Bill Hillman's Monthly Military Tribute
2016.06 Edition

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(Photo by John Phillips)
Lancaster cockpit display at the Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa.
The Navigator's station is behind the pilot's seat  and the co-pilot's seat is in the folded position.


Wikipedia Reference: Avro Lancaster

Why are Cockpits Called Cockpits?

Lancaster Cockpit

The first “cockpits” were actual pits in the ground constructed (to the extent that one “constructs” a pit) to house “cockfights” to the death between game cocks.

The term came to be applied to the rear part of the lowest deck, the orlop, of a fighting ship (orlop is from Dutch overloop, a covering). During a battle it became the station for the ship’s surgeon and his mates because it was relatively safe and least subject to disturbance by the movements of the ship.

Like all lower-deck spaces, it was confined, crowded, and badly lit. During a battle, it was also noisy, stinking and bloody. All this reminded people of a real cock-pit, hence the name. About 200 years ago, on 21 October 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson died in the cockpit of HMS Victory during the battle of Trafalgar.

The first airplane with an enclosed cabin appeared in 1912 on the Avro Type F; however, during the early 1920s there were many passenger aircraft in which the crew remained open to the air while the passengers sat in a cabin. Military biplanes and the first single-engined fighters and attack aircraft also had open cockpits, some as late as the Second World War when enclosed cockpits became the norm.

The largest impediment to having closed cabins was the material the windows were to be made of. Prior to Perspex becoming available in 1933, windows were either safety glass, which was heavy, or cellulose nitrate (i.e.: guncotton), which yellowed quickly and was extremely flammable. In the mid-1920s many aircraft manufacturers began using enclosed cockpits for the first time. Early airplanes with closed cockpits include the 1924 Fokker F.VII, the 1926 German Junkers W 34 transport, the 1926 Ford Trimotor, the 1927 Lockheed Vega, theSpirit of St. Louis and the passenger aircraft manufactured by the Douglas and Boeing companies during the mid-1930s. Open-cockpit airplanes were almost extinct by the mid-1950s, with the exception of training planes, crop-dusters and homebuilt aircraft designs.

Cockpit windows may be equipped with a sun shield. Most cockpits have windows that can be opened when the aircraft is on the ground. Nearly all glass windows in large aircraft have an anti-reflective coating, and an internal heating element to melt ice. Smaller aircraft may be equipped with a transparent aircraft canopy.

In most cockpits the pilot’s control column or joystick is located centrally (centre stick), although in some military fast jets the side-stick is located on the right hand side. In some commercial airliners (i.e.: Airbus—which features the glass cockpit concept) both pilots use a side-stick located on the outboard side, so Captain’s side-stick on the left and First-officer’s seat on the right.

Except for some helicopters, the right seat in the cockpit of an aircraft is the seat used by the co-pilot. The captain or pilot in command sits in the left seat, so that he can operate the throttles and other pedestal instruments with his right hand. The tradition has been maintained to this day, with the co-pilot on the right hand side.

The layout of the cockpit, especially in the military fast jet, has undergone standardisation, both within and between aircraft different manufacturers and even different nations. One of the most important developments was the “Basic Six” pattern, later the “Basic T”, developed from 1937 onwards by the Royal Air Force, designed to optimise pilot instrument scanning.

Ergonomics and Human Factors concerns are important in the design of modern cockpits. The layout and function of cockpit displays controls are designed to increase pilot situation awareness without causing information overload. In the past, many cockpits, especially in fighter aircraft, limited the size of the pilots that could fit into them.

In the design of the cockpit in a military fast jet, the traditional “knobs and dials” associated with the cockpit are mainly absent. Instrument panels are now almost wholly replaced by electronic displays, which are themselves often re-configurable to save space. While some hard-wired dedicated switches must still be used for reasons of integrity and safety, many traditional controls are replaced by multi-function re-configurable controls or so-called “soft keys”. Controls are incorporated onto the stick and throttle to enable the pilot to maintain a head-up and eyes-out position – the so-called Hands On Throttle And Stick or HOTAS concept. These controls may be then further augmented by new control media such as head pointing with a Helmet Mounted Sighting System or Direct voice input (DVI). New advances in auditory displays even allow for Direct Voice Output of aircraft status information and for the spatial localisation of warning sounds for improved monitoring of aircraft systems.


