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Thread: The Flight Engineer shortage in mid 1943

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    Default The Flight Engineer shortage in mid 1943

    In the service records of the Flight Engineer of the crew I'm researching there is a list of references to his movements:

    Sub-depot Dishforth 20/9/38
    5 Wing Halton 2/12/38
    1 Wing Hednesford 1/4/39
    240 Sqn 4/10/39
    School of General Recon 6/11/39
    South Africa 6/10/40

    29/10/42 he was moved to what looks like S/m Genge (Handwritten and difficult to figure out).
    25/7/43 home embarkation to become a Flight Engineer.

    As he was not a Flight Engineer when he went to South Africa I am assuming he was a mechanic or something similar.

    I know he was in Claremont, Capetown in Feb 1942.

    1) Is there a way of verifying what he was doing before becoming a Flight Engineer?
    2) Does anyone know what S/M Genge might actually be?
    3) What were conditions like in South Africa in late 1940s to mid 1943?
    4) Any info on the places mentioned above would also be of help.

    Cheers
    LadyWolf

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    Halton - No1 School of Technical Training
    Hednesford - No6 School of Technical Training
    240 Sq. - Flying Saro Lerwick upto 9/39 and Saro London flying boats from Invergordon, detachment at Falmouth
    School of General Reconnaisance at Thorney Island

    South Africa land of milk & honey - no blackout, plentiful food,social people who entertained the RAF royally regardless of rank or trade.

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    Thanks John,

    A few things there I did not know. More for me to look in to!
    Another question...

    Would he have been a full fledged mechanic or whatever before going to South Africa or would he have still been training when sent there?

    Unfortunately for the two RAF members of this crew I have little to go on in comparison to the Canadian crew members.

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    Ladywolf,
    S/n possibly the abbreviation s/n (for supernumerary), indicating posted to the strength of a unit or station in excess of the normal establishment, usually for some temporary reason at that time, possibly simply for "board and lodgings" (accommodation and messing) pending a posting to somewhere else.
    David D

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    Cheers David,

    Was it common for mechanics etc. to be moved about/ posted to other places?

    I would have assumed they remained at one place but then I must admit I know little about the ground crews and other trades outside of the specific aircrew trades of the Lanc.

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    He wasn't long enough at Halton to complate the course there (3 years, reduced to 2 in wartime). What was his service number?

    My father who was at Halton, after a brief stay at Leeming, was posted to South Africa with the Fleet Air Arm, North Africa servicing Wellingtons, Middle East befor returning home at the end of the war. Sadly many of his entry died serving as aircrew, mainly F/Es.

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    His Service number was 620947.

    Even his family know little about him as his brother and sisters have all passed on now.
    Whatever I can add to their knowledge the better.

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    LadyWolf,
    I am certainly not qualified to offer much advice on the chances of a flight mechanic in the UK being posted overseas, but as he was a servicman he would usually end up where he was posted! In 1940 and 1941 the RAF had heavy repsonsibilities in arranging for the provision of various technical trades in varying quantities in different parts of the world, and not only for operational purposes either. For instance the setting up of various training schemes in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia etc during this period often required that the RAF provide much of the initial personnel establishment of these schools (including round staff) as local resources were often muniscule, although could eventually be made up from local trainees in the fullness of time. Further training units (including OTUs) were also subsequently set up in Canada, Egypt, India, and the Carribean as the war progressed, and then there was always the large and growing operational side of the RAF to reinforce.
    David D

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    Hi David,

    The reason I suggest he was probably a mechanic first within the RAF is because:

    * I know he was working in a general garage before he entered the RAF,
    * Halton was where the aircraft mechanics and other shorter specialist engineering courses were run and;
    * I was under the impression that the Flight Engineers were often made up of similar trades e.g. RAF flight mechanics etc. during the shortage of 1943.

    However, he could have been something other than a mechanic.

    The question then is what trades were the Flight Engineers taken from?

    Is there a list of trades the RAF selected those particular 1943 Flight Engineers from?

    I would have thought such men would have had a good knowledge of things relevant to the Lancaster and would have come from a small select group of trades that would at least help me narrow down the possibilities of his previous work with the RAF.

    Cheers,
    LadyWolf

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    For much of the war, the RAF provided most of the flight engineers for 4 engined aircraft operated by the RAF, RAAF, RCAF, SAAF and RNZAF. These were trained for the most part at 4 SofTT at St Athan and many didn't actually fly until they were at the end of their training. Of course the other Commonwealth countries also trained F/Es but not sure of the numbers, where and when.

    Interestingly, some Liberator sqns flew with a flight engineer whilst others did not (Poles on 1586 Flt eg).

    Obviously, F/Es were ideally men with an engineering background and ex-apprentices and boy entrants were the obvious sources of 'in-service' recruiting. Airframe and engines trades were favoured but apptitude was important. Direct entrants with a mechanical engineering background would also be a likely source and occasionally guys who had failed in another aircrew category would be offered F/E if thought to be suitable.

    As always there were shortages of skills and ebbs and flows in the requirements as losses went up and down.

    Looking at people's employment patterns makes one realise that a fair degree of confusion and inefficiency prevailed in anything to do with training and employment - not surprising in an organisation that went from circa 70K to 1.1M in a few nanoseconds!

    Old Duffer

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