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Notes on Gunnery (1942) | W/Cdr

RAF Notes on Gunnery (1942)

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Wing Commander E. M. Donaldson, D.S.O.

USAAF Ground School, Luke Field, Arizona, 1942

‘The essence of successful dog fighting is not to sit on a man’s tail indefinitely whatever the tactics or manoeuvres he carries out, but to come in behind him, open fire with your sights on, and just stay long enough to get a really good burst in.'

A very rare original WW2 Air Gunnery manual, undated, but published c.1942. This is a practical guide to aerial gunnery for RAF and USAAF air forces fighter pilots training in the USA from 1942-44. It was a restricted publication, with a limited circulation, produced at Luke Field, Arizona, with copies being individually numbered (this is No. 873). It was written by Wing Commander E. M. Teddy Donaldson, a Hurricane pilot, commander of 151 squadron, and Battle of Britain fighter ace. The book is signed at the top of the front cover by Pilot Officer E. C. Bishop, an RAF pilot who was training in the USA in 1942. 

W/Cdr Donaldson was sent to evaluate the training course at Luke Field, Arizona in 1942 and was not impressed with what he saw there. He described the training regime as ‘Impossibly bad’, with the air gunnery being especially poor. He soon set about reorganising the course and the staff, and as a result both the C.O. and the Director of Training were replaced. The introduction of Notes on Gunnery to the training syllabus was no doubt a response to the dire situation Donaldson had found when he arrived  at Luke Field.

Teddy Donaldson had been sent to the USA in 1941 to instruct in aerial gunnery and combat flying techniques, and would go on to write the hugely influential air combat manual Notes on Air Gunnery and Air Fighting (1943). A tough and uncompromising squadron leader, Donaldson took plenty of risks during the Battle of Britain, and expected his men to do the same: ‘If I thought it was rest a man needed, I’d give him a fortnight’s holiday. If I felt the war had really got to him, I’d get rid of him. There weren’t many of them. There was one chap who said one day “ I think I’d better stay down today because I’ve got double vision.” He was obviously fatigued; we all were, though we didn’t use that word for it then. I looked at him and his eyes really were pointing in different directions. I said “Look, the Germans don’t know you’ve got double vision so you’d better come with us. The Germans will see twelve Hurricanes, not eleven with one extra chap who can’t see straight.” Someone said, “You’re a shit, Sir.” But he survived. I saw him not long ago. . .' 

Notes On Gunnery includes instructions on aiming off, sighting, estimating range, angles of attack, deflection shooting, combat formation flying, use of cannon, air fighting at operational altitudes, ground strafing, offensive sweeps, quick landings to refuel and rearm, gun sights, air defence, night operations, anti-aircraft defences, rules for pursuit pilots, and much other very useful advice on all aspects of aerial combat.

Wing Commander Edward Mortlock Donaldson D.S.O. (1912-1992): was a WW2 RAF fighter Ace and former holder of the World Airspeed Record. He joined the RAF in 1931 and was posted to No.3 Squadron. In 1933 he won the RAF's Gunnery Trophy, known as the Brooke-Popham Air Firing Trophy, winning it again in 1934. In 1935 he became a member of the No. 3 Squadron aerobatic team of five Bulldogs, which he led in 1937 and 1938 at the International Zurich Rally. When the Second World War broke out Squadron Leader Donaldson was commanding No. 151 Squadron, flying the Hawker Hurricane. In their first engagement over France on 17th May 1940, 151 destroyed six enemy aircraft, Donaldson himself shooting down two enemy aircraft and damaging a third. The squadron shot down many more in the following months, including at the Battle of Dunkirk. On June 27th Donaldson was shot down by a Me 109. The combat lasted 15 minutes, with both aircraft twisting and turning to gain a firing position. During a head-on attack, Donaldson's Hurricane was hit and set alight when the petrol tank blew up. However, he managed to escape, taking to his parachute from round 800 feet. He was shot down again on July 12th by return fire from a Dornier 17. Two days later he shot down a Me 109, his last combat victory. For his leadership of the squadron and his personal tally of eleven kills, plus ten probable destructions, Donaldson was awarded the DSO.

Donaldson was then transferred to the gunnery instructor school. Posted to Canada, Donaldson wrote the RAF training manual Notes on Air Gunnery and Air Fighting, which provided the basis for his instructional work in the USA with the USAAF. His book was an invaluable aid in the training of USAAF gunnery instructors. On his return to England in 1944, Donaldson converted to jet aircraft and commanded the first operational Glostor Meteor squadron, at RAF Colerne. In 1946 he broke the official world airspeed record in a Meteor, achieving a speed of 615.78mph. Teddy Donaldson’s life and career were the subject of the book RAF Top Gun by Nick Thomas (Pen & Sword, 2008). 


In very good condition. The card cover is in good condition, with general signs of use and a few marks. Signed by ‘E. C. Bishop, P.O.' on the front cover. The stapled binding is good and secure. The text and diagrams are in good condition with a few marks.

Published: c.1942
Illustrated card cover
Illustrated with diagrams
Dimensions: 205mm x 270mm
Pages: 54