No. 2 Bombing & Gunnery School

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Posted on 11 May 2020

¹No. 2 Bombing & Gunnery School (2 BAGS) officially formed on the 15th June 1941 to provide bombing and aerial gunnery training for pilots; this was an eight week course of lectures and practical exercise. ²Here, trainees learned the workings of machine guns before engaging in live fire practices. They were taught tactical exercises, including ‘offensive and defensive moves and counter moves, fighting control and the recognition of enemy aircraft’. Further lessons in pyrotechnics, theoretical and practical lessons in bomb sighting, and the tactics of bombing. The lessons were reinforced through specialised air exercises wherein trainees used a variety of machine guns and spent hours practising the bombing of moving targets, low-level bomb aiming and night bombing exercises.

¹2 BAGS was located at Port Pirie, South Australia where available space, good flying conditions year round and adjacent coastal land suitable for bombing and gunnery ranges were available. The Port Pirie site had been extensively developed such that it could accommodate hundreds of men and dozens of aircraft. The principal aircraft type operated was the Fairey Battle Mark 1. This could train men in bombing or gunnery (a few were also equipped for Wireless instruction). The fuselage was large enough to accommodate up to three trainees who could each take turns in either the rear gun or bomb-aimers position, making it an efficient training platform. The second sub-type Fairey Battle was the Battle TT, which was fitted with target-towing equipment. These were painted in high-visibility yellow and black stripes. The Battle TTs usually flew with two crew: a pilot and a towing winch operator. Another role performed by 2 BAGS Battle TT’s at this time was to tow targets over Whyalla for the benefit of the 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft gun battery which protected the BHP steel works. 

2 BAGS strength peaked in June 1943 when it was operating 119 Fairey Battles, three Ryan Trainers and a Gypsy Moth; a handful of Wirraways were also flown. Overall personnel strength remained at around 1,100, although this number now included over 100 WAAAFs. Operations began to wind down in the later months of 1943 and Avro Ansons were received in preparation for the change to an Aerial Observers School, which mainly provided navigation training. On the 9th December 1943, No. 2 BAGS was formally redesignated No.3 Aerial Observers School (3 OES). Bombing and gunnery operations ceased at Port Pirie and accordingly, the Fairy Battle /TTs were sent to the Aerial Gunnery School at West Sale.

Sources:

¹ South Australian Aviation Museum

²The Empire Has an Answer-Tony James Brady