    Far too many non-writer critics about.

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