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Thread: Commonwealth Service Numbers

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    Default Commonwealth Service Numbers

    Dear All,
    I realise that I am committing a heinous crime in this post by ASSUMING!
    Can I assume that at the outbreak of WW2 the Dominion status countries (Australia, Canada (except Newfoundland) and New Zealand) Air Forces kept their own Service Numbers - even when serving with RAF Units? (except when citizens of those Dominions volunteered for Service direct into the RAF) And can I further assume (double crime!!) that those countries who then only had Colony status, that their Air Forces (or personnel) were absorbed into the RAF, and given RAF numbers?
    This has come about from a previous post on the S Rhodesia Air Force personnel who volunteered for RAF service being given different numbers from their own SRAF numbers.
    I do not wish to let loose another 'hare' to be chased but I would like to see if there is a consensus of opinion amongst The Experts. If you pull up (80000) on the LG you will see a whole mob of SRAF blokes coming into the RAF with new numbers. Unfortunately, in those days, the LG does make it entirely clear into which Branch these guys were being Commissioned. I've found our Met blokes by dint of chasing their numbers and seeing when they reverted to SRAF service.
    And what of the Royal Indian Air Force personnel?
    I suspect that this is yet another "minefield", and that there are conflicting theories!
    Any help will be gratefully received.
    Yrs Aye
    Peter Davies

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    Hi Peter,
    I'm no expert (learning all the time thanks to this wonderful board and its members), but most certainly Australian air force personnel kept their service numbers: a glance at any page of the ORBs for 463 and 467 squadrons shows crews comprising RAAF and RAF members having the two different types of numbers, the Aussies' being preceded by the letter "A".
    Regards
    Max Williams

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    Max, Hi,
    Tks yrs. At least we are part of the way there. I realise that we are using non-PC terms here (like Dominion/Colony, etc) but we are researching THEN not NOW! I posted late-afternoon UK time. I expect that when our Antipodean colleagues rise from their 'scratchers' we will, hopefully, receive more intelligences from Down Under.
    As I said earlier, not A Big Problem, but if/when chasing other things one knows the likely S/N scenario then the chase will be that much easier!
    Ah-Ha! - I hear the PC Police knocking at the door!!
    Tks again
    Peter Davies

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    Default Canadian service numbers

    Peter;

    From memory, the RCAF used its own service numbers, and issued new numbers when a person was commissioned. Canadians in the RAF in an RCAF uniform would retain this number. Canadians entering directly into the RAF, as you said, would receive RAF numbers.

    There was a post on the old board that explained the RCAF numbers in more detail, maybe somebody more computer literate than me can find it. Again from memory,you can get some information about time and location of service entry from the number. By the way, the Canadian Army used a similar numbering system to the RCAF, which can also be decoded for time and general location of entry. This probably results from the RCAF being run as a branch of the Army for its first few years. My father (ZC10171, 30 years in the RCASC) always said that was the way it should have stayed.

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    Hello

    What I'd like to add is it depends what was the status as such. Many transfers occured during the war, from RAF to RNZAF and so on. Before the war, many young men from the DOminions signed for a Short Service Commission in the RAF. During the war, many expressed the wish to be transferred to the Air Force from their Country. So if we talk about Short Service Commissions, they must have received a new service number when the transfer occured.