10 Things You Never Knew About
Japanese Admiral Yamamoto
The Architect Of The Pearl Harbor Attack


Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto ~ View from a Japanese plane during the Pearl Harbor attack

Isoroku Yamamoto was the Japanese Imperial Navy Admiral and Commander-in-chief who masterminded the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7th, 1941. He was hated and cursed by U.S. leaders for the surprise attack and they wanted revenge. Further inflaming the situation was a quote from Yamamoto circulated to U.S. officials that he planned to negotiate peace with them when Japanese forces had reached the White House.

Though these facts are true, they are only  fragments of a broader portrait of a complex man. If he has been heeded he , could have prevented the outbreak of war in the Pacific. To help show the whole story of this complicated commander, here are 10 facts you might not have known about Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.

1.Yamamoto was the son of a samurai

Yamamoto was born to an intermediate-ranked samurai in the Takano family in Nagaoka, Japan in 1884. In 1916, he was adopted into the Yamamoto family, which was a common practice for samurai families with no sons to carry on their name and rank.

Yamamoto was very attached to Japanese traditions such as spending time with geisha and avidly practicing calligraphy.

2. He was severely injured in the Battle of Tsushima

In late May 1905, the Russian Baltic Fleet completed a journey of over 1800 nautical miles to reach the Far East and engage the Japanese Imperial Navy, which had been dominating the small Russian fleets at the far end of their Empire, keeping them corralled in port. The result of the engagement was the only great decisive victory in naval warfare in modern history.

The Japanese destroyed the Russian fleet utterly, sinking 21 ships, killing 4,380 men and capturing 5,917 others. In comparison, the Japanese lost just three torpedo boats and 117 men. Yamamoto was among the 583 injured Japanese men. He lost the index and middle fingers on his left hand and carried many others scars.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto missing fingers 
on his left hand from the Battle of Tsushima

3.Yamamoto spent several years in the U.S.

He studied at Harvard University from 1919-1921 and in the mid-1920s spent several years as a naval attache in Washington, D.C. He learned fluid English and traveled America learning its customs and studied its business practice. He also learned the card games bridge and poker and became an avid player.

Yamamoto with Curtis D Wilbur, United States Secretary of the Navy

4. Yamamoto was outspoken against war with China and the U.S.

He opposed the war with China from the onset and invasion of Manchuria in 1931, a position which attracted much displeasure from the very militarized Japanese government.

On top of that, as warmongers in the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy began craving a war with the U.S., Yamamoto knew that they couldn’t win a prolonged war in the Pacific and openly said just that. In 1939, he was promoted to Commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet by the Navy Minister in an effort to save his life because powerful people resentful of Yamamoto’s opposition to war wanted him assassinated. Killing Yamamoto would be harder to achieve if the Admiral was at sea, surrounded by officers and men loyal to him.

5. The attack on Pearl Harbor was Yamamoto’s strategy to stall the U.S. Navy as long as possible.

A Japanese Nakajima B5N2 torpedo bomber taking off to attack Pearl Harbor

Yamamoto long claimed that he could control a war in the Pacific for six months, maybe a year, at best. But he knew a rapid advance from the better supplied and more populated U.S. would eventually overwhelm their defenses.

Bowing to the command of higher ranks, however, he orchestrated the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor in the belief that crippling the U.S. Navy’s fleet was the best chance to get Japan the time needed to take territory in South East Asia and Dutch East Indies which was crucial to supplying resources to the war effort.

