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Thread: Ground Crew

  1. #1
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    Default Ground Crew

    I was sent a WWII photograph yesterday of a 35 Squadron Captain with "his ground crew" (5 airmen)

    It reignited a question that has been in the back of my mind for a while regarding which ground crew were on strength of the squadron during this period and which were on strength of the station.

    Working on the post war basis that the airmen on strength of the squadron were responsible for servicing each aircraft and dealing with first line rectification of faults, what trades would the five airmen in the photo have been?

    I am guessing that the first thing to establish is a list of all trades that were involved in ensuring that an aircraft was ready for its next flight and then to split these between squadron and station personnel

    I am currently assuming (rightly or wrongly) that the armourers, including those that loaded the gun carriages, the camera loaders and the refuellers would have been on strength of the station .... but that is as far as I have got.

    Has anyone been through this process, or have any thoughts on the matter?

    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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    Pete - From photos I have seen over the years I have always been under the impression that each Heavy Bomber would have had 2 x Fitters (Engines) and 2x Riggers (Airframe) permanently assigned to cover Daily Inspections and technical rectification work on 'snags' and minor damage.The 5th man might have been the NCO i/c ground crew for that particular A/C.

    For Armourers - In Lancaster at war 2 - Frank Hawkins (Armourer Cpl) was posted to 9 Sqn in early Spring 1944.
    He was assigned to 'B' Flight in charge of 6 Fellow Armourers,they were responsible for A/C 'S','T','W','X' and 'Z'.
    Their day would usually start with DI's (Daily Inspections) of Guns/Turrets/Bombing Gear etc.
    The Bomb loads were delivered from the Dump and left at each aircraft for the Armourers - assisted by any available ground crew of other trades - would then winch up the bombs etc.
    Last edited by bvs; 31st October 2019 at 23:09.

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    Some trades who were in lesser demand might include electricians (Aircraft) who might have been allocated several aircraft each (say one electrician for 3 aircraft), but the main trades were probably as you say, airframe and engines. It is also probable that "aircraft hands" were used as assistants for such tasks as refuelling, doing some of the heavy "grunt" work. Wireless, Radar and instrument trades would also be involved, for routine testing of radios ("wireless") or radar actually installed in aircraft, as well as any other similar apparatus. Instrument personnel would be available should any particular instrument not be preforming as advertised, although I could not say if airmen (or airwomen) allocated this work were on strength of the squadron, or the station. Later in the war, Base Wings took over the administering of the "Station" personnel, so it can appear to be quite complicated over time, although this should not have resulted in any actual confusion at the time as these individuals would have their responsibilities clearly detailed and understood, and areas of responsibility would have been allocated to specific individuals (at least this is how I understood that it all worked!) One job I know very little about must have been a major headache for the staff responsible. As most Bomber Command aircraft had to rely on "Anti-freeze" paste, to protect the leading edges of all flying surfaces before all flights where there might be the possibility of icing, it must have been a huge and heavy job to carry out the preparations for two squadrons of Stirlings (say 24 to 32 aircraft later in war). Highly likely that these would be personnel under control of the Station, or Base (maintenance) Wing. Just a few thoughts. The RAF Narratives on RAF Aircraft Maintenance in WW2 might have something to say on this subject generally, but so far as I recall, only the first of two intended volumes was published, taking the picture up till the end of 1942 I think.
    David D

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    Hi Pete, what period?

    Richard

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    Thanks for the feedback, to date. I am dashing out now, but will review the detail later

    Regarding the time-frame, the photograph was taken in 1944

    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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    Just reading through your responses and thinking about the subject in more detail, when I recalled that in 1942, a number of personnel killed in a Fuzing Shed explosion are shown on the CWGC site as on the strength of No 35 Squadron, so I am guessing that identifying which trades were on strength of a squadron or on strength of a station may not be as simple as I first thought!
    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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    Hi Pete

    Just to add further confusion, technically by 1944 squadrons didn't have any ground servicing personnel, they had been transferred to the associated Servicing Echelon

    Malcolm

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    Hi Pete,

    Finally had time to dig around for the reference. AIR 24-336 - BC ORB Admin Appendices Jul-Dec 43 includes AM Organisational Circular 183, dated 03/11/43, which establishes servicing echelons for both operational and training stations in order to align with the emerging Base Servicing organisation. The main change was that servicing was split into 'Daily Maintenance' and 'Servicing'. In essence, all squadron servicing personnel were shifted to a new Station Servicing Wing. The SSW consisted of a CO (the old Station Chief Technical Officer) with an Adjt and a Tech Adjt. Under command were a Daily Servicing Squadron, a Repair and Inspection (R&I) Squadron, plus the Electrical & Instrument Section, the Armament Servicing Section, the Servicing Wing Eqpt Section, and the Radar & Signals Servicing Section.

    The R&I Squadron had under command the Station Workshops, the Safety Eqpt Section, and one Servicing Echelon per bomber squadron - these last were numbered '90XX' or '9XXX', ie 9035 for 35 Squadron and 9692 for 692 Squadron.

    Now we get to the confusing bit. The Daily Servicing Squadron establishment was only the Squadron HQ (CO and staff) - the personnel within the Daily Servicing Section were the Daily Servicing Sections of the bomber squadron(s) on the station, and were still under admin and disciplinary control from those parent squadrons. Their tasks are helpfully described as 'daily inspections, refuelling, rearming etc.', so guesswork required on what the 'etc.' involves.

    Hope this helps,

    Richard

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    Thanks again to all for your feedback; I am gradually piecing all the information together and hopefully it will satisfy my enquiring mind

    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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