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Thread: Navigators' Watches

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  1. #1
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    Default Navigators' Watches

    Hi, I'm interested in the RAF watches issued to trainee navigators. My father joined the RAF in 1940, and was initially in charge of a barrage balloon. Eventually he was selected for aircrew, and was sent to train as a navigator in Canada.
    Currently pilots/navigators watches appear to be extremely popular - and generally very accurate.
    My father's RAF watch was extremely inaccurate, and he had to take account of it's inaccuracy when plotting positions.
    So I have two queries:-
    1. What watch brands would have been standard issue?
    2. Did the RAF deliberately issue inaccurate watches for training purposes?
    I presume the extra calculations necessitated by using an inaccurate watch would produce better navigators.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Navigators' Watches

    Hello All,
    I realise I am resurrecting a very old thread, however I am very much out of my depth amongst the members here when it comes to tracking down personnel and events so it is nice to find a subject I can contribute on.

    To answer the first point RAF Navigation wristwatches were either the Mark VII/VIIa stores ref 6B/159 or Mark VIII stores ref 6B/234. The latter type having a slightly lower accuracy. Pocket watches were also available.

    The 6B/159 were supplied by Movado, Longines, Zenith, Jaeger LeCoultre, Omega, Ebel and Cyma. In addition there were bare movements from Fontainmellon and Waltham cased in UK made Dennison cases. Various models were supplied at different points during the war, with early watches from Movado, Longines, Zenith, Jaeger LeCoultre and Omega featuring a “Weems” rotating bezel.
    The 6B/234 were either USAAC pattern A-11s by Waltham and then Bulova, or Mark VIIs reclassified.

    It is probable your your father used none of these in training in Canada, as the RCAF had their own 6B/150 by Waltham from 1942.

    I believe the watches were navigation stores items rather than personal kit, in the same way a sextant or similar was. They were signed out of a Station’s navigation store and signed back when posted away.

    With regard to accuracy, I don’t believe inaccurate items were deliberately issued. Frequent checking against a master was part of a navigator’s training and duties. That said, although they are capable of very accurate timekeeping they were small frail mechanical devices subject to vibration and extremes of temperature in use, with the attendant risk of damage.

    James

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