6. Yamamoto sought a decisive naval battle with the U.S.

Looking to the example of the Russo-Japanese war, which ended with the spectacular Japanese victory at the Battle of Tsushima, Yamamoto wanted to draw the U.S. Navy into a battle that would decide, then and there, who ruled the Pacific. With a Japanese victory, he hoped the U.S. would be forced to negotiate for peace.

Though Japanese higher command favored taking a defensive position to draw the U.S. westwards and meet them around the Philippines, Yamamoto knew attrition would work against them in a long conflict. He convinced his superiors that an offensive position was best.

7. Yamamoto sailed his fleets to Midway, seeking this decisive battle

He began by bombing the U.S. Marines and aircraft stationed at Midway Atoll on June 4th, 1942 with formations flown off of the four aircraft carriers in the First Mobile Force.

Unfortunately for Yamamoto, U.S. Intelligence had long since broken Japanese Naval codes and the U.S. Navy knew exactly what he had planned at Midway. Suddenly, his fleet was attacked by aircraft from two U.S. carriers several days before their anticipated arrival. He was caught completely off guard and all four of his aircraft carriers were destroyed.

Instead of a decisive battle and Japanese victory, Yamamoto’s naval forces were crippled and the U.S. gained the upper hand for the remainder of the war.

8. Aircraft carriers were essential to Yamamoto’s strategy

A B-17 attack misses Hiryu at Midway; this was taken between 08:00–08:30. 
A Shotai of three Zeros is lined up near the bridge. 
This was one of several combat air patrols launched during the day.
Yamamoto was a huge proponent of naval aviation and saw to it that the central pillar of the Japanese Imperial Navy was its aircraft. Though light on armor, Japanese naval aircraft were superior in range and maneuverability, making them a deadly strike force for Pacific warfare.

With four aircraft carriers were lost at the battle of Midway, however, the Imperial Navy was never able to recover the strength of its main asset.

9.Yamamoto was constantly plagued by a lack of cooperation from the Imperial Army

Yamamoto was already unpopular with his superiors for his opposition to the wars with China and the U.S. and doubly so with the Imperial Army high command, which was  especially responsible for the aggressive policies of  the Japanese government. Now, after his defeat at Midway, he had lost face and had lost the support of the Army and senior ministers.

The remaining naval battles he fought in an attempt to stop U.S. gaining momentum and they were coordinated with Japanese Army operations. The Army which often didn’t hold up their end in the operations, rendering the naval actions ineffective and slowly bleeding it of even more ships and men.

10. On April 18th, 1943, the U.S. got their revenge


Having intercepted Japanese communication that Yamamoto was flying in for an inspection tour of his forces on the Solomon Islands, the U.S. dispatched 16 P-38 Lightnings on a mission to shoot down Yamamoto’s transport plane. The mission was a success, Pearl Harbor was avenged, and Japan took yet another major hit to their defense of their Pacific conquests.


Only the Brits...A British Postman on his rounds,
London Blitz 1940

460 Sqdn RAAF Lancaster.

Bristol Bolingbrokes of No. 119 Squadron, RCAF.

 "Four Westland Lysander Mark IIIAs of No. 1433 Flight RAF, based at Ivato, Madagascar,
in flight in starboard echelon formation over typical Madagascar countryside, 1942." Source: IWM (MAD 285)

When FLA Winston Churchill visited RAF Croydon
shortly before B Flight of No 615 Squadron RAF left for Merville on 15 November 1939,
F/L James G "Sandy" Sanders realised that the guns were cocked for instant take-off
as Clementine Churchill started to toy with the firing mechanism while her husband,
who had been appointed their honorary air commodore on 4 April, stood in front of Gladiator Mk II KW-T,
the 25-year-old pilot averting a tragedy that could have altered the course of history.

Previous 2016 Issues:
Vets Home for Xmas Plus The Japan Homefront
Photo Story: WWII Remembered
Canadian Women in WWII
RCAF Flyers wrote Olympic history
Imperial War Museums Memories
Lancaster Cockpit and Crew Stations ~ Pearl Harbor Mastermind

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