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Thread: 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

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    Default 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

    Hi,

    Trying to chase down some of my uncle's WW2 activity shown in his service records where he was at 42 OTU (38 Gp) between Nov '44 and May '45 for aircrew A/B training. However, all the records I have come across searching TNA are original documents (with an obvious lack of access available at present). The documents I have discovered by a limited search at TNA are Air 29/679/1 and AIR 2/8139.

    Just wondered whether anyone could assist me whilst we are unable to access TNA original documents or suggest an alternative line of approach?

    Thanks,

    Richard

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    Default Re: 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

    Hi Richard

    I have Air 29/679/1, who are you looking for?

    Malcolm

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    Default Re: 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

    Hi Malcolm,
    Thank you for replying.

    I am looking for James Evison Lamb no. 1800490 (LAC) or later 165476 (Flying Officer, Flight Lt) who was a Navigator/Bomber/Wireless Operator. Unfortunately he passed away in 2017 and left no written records behind of his war time exploits except some vague stories he used to tell us about being in Lancasters, Mosquitoes and Stirlings. Like many people involved at that time he spoke very little and even his son knows very little. He was a lovely man and a very good story teller! We know he attended Squadron re-unions up until the mid 1990s but we have no idea which squadron or where the re-unions were held. I have been through many Squadron ORBs to date but found absolutely nothing. So I thought I would start from the beginning again!

    He trained in Canada (Manitoba) and returned to the UK on 16 June 1944 to No. 7 PRC and then to 6(O)AFU on 19 Sept 1944 before transferring again into 42 OTU on 14 Nov 1944. I also have no idea what he did from the Personnel Reception Centre before going to the AFU. All I know is that he mentioned in a letter to another old friend of his in Bomber Command that he was back in the UK and involved in the Tactical Air Strike Force for the D-Day operations.

    Any help appreciated.

    Richard

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    Default Re: 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

    Hi Richard

    I'm afraid the only personnel movements mentioned in the F540 are those of permanent staff.

    It seems unlikely that he was involved in D-Day operations if he only returned from Canada on 16 Jun 1944, I would have thought he would have sent on disembarkation leave after reporting to No 7 PRC.

    Malcolm

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    Default Re: 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

    Malcolm,
    Thank you very much for looking. I have to agree with you re the D-Day ops and perhaps he was getting a bit confused with his dates etc. Do you think the PRC would have listed his return anywhere in their files and