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Thread: Pathfinder badge criteria

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    Default Pathfinder badge criteria

    Hi all

    I'm looking to establish where the criteria for the temporary/permanent award of the Pathfinder Badge was formally written?

    i.e. the number of Pathfinder Ops required to be flown in order to be awarded and any other relevant criteria.

    AMO A1244 (1942) mentions certain detail, but not the actual number of Ops requirements.

    I have looked and spoken to numerous resources, yet have drawn a blank. It appears in certain books and websites - I am looking for the primary (official) source.

    I would have though this would have been easily accessible, yet seems not.

    Thank you in advance.


    Nick
    Last edited by Nick Budd; 8th September 2017 at 12:49.

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    In 8 Group I believe the temporary award was up to the Squadron Commander. At 109 Squadron crews generally were there 3 months before being granted the temporary badge. An example is Robert Palmer VC DFC & Bar. He was posted in on Jan.23rd 1944 and granted the temporary badge April 28th. My father and 5 others were posted into 109 Squadron on April 1 1944 and all six were granted the temporary badge between the 22nd and 31st of July. In my father's case he had flown 31 operations with the squadron in that time. The permanent award was only given at 109 Squadron as men were finishing their tour of ops. I have looked a few Lancaster crews with 582 Squadron and it seems it was around 10 ops they received the temporary award. They spent a lot more time in the air than a Mosquito crew so maybe that is also a factor. What are the details mentioned in AMO A1244?

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    Hi Nick, I have an instruction on file dated Jan '43 on the role of PFF (for some reason, no AIR14 ref but original ref is CS.16226). The final paragraph covers the PFF badge and states 'Details of this badge, which is awarded by the AOC of the Group concerned, will be found in AMO A.1244/42.' Unfortunately, I don't have the AMO.

    There was no set criteria for award - it is up to the AOC. For eg, PFF Instructions (edition 4, 23 Dec 43 - AIR14 2726) says (emphasis in original) 'A Qualified Path Finder Crew is one which is permitted to undertake finding, illuminating, marking or backing-up duties. It does not necessarily mean that they have been awarded the Path Finder Force Badge although this qualification is held by most of them.'

    Gordon Musgrove, in his book 'Pathfinder Force' says (p9): 'Harris had intended to honour the Raid Leaders by giving them a special badge, and he now proposed that members of the Force should be honoured in a similar manner. When they became proficient they were to be awarded the honour temporarily, and this would entitle them to wear the 'Air Force eagle' below their ribbons. Provided they maintained that proficiency they were later awarded the badge permanently, which meant they could wear it after leaving the Pathfinder Force. There were numerous incidents of airmen being charged by the Provost Marshal's office for being incorrectly dressed and Group Commanders ordering them to take the badge down once they had left the Force. Bennett championed their cause and eventually Bomber Command issued a reminder to all Groups that the King had approved the badge and it was awarded on Air Ministry Order - even Air Vice-Marshals had to respect AMOs.' There's a footnote to the effect that there was a battle after the war to 'ostracize the badge', a move successfully fought off by PFF Association after a 'prolonged and bitter struggle.'

    HTH,

    Richard

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Wallace View Post
    In 8 Group I believe the temporary award was up to the Squadron Commander. At 109 Squadron crews generally were there 3 months before being granted the temporary badge. An example is Robert Palmer VC DFC & Bar. He was posted in on Jan.23rd 1944 and granted the temporary badge April 28th. My father and 5 others were posted into 109 Squadron on April 1 1944 and all six were granted the temporary badge between the 22nd and 31st of July. In my father's case he had flown 31 operations with the squadron in that time. The permanent award was only given at 109 Squadron as men were finishing their tour of ops. I have looked a few Lancaster crews with 582 Squadron and it seems it was around 10 ops they received the temporary award. They spent a lot more time in the air than a Mosquito crew so maybe that is also a factor. What are the details mentioned in AMO A1244?
    Hi David

    Thanks for the response. It certainly appears that there was an arbitrary element to the issuing of the temporary award. I have seen 15 being referred to, but have also seen similar numbers to your Father's. If it was down to the Squadron Commander it makes sense to see differences. It does not make sense, that it should be so arbitrary in the first instance though, given the known bureaucracy of the RAF.

    I feel this is going to be yet another tricky question to get a definitive answer.

    Best


    Nick

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard View Post
    Hi Nick, I have an instruction on file dated Jan '43 on the role of PFF (for some reason, no AIR14 ref but original ref is CS.16226). The final paragraph covers the PFF badge and states 'Details of this badge, which is awarded by the AOC of the Group concerned, will be found in AMO A.1244/42.' Unfortunately, I don't have the AMO.

    There was no set criteria for award - it is up to the AOC. For eg, PFF Instructions (edition 4, 23 Dec 43 - AIR14 2726) says (emphasis in original) 'A Qualified Path Finder Crew is one which is permitted to undertake finding, illuminating, marking or backing-up duties. It does not necessarily mean that they have been awarded the Path Finder Force Badge although this qualification is held by most of them.'

    Gordon Musgrove, in his book 'Pathfinder Force' says (p9): 'Harris had intended to honour the Raid Leaders by giving them a special badge, and he now proposed that members of the Force should be honoured in a similar manner. When they became proficient they were to be awarded the honour temporarily, and this would entitle them to wear the 'Air Force eagle' below their ribbons. Provided they maintained that proficiency they were later awarded the badge permanently, which meant they could wear it after leaving the Pathfinder Force. There were numerous incidents of airmen being charged by the Provost Marshal's office for being incorrectly dressed and Group Commanders ordering them to take the badge down once they had left the Force. Bennett championed their cause and eventually Bomber Command issued a reminder to all Groups that the King had approved the badge and it was awarded on Air Ministry Order - even Air Vice-Marshals had to respect AMOs.' There's a footnote to the effect that there was a battle after the war to 'ostracize the badge', a move successfully fought off by PFF Association after a 'prolonged and bitter struggle.'

