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Thread: Question for Canadian Members

  1. #1
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    Jul 2014
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    Default Question for Canadian Members

    My great uncle Donald "Ted" West flew with the 405 Squadron when he was shot down and became a POW. After the war he stayed in the service and flew with the 121 Communications and Rescue Flight when he was killed in a helicopter crash in April 1955. My question is, did service numbers change if a pilot stayed in the service after the war? His service number was J/15732,during the war but is 41440 at the time of his death. Did they have to re-register? I've put in a request for his service record but have been told that it could take up to seven months.



  2. #2
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    Jan 2012
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    This may be more information than you asked for; however, it may be of interest to other readers, as well.
    The following is what I have on RCAF Personnel Numbers:


    The Royal Canadian Air Force was created as a permanent force on 01 April 1924. At that time there were two main types of Personnel Numbers:

    OFFICERS - whose Personnel Numbers began with a “C” (C.1 was J.S. Scott (a founding member of the RCAF). C.111 was A.D. Ross (who joined about 1928). The "C" Numbers were allocated to both Regular and Non-Permanent (later Auxiliary) Officers.

    OTHER RANKS - were allocated a simple Personnel Number without a letter (C.M. Gale, for example, as a mechanic, had number 448).

    Originally, the “Other Ranks” numbers denoted where they had been enrolled – Nos. 1 to 199 were for personnel enlisted via Air Force Headquarters and the RCAF Photo Section, both in Ottawa. 201 upwards were from Station Vancouver. 401 and up were originally from Station High River. 601 upwards enlisted in Winnipeg. 801 upwards at the RCAF Technical Depot, Ottawa. 1001 upwards were from Dartmouth. 1201 upwards, Camp Borden. Additional blocks were added as the RCAF grew. Airmen in the Auxiliary had an "A" added to their number, e.g.: (4023A).

    The original “Other Ranks” who later proceeded overseas during World War Two had a "Can" added to their number to distinguish them from RAF personnel. So, C.M. Gale (noted above) went overseas and became Can 448 C.M. Gale.


    WORLD WAR TWO – OFFICERS - Prewar Officers (like J.S. Scott) retained their "C" numbers, and other Officers continued to receive "C" numbers. Most of these were in non-flying trades (Administration, Flying Control, Link Instructor, Medical, Marine Branch, etc.). However, a number of Aircrew continued to receive "C" numbers. These included men with

    (a) prewar flying experience (such as former bush pilots and Americans who already had flying experience). An example would be Squadron Leader John Hone, a very experienced prewar pilot who received number C.1294.

    (b) former Royal Air Force officers transferring to the RCAF, 1943 to 1945

    (c) Flight Engineers.

    WORLD WAR TWO - OTHER RANKS – The RCAF Special Reserve was created by Order-in-Council on 14 September 1939. Soon afterwards, "Other Ranks" were enlisted with an "R" number, also known as an “Enlistment Number” which they kept unless Commissioned. Thus, J.E. Abbey enlisted 20 January 1941 with number R.82627).

    WORLD WAR TWO - 1940 ONWARDS - Enlistments from early 1940 onwards had to wait until they had “earned their wings" before being either promoted to Sergeant or Commissioned Officer. If Commissioned, they received a "J" number (remember, this did not apply to Flight Engineers), regardless of whether the Commissioning was immediate or later in their career.

    To go back to J.E. Abbey, enlisted 20 January 1941 as R.82627 - upon being Commissioned he received a new number - J.86037.

    WORLD WAR TWO - OTHER NUMBER PREFIXES - There were several other prefixes allocated to limited numbers of personnel. These were:

    H - Air Cadet Officers (Air Training Corps to many readers)
    K - Airmen (other ranks) with previous Air Cadet training.
    L - Airmen (other ranks) with previous University Cadet training.
    O - Prisoners of War. Added to a previous number so that R.58959 became O.R.58959 (most often used by next-of-kin writing to family members who were POW).
    U - University Cadets.
    V - Commissioned Officers in the RCAF Women's Division.
    W - Non-Commissioned personnel in the RCAF Women's Division.
    Z - Wartime Auxiliary Services supervisors (YMCA, Salvation Army, etc.).


    The RCAF was reorganized and as of 01 October 1946. Almost everybody got a new Service Number. Exceptions were pre-war Officers and Other Ranks. Otherwise, everybody with a former "R" or "J" number received a new number. All the women had been released by 1947, and when recruiting of females resumed (about 1951) they received ordinary numbers with no prefixes.

    Subsequently, upon unification of the Canadian Forces in February 1968, all Personnel were identified by their nine-digit Social Insurance Number (SIN).


    After the Armed Forces were unified in February 1968 there were RCAF Personnel who had used as many as four Service Numbers in his, or her, career:
    1. – a wartime Other Ranks number, also known as an Enlistment Number.
    2. - a wartime Commissioned Officer number.
    3. - a post-October 1946 re-assigned number.
    4. - a post-February 1968 Social Insurance Number (SIN).

    Credit belongs to C.S. Neill, Military Collectors Club of Canada (member 1219)
    Last edited by grounded; 24th July 2014 at 15:47. Reason: include credits

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    Thanks Grounded and Mr Neill,

    There can never be too much information. I have learned more in the last two weeks than I ever expected. Glad I used his 'new' service number when I applied for his file, although I'm sure that it must be cross-referenced with his old number.

    Thanks again.

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