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Thread: Duties of Air Crew Observer

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    Default Duties of Air Crew Observer

    Please can anyone Explain the duties carried out by A, Air Crew Observer circa 1940 , did the title of Observer change as the WAR Progressed, Basically did the duties of Observer include the use of the Radio set on board an Aircraft ?

    TIA Phill Jones

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    The trade of 'Air Observer' was the only full time aircrew trade at the start of the war, a left over (albeit with a different role) from WW1.

    Observers were basically trained in navigation and bomb aiming and once qualified could fly in a crew in either role. This remained the same through 1941 and into 1942 when the four engine bombers were coming on line in ever greater numbers. A crew might easily have two observers aboard, one flying as navigator and the other as the bomb aimer (or 'Air Bomber' to give him his official title). It was realised that this could not continue and in 1942 the trade was split into dedicated bomb aiming and navigation, those who qualified as the former now wearing a 'B' half wing badge, the others an 'N'. Those Observers still wearing the 'O' were told to relinquish it in favour of a B or N but most refused to do so. I believe the last Observer retired from the RAF in the mid 1950s.

    The duty of manning the wireless was confined to the wireless operator/air gunner, that trade also being split later in the war to dedicated air gunner and signaller.

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    Thanks Airman .

    I had some of this but i needed Some clarification , Bw Phill Jones

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    The last genuine observer I ever saw in RNZAF uniform (and on duty) was in the late 1980s at Wigram RNZAF base (Christchurch, NZ). He was apparently on a "second career" in the RNZAF as a General Service Hand and was acting as a guard at the gate of the said base - he certainly retained his "flying A-hole" badge and was still proud of it!
    David D

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    Default Observer duties

    Hi Phill,
    What clarification are you looking for? I have the excellent Jefford book, "Observers and Navigators and other non-pilot aircrew in the RFC, RNAS and RAF". if you need a specific look-up.

    Alan F

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    Hi Alan ,

    Basically , i was needing to Know what duties An Air Crew Observer did , (Not sure if they were trained in the use of Radio), I have a Observer who Joined the RAF prewar and flew on ops early in the War In 42 He Moved to the TecH branch and his service file shows he was Involved in Signals , He was posted to HQ105 Wg part of the Combined Ops set up it was here that HQSHIP Crews were being formed He was posted to HQ Ship Personnel Unit Holding Unit ,i was trying to establish what role he carried out was it Radio or Radar ?

    Thanks for your Interest

    BW Phill Jones

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    Hi Phill

    Pre-war, officers (pilots) on permanent commissions were expected to specialise in one of a number of specialised skills, one of which was signals. Following training, they could serve on squadrons or other units as Signals officers and in April 1940 most of those qualified in this way were transferred to the new Technical Branch. So your man could have been a qualified pilot acting as the Observer/Navigator and also be qualified in Signals.

    Malcolm

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    Malcolm ,

    Thank you very interesting and thank you for Posting , You learn something New everyday rgs Phill

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    Default Air Observers

    In Aug '34 the trade of Air Observer was introduced, Some were to be sergeants, but most were Corporals. They were 'supposed' to replace the part time Gunners who had been used up until this time. 7 years man service was initially required for this branch. Formal training at this stage was done at Eastchurch in Bombing and Gunnery, the rest of the training was left to their Units. The first AOS was formed at North Coates to provide the eight week observer's course. The reinstatement of the flying 'O' was in Oct '37, around the same time as Navigation courses were added to the Observer's list. In 1938 it was staed that 'the Navigation of the aircraft in war should be carried out y a properly trained observer/navigator'. At that time, many Observers had followed the route, Wireless Operator >gunner > Observer.
    In Sept '39 Observers assumed primary responsibility for Navigation, altho' the standards varied widely, according to their training. Bomb drop training was in a lot of cases, minimal. Badge wearing and pay scales were a complete mess, with the regulations being in an almost constant state of flux. There was a temporary category that was called, 'Radio Operator (air), later to be Observer (radio). This did not last.

    This is heavily condensed from Jefford's book. If you want to really get inside a particular person's role, then I would suggest you need their RoS and a good bit of luck! Hope this helps.

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    Hi 149 Nut ,

    Thank you for this Information , i have a partial ROS and i have been trying to help the Family piece together some gen on the Observers Trade and what he did during his Wartime service but no ROS for his early Training .Only from when he was Posted to his First Operational Sqd, His service No Suggests he enlisted as a boy entrant form July 1922-Jan 1924 .

    Thank you for Posting

    rgs Phill Jones

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