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Thread: Batmen

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    Did every officer have their own batman? Or was this restricted to a privileged few somehow? Did the pilot pay a fee to the batman or was it a perquisite of the position? What all did the batman do? Was it considered a prized assignment or the opposite? Thanks in advance for any info you might have!

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    KR&ACI (King's Regulations & Air Council Instructions, otherwise known as AP 958) have a certain amount of information on this subject, although I only have access to the 1937 edition (amended till August-1941 - it cost 17 shillings and sixpence in it's day!) On home stations, and only when housed in "public accommodation" only very senior RAF officers were permitted more than one full-time batmen (up to a maximum of 3!); mere AVM's, A/C's G/C's and senior Chaplains were permitted up to two; W/C's, S/L's and lesser Chaplains, just one, and very lowly officers (P/O to F/L) could share just one between themselves, but only in "public" accommodation, on "Home" stations (that is, in UK, NOT overseas), up to 3 per batman. I gather batmen were paid a fairly lowly daily pay rate, unskilled airmen, Group V or some such, but the officers utilising their services also paid a nominal sum towards their pay. Services provided probably varied widely, but the lowly officers could use them to polish their shoes, taking their uniforms for in for drycleaning, and returning them, arrange washing of shirts, socks, underclothing, etc, perhaps cleaning out their rooms/huts. These seem rather similar to better quality hotels for "gentlemen" whereby almost identical services were provided for relatively nominal amounts. For senior officers the duties were possibly much wider, and perhaps required a different type of batman, maybe with driving skills as well, to give his "boss" independent mobility, although this purely speculation on my part. I believe that batmen persisted throughout the Second World War, but they may have vanished by now, or perhaps still exist under a different designation and conditions of service. Generally similar conditions probably also prevailed pre-war in the "hot" countries (as well as some perhaps cooler ones), but the KR&ACI also noted that such arrangements were different in other theatres - "Batmen will not be provided in commands abroad unless specifically allowed by establishment" (that is, by authorised strength of station or unit). I'm only "flying on my memory" for these rather vague details, but I am certain other more knowledgeable Board members will soon be on your case. The regulations covering employment of batmen were 858 and 859 (latter gives payments by officers to batmen, being "will be 1s 6d a week subject to the proviso that the total remuneration received by any batman from all the officers whom he is serving shall not exceed 10 shillings a month." In other words, batmen would have quite a bit of trouble in accumulating very large sums of money unless they figured out a better way to really milk the system! Another useful thing to know is the status of a batman. Regulation 858 includes statement (paragraph 4) that "When airmen are employed as batmen they will be selected from the aircraft hands (ACH's) of Group V allowed in establishment for general duties. In no circumstances will airmen of any other trade, airmen undergoing courses of instruction, or apprentices or boy entrants, be employed as officers' batmen." As to eligibility of officers to retain the services of a batman, it was noted (in AP 859, para. 1) that "At home, married officers above the rank of flight lieutenant and unmarried officers, except those in receipt of consolidated or other inclusive rates of pay and/or allowances, will, if occupying public quarters, be provided with the services of either airmen or civilians as batmen in accordance with the following scale; (as noted above), and in nor circumstances will batmen be allowed to officers not occupying public quarters." Other interesting points are that civilian batmen were not to be taken from one unit to another when an officer was posted, that airmen employed as officers' batmen will not be excused reviews, inspections or other important parades, and that they will go through the annual course of musketry and will undergo such other training as the CO of the Station may consider necessary, and that officers of the rank of squadron leader and above serving in home units that are allowed airmen batmen may take their airmen with them when posted to another home unit subject to certain conditions.

    Hope this is of some help, but as you can see, there is not much coverage of batmen serving in "overseas commands", and there also arises the question of "servants" which seemed to be an alternative to batmen when on duty overseas as well as in UK.

