Play / pause Navigators


  • Mark Johnson
  • Interview by: Peter Devitt


Now my uncle became a navigator on bombers,

part of a bomber command

and he served in Halifax aircraft initially

and then later in the Lancaster.

Very often, the pilot gets all the praise and glamor

especially in a bomber aircraft

but in fact, the navigator is the brains of the aircraft.

And the men who were selected to serve as navigators

tended to be those very often

with the highest standard of education

certainly with highest scores

in mathematics and trigonometry.

The ones who could think under fire

who could compute a course, read a map,

find the location above the ground,

instruct the pilots in terms of where to fly next,

while being shot at.

And I think they had, without question,

the most difficult job on the aircraft.

Of course, everybody had a difficult job.

Everybody was in danger.

But, for the navigator to continue to perform

and to keep the aircraft tight within the bomber stream

to avoid collisions with other aircraft

while flack and explosions and knife fighters

are whizzing all around them.

With the casualty rate of upwards of 5% on every mission,

fatalities of 30% throughout the course of the war

for the entire organization.

That's just an incredible performance

and the men who did that were simply the best of the best.

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