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Thread: Yorksire Airfields, 1940

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    Default Yorksire Airfields, 1940

    Hi Guys,

    My Father signed up in June 1940 for the RAF, operational by June 1941 and shot down on 1st July 1941.

    What was the motivatiion to join the RAF, second hand First World War experiances, Battle of Britain (not in play), Dunkirk images, peers envy (Ted Cryer) or the view of aircraft overhead? When were they started to be called up?

    He lived in Drax, near Selby, in Yorkshire. What airfields were operational at this time in this area? Why at this point did he train in this country rather than the Empire training school?

    Ideas guys, plaese.

    Regards,

    Nick

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    Hi Nick

    I live in East Yorkshire and at that time there was Catfoss, Catterick, Leconfield, Driffield, Dishforth, Leeming, Finningley, Church Fenton Thornaby and Linton on Ouse - all operational by early 1940

    Malcolm

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    The Empire Training Scheme took some time to set up. Many pilots continued to be trained in the UK for some time.

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    Nick

    Just some random thoughts:

    My understanding is that the Empire Air Training Scheme (Pilots, Navigators, Bomb Aimers) did not start until April 1940; you did not mention the trade of your father but if he was one of these trades he may have been "too early" for the scheme. The remaining trades were largely UK based training even after BCATP / EATS was introduced.

    Again, my understanding is that conscription (then National Service) was introduced in 1939, so he may well have been called up; as for motivation, I am researching an FE who "volunteered for aircrew" months after he had a baby daughter ... who knows what went through their minds at that time.

    Regards

    Pete
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    How old was your father when he joined up?

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    Conscription for 1939-45 war started in peacetime with the passing on 26 May 1939 of the Military Training Act.

    This was geared at meeting the Army need for large trained reserve but imposed an obligation for all men on reaching the age of 20 to undertake wholetime service in the Royal Navy, Army or Royal Air Force and after that service, serve a specified period in the reserve.

    In practice that meant 6 months in the service then 4.5 years in the RAFVR.

    In AIR 78 you can see index cards marked "Militia" and this initially denoted someone who was given a number from the Militia series
    701000 to 702935 Jly 1939 RAFVR Military Training Act

    but the term Militia was then extended to other service numbers from NSA and direct entry batches where the airman was on one of the prepared lists for those attaining 20 years old in 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942 and 1943.

    The first 12 months of the scheme was intended to allow 12,000 ground crew and 1,200 aircrew to be trained by the RAF under the act.

    When listed as a Militiaman, a man could express a preference for a service and the RAF scheme was over subscribed (33,000 ground expressions and 6,000 aircrew) so strict entry limits were applied to discriminate applicants.

    The first monthly batch of 2000 (actually 1,935 from the service number block) men entered the RAF on 18th July 1939. The next batch was planned for 18th Sept but war broke out before entry and different recruiting methods were in use.

    The National Service Act replaced the Military Training Act on the day war was declared but due to the numbers of volunteers attending RAF recruiting centres and the lack of RAF training facility and equipment call up of eligible men was delayed for the RAF.

    The problems of training actually caused a suspension of RAF recruitment on 21st Sept 1939 but then resumed on 28th Sept with the deferred entry system.

    This six month deferred entry gave the RAF some breathing space until March 1940 to sort out some of the problems in the training organisation.

    The problems in flying training had been present pre war with the RAF Expansion Plans and it was identified that the outbreak of war would collapse the overburdened system and to that end in July 1938 an RAF Officer was despatched to Canada with the intent to gain the equivalent training output of 3 FTS.

    The political problems and monetary constraints in Canada prevented this at the time, but both Aus and NZ expressed a desire to form training alliances.

    The scheme was slowly worked on and in Canada the problems were resolved with the first batch of 17 aircrew starting training in Sept 1939.

    In Aus and NZ effort had been concentrated in creating the training establishments and building the training aircraft and due to the Dominion desire to re-arm their own forces had established a fully working training organisation by Sept 1939.

    May 1939 also saw agreement to training schools in Kenya (shortly abandoned and reinstated in Rhodesia as the RATG) and France.

    The "phoney war" created a false sense of war casualties and it was considered that there would be a surplus of aircrew by April 1940 with those already in training so no real demands were placed on the overseas training schemes.

    In early 1940 it was decided to move Training units away from the Eastern side of the UK to allow front line units to occupy the vacated aerodromes. It had also proved impossible to have operational training done on the frontline units so training courses were lengthened and a new stage for Bomber Command crews of OTU added. All this had the effect of creating a bottle neck in training and wiping out the envisaged surplus.

    During the period Sept 1939 to April 1940 the overseas training schemes had been fully occupied training their own national war volunteers and so were now ready to contribute local trained men to the RAF at home and overseas.

    Reorganisation of Training Command in March/April 1940 led to the requirement of calling for some UK men to be placed through the overseas training schemes to combat UK bottlenecks but lack of security of sea lanes meant that UK training was to continue to provide a UK pool as well as the overseas pools.

    Hence it seems that training overseas only started in April 1940 rather than slowly in 1939 as it actually did.

    The South African Air Force section of the forum shows cadre of Service Flying Training Units being gathered in UK embarkation ports in July 1940, in response to the offer of training facilities by the Prime Minister of South Africa in Dec 1939, wth transfer by sea to South Africa and becoming operational as local SAAF Air Schools in Nov 1940.

    Regards
    Ross
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    Guys,

    Great responses as always and plenty of food for thought.

    He trained to become a pilot and attended Padgate first in June 1940, aged 19.

    The air would have been pretty full of planes at this point, a possibility. At Hendon i looked at Ken Lister's diary who attended the same training units as my Father and he put this down as his main reason for joining.

    I have certainly seen a number of aircrew who joined up before my Father being sent off to Canada for their training but as indicated, this was a dengerous route, crossing the North Atlantic in 1940/41.

    My Father died in 1976 so l will never find out the facts but it certainly gives me a number of options.

    Regards,

    Nick

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    Hi Nick,

    Looking at your father's index card in AIR 78/54_2 it does not show Militia or NSA annotation which confirms your thoughts that he volunteered rather than was called up.

    The chap above him, Kenneth Fenton 1012821 is annotated as Militia but was the same service number entry block at Padgate as your father.

    Regards
    Ross
    The Intellectual Property contained in this message has been assigned specifically to this web site.
    Copyright Ross McNeill 2015/2018 - All rights reserved.

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    Sorry Ross,

    My Father was Kenneth Fenton. Who is it that has the same service number as him?

    Who is either side of him, just checking to see whether they were friends, travelled up there together.

    What else does it show?

    Thanks for your help and regards,

    Nick

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