Station No. 4, the Wireless Operator / Air Gunner display is to the left of the emergency exit doors. This uniform was worn by Squadron Leader Casey and you will note that on the left sleeve, just above the cuff, are two small vertical silver coloured stripes. These are wound stripes which show that Squadron Leader Casey was wounded twice. The United States of America awarded wounded military personnel a Purple Heart.
MACHINE GUNThe machine gun on display is a 303-calibre Browning and it was the most common gun used in both training and operations. All aircrew had to be able to take a machine gun apart and put it back together again. This had to be accomplished blindfolded because during operations you could not use a light.
RADIOSThe radio displayed here was quite modern for the era. Today, a radio with equal capacity to this one would fit in your shirt pocket. Please note the model of the Boston aircraft which Squadron Leader Casey flew in and the story in the frame mounted beside the squadron crest.
BOSTON AIRCRAFT MODEL & SQUADRON CREST
FLIGHT SUITS & GEARTo the right of this display case is an electrically heated flying suit. You will notice that right at the cuffs of both sleeves is an electrical socket. This electrically heated suit was needed by members of the crew such as the tail gunner or upper gunner whose location prevented them from accessing the normal aircraft heating system. These airmen were flying at 24,000 feet or better and many of the missions were 12 to 16 hours in duration, so they got very cold. If it wasn’t for supplemental heat they may not have been able to do their jobs. The vest on the flying suit was known as the Mae West. If you went down in the water then you blew the vest up and it would keep you afloat. The floatation device was called a Mae West because when inflated it resembled the bust of the actress. She was thrilled that the RAF personnel would name this life saving devise after her.
If you happened to be down in the North Atlantic you hoped that you didn’t float too long because the water was close to zero degrees and it wouldn’t be very long before hypothermia would set in. The furry looking thing to the right is the teddy bear which was worn under a flying suit. This display includes an oxygen mask.
LYSANDER TOWING TARGET DROGUE - GUNNERS IN BOLINGBROKEOn the wall behind the “teddy bear” is a drawing showing the method of training air gunners. The aircraft which is towing the target drogue is a Lysander. The target was towed 250 feet behind the tug while the student gunner would fire at the drogue from the turret of the other aircraft, the Bolingbroke. Usually three trainees would go up at a time each had bullets with a different coloured wax on them. On inspecting the target this enabled groundcrew to determine who was hitting or missing the target.
DISPLAY NO. 5 ~ NAVIGATOR
The display case behind you and slightly to your right is station number 5. In this display case are a variety of artifacts, gun sights, compasses, a cloud atlas for navigational computers and a navigator’s log book. All the aircrew had to have an understanding of meteorology, they had to know which clouds you could fly into safely and which clouds you had best stay away from.
DISPLAY NO 6 ~ GROUP CAPTAIN GEOFF NORTHCOTT
Display 6 is that of Group Captain Geoff Northcott, who came from a town north of here. He was a Spitfire ace. Some of the medals he earned were the Polish Eagle and the Order of the Orange Nassau with Swords. The Orange Order of Nassau was a Dutch medal awarded to Geoff for some of the operations which he carried out in their interest.
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BILL & SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
Photos by Bill Hillman ~ Copyrighted 1999/2010