Updated: February 2008

The perils of a bomber crew were many, and the challenges great. They were expected to fly often hundreds if not thousands of miles in the dark with limited navigation aids, locate the target, drop their bomb load and then turn around and fly home to land on a runway “somewhere in England”. If those elements were not enough the weather added an equation that was generally unpredictable at best. Weather forecasting was still well in its infancy and by no means a science. The risk of collision from within the tight bomber stream was always present and the only indication of an aircraft nearby was when the bomber flew into the others “prop-wash.” Once over a target searchlights and flak become additional obstacles. But to some the worse was the call over the intercom, if it was working that a fighter had been spotted by one of the gunners.


Then the unknown entered the crews’ minds. Has the fighter seen the aircraft? Will it attack? How many are out there? Is this the decoy while another is forming up to attack from another direction? A thousand things would run through the crew’s minds. What seems like minutes, was often mere seconds. Before.....


“Fighter Coming In On Starboard... Stand By.... Cork Screw Starboard Go!”


Those were the words that all bomber crews hated to hear, the odds were not in their favour. Their aircraft were slower than the fighter, less manoeuvrable, and heavily laden with thousands of gallons of petrol, oil and of course the bomb load. Any of which, could easily ignite or explode from a single bullet being placed in just the right location.


The bombers defences were limited offensively; and while “kills” were claimed by bomber crew gunners, it was more luck that a gunner would have the time and more importantly the range of his guns to be able to fend off a fighter, let alone inflect sufficient damage upon it to force it to break off or better yet to be shot down.  However, the combination of the gunners reactions and the “corkscrew” manoeuvre were often was enough to give the bomber and its crew a fighting chance or at least cause the fighter to miss its target and may be break off to find an easier prey.


Therefore the theory behind preventing an attack was to “prevent being detected”, or if detected “finish the combat without being seriously damaged.


Thus the corkscrew manoeuvre was developed. Designed to present the bomber to the fighter in a means that the fighter could lined up to attack and at the moment the attack began the direction and altitude of the bomber would be violently changed through a series of direction and altitude changes.


The diagram shows the “corkscrew” manoeuvre assuming an attack from the starboard side. It would be reversed if the attack came from port. Throughout the manoeuvre the pilot was meant to call the next part out so that the gunners could adjust their aim.... Going down to port....Going up starboard... rolling... etc”


View Training RAF Film "Fighting Tatics"