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The War in the Air

Aerial warfare was a comparatively new technology at the outbreak of the war and, as such, was seen to have a certain glamour. What was not forseen at the outbreak of the War was just how hazardous an enterprise aerial warfare would turn out to be.

Huge lossess incurred during day-time bombing of specific targets over Europe caused Bomber Command to change strategy to night-time bombing. The bombers could not find their targets accuately in black-out Europe so they were loaded with a combination of incendiary and explosives bombs and targetted towns and cities instead. This caused a great loss of civilian life, 500,000 people were killed in the bombing, and its effectiveness as a strategy is still debated to this day.

The Lancaster Bomber
The Lancaster could carry 18,000 lbs of bombs but this was achieved by its defensive armament consisting of only eight 30 callibre guns. The armour plating protecting the crew was removed to increase the bomb payload the plane could carry.

Conditions inside the bombers were so cramped that the aircrew could not wear escape parachutes in flight and they were stored nearby - only one in five flight crew escaped from earoplanes shot down. Flying at 22,000 feet, frostbite was always a threat to the crews as the temperature was -40°C.

Flight Crews worked a rota of six weeks on duty followed by six days' leave.

Less than ten per cent of those employed in the Royal Air Force were airborne - the aeroplanes were complicated machines and thus requiring a great deal of attention whilst on the ground. This was in addition to the damage regularly inflicted on the planes by enemy action.

During the War, 60,000 of the 125,000 of Bomber Command's air crew perished in action. 8,600 bombers were lost in action over Europe.

"Lacking Moral Fibre"
Flight crew unable to continue flying because of the huge stresses involved, not only because of the high mrotality but also because of fear of letting their comrades down were quickly removed and, labelled "Lacking Moral Fibre", transferred to perform the most menial of tasks.

"Sweating it out"
"Sweating it out" was the term used by fighter pilots to describe sorties over enemy territory at tree-top level seeking opportunistic targets such as troops, military vehicles and trains when they were not engaged in protecting bombing missions.

The Japanese word "kamikaze" means "divine wind" and was devised as the US Pacific Fleet closed in on the island of Okinawa, only some 1,600 km (1,000 miles) from Japan itself, and referred to the attempted medieval invasion of Japan by the Mongol Khans of China - the huge Chinese fleet having been dispersed by a divine wind.

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