Hut Nine - Bomber Command and Escape Lines

Hut 9 – Royal Observer Corps, Bomber Command, Escape Lines, Resistance & RAFBD

Air Training

No air force in the world set itself a higher standard of training in peacetime than did the RAF. Not only was skill demanded from the pilot in the manipulation of joystick and rudder bar, but also a deep and exact knowledge of navigation, the theory of flight, the structure of an aeroplane, the working of an aero motor; of air gunnery, radio, air photography and instruments; and of fighter tactics, bombing methods and a hundred and one other things which the modern pilot should know if he was to get the best from his machine and himself.

RAF Fighter Command

Dogfighting was the name given to the aerobatics involved in the fighter contest. RAF Spitfires or Hurricanes fought continuously against Luftwaffe Me 109s, leaving vapour trails thousands of feet up in the skies, a sign to onlookers that the battle was continuing. No one doubted that the pilots on either side were practising the most deadly performing act.

RAF Bomber Command

The Allied blitz on Berlin, carried out by the U.S. Army Air Forces and RAF Bomber Command, stemmed directly from a comment made by Air Chief-Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, AOC-in-C, Bomber Command, to Prime Minister Churchill on 3rd November 1943: “We can wreck Berlin from end to end if the USAAF will come in on it. It will cost us between 400-599 aircraft, it will cost Germany the war”.

RAF Coastal Command

The main duty of Coastal Command was reconnaissance over the North Sea, a task which had begun on 24th August 1939. In addition the aircraft performed the role of escorts for Atlantic convoys, when within range of the British coast.

RAF Balloon Command

In November 1938, a Balloon Command was formed with its own squadrons manning barrages around most major cities. The standard ‘low zone’ balloons protected cities and towns and were usually flown at an altitude of about 5,000 feet.

RAF Ground Crew

RAF Ground Crew during the war was made up of experts in a wide variety of subjects. There were fitters and riggers, instrument workers, electricians, radio mechanics and armourers who looked after the aeroplanes, engines and airframes including the various items of equipment such as instruments, radio and armaments. Then there were the men and women who staffed the aerodrome itself including the meteorological staff, photographic experts, parachute repairers and repackers, radio operators, ambulance men and firemen.

The Royal Observer Corps

The Home Chain defensive radar system was used in conjunction with the men and women of the Royal Observer Corp. Aircraft were identified as friend or foe, tracked and reported, which allowed friendly fighters to intercept and give as much warning as possible of impending air raids.

Air Transport Auxiliaries

The Air Transport Auxiliary Service was formed by British Airways in 1938 for the purpose of ferrying aircraft around the British Isles as needed.

Air/Sea Rescue

It was not until the summer of 1940, that the British seriously considered setting up an air/sea rescue service for pilots who, in the jargon of the time, had been forced to ‘ditch’. Pilots who found themselves in the sea during the furious air struggle of the Battle of Britain from July to October 1940, were fished out by an improvised service which came to their rescue with Westland Lysander aircraft dropping rubber dinghies and small motor boats coming out from the shore, but there was no co-ordination and for a pilot, rescue depended too much on luck and fate.

RAF Pathfinder Force

The idea was to create an elite force to lead the bomber streams with the aid of Gee navigation, then drop flares and markers to illuminate the target for the heavy bombers.

North Atlantic Bridge

Before the Second World War, flying the Atlantic had been a matter for headlines, a pioneering adventure which nations on each side followed closely and competitively. Time was needed to develop three necessities; suitable aircraft, comprehensive weather knowledge and a steady record of safety, before it could become recognised as commercially practicable.

Escape Lines

In the early part of World War Two, when Great Britain took on the might of Nazi Germany alone, a group of people on mainland Europe came forward at great risk to themselves and their families to assist the Allies by collecting in evaders (left behind after the mass evacuation from Dunkirk) and shot down aircrew.

They hid, clothed and fed them, and then escorted them across occupied Europe to neutral countries, or alternatively via Gibraltar to Great Britain. These people were affectionately known then, and still are today, simply as ‘Helpers’. Most had no training, were not paid, and if caught were subject to the harshest of treatment by the Gestapo. They were tortured, after which the men were often executed, and the women were sent to concentration camps where many died. Often complete families were sent to the camps. The evader, if caught was sent to a POW camp. Most of these ‘Helpers’ did not give their names, appeared when needed, and those that survived slipped back into peacetime life without any real recognition after the war.

RAF Bomb Disposal

Before WW2, the role of bomb disposal had traditionally fallen to the Army, with the Royal Navy and RAF only tackling Unexploded Bombs (UXBs) that fell in their own jurisdiction. As the war progressed it became clear that a dedicated branch of the RAF was required to deal with the large number of unexploded bombs that had been dropped by the Luftwaffe. The RAF Bomb Disposal was established and they took on the responsibility for UXBs not on Army or Navy property.