    HTH,

    Richard
    Hi Richard

    Thank you for the info. Really interesting that there were no set criteria from your understanding.

    AMO A.1244/42 says;

    The badge is to be awarded to qualified personnel (both officers and airmen) on posting to a Target Finding Squadron for aircrew duties or, in the case of personnel not fully qualified at the time of such posting, on becoming so qualified. The badge will continue to be worn by any individual to whom it has been so awarded if he is posted on completion of an operational tour or if he is prevented from completing such a tour by reasons of wounds or other injuries sustained on an operational flight. Otherwise the badge will be withdrawn when the holder ceases to be employed on aircrew duties in a Target Finding Squadron.

    The badge is to be awarded by the AOC of the group concerned. The award and the relinquishment of the badge is to be promulgated in unit personnel correspondence reports.


    So, nothing on the specific criteria for the award I terms of Ops (as I originally posted). Yet, PFF tours are documented as being originally 60 ops, Gordon Musgrove says 50 Ops, which we now accept were reduced to 45 Ops.

    I am struggling to accept that the award of such a sought after badge would not have written specification with regards to ops flown.

    To add grist to the mill, 614 pathfinders in Italy worked to a different tour criteria than the PFF.

    I had missed the note on the post-war attempts to 'ostracize the badge' - have we got an understanding on why that was?

    Thanks again


    Nick

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    Further to Richard's response, it is interesting that the complete wording in the Path Finder Instructions (Edition 4, 23 Dec 43 - AIR14 2726) states:

    'A Qualified Path Finder Crew is one which is permitted to undertake finding, illuminating, marking or backing-up duties. It does not necessarily mean that they have been awarded the Path Finder Force Badge although this qualification is held by most of them.

    Qualified Path Finders may be sub-divided into the following categories and may qualify for the Path Finder Force Badge as follows (1) Backers Up (2) Blind Markers (3) Visual Markers.

    Squadron Commanders must maintain a roll of the crews falling into each category"

    Just to add another spin on this, the wording "It does not necessarily mean that they have been awarded the Path Finder Force Badge" uses the word "THEY" in the context of "A Qualified Path Finder Crew" (ie it does not read "It does not necessarily mean that "each member of the crew" has been awarded the Path Finder Force Badge"). Could this mean that the original thoughts were to allow a complete crew to wear the badge once they had qualified (ie irrespective of the number of sorties flown)

    Regards

    Pete
    Last edited by PeteT; 9th September 2017 at 16:45.
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by PeteT View Post
    It is interesting that the wording in the Path Finder Instructions continues with the words "Qualified Path Finders may be sub-divided into the following categories and may qualify for the Path Finder Force Badge as follows (1) Backers Up (2) Blind Markers (3) Visual Markers. Squadron Commanders must maintain a roll of the crews falling into each category

    Just to add another spin on this, the wording "It does not necessarily mean that they have been awarded the Path Finder Force Badge" uses the word "THEY" in the context of "A Qualified Path Finder Crew" (ie it does not read ""It does not necessarily mean that "each member of the crew" has been awarded the Path Finder Force Badge"). Could this mean that the original thoughts were to allow a complete crew to wear the badge once they had qualified (ie irrespective of the number of sorties flown)

    Regards

    Pete
    Hi Peter

    Interesting thoughts on the use or wording. I find the wording used on this subject pretty ambiguous on occasion, although when first read it appears quite the opposite.

    The piece re the pathfinder role criteria equally interesting - what was the date of this text please?

    Best


    Nick

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    Nick

    I have updated my post (a) so that it flows better (b) to include the date of the instruction

    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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    Quote Originally Posted by PeteT View Post
    Nick

    I have updated my post (a) so that it flows better (b) to include the date of the instruction

    Regards

    Pete
    Hi Pete

    Thank you. Given this was written some 16 months into the lifecycle of the PFF, I would presume it was well-worn practice, yet this is the first I have seen the sub-categories being used.

    The subject of pathfinding almost seems an oxymoron, given the seeming confusion over some of its topics!

    Have a good evening!


    Nick

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    A bit more digging. There was an AOC's conference at HQ Bomber Command on 6 August 1942 (AIR14/1222), the minutes don't answer the exam question but they throw a sidelight perhaps:

    (1) PATHFINDER FORCE

    The C-in-C stated that the question of higher rank for this Force was still being argued with the Treasury. It had, however, now been agreed that the promotion should not be automatic but by qualification, ie, the completion of 15 sorties for promotion to F/Lt or F/Sgt, 20 sorties for S/Ldr or W/O, 25 sorties for W/Cdr. OTU direct entrants will not be regarded as Pathfinders until they have completed 15 satisfactory sorties.
    [...]
    The C-in-C then referred to the Badge to be worn by members of the Pathfinder Force - a gilt eagle worn on the flap of the left-hand pocket. This had been approved on submission to HM The King, but a fresh submission would have to be made to obtain his approval of the Badge being retained after leaving the Force by those who had completed the full tour, or who left early because of receiving wounds in action.
    This confirms Gordon Musgrove's comment that Harris originally suggested the eagle badge for his 'Raid Leaders' concept. This transferred to PFF on formation, by which time the groundwork was completed with HM The King. Its award seems to be based on a CO's or the Group Commander's assessment of 'leadership'. 'Profficiency' was a different matter, and qualifications were through stringent trade testing (starting with the difficult two-week navigation assessment at NTU). Promotion was time-based.

    HTH,

    Richard

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