What Was it Like to Train in a Dome?
The action in the Dome may have been simulated but it could be, nevertheless, quite unnerving! So what was it like to train in a Dome? In their own words, here are the experiences of some trainees:
“My turn next. The aircraft appeared on the opposite horizon. I was intrigued by it all. There was no sensation of a dome. Just a black aircraft coming at me fast from the far horizon. I lined up but was so fascinated by it all that I let him shoot first. He came straight at me. I was badly shot up but live to tell the tale.” Roly Millar, a glider pilot in WW2.
“One particular film sticks in my memory. Four Stuka dive-bombers did a circuit of the dome, then three of them turned towards the gun . A few moments later when they were nearly overhead they started to peel off one by one. They shrieked into their dive straight at the guns. As the first flattened out and went overhead I could almost count the rivets in its fuselage. The ‘crump’ of exploding bombs filled the air.” Tom Wright.
“The object of the exercise was to check out those who were so affected by the screaming noise of the aircraft and the sound of the shots coming from the “enemy” that they ducked. I was top of the class but found this to be of little use when two years later I was demobilised – who wants a top gunner in civvy street?” Ken Roe.
“The men found it very intriguing, new and exciting. Much much more realistic than shooting at towed targets just going across in front of you. In the dome the whole point was to pick up the enemy aircraft and shoot it down before it dropped its bombs – not after it had gone away.” Alan Eade, Dome Teacher instructor.
“We had 10 or 11 different films to practice different things. The men took it very seriously. They were in full uniform with all their equipment. They operated the gun as they would have done in the field. It was very realistic. There was the true gun sound bang bang bang as the gun fired. Very very noisy.” Ron Williams, Dome Teacher instructor.
“The main lights went down and quietly at first came the sound of an aircraft, but from which direction? Left, right, ahead, behind, above? When the targets appeared and one opened fire the row was unforgettable – the clatter of Brownings, plus the engines guns and bombs.” Mr Ellison of Luton – Flight mechanic from 1941 to 1946.
“I can well remember obtaining 47 hits out of 600 rounds. We could have happily spent our entire camp in there, it was such tremendous fun for us youngsters” Ronald Mells of Liss, an ATC Cadet.
Anti-aircraft training film
Watch a World War 2 Dome training film. Made by Technicolor, this film was probably used to show trainees what would happen in a Dome Teacher as it has the voice of the instructor and shows the gun trigger being fired to project the gun sight over the film.
A visit to Langham Dome means you too can experience what it was like to be a trainee and test your aim with our interactive training gun and one of the Dome’s original target films.