76 – RAF Flight Engineers

Way back in episode four of the podcast, I talked to Andrew Panton about the Lancaster Bomber; Andrew is the pilot of Lancaster ‘Just Jane’ here in the UK. Whilst chatting the role of flight engineer came up, I had no clue what they actually did, I wasn’t aware they worked in tandem with the pilot to fly the plane.

Ever since I’ve been on the lookout for someone to talk to about the role, if you do a search on Amazon you’ll discover how overlooked the Flight Engineer has been in the historiography.

Fuel Fire And Fear
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During the Second World War the need for an on-board technical expert to join the Bomber Crews evolved. The various systems on the latest 4-engined 'Heavy Bombers', namely the Handley Page Halifax, Shorts Stirling and Avro Lancaster witnessed the development of Flight Engineers. This book provides the reader with an explanation of the origin of Flight Engineers, the training of these men and the complexity of keeping large bombers in the air is an enthralling story. Many gallantry medals were won by Flight Engineers, including the Victoria Cross. Accounts of dangerous operational flying is revealed by Flight Engineers in numerous aircraft including those of Coastal Command. Direct entries into the RAF by civilians were undertaken to satisfy the demand for Flight Engineers. Entrants underwent courses of varying lengths but flying training time was very sparse and remarkably it was not unknown for these men to qualify for their flying badges without ever having flown in an aircraft. This book examines true accounts that took place; many based upon personal flying logbooks and other unique material originating from the pilots and aircrew themselves.

Earlier this year Colin Pateman released his latest book ‘Fuel, Fire and Fear: RAF Flight Engineers at War’, clearly he was the man to speak!