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Thread: Corporal Albert French,Burma

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    Default Corporal Albert French,Burma

    Hi all,
    I am looking for information on Corporal Albert French, RAFVR, 1549573,died 08/03/1943 and on the Singapore memorial, the sole RAF casualty listed that day.
    Vague family history (not mine) relates that he was lost over Burma, presumably as aircrew, squadron not known.
    I have searched through many relevant squadrons in AIR27,and through this site.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Regards
    Eric

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    Eric,

    I suspect there is not an 'easy to find answer' on this one. Cpl French is unlikely to be aircrew; by 1943 all aircrew were at least sergeant in rank.

    If I was you I would apply for a copy of his record of service, via the www.gov.uk website. The MOD have a section on applying for service records of deceased service personnel. It will cost you 30 and takes about a month, maybe a bit more. That should give you his unit when he died, and the rest of his service record for that matter. You can then check the records for the relevant squadron or unit.

    Good luck!

    Geoff

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    At his Air of Authority site, Malcolm Barrass has created a pretty comprehensive set of RAF Casualties rolls in the members area.

    Perhaps, Malcolm, you won't mind me quoting an extract from the 8 March 1943 entries, which at least give Cpl French's Unit:

    "He was serving with No 4 WOU at the time of his death, the cause of which has not yet been ascertained."
    Source: www.rafweb.org (Members area/Casualties Index 1940 - 1949/Casualties - 6 - 9 March 1943)

    Limited information to hand about 4 WOU:
    In Sturtivant RAF Flying Training and Support Units Since 1912 WOU is given as Wireless Operating Unit, with no entry for 4 WOU I could see.

    However, TNA Discovery Catalogue has an Operations Record Book entry for

    AIR 29/158/4 4 Wireless Observer Unit. Based in India Date: 1942 Apr-1943 Sept
    https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...ils/r/C7159630

    The death (and circumstances) of Cpl French should be recorded there.

    Although ORB detail can be very variable, it would be unusual for a death to be omitted - unless he was detached elsewhere for some time (only his RAF Record of Service, as noted by Geoff's post, would record that).

    As an AIR 29 file, it's not digitised. If you cannot get to Kew there are researchers who will take digital images for you.
    For example Lee Richards service at @RCRE https://www.arcre.com/ . In my experience, prompt, modestly priced (compared with TNA) and a good chap.

    There are other such services. It might be wise to look at the ORB for the whole of March - discuss with the researcher, but odds are that 4 WOU's ORB is unlikely to be very voluminous.

    Good luck

    Don Clark
    www.211squadron.org
    Last edited by Don Clark; 18th February 2020 at 12:06.
    Toujours propos

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    Thanks Geoff, Don, for your informative replies,I have subscribed to the rafweb site, now have something to work with and will post results here when and if I find them.

    Regards
    Eric

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    Eric,

    Looks like there might be an interesting story if you can get to it. On the face of it it's difficult to see why someone serving, apparently in India with 4 WOU, would be listed on the Singapore Memorial. Saying that, I have found a case of a Wellington crew who were killed in India and buried where they crashed, but their graves were subsequently lost and they are listed on the Singapore Memorial.

    Another tantalising possibility is that he was involved as an RAF radio operator in the 1st Chindit operation, which took place February - April 1943.

    I'll be keen to hear what you find.

    Geoff

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    Geoff,
    The Chindit operation would fit the time frame ,and could account for his being on the Singapore memorial. I am looking at that possibility here:
    [FONT=Verdana,Arial,Tahoma,Calibri,Geneva,sans-serif]https://www.chinditslongcloth1943.com/roll-of-honour.html

    The first Arakan campaign also took place around then, ending May 1943.

    Thanks to Dons post I have looked up WOU in India and have found reference to one in the book " The Burma Air Campaign" by Michael Pearson, page 72 relates the experiences of
    a Flight Sergeant Wireless Operator posted to Ramu late 1942.
    In this he describes how his job was to "keeping contact...with about fourteen Wireless Observer Units...sent out to a map location in front of our troops...
    We frequently lost contact with WOU ...never to be heard of again....probably overrun by the Japs. "

    A chilling account.

    Also this from the Burma Star Association site :

    [FONT=Verdana,Arial,Tahoma,Calibri,Geneva,sans-serif]https://www.burmastar.org.uk/stories/wireless-observer-units/[/FONT]

    I am waiting now to hear from the National Archives.

    Eric
    [/FONT]

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