    Regards

    Phil

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    Peter,
    No doubt Errol will soon provide a more concise narrative of events, but you seem to have it about right so far as RNZAF personnel are concerned. The RNZAF began assigning AIRMAN ONLY numbers in late 1938 (but WITHOUT the later "NZ" prefix), although Officers remained un-numbered until all remaining officers without numbers were allocated "NZ" numbers in a new series commencing at NZ2501 in October 1941.
    Shortly after the outbreak of war, an "A" prefix was introduced, presumably to differentiate the "Duration of Wa" volunteers from the peacetime "Regulars", and an "R" Prefix was also introduced at about this time for men recalled from the Reserve.
    In late August 1940, ADO A.95/40 dated 28/8/40 introduced the "NZ" prefix which henceforth clearly identified such airmen as members of the RNZAF for the duration of the war, as RNZAF numbers duplicated RAF numbers to a great degree (as was the case with RAAF numbers). Note that an ADO (Air Department Order) was the local equivalent of an AMO (Air Ministry Order). Unfortunately the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website incorrectly shows RNZAF numbers WITHOUT the "NZ" prefix in many cases, which thus causes endless confusion to people using this most useful resource (and likewise commits the same disservice in the case of many RAAF personnel with their "AUS" prefix). These Prefixes was NOT optional, were compulsory and intended as an integral part of the identification number so as to specifically prevent such confusion.
    A further slightly unusual aspect of RNZAF wartime service numbers was the decision to retain the original enlistment number of all wartime airmen (that is, NOT officers) when they graduated and were subsequently commissioned under the Empire Air Training Scheme. This mostly affected pilot graduates in the first instance, as few Observers or Air Gunners were commissioned on graduation. However as the months rolled by, commissioning from the ranks of graduated NCO Observers and Air Gunners gradually increased the total numbers of commissioned aircrew personnel. The same situation prevailed within the RAAF. The RNZAF Order which spelled out this policy was ADO A.145/40 of 11/12/40, at which time no RNZAF aircrew trainees had graduated from the Canadian EATS schools, although several hundred Pilots, Observers and Air Gunners had graduated from New Zealand schools, and a greater proportion of the latter had proceeded direct to the United Kingdom on attachment to, and for service with, the RAF. Many people assume that only Canadian RNZAF graduates were catered for under ETAS, but in fact the RAAF and RNZAF had argued very strongly in November/December 1939 that a good proportion of the advanced training of pilots at least be carried out within their own schools under the scheme, and this was eventually accepted.
    As noted earlier, all the prewar Territoral AIr Force and Regular officers had no actual service numbers until they were brought into the scheme in October 1941. The NZ1001 series was retained postwar, and had reached NZ2535 by January 1949, at which point an entirely new system for numbering all three of New Zealand's armed forces was introduced.
    The requirement for the "NZ" prefix lapsed postwar, although I have not as yet located the specific Order providing for this.
    An interesting move in late 1947 was the allocation of nine "NZ25xx" numbers (in the NZ1001 series) to deceased aircrew officers who had in life never been in possession of a service number. These were all members of the prewar RNZAF who had been killed on operations or in accidents early in World War Two, three in the UK in 1940/1941 (two with 75[NZ] Sqdn, other with 500 Sqdn on operations) and rest in New Zealand in accidents prior to the allocation of permanent officer numbers in this series. These were numbered NZ2513, 2515, 2521 to 2526. Presumably they would have looked rather lonely among all the other Commonwealth war dead if they had no number to call their own.
    Woman member so the RNZAF (actually members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force) were numberd in an independent series beginning at W.1001 in about mid 1941, although I am not certain when this series was abandoned.
    Quite a number of New Zealanders also ended up serving in the RAF (that is the "Regular" RAF, not the RAFVR) from the mid-1930s onwards under various arrangements with the New Zealand government, as well as a proportion who made their way to the UK quite unassisted, and therefore outside the official schemes) and they were allocated normal RAF numbers. Most were Pilots, and they were on Short Service Commissions of four years duration for the most part. On the expiration of these commissions they were transferred to the RAFO but remained on the active list. However many elected, from about mid-1944 onwards, to transfer to the RNZAF whilst remaining attached to the RAF for service, and these men were allocated new "NZ" numbers from the NZ1001 series.
    In New Zealand from 1942 onwards large numbers of officers transferred from the NZ Army to the RNZAF (mostly in Admin and Special Duties Branch) and were also allocated numbers from this same series. Many Meteorological Officers transferred from civilian to RNZAF status in early 1942, and were given such numbers, as were Education officers from the Education Department. Also RNZAF Officers called up from the Reserve as Japanese forces moved rapidly southward into the South Pacific, who had never had a number previously, came into this category at this time. Many other Army officers transferred to the RNZAF in 1942 and 1943 to take up administrative, equipment and intelligence duties, and large numbers of Medical officers were also allocated numbers in this series when the RNZAF decided in April 1943 to commission its own Medical Officers (work previously carried out by NZMC officers on secondment). Civil engineers from the Air Department and the Public Works Department further swelled the ranks on being granted RNZAF commissions during 1942 and 1943. RNZAF Chaplains were also included in this series from May 1943 onwards.
    The first transfer from the RAF occurred in October 1942 in the A&SD Branch, and the first Army officer for pilot training in June 1943. The first aircrew officer to transfer from RAF to RNZAF was in August 1943, although this source did not become f lood until later in the year. Another phenomenon were wholesale secondment of NZ Army officers volunteering fro flying training from February 1943 onwards, who retained their Army commissions until they successfully completed their courses as pilots, navigators, etc. The first to receive RNZAF commissions under this scheme were those who graduated in September 1943.
    I will leave this subject now as I seem to have exhausted my ideas on the subject for now.
    David D

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    My thanks to all who replied to my query (especially to David Duxbury for his very detailed explanation of the NZ system).
    As I suspected, there is no easy answer! It all appears to depend upon where one was - and at what time - when one either Enlisted or was Commissioned.
    Rgds
    Peter Davies

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    Great info Dave!

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    I can shed some light on Royal Indian Air Force Service Numbers. Not in much detail as David did about the NZAF , but probably as good as any found on the net.

    It appears at the begining of the war there were no Service numbers in place for the RIAF. Or atleast I cant find any reference to them. As with the RNZAF they went unnumbered for a long time.

    However I think sometime in early 1942, the number system was set up and the surviving officers of that time had their numbers issued. They started from 1551 and went upto 3300 or so by the time war ended. The numbers still continue in the present day Indian Air Force and are just about touching 30000 now. they had the prefix IND/ , so the sequence started from IND/1551

    But all those officers who left before Mid 42 or had died by then did not seem to have got any service numbers.

    Indians who were in the UK at the time of the war outbreak and who enrolled directly in the RAF got the RAF sequence service numbers. Later on , they were transferred to the RIAF and they gave up their RAF numbers and got IAF numbers.

    I maintain a database of all RIAF officers on my website. based on AF lists, ORBs, and other documents. It can be accessed at this link http://bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/Database/index.html

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