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Thread: Interpreting rank and duties abbreviations on an RAF service record WWII

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    Default Interpreting rank and duties abbreviations on an RAF service record WWII

    Have my fathers service record on 4 sheets of A4. Initally entered all the dates for promotions, units/stations, etc onto an Excel spreadsheet in chronological order, and over the past 18 months have pieced in much of where and what of his time in the RAF.

    With my own knowledge of bases, units and aircraft, along with help from others have pieced together his service as a Wireless Operator then pilot. Unusually he never served with a 'numbered' squadron in eight and half years as RAFVR. Still trying to match together what he talked about, which was rather little about his wartime flying in the UK, (although open about 'the time of his life' he spent training with 2 BFTS in California) with what his record shows. I'll skip that problem for now and ask about rank and duty abbreviations, a field outside my scope of expertise.

    RANKS

    While RAF ranks are straightforward, his record has additional letters in the abbreviations with which I am not familiar:

    As a Flight Sergeant: I/F/Sgt (or just maybe 17F/Sgt, IZF/Sgt or even 12F/Sgt)
    As a Warrant Officer: T/W/O and earlier as what could be I/W/O, but it could be a very poor 'T'!
    As a Flying Officer: F/O(W) and later as Flying Officer (sub)
    And again as Flt Lt: Flight Lieutenant (sub)
    I gather that the (sub) is substantive ie a permanent rank Post War for RAFVR, but what are the 'I', 'T' and (W) details in rank showing?

    DUTIES

    On his Officer records, under 'duties' there are a series of similar abbreviations, although differ from posting to posting (time period 10/44 to 5/48).

    6 (P)AFU No.6 Pilots Advanced Flying Unit Little Rissington, Oxfords P/SN(P)Supy
    8(O)AFU No.8 Observers Advanced Flying Unit Mona, Oxfords P/GD.S.N.Supy
    2 ACHU No.2 Aircrew Holding Unit P/G.D.p.disp
    6 SFTS No.6 Service Flying Training School Little Rissington/Tern Hill, Harvards P/S.N.Supy Disp
    17 ACHU No.17 Aircrew Holding Unit P/Supy
    30 ACHU No.30 Aircrew Holding Unit P/supy flying
    5 ANS No.5 Air Navigation School Topcliffe, Wellingtons, oxford, Ansons P/staff pilot
    10 AGS No.10 Air Gunners School Valley, Wellingtons P/Staff Nav F/O
    2(P)RFU No.2 Pilot Refresher Flying Unit Valley, Oxfords, Harvards
    C&M Valley Care & Maintenance Valley, Stn Flt Anson P/Staff Nav Fg Off Supy


    As you can see, I've done my homework on unit names, location and types operated. I'm assuming that the P/ is 'posting' rather than 'pilot' and that GD is general duties (whatever they would be). Certainly during his final RAF Valley posting, and possibly for the Aircrew Holding Units he was flying the Station Flight Anson. My question and reason for posting here is the interpretation of duty abbreviations.

    MEDICAL BOARD

    Finally from the columns on his Officer record for Medical Boards are two periods of illness, under 'disability' is illegible Latin, under 'classification' is 'ATBT' and later 'AIB'. Any interpretations?

    Many thanks for any help that can be offered.
    Last edited by Viscount; 21st August 2016 at 18:10.

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    Ranks

    I think the T is probably "Temporary" (and I think your I is probably a T)

    Duties

    Supy = supernumerary

    Medical Board

    I think your medical board categories could be A1B1 rather than ATBT and A1B rather than AIB.

    Are you able to post a copy of the relevant section(s) of the record as an image somewhere so that we can look at it in context?

    I hope this is a useful start

    Regards

    Pete
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

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

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    (w) = War Substantive

    His NCO ranks will be 'Temporary' as suggested by Pete.

    ‘Temporary’ in this context does not mean what temporary means in the normal sense. In the RAF everybody has ‘to somewhere’ and to be somebody’s responsibility in order to be paid, accommodated and fed so they need to be on a unit establishment. As soon as war broke out and the RAF began expanding the normal peacetime establishments were replaced by war-time ‘temporary’ establishments and anyone filling a command post (officer or non commissioned officer) would be classed as ‘Temporary’ Corporal, Sergeant etc. An NCO or officer could then be promoted to a higher ‘Acting’ rank but would revert to their ‘Temporary’ rank if the need for the acting rank ceased. After holding an acting rank for a period of six months, an officer was usually promoted to a war substantive rank.

    I suspect SN is Staff Navigator so P/SN(P)Supy = Posting as Staff Nav (Pilot) Supernumerary. As well as being a pilot he was probably also qualified to instruct navigation.

