No. 29 OTU Bruntingthorpe
The next stage in the training to become a fully operational bomber pilot was the OTU, Operational Training Unit. Rolly was sent to No. 29 OTU Bruntingthorpe in Leicestershire where he would be flying twin-engined Vickers Wellingtons, the aircraft that formed the cutting edge of Bomber Command until superseded by the four-engined Heavies such as the Lancaster, Halifax and Stirling.
This was a significant step up from everything that he had flown before, not only in size and complexity, but also because he would now be the "skipper" of a crew of five others: a navigator, wireless operator, bomb aimer and two gunners. Although the Wellington didn't have a mid-upper turret the gunners took it in turn to man the rear turret whilst training.
Murray Peden, author of "A Thousand Shall Fall" recalls that on his arrival at Bruntingthorpe he found the "aircrew grapevine" was working very efficiently and that the message was that fatal accidents were commonplace at OTU. The engines on the Wellingtons were de-rated because of their worn out condition, which meant that pilots could no longer push the throttles "through the gate" in an emergency. This fact alone figured in many accidents, as did inexperience and the weather:
An event recorded in the Unit's ORBs:
....and the findings of the subsequent Court of Enquiry....
Rolly found that the first three weeks at OTU were occupied with ground subjects, mostly along with other new pilots. They were expected to know all about the handling of the Wellington, to understand the petrol, oil, ignition and coolant systems plus the operation of the undercarriage, flaps and emergency systems. It was intensive work since the pilots were inundated with information followed by examinations.