Why no front gun turret on a Halifax bomber?

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Owen, Nov 6, 2008.

  1. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    One thing that struck me about seeing the Halifax bomber at the Yorkshire Air Museum was the fact it only had a single Vickers K as front armament.
    Why didn't it have a front gun turret with twin MGs like the Stirling and Lancaster?

    James S likes this.
  2. plant-pilot

    plant-pilot Senior Member

    You'd have to look at the design calculations. A powered turret adds a lot of weight to an airframe. It may have made the aircraft nose heavy or just reduced the payload while the threat of frontal attack was deemed as low.

    All designs are just management of compromises.
  3. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    The B17's started life with a similar plexiglass front.
    It was only when Luftwaffe tactics changed to head on assaults (Less return fire from Bomber) that the nose was added with several .50 calibres and then the powered chin turret.

    From what I have read powered turrets were preferred for the air gunner as better control was maintained in the airflow.


  4. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The initial model had a front turret but it was removed and the perspex nose or in some models an all metal nose was installed.

    The front turret would probably have been of little actual use on a night bomber , most attacks came from either below or astern and the chances of engaging from the front would have been very limited.
    At night in the dark frontal attacks not usually the norm.
  5. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    So why did they leave it on the Lancaster then?
  6. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    A very good question.

    I myself have absolutely no idea, but I am sure that the crew felt safer having more firepower available especially as it covered a very wide cone of fire.


  7. kfz

    kfz Very Senior Member

    So why did they leave it on the Lancaster then?

    Isnt the front gunner and bomb aimer the same man on a Lanc????
  8. kfz

    kfz Very Senior Member

    got any more pics of friday ther 13th Owen?
  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  10. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Was looking in what books I have on the Halifax - Air Britains "Halifax File" (RN Roberts ,1982) mentions that the Halifax was found to be very underpowered and that drag was a major problem .
    The front turret and midupper were found to problematic in this respect and the aircraft underwent a number of changes , the midupper went from the "Hudson type" to the "Defiant type" and the nose turret was removed altogther a vickers machine gun was fitted into the perspex nose.

    The rudder assembly was redesigned owing to stability and balance problems , engines were up graded and aircraft made more streamlined.

    The Halifax was a major improvement on the Sterling but she still lacked range and power and was undergoing development throughout her service life.

    The Lancaster was a more perfect aircraft , having none of the vices of the Stirling / Halifax.


    The photograph above comes from Ken Merrick's "The Handley Page Halifax" ( Aston. 1990).
    For me the photo when I first saw it was reason enough to have bought the book - my uncle's crew took this girl to Mannheim and were lucky to get back having been conned in searhlights and twice attacked over the target by JU-88's.
    JD300 NP-"G".
    She survived operational service moving through 1663 and 1652 HCU's and was eventually SOC in February 1947.

    If anyone reading this can come up with a photo of HR715 NP-E - please contact me I would be delighted to see one of this aircraft .
    Owen likes this.
  11. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Cheers James,
    So the Halifax was far from a perfect bomber then I take it?
    It was good enough but not that good.
  12. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Picture shows a Mk.I Halifax carrying the Boulton Paul Type 'C' nose turret.

    It was discovered that performance of the Mk.II Series I (Special) was improved with the removal of the nose and dorsal turrets (As James says in his post above) and from the Mk.II Series IA the aircraft had a moulded perspex as a standard fixture for future models.

    Attached Files:

    Owen likes this.
  13. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Great pic Peter! Looks a bit like a 4 engined Wellington at the front!! How many had that type of turret?
  14. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    My understanding of her is that she was slower , still lacked altitude and bombload / range had to be improved upon.

    The Stirling just could not climb and her bomb bays were sectioned so size and nature of the payload was restricted this became a problem as bomb sizes increased and the Sterling culd not take "the cookie" clearly not a satisfactory aircraft.
    Strong and robust but vunerbale to fighters lacking speed and altitude.
    The Halifax was an improvement but wartime development brings problems with it and it would seem that to begin with she had problems.
    The accident rate was high to begin with , power , stability and the tendency to go into a "flat spin" at low speed was a symptom of the rudders being "wrong".
    When she got to the MKIII most of the problems had gone she was still not a match for the Lancaster which was proving to be a superior aircraft all round , which was begining to become available in numbers.
    The Halifax could not compete with the Lancaster in terms of what could be carried and dropped at range.
    She needed to be worked on Owen but the basics of a good aircraft existed within the design.

    Two more from Ken Merrick's book.
    A 158 crew (Sgt Camerons) which returned from a raid on Cologne ( 28/6/43) having been hit by a 1,000 lb bomb which fell from an aircraft above them.
    The PB turret can ber seen as being more streamlined than the one which it replaced.


    That nose again, the shape of the aircraft changed quite a bit , the radial engines again improved the preformance of the aircraft.


