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Thread: A Real Conundrum Was he an RAF Gunner in the Battle of Dresden??

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    Default A Real Conundrum Was he an RAF Gunner in the Battle of Dresden??

    Hello Everyone. Hopefully I can get to the bottom of a question which we haven't answered. I'll need to tell you a little about my Father in Law before I get to the actual question but you will hopefully see that the background info is relevant.

    My father in Law, we'll call him Bernard, was 12 when WW2 broke out. Having said that he was very big and stocky and seeing how his grandson turned out who is identical to him, could have passed for being a lot lot older. He never went to school and his birth was never registered. His father and he travelled around working on farms and he told us stories about having to trap and catch his own dinner and use a rifle too for that purpose.
    In 1942 either he or his father registered his birth, we never discussed this with him and I only found out accidentally, whilst doing some Ancestry work for my husband. He wasn't the sort of man who would answer many questions about his past and never about the War. We do know that he lied about his age when applying to the RAF and that he was singled out because of his shooting ability. Growing up my husband found Bernard a surly man, very bad tempered and my husband's mum said it was because of the War, but Bernard never talked about it at all. His behaviour certainly sounds like the typical stories you hear about the effects that any war has on people.

    Now to the question. After the War Bernard left the RAF, but apparently re enlisted again and was there until the early 1960s. About 6 months or so before Bernard died, he just completely out of the blue said, I was a rear gunner during the War. I was in the planes that dropped all those bombs on Dresden.When we asked him why he had never said anything about it before, he said because he was ashamed. He wouldn't really answer any other questions after that. Bernard passed away we obviously went through his things we found his RAF enlistment card . At the back it asks if there has been any previous time served in the RAF and there's a line drawn through it, which was the first surprise. We then wondered if he had perhaps used a different name, due to the fact he was underage.

    So first is, we don't know where to begin looking to see of he did serve. Would it have been possible for someone who would in all likelihood have only been in the RAF a couple of years found themselves in a position like that of rear gunner. Would being an expert shot have been enough to get him through, would he needed to have been better educated, he could read and write but that was about it, but he was quite a clever man? Lots of the story just doesn't make sense but why would anyone make up a story like that?

    Well I hope someone can at least point me in the general direction and possibly answer some of my other questions. Many thanks in advance.

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    If you had his real full name you could look him up on air78 files to find service number

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulmcmillan View Post
    If you had his real full name you could look him up on air78 files to find service number
    Thank you. I'll take a look and see what i come up with.

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    Do you have any other papers which might point towards his life in the RAF? His Discharge Book (RAF Form 856) any trace of war medals, photographs etc. Where did he meet his wife, what does the marriage register throw up on that.

    When you get down to the nitty gritty, you need a day at the National Archives and you need to get the RAF Forms 541 out for the squadrons which flew on the Dresden operations and then check the crew lists.

    In his second spell in the RAF, what did he do and have you got his Record of Service for that period. This document will open many doors, at least to the second period.

    Colin Cummings

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oldduffer View Post

    When you get down to the nitty gritty, you need a day at the National Archives and you need to get the RAF Forms 541 out for the squadrons which flew on the Dresden operations and then check the crew lists.

    Colin Cummings

    Hmmm. Not wishing to be a downer, Colin, but that would be a massive task for Clare unless she can obtain a bit more detail to help her beforehand. According to the BC Night Raid Report for the Dresden op, 759 Lancasters took part in the 2 stages of the raid (796 started off), from 1, 3, 5, 6 (and 8?) Groups. It doesn't list the squadrons themselves but if we were to assume say 15 a/c per squadron that would be the ORB's of about 50 different squadrons she'd have to find and look through.

    Still, I hope she is able to find out more in order to resolve this question. I wish her all the best and hope that we on this forum may be able to assist.

    Ian

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    I suggest there is another problem as well, in that there is no guarantee that he used his birth name when, and if, he enlisted during the war. As Clare notes in #1 his enlistment card second time around indicates there was no previous service.

    Brian

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    I don't think that a trawl of the ORBs is a good idea, as has been already stated it would be a massive task and just to add a bit more confusion, I once spoke to a veteran who mentioned that he had bombed Dresden and would never forget the sight of the city in flames, on investigation it transpired he never bombed Dresden but bombed Chemnitz on the same night and the fires were visible from there.

    What would help is the gentleman's name.

    Daz

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyffe View Post
    I suggest there is another problem as well, in that there is no guarantee that he used his birth name when, and if, he enlisted during the war. As Clare notes in #1 his enlistment card second time around indicates there was no previous service.

    Brian
    Agreed. I'd noticed that but forgot to put that into my earlier comment. If 'Bernard' had enlisted and served under a false name in WW2 (could he have done so and got away with that?), and we don't know what name he was using, it'd be impossible to find him even if someone was to trawl through the 750+ crews shown in the different ORBs.

    Tricky!

    Ian

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    I'm seeing a chink in the armour here and wonder if one of the 'ancestry-guru' guys can tell me if I am being naive.
    In post #1, we see that someone registered his birth in 1942. Which name would this be, the real one (as I believe is being assumed) or the false one he must have used if he in fact joined up while underage? If the latter then the DOB is false. This is the point: if he was already in the RAF, or was about to join up, why oh why would anyone register his real DOB?
    Does anyone see an advantage or motive behind this registration? Perhaps to get a ration card or gain other official status, and if so would the subject (i.e. the young person named) have to be present or be in any way verified? Also, wouldn't registering his birth even years late still kick in the full weight of the education bureaucracy that would again require his presence?
    Hopefully those with more experience tracking down underage airmen will tell me I have got it wrong.

    Bruce
    http://www.filephotoservice.co.uk/
    RESEARCH AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES & OTHER UK INSTITUTIONS

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    Hi Bruce

    Trying to do the sums ...

    If he was 12 when the war broke out he would've been born in 1927 (poss end of '26).

    If his dad had his birth registered in 1942 he would then have been 15 or 16. At what age could kids leave school in those days? Was it 15? If so maybe the 'educational bureaucracy' wouldn't have picked him up as he could have been out of 'the system' by then?

    At the time of the Dresden raid he would then have been somewhere around 17 or 18. Maybe adding a year or two for a false DoB perhaps he was claiming by then to be 18-20 yrs old?

    Allowing for a couple of years for RAF basic and aircrew training beforehand (is that duration reasonable?) it looks feasible that he could have joined-up claiming to be 18/19 with an actual age of 17/18?

    Just a thought.

    Ian

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