    General Duties is the officer branch of the RAF/RAFVR which covers all aircrew trades, other branches included Technical, Equipment, Accountant and Medical, further details here http://www.rafweb.org/Organsation/Branches.htm

    Malcolm

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    My father's service record also states that he was 'Supy or Supernumerary' on several occasions. What does this mean in RAF terms?

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    As I mentioned, every unit has an Establishment of personnel but if the unit as more personnel then they are allowed then the extra are classed as Supernumerary. For instance a new flight commander may arrive a couple of weeks before the old one is due to leave so initially he would be supernumerary until his predecessor departed and he was able to assume the actual post.

    Malcolm

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    Thank you. Two words (temporary and supernumerary) explained in the context of the period have opened up my understanding of the later part of my father's record. It would appear that I now have the key to all my issues over rank and duties, with the exception of decoding "disp". I am therefore right in thinking that he would have been posted to the ACHU (Aircrew Handling Unit) as a pilot, rather than awaiting onward posting to a Unit? The time with each ACHU varied from 6 weeks to around 3 months. Certainly at the end of his service he was flying the Station Flight Anson, could he have been earlier than that? Before pilot training he was a radio operator and posted to 1 BAT (Blind Approach Training) Flight and as a pilot was posted to CNS (Central Navigation School) for 10 weeks, but nothing shows on his record if he on a course or flying trainee navigators. He then went onto (as a tug pilot) the Heavy Glider Conversion Unit and then No.1 Glider Training School. He was retained after the war due to large number of multi-engine hours and qualified as radio operator and navigator for eventual transfer to B.O.A.C., but left the Air Force as higher ranks 'pulled rank' when jobs did become available.

    Also while supernumerary has been explained, would a "staff" pilot therefore be one which is officially part of the establishment of the Unit?

    Another small question. After 9 months as a Radio Operator, his record shows 4 weeks at AcRc (but no location) which has been interpreted as the Aircrew Reception Centre at St. Johns Wood. From there, his record shows 9 weeks at 8 ITW (Initial Training Wing) at a Newquay Hotel then directly transported in secrecy (they had no idea where they had been posted to for flight training) to Avonmouth and embarked for Halifax and Moncton en route to No.2 BFTS (British Flying Training School) at Lancaster, California in December 1941. The question is, my understanding is that ACRC at St Johns Wood was for processing fresh entrants into the RAF, he had already been in the Air Force a little under 2 years and by then was already a LAC/Radio Operator.

    Again thank you for providing a 'key' to my understanding ranks and roles.
    Last edited by Viscount; 22nd August 2016 at 23:47.

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    ACHU - Aircrew Holding Units (not 'Handling' as you mention in your above post), were simply a pool of unemployed aircrew marking time until a place could be found for them on the establishment of another unit. These folk were occasionally pulled out for short courses and then returned to the ACHU.
    As a 'Staff Pilot' he would have been permenant staff (as opposed to a trainee) officially held on the establishment of the training unit concerned. The term 'staff' is still in use in British military training units today. Staff Pilots normally ferried the trainees around while they learned their trade in the air.
    Whilst I can not comment on why your father was posted to ACRC after nearly 2 years service, there is a chance that he was 'holding' there for a short time pending his next posting. During that period, I can well imagine him being employed as a 'gash bod', i.e. any rubbish job that needed doing!
    In fond memory of Corporal James Oakland AGC (RMP), killed in action in Afghanistan on 22 October 2009. Exemplo Ducemus.

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    The point about the ACRC is that it was the reception centre for prospective aircrew.
    Assuming he had previously he had mustered as an Aircraft Hand/Wireless Operator i.e., ground crew and was later recommended for pilot training, he would must therefore enter the aircrew selection process which begins at the Aircrew Reception Centre at St. Johns Wood.

    Freshman

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    Viscount,

    My bad. I took the above to mean that he was already a trained aircrew Wireless/Op, not ground crew. Freshmen is bang on about your father's requirement to start his aircrew journey at ACRC.

    Rgds

    Jonny
    In fond memory of Corporal James Oakland AGC (RMP), killed in action in Afghanistan on 22 October 2009. Exemplo Ducemus.

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    How long would a man remain at the ACRC? I have the record of a young man who enlisted at Birmingham on 15 Oct 1942 and, not sure of the date, was recommended for PNB(4) - which I understand to be Pilot Navigator Bomber Training. He subsequently arrived at 1 ACRC (St John's Wood?) on 19 Nov 1942. His next entry is dated 8 May 1943 when he started a 2-3 week AG course at 1 AAS, which was the first element of his Met Air Observer training.

    Thus at some time the PNB recommendation appears to have been rescinded, but would he really have remained at 1 ACRC from Nov 1942 to May 1943? There are no other entries between the two dates.

    Your advice would be appreciated.

    Brian

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