    When you look at the crew , God what chance did they really have - no better than 50/50 at best.
    A crew from 10 Squadron dated march 1944.
  15. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Was thinking again about that nose turret and whilst lloking through what I have on the Halifax I came across these photos in "Halifax at War" by B.Napier (Ian Allen) which shows the cramped state of the nose with the turret close to the prone position of the aimer bomber , the feeds to the guns hanging down , these would move with the turret.
    The perspex nose makes it much less claustraphobic , the vickers "K" gun was seen as a "scare gun" rather than one which might seriously deter.

    When you think of it the B-17 started with a perspex nose and no forward firing guns, the "cheek" mounted .5's being what was in situ.
    The experience of the USAF was that they needed a forward gun turret and the "chin turret" came from this. ( 2 x controlled .5's.)
    In the Halifax it was removed and as the Wellington and Sterling were removed from the front line you do have to wonder what advantage it held for the Lancaster to keep thier front turret , psychological perhaps , or one that if it is not broken why fix it ?

    Below some views from the inside the the nose adaptationsmost often seen and what it replaced.

    The nose turret

    The bomb aimers position , the underworkings and bins of the turret are right over his head.

    With the turret removed.

    It is note worthy to consider that apart from the two aft gunners the crew of the Halifax were all in the forward section , either backed on to the cockpit or below it.
    Getting out in an emergency would have been an utter nightmare.
    Owen likes this.
  16. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Great reading on this thread.
    Looking at the photo of bomb damage reminded me of several that I have seen of similar damage to American bombers.

    They too, managed to return to base despite the extensive damage.

    Bombers being hit by bombs seems to have occurred a lot more than people think.

    It must have been on the minds of many of the aircrew as having so many planes in close proximity must have raised the odds at being hit.


  17. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    Does anybody know if changing .303s to .50s on Bomber Command aircraft happened alot later in the war? (I have seen pictures of RAF aircraft with them fitted (maybe even on here))
    I read that Harris didn't want .50s because of the extra weight but is this a myth?
    Surely .50s would be better with increased range and punch.
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    They certainly do weigh a lot more and the round is rather heavy too so its not just the gun's weight that would be considered.

    I found this video of a Ball Turret Gunner's view with two .50 cals. for the first time I take my hat off to them.......I can start to appreciate how scary it must have been stuck in there !
  19. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Whe you look at the nature of the raids the lifetime of the markers - the number of aircraft appearing over the aiming point within a very short time arriving more or less on time so the guys above didn't bomb on you was a matter of survival.
    (Roy Nesbit I think it was told how Glen Millar fell victim to the bombs being ditched by a bomber returning early from a raid.)
    It has bound to have caused a % of the losses.
    In accounts from aircrew you quite often read about aircraft feeling the wash of other aircraft , near misses and seeing others destroyed by nightfighters.
    For the most oart the only armour was that at the pilots back , although strongly built they were incredibly vunerable , the heavier armed fighters always had the upper hand .
    Throwing a four engined bomber around like a fighter must have taken it out of all concerned , both the airframe and the crew.

    The "LFM" tag attached to men at the end of their tether took scarse account of what they had been through - men were more afraid of being labelled LFM than going on ops and it achieved what it was supposed to do - to keep men flying in the face of terrible losses , above all it was not letting their mates down which kept many going - knowing that everyone felt just as afraid as the next man.
    That small star , it was hard earned.

    Here is a poem which is outside East Kirkby , it sums up quite a bit in a very few words and speaks for so many silent and long neglected airfields which still wait for crews who will never return.

    Old Airfield
    I lie her still beside the hill
    Abandoned long to natures will
    My buildings down my people gone,
    My only sounds the wild birds call.

    But my mighty birds will rise no more
    No more I hear the Merlins roar
    And never now my bosum feels
    The pounding of their giant wheels

    From the ageless hill their voices cast
    Thunderous echos of the past
    And still in lonely reverie
    Their great dark wings sweep down to me

    Laughter , sorrow, hope and pain
    I shall never know these things again
    Emotions that I came to know
    Of strange young men so long ago

    Who knows as evening shadows meet
    Are they here still a phantom fleet
    And do my ghosts still stride unseen
    Across my face so wide and green

    And in the future should structures tall
    Bury me beyond recall
    I shall still remember them,
    My metal birds and long dead men

    Now weeds grow high obscure the sky
    Oh remember me when you pass by
    For beneath this tanglked leafy screen
    I was your home, your friend "silksheen"

    Ex-630 Squadron.
  20. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The replacement of the 4 x.303 for 2 x.5's in the rear turrets , having said that the Halifax always had 4x.303s in the mid upper as well the rear turret.
    Like Gage I had heard that it was a weight thing regarding the .5's (although there may have been an issue with availability).

    Some gunners employed what (as far as I can recall) was known
    as "the rose conversion" , the removal of the central perspex screen to improve visibility - which must have made for a very , very cold flight.
    Some judged that visibility was improved and any edge which could be gained was worth the cold and discomfort

    Radar also entered into the firing solution in the last year of the war.




    Above from "Second to None" By Victor Bingham ( Airlife. 1986.)
    It relates to the Halifax.
    Owen likes this.

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