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Thread: RAF 'Civilians'

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    Default RAF 'Civilians'

    In the course of research, I have come across a few aircrew, seemingly flight engineers, who joined the RAF as ground engineers first. Not uncommon a thing, as most flight engineers in the first year or so were drawn from the ground trade.

    However, in more than one case their service numbers have fallen in the block 505001 to 549999, which as far as I can make out, was for civilians joining the RAF from October 1925 onwards. For example, I have one, ground engineer from late 1937, swapped to aircrew 1942, service number 544401.

    Can anyone explain?

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    I am not sure if this answers your question, but flight engineers were not formally introduced until 1942.

    Prior to this, fitters / mechanics were used in the role as "engineers". As an example, 35 Squadron February 1941 ORB's show a number of fitters being trained "on station" as flight engineers for use on the Halifax. Obviously this situation changed when the flight engineer role was formalised and 4 School of Technical Training at St Athan took on the role of training them starting June 1942.

    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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    Hi Pete

    Thanks for the reply. Yes I was aware that 'in house' training took place, also that most early flight engineers were initially drawn from the ranks of ground engineers. But service numbers were issued in blocks, so for example those joining the RAF at Uxbridge would be allocated the block of numbers 101100 to 500500, those joining at Padgate would be allocated 500501 to 700700, and so on, with the block sometimes used up sometimes not. The man I noted (although its happened with others) joined the RAF in 1937 as a ground engineers before switching to flight engineer in 1942. His service number was 544401 which officially was part of a block issued to civilians who joined the RAF from 1925 onwards (the block being 505001 to 549999).

    If the info is right, I'm not sure why he would be given a civilian number if he was a ground engineer RAF.

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    But he was a civilian in 1937 when he joined the service surely, are you thinking that he was only given his service number when he became a Flight engineer in 1942?

    He joined in 1937 (presumably from civilian life, no?) and was given a serial number which was near the end of the block of numbers you refer to above. The number of men joining between 1925 and 1937 would not be that many compared to the massive numbers in later wartime years or in the late 1930's while strenght was being increased.

    That block of numbers contains 44,999 possible airmen, in the 12 years from 1925, that's lets say, 3750 or so men per year that might have joined the colours, that is fairly high I imagine for the peace time RAF, the serial numbers are probably stacked more towards the mid 1930's than the 1920's.

    I expect that batches for Padgate, Uxbridge etc mean 'civilians' enlisting at those locations, the word civilian is not used in the lists.
    http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/sho...ervice-Numbers

    I'm not sure I understand your confusion?
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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    Well everyone joining the RAF would do so from being a civilian, so by definition every number would be classed as civilian. But blocks of numbers were issued to groups enlisting at various places, as well as for former ATC cadets, Boy Entrants and Apprentices, RAF Regiment Instructors (generally Army), those transferring from other branches etc. But the block his number falls into is termed 'civilians' in the RAF. So what were they?

    The block of numbers was used until exhausted or until the scheme/base/entry point was closed. Thus, that block was used by 'Civilians' in the RAF from 1925. I did not say until 1937, only that upon joining in 1937 the number 544401 was the number given to my man. The block could well have been used through the 40s and into the 50s or later until used up.

    You add a link to a thread on here. Taking that, the next block of numbers (550000 to 558000) was for 'Boy Entrants joining from September 1934' (in this case with the final number used being 554027 - IE the block of numbers was not exhausted). Of course every single one was joining as a civilian, but the numbers in that block represented a Boy Entrant.

    So, as the number 544401 was used from 1925 to represent 'civilians', in what way? Obviously not civilians joining the RAF, but it seems to indicate civilians employed within the RAF rather than servicemen.
    Last edited by Unverified 9395; 31st October 2013 at 18:49.

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    It may be worth reading through Ross's thread at: http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/sho...ferred-Service, which I think goes some way to explaining this conundrum.

    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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    Your reading too ,much into the titles in my opinion.

    One could only surely ever get any military serial number upon joining the force from civie street.

    Your man received his number upon joining the RAF, he was a civilian on the day before he joined, the next day, he was a RAF member who was 'previously' civilian. You seem to be thinking he was employed for 1937-1942 as some kind of civilian contractor, when you know he was actually a ground trade engineer.

    The block does not imply the men were civilians IN the RAF, as with all the titles, it refers to where they are coming from, tranfers from Army, boy entrants, the Boy entrants would have upon joining become RAF member, the Army transfer in people, became RAF members. the end result was everyone was an RAF, or RAFVr or what ever.

    Do you have this mans service record? What does it say he did from 1937 to 1942?
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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    Dennis

    I know full well he was not a civilian contractor. He joined the RAF at Uxbridge in September 1937 and was then sent to RAF Cardington the following month before starting his training at No. 3 STT in January 1938. In March of that year he went to RAF Cranwell and then in 1940 to No. 78 Squadron, then 207 Squadron as a ground engineer.

    But as almost all number blocks are allocated to specific groups for a reason (trade, point of entry etc) I am wondering why that block simply was allocated to 'civilians', rather than a depot, trade or whatever. As I say, all who joined (baring transfers from other services) were civilians, be they Boy Entrants or WAAFs etc, so why are there not swathes of number blocks allocated simply to civilians as the huge majority were?

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    Mostly because when that block was allocated the RAF was only taking in civilians, 1925 until most of the way through the 30s was a lean period for the RAF, so civilian entrants were put into almost every role / trade. The only exceptions would be the few people who transferred from either the Army or Navy, as happened on more than a few occasions.
    Alan Clark

    Peak District Air Accident Research

    http://www.peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk/

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    My grandfather joined the RAF in August 1936 as an accounts clerk and was allocated the service number 533809. Later, around 1939, he was recommended for flying training and went on to become a pilot. He was never commissioned so retained the same service number which I believe falls into the block you are discussing.

    Not sure if that helps or hinders your query to be honest but thought it worth throwing into the mix!

    Regards
    Linzee

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