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Thread: Pathfinders

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Default Pathfinders

    Hi , I have a Navigator posted to 7 Sqd Dec 43 , from Pathfinder force Navigational Training Unit RAF Upwood .

    would i be correct in thinking that any member of Aircrew before going to the Pathfinders would have flown a least a tour ? or would those who showed an aptitude gone to Pathfinders once they had applied from Training units ?

    if anyone could assist me with this i would be very grateful

    Phill Jones

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Thanked 6 Times in 6 Posts



    My partner's grandfather went straight into No. 35 Squadron after he completed his training. I am assuming that the crew he flew with (and died with) showed aptitude during their operational training.


    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 ( )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (

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

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Thanked 44 Times in 42 Posts



    Here is what Sean Feast has to say:


    The journey to becoming a Pathfinder differed from one man to the next: some were intent on 'being the best', and trained hard to ensure they came up to the mark; others were naturally gifted or competitive, and saw Pathfinding as the next 'challenge' to overcome.

    Not all were experienced aircrew necessarily, but all were volunteers. The very best from the various training units, for example, could be picked for Pathfinders without ever having first served their apprenticeship with a main force squadron. Others went to main force, and after a handful of trips the pilot or navigator might have caught the eye of the flight or squadron commanders or relevant 'trade' leaders who recommended they try their hand. Spare bods - especially gunners and wireless operators - might be posted in singularly, without even realising they were going to Pathfinder Force.

    The Pathfinder Companion - War Diaries and Experiences of the RAF Pathfinder Force - 1942-1945.
    London:Grub Street,2012.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts


    The late great Hamish Mahaddie was CO of 7 Sqn and subsequently became the PFF 'talent scout', searching out likely candidates who might be coaxed in to joining 8 Group.

    Drifting the Thread slightly - Mahaddie tells how having been to an investiture by the King, he and his friends adjourn for some liquid refreshment. A woman in the pub asks Mahaddie what the medals are that he's wearing, to which he claims to have replied: "Madam, I've not the slightest idea, they were on the uniform when I bought it".

    Colin Cummings

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    SW Wiltshire
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    Some extracts from 1 Group's monthly summary gives a feel for how crews made it into PFF:
    1 Group Summary, October 1943


    156, the Group’s affiliated Squadron, kept up their good work and were again top of the ladder in all subjects. This reflects very creditably on 1 Group, as we have now almost completely manned the Squadron.

    Volunteers are continually required for P.F.F. and any crew that reaches a sufficiently high standard of efficiency is eligible for transfer. Every encouragement should be given to crews to volunteer for this most important and highly interesting operational duty, if they think they can cope with the extra work. Above all, 156 Squadron must be kept on top – we put it there and must keep it there! Station and Unit Commanders must do everything to foster interest among crews in P.F.F. operational activities and make every effort to maintain the supply of first class crews to 8 Group.

    1 Group Summary, November 1943


    The three very good raids on the Big City have proved without doubt that no corner of the Reich large or small, is immune from accurate and concentrated attack, and all targets will be dealt with as Hamburg and the Ruhr were, thanks to the improvement in design use of equipment. It is gratifying to note also that although our targets have been mainly long distance, losses remain at a very low level, which can almost be considered negligible.
    It is now becoming almost routine to announce that 156 Squadron, our affiliated Squadron, are again on top having had a very successful month. It is understood that they may shortly move to Upwood, truly a good move as this is a pre-war station with all attendant refinements.

    It is gratifying to note that last month all our P.F.F. commitments were met by volunteers from this Group… …Squadron and Station Commanders should continue to assist all volunteer crews, as they obviously have been recently. It is regretted that all crews passing out of H.C.U.s who are suitable and volunteer for P.F.F. cannot always be absorbed into 8 Group immediately. They are still regarded as volunteers for the Pathfinders and their documents are marked accordingly – they will be called forward as soon as possible. Their knowledge of Main force operations will stand them in good stead.

    1 Group Summary, January 1944


    For the first time for several months, the news of our affiliated P.F.F. Squadron is depressing. Many of their most experienced and first-class crews have finished their tours and losses have been higher than usual. These included some second tour crews sent from this Group who were reported as showing considerable promise last month.

    Against this, replacements sent by this Group have in several cases been most unsatisfactory and have been returned to us to continue Main Force operations.
    The chief reason for this sorry state of affairs is the lack of experienced crews in this Group, but Squadron Commanders must appreciate that only the best are good enough for P.F.F. The effect of bad marking should be obvious to all concerned. A separate instruction has been issued on this subject by this H.Q. recently.

    We were very sorry to bid farewell to W/C Eaton, D.F.C., during January, when he left to take command of 156 Squadron. We would like to record our appreciation of the outstanding work he put in while in 101 Squadron and 1662 H.C.U.

    1 Group Summary, March 1943


    156 continued operations whilst moving from Warboys to Upwood, which was completed on 5 March.

    At the end of the month 156 Squadron shed one flight to form the nucleus of the new 582 Squadron, also now affiliated to 1 Group. This means an increase in our commitment from 3 to four flights.

    The visits by P.F.F. personnel to H.C.U.s and L.F.S. were a great success, and have led to a surge in applications for transfer to 8 Group. However, crews are now required to gain experience with Main Force before their application can be processed
    *Emphasis mine

    Last edited by Richard; 31st October 2016 at 16:49.

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