    David D
    Last edited by David Duxbury; 6th August 2017 at 21:03. Reason: IMproving accuracy and clarrifying speculation as aooposed to known facts

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    I believe a shortage of men brought about batwomen later in the war and I assume they provided the same services. I believe I read in "Fighter Squadron" by W/C Dizzy Allen that his batwoman provided additional comforts and instruction, voluntarily, I might add! Definitely not in Kings Regulations.

    I wonder if the powers that be were aware of the possible implications of putting young women in close contact with dashing young officers?

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    Interesting subject, but I wonder how widely Batmen/women were utilised throughout the RAF. I mean, in my research into 41 Squadron, I have read every page of the ORB from April 1916-April 1946, plus numerous other reports, docs and ORBs, but I have never come across any mention of the use of such personnel. I appreciate that most groundcrew also seldom rated a mention in the ORBs, etc., but not even in my discussions with pilots, or anything I have read in auto/biographies, have they ever been mentioned.

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    Hi Steve

    Certainly in my day, civilian Mess Servants (which had replaced service Batmen/women) were held on the station establishment working in the Officers Mess and were not allocated to individual officers, being allocated to a number of rooms in the Mess, looking after whichever officers occupied those rooms, so unlikely that they would appear in Squadron ORBs. I assume servicing batting personnel operated under a similar system.

    Malcolm

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    Thank you all, very much, gentlemen! I am writing a novel about a Yank who finds himself with 41 Squadron in late 1939 - 1941. Obviously, Mr. Brew's amazing work, Blood, Sweat, and Courage, is my bible! Sounds like I should just leave out the concept of batmen (which is fine with me). So glad to know of this forum. I'll undoubtedly be back with other questions as I go!

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    Not conclusive obviously, but for the record I've not come across any mention of batmen in 148 (SD) Sqdn in Italy during the period for which I've read through the ORBs, etc (Summer 1944-VE Day).

    Cheers, Pat.

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    David ~

    True or false in the scenario described?: "The lowest rank of Officer qualifying for a Batman was Group Captain."

    War Substantive or full rank?: Please address both possibilities.
    Regular Officer or RAFVR?: Regular.
    Date of interest 1943.
    Place of interest: Algiers, HQ of NACAF
    Reason for asking: The fact that a particular officer would have had or would not have had a Batman will help me whittle down a shortlist of people I'm studying.

    Hoping you can help,

    Chris

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    Chris,
    I presume I am the one being addressed here, but you seem to be misquoting my second sentence, which in fact states that Group Captains (remember this is a 1938, a pre-war publication, although amended up to 1941) were entitled up to TWO full-time batmen at a time. Nowhere did I state that they were not entitled to any. Needless to say, the exact status of the higher reanking officers under discussion (war substantive, acting, VR, etc) is not noted. These publications were all commissioned by the Air Council of the time, roughly equivalent to the current Ministry of Defence, and they apparently did not deem such detail necessary in this particular instance. Anyway, in answer to your particular problem (would he or would he not be entitled to a batman?) is yes, he would be entitled up to two, but only at a "Home" (UK) location; overseas everything was different, and particularly so in wartime, where even senior officers were supposed to "rough it" a bit, but not too much. I have read the biography of AM Sir Arthur Coningham, wartime head of the Desert Air Force, through all his campaigns in North Africa, but I cannot recall any references to batmen anywhere in this volume (by Vincent Orange), but I would imagine that he did not darn his own socks or make his bed! Later on in the Mediterranean he seemed to live in considerable luxury (there is a great photograph of this), but perhaps other books by higher ranking officers serving in this theatre might give more intimate glimpses of their domestic lives.
    David D

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    Hello,

    Sgt Ronald Fontaine (103 Sqn) was during in the beginning of his time batmen to a Wing commander.
    Info from his family;
    In which base that a good question;
    01/1941 N10 SRC
    08/1941 RAF Station Hurn
    After he applied for Air Gunner.

    Best regards

    Rene

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