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Thread: Trying to solve a mystery...looking for a pilot from my family

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    Default Trying to solve a mystery...looking for a pilot from my family

    Hi everyone, I come to you with my internet cap in hand, as it were, having drawn a blank through all channels I have access to. The members of this forum seem to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of World War Two aviation, and I'm asking for your help.

    I cannot find any record of my grandfather, who recently passed away. All my life I knew him his RAF service was what he talked about and was most proud of, it was an essential part of him. My mother is going to make a formal request of the National Archives but we do not know his service number, rank or squadrons.

    His name was Francis Chapman - he went by Frank, and his nickname was Chappie.

    He was with the RAF in the Second World War and grew up in Yorkshire, England.

    As I was growing up I listened, rapt, to his wartime stories of flying Spitfires early in the war, and later Mosquitos. As he grew older and we entered the internet age, some of the squadron numbers he mentioned and the aircraft/locations we found listed online didn't really match.

    He had mentioned 609, (West Ridings) but I recently purchased a history of the squadron ('Under the White Rose' by Frank Ziegler, published in 1968) which included a complete wartime roster of aircrew, ground crew and some administrative staff, with no mention of him.

    Early War: Spitfires
    Later War: Mosquitos, some mention of escorting Lancasters in 1945
    Three occasions: Lysander, dropping resistance personnel in Europe (I contacted 139 Sqdn; no record)

    Medals (from a photo at a remembrance service in the early 2000s):
    -1939-1945 Star - For service from 1939 to 1945.
    -WW2 Air Crew Europe Star - For aircrew who flew missions over Europe during the war.
    -Africa Star (North Africa 1942-1943 bar)
    -Defence - for members of the armed services who defended Britain.
    -War Medal - For service during the War.
    -Belgian Medal of the Armed Resistance (Médaille de la Résistance) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medal_of_the_Armed_Resistance_1940%E2%80%931945 (a very confusing one)

    He also mentioned that he was involved in a bad crash very close to the end of the war; while flying a Mosquito with a navigator/copilot by the name of Burt Haines (spelling not confirmed) he was hit by flak over Germany but attempted to make it back to the UK. On approach there was confusion, they hit a larger american plane, which caught fire and killed the crew; they crashed, Burt Haines was killed, and my grandfather was thrown free but sustained a massive number of broken bones, and was in traction for a very long time.

    I know this is a lot of information. I have searched for almost all of the above, cross-referencing squadron numbers with the abstracts of combat reports from the National Archives, and have come up blank.

    If there is any resource you can recommend or point me toward, I'd be very grateful. At this point I would just like to know the truth.

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    Hi Kidsturk,

    welcome here.

    Well there is no info which may help us to identify him - do you have his RAF Service number? NCO or Officer?
    Do you know his ranks? From the story it looks he must be officer by the end of WWII but I have not luck searching for him in LG - you can try it: http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/search.

    The best way for you is to write to RAF Cranwell for his RAF Service Record - info can be found here:

    http://www.raf.mod.uk/links/contacts.cfm

    The fee is 30 GBP.

    HTH

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Thanks for the welcome.

    We're planning on going through the full channels, but come up against the same problems of not knowing rank or service number. I was wondering if there were any searchable combat logs/operational logs or even rosters that might contain a mention; I've seen individuals discussed at length on here. If things aren't structured that way to be searched for names then it was worth a shot!

    The searching I've done included looking for 'Chapman' in the National Archives and then cross-referencing the squadrons to his known aircraft types, but to no avail.

    Thanks for the response.

    (I should also say I've scoured the London Gazette...found great uncles but no grandfather)
    Last edited by Kidsturk; 17th June 2013 at 14:17.

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    Could try an Air 78 lookup to find Service Number

    What was his Full name ? (including middle names) and location and date of birth

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulmcmillan View Post
    Could try an Air 78 lookup to find Service Number

    What was his Full name ? (including middle names) and location and date of birth
    Francis Chapman is his name on later life documentation.
    He had no middle names. Without wanting to be deliberately difficult, but the year of his birth is suspect, and is either 1921 or 1923.

    He was born in Yorkshire, England, on May 15.

    He gives his age as 27 on his 1950 marriage certificate (I just received this in the mail last week) which would have him born in 1923, BUT we can only find one Francis or Frank Chapman born in Yorkshire in the right time period, and it's 2 years prior to that. In the Yorkshire Birth/Marriages/Deaths we find a Frank Chapman born in York East in 1921. (Reference YKE/45/10). This would jive with someone old enough to fly with the armed forces in the early war.

    Air 78 lookup...the national archives site appears to be down for maintenance...do you have a link handy?

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    Air 78/30


    http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/Details?uri=C4004611

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    Free BMD gives the following (any of them ring bells?):-

    Births Sep 1915 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Smith Bridlington 9d 666

    Births Jun 1916 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Chapman Leeds 9b 579

    Births Jun 1918 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Chapman Stockton 10a 160

    Births Dec 1918 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Fletcher Eton 3a 1235

    Births Dec 1920 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Queeney Prescot 8b 1305

    Births Mar 1922 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Grey Dover 2a 2029

    Births Dec 1922 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Wilding Liverpool 8b 249

    Births Mar 1924 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Dell Barrow F. 8e 1118
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Resmoroh View Post
    Free BMD gives the following (any of them ring bells?):-

    Births Sep 1915 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Smith Bridlington 9d 666

    Births Jun 1916 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Chapman Leeds 9b 579

    Births Jun 1918 (>99%)
    Chapman Francis Chapman Stockton 10a 160
    A few of those are Yorkshire - and if there's one thing I can be sure of, the man was from Yorkshire (as any Yorkshireman will never tire of telling you) but as I said, he listed his age as 27 in 1950 (born 1923). Hence my belief that the 'Frank Chapman' we find in Yorkshire, born in 1921, is more likely to be him. I've no idea why he'd lie about his age (but he was marrying my grandmother, who was just 20 years old at the time).

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    There is a Francis Chapman 854492 which is an Auxiliary Air Force serial number, but If born 1923 would make him very young....

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulmcmillan View Post
    Air 78/30


    http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/Details?uri=C4004611
    Superb. Downloading now, will report back.

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