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Thread: Suicides During WWII

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  1. #1
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    Default Suicides During WWII

    I am looking into RAAF deaths by illnesses and accidents at the moment and would like to nkow if anyone knows of any instances where RAAF members in the European theatre committed suicide during WWII?

    And how big a problem was suicide in other air arms?

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    Default accidents and suicides

    I know of at least 2 instances within RCAF 6 group in 1944. 1 suicide under extreme circumstances, shot up a number of times , crew killed, coming home with a severely shotup Lanc, watching friends die in crashes.
    Richard

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    Dean,

    "And how big a problem was suicide in other air arms?"

    It wasn't - a 'big' problem, that is.

    Suicides amongst New Zealand airmen and women who served during WWII total just 4 - i.e. just under a tenth of a percent of all those who died. Only one of the four was aircrew (a quarter of a tenth of a percent), and of the groundcrew one, possibly two, was suffering from a medical condition that was probably of a terminal nature.

    I suspect that the stats for other arms are much the same. There were of course plenty of other options for getting killed at the time...

    Errol

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    Errol

    Interesting analysis and you have certainly got the information to hand to provide it, the only point I have, is that I Suicide was still 'illegal' at the time in the UK (and was until the 1961 Suicide Act) and there was the issue of consecrated ground as well

    Is it possible some suicides (in your list), were written up as 'accidental gun discharge' ? rather than specific stating suicide? or have you taken this into account already

    Paul

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    I know of one particularily sad incident that involved a young Lancaster pilot on a Pathfinder Squadron which demonstrates just how much pressure some men felt. After this pilot had done a number of ops he asked to see the Squadron CO and told him he wanted to be transfered to another type of aircraft where he would not have the responsibility for the lives of a crew, explaining he didn't object to being in combat but he no longer wanted the lives of his crew on his conscience.
    His Commanding Officer missed his point and responded that everyone had fears that they had to overcome and deal with on their own. Being a "press on regardless" type the CO put the pilot and his crew on the order of battle for that night, believing it was something best confronted head on.
    When his crew was taken to the dispersal that night the pilot said he had left something behind, left for the ops block and didn't return. Naturally the CO was enraged when he found out that a crew hadn't taken off and even more so when he found out just who was missing.
    They eventually found his body behind a nissen hut, he had shot himself in the head with his service revolver. Obviously he believed some things were worse than death. It happened on November 11th and that date never passes without reminding me of that pilot and what he was dealing with.
    Dave Wallace

  6. #6
    Scarletspitfire Guest

    Default Suicides

    Can anyone put a name to these poor young people?

    How many WAAFs also chose to take their own lives? I am fairly certain that a very small percentage of single women who found themselves in the "family way" would have opted, or at least considered, taking their own lives. I am not aware of any offical figures around this but it would be interesting to know.

    Regards

    Paul J

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulmcmillan View Post
    Errol

    Interesting analysis and you have certainly got the information to hand to provide it, the only point I have, is that I Suicide was still 'illegal' at the time in the UK (and was until the 1961 Suicide Act) and there was the issue of consecrated ground as well

    Is it possible some suicides (in your list), were written up as 'accidental gun discharge' ? rather than specific stating suicide? or have you taken this into account already

    Paul
    Paul,

    At least five casualties were the result of discharge of firearms. Two occurred whilst on guard duty and appear to have been genuine accidents. Of the others, it is impossible to say if suicide was intened.

    This of course does not alter the main point of my post, which was to show that suicide, though a horribly memorable event, was not a 'big' problem in the overall scheme of things.

    Errol

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    I now have 3 instances where RAAF members took their own life.

    One where an airmen "stepped" from an aircraft, another airman who, as the ORB states, died of self inflicted wounds and a SQNLDR who returned to Australia only for his wife to die months after his return before he died by his own hand.

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    Looking at father's history with RAF Y services in "Torch", I came across the records of another station in the UK.
    Bound in the same volume .Perhaps Beaumanor, Chicksands or some other high intensity WAAF listening post. At the end of every month there was a medical report."4 new cases of Hysteria" was a typical note. Browsing through it got very serious and an investigation was launched.
    I was not researching that at the time so my memories are all I can offer.

    Not Suicide as such, but ill health certainly.

  10. #10
    Scarletspitfire Guest

    Default A Sensitive But Important Matter.

    This Forum, like so many of its kind, is a wonderful resource, full of knowledge, experience and opinions that users wish to share. The subject of Suicide is a senistive one and should be treated with respect. However, as other members have stated, it is important that we record as much detail as possible about individual losses in order that such information is not lost to the passage of time. A great deal of time and effort is often spent in detailing Combat Losses and very often those that perished by Illness, accident or their own hand are forgotten. The loss of every man or woman, whatever the cause, whilst in the service of their country, must not be forgotten. This is the role of the researcher, whatever his area of interest may be.

    This, of course, is just my personal opinion and the opinion of others should be respected.

    Regards

    Paul Johnson

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