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Thread: RAF, Second World War - conscription or volunteering?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    Default RAF, Second World War - conscription or volunteering?

    Hi everyone. This is just a short question. I seem to recall reading somewhere that if your ancestor served in the RAF during the Second World War, the chances are that he volunteered rather than that he was conscripted, because if you waited to be conscripted you were likely to end up in the Army. I forget where I read it, but I think I remember it saying that if you knew time in the services was highly likely but you wanted to make sure you went into the RAF rather than the Army, your best bet was to volunteer. Would anyone be able to comment on this? My grandfather served in the RAF and I have no idea whether he volunteered or was conscripted; I've always imagined the latter. Many thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Thanked 7 Times in 7 Posts


    When I was researching this subject, I realised that it is quite a complicated matter, with the Military Training Act, the National Service Act, the Schedule of Reserved Occupations, Postponement of Enlistment etc all affecting the outcome.

    When men had to register for National Service (based on their date of birth) the Act allowed them "to express a preference for Naval or Air Force service", although they were warned that there was no guarantee that preferences would be met. I have no evidence to establish if it was true that if you volunteered before you were required to register you were automatically allocated to your service of choice.

    If you can let me have your grandfather's date of birth I can let you know when he was required to register and if you know when he joined the RAF it may provide you with an answer.


    Last edited by PeteT; 13th February 2014 at 16:09.
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 ( )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (

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

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts


    I'm sorry to chuck another stone in this pond. Very many people joining the British air force in the war joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve - not the Royal Air Force. In addition to the RAF and RAFVR, therefore, there were things like The Reserve of Air Force Officers (RAFO) and the Auxiliary Air Force - not RAuxAF until 1947 (??). The precise bit of the air force and the use of acting, temporary, war substantive and substantive ranks is topic all of its own. Don't go there unless you've lots of free time!!

    Colin Cummings

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