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Thread: Commissioning from the ranks - what was the process

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    Default Commissioning from the ranks - what was the process

    Would a Sergeant Pilot who was commissioned from the ranks while midway through a tour of operations be sent off to do some sort of Officer training course and then return to operations or were such courses not bothered with because of the war. I am researching a chap who was commissioned from the ranks in 1941 and there is a gap in his operations of just over a month around the time he commissioned.

    Thanks in advance

    Daz

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    I would say there were many variations on this theme Daz.
    I have read many autobios and normally the recommendation would be made by the NCO's Sqn Cdr - after asking the person if they were interested in a commission (not everybody was),I believe that would normally be followed up by an interview with the Station Commander - if successful most candidates would then go for an interview with the AOC or perhaps another senior Staff Officer if the AOC was unavailable.If time was available the newly Commissioned Officer would perhaps be given a few days off to procure uniform etc.
    In times of maximum effort the candidates would not have gone on a 'knife and fork' course,but later in the war there would perhaps have been more time for such things !

    rgds baz

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    I have just had a quick look in Tom Neil's book 'Fighter in my sights' and he travelled all the way from Montrose down to Cranwell for an interview with AOC Trg Command,there was a Wing Commander present as well.
    There were obviously many variations on the commissioning theme though -
    In 'Sky Spy' Ray Holmes describes going up in front of a commissioning board of 6 Senior Officers (but does not go into details of their ranks).He was then given a day to procure his uniform and returned straight to his sqn at Exeter.

    rgds baz

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    I am aware of one or two RNZAF sergeant pilots serving on attachment with the RAF early in the war (1941/42), and they both seem to have initiated their own commissioning by filling out the appropriate application form addressed to their squadron (or possibly Station) commander, then wait patiently for a reply. One of these sergeants in particular (a staff pilot at an OTU who had already completed an operational tour as 2nd pilot, then captain) became convinced that is own CO was merely sitting on his application, as nothing happened for weeks and weeks. The expectation of all applicants was normally that the CO would consider the application in his own good time, then either advise the applicant that he did not consider him suitable for appointment to the commissioned ranks, or he would forward the application to "higher authority" with his own recommendation, "for their consideration". Much grumbling duly appeared in the diary of the applicant about the tardiness of his own CO and this only ceased when he was finally advised that, after due consideration by a commissioning panel, the decision had been made that he had been recommended for a commission in the GD Branch, etc, but until this decision was published in the Gazette (in his case the NZ Gazette as he was not a member of the RAF), he was to do nothing.
    In the RNZAF "at home" in NZ, however, the process was somewhat different, with Squadron CO's, in consultation with the AOC of the area they were presently serving, would, at some chosen time, prepare a list of likely prospects for commissions, then when this list was agreed, would invite each of the prospects for a personal interview with a local board. These occasions often seemed to be part way through an operational tour in the forward area. From what I can gather, the "prospects" were chosen on the bass of their record of service, number of flying hours, operational sorties, tours, etc, as well as the considered opinions of their own squadron and/or flight commanders, as to their perceived attitude towards their role in their crew, their willingness to participate in operations and their keenness to engage with the enemy. Also considered were their interpersonal skills and their mental maturity, etc., as well as any perceived belief that they were suitable candidates for membership of the Officers' Mess. In other words very similar to the way the RAF system worked, but by purely invitation rather than by personal application. As pointed out in a previous post, some prospects who were chosen by invitation, declined a commission for various reasons. It is possible that the RAF also used the "by invitation" method for choosing prospects from NCO aircrew, probably from air gunners, W/Op A/Gs, air observers or navigators, and F/Engineers, in other words from among those personnel in crews who would not automatically think they were suitable for a commission, so would not apply in the first instance. I think that the RAF would in fact have instituted the "by invitation" method as the RNZAF would have been unlikely to have considered such a thing themselves, as the RNZAF itself was run by the same book as the RAF - KR&ACI's. Something else worth mentioning was that the RNZAF Sgt pilot with the OTU never seems to have completed a face-to-face interview with a panel, or even a single officers, and only learned about anything happening long after the event, which seems strange. However it seems highly likely that the Station CO requested (perhaps written) opinions of him from his immediate superiors, which would also make a much more compelling case for the commissioning board to mull over.
    David D

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    Baz, David

    thank you both for your replies. In the case I was looking at I was trying to understand why there was a gap of a month between operations mid way through his tour and noticed that he was also commissioned during this gap. I then wondered if this month was a combination of some sort of selection process and leave.

    I have come across a number of cases during my research on 78 Squadron and it doesn't seem to me that there was, as you have said, to be any one set process.

    My uncle's service records show that he went for an interview with a commissioning board; I don't know if he applied or if he was chosen. As an Air Gunner he wasn't one of those necessarily considered for commissioning. He was only away for a couple of days, including travel.

    In other cases I have come across individuals who have applied internally within the Squadron and the two men concerned badgered both the Flight Commander and the Squadron Commander. In both cases the applicants were promoted quite quickly, one to Flight Sergeant, the other to Warrant Officer; it seems that both had been accepted by the Squadron hierarchy as a 'good type' and their applications are processed quite quickly. They were both experienced pilots, one having survived a ditching at sea, and both had survived fighter attacks and attacks on heavily defended targets. Towards the end of their respective tours both pilots ask to be screened but are both told to carry on flying. Weeks later the Warrant Officer's commission comes through but the Squadron OC refuses to sign it, possibly because he asked to be screened. The other pilot and his entire crew are killed 2 weeks after asking to be screened.

    In an other case the whole crew is commissioned from Sgt except the pilot who is already an officer and one of the Flight Commanders. The crew are not commission en-masse but one at a time, ironically the order of commissioning seems to be based by their proximity to the Pilot when onboard, the rear gunner being last to get it.

    Daz
    Last edited by 78SqnHistory; 5th January 2017 at 23:46.

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    Yes almost definitely no 'single cap fits all' approach to commissioning during WW2,the British were very pragmatic about the need for more commissioned Aircrew and were far less 'class conscious' than the Luftwaffe about it.
    I think I read an autobio years ago where a Pilots commission came through whilst he was away from his unit on something like an SBA course (Beam Approach) so perhaps a course could explain some weeks away from ones unit.
    As in all walks of life - it is who you know which is sometimes important,and also in the services things may greatly depend on who ones unit commanding officer is - they could influence a commissioning board either way.
    I would imagine there were cases where certain individuals just went through 'on the nod' from Station Commanders as losses might have sometimes overtaken the 'system' and because these were wartime promotions they would not have long lasting effects if mistakes were made (ie not permanent commissions)

    rgds baz

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    I have often wondered how it worked in my father's case as he was a POW when he gained his commission.
    Researching my father's time with 50 Squadron, 97 Squadron, Dulug Luft, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357 and Stalag Luft III.

    http://wallyswar.wordpress.com/

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