The question in the title was recently raised by the widow of a decorated Battle of Britain hero, who went missing in action. A grave has been found that is most likely his. An identity claim application was submitted, and rejected two years later. Additional evidence was said to be needed. This was produced within a week, when it became clear what the officials wanted to see demonstrated too.

That did not lead to a swift closing of this case. It went back to the bottom of the pile. This was called "fairness to the other cases", and all that could mean a new verdict no sooner than two years from now. By then the widow may no longer be alive to be given the closure that she desires and richly deserves, and that clearly seems to be within reach. I could do little more than to express my concern with the work capacity of the officials involved.

The production of this, and any other, identity claim application took quite some time. This was caused mainly by some of the relevant archives being kept closed to us. Not only in England, but also in France. The evaluation by the officials of the claim application produced the data we were denied to see earlier. Once this data had surfaced via this less-than-efficient way, we could use it and act as needed. This clumsy procedure sees to it that matters that could be dealt with in weeks in fact take years. With this procedural speed, it shall not be long before there is no next-of-kin left to rejoice about new facts, after having been told for decades that there was nothing more to tell.

There are two archives that are of key importance to air war researchers interested in missing-in-action cases: The RAF Casualty Files, kept at Hayes by RAF AHB, and the CWGC archive. The first is classified to the year 2040, meaning no public access. Classification is, fortunately, fuzzy: document contents can be shared with next of kin of casualties, and with official parties, such as the MoD.

The CWGC archive is not classified, but not accessible by the public either, as a result of its level or lack of system, and currently as a result of matters being digitized. This last statement brings hope, but it shall no doubt take considerable time before we can profit from that.

It has been stated that RAF AHB is in the process of transferring - parts of - the Casualty Files to the National Archives, meaning a declassification and public accessibility. The director of RAF AHB has been asked, if only parts are to be transferred, about the selection criteria.

In air war research spheres, ways have been developed to try and deal with this secretive situation. Bottom lines are that good contacts are needed, that these contacts are to be safeguarded from interference from the uninitiated, that infomation is thankfully received after having been given in acts of benevolence, and that we should not make too many noises about all this. We even feel content if we managed to get a scrap of classified information.

I subscribe to all this, for lack of better ideas. This obedient incrowd strategy has proven to be productive, to a degree. But I also believe that occasionally louder noises are needed. Frankness is not a bad thing. Surely voices should not be raised against the servants doing their jobs. They are not in control of these matters; they function as prescribed by higher offices. I welcome any views from visitors of this forum, about where and how our voices should be raised, so that, as a first target, RAF AHB, CWGC, and the applicable MoD staffs shall be doubled by those who are in the power to do so. If we cannot access these parts of our history, then how are we to learn from it? If we cannot learn from the past, which is a faculty posessed even by animals, then how are we to prevent making the mistakes of the past? We should demand to be treated by our Governments as adults, having a right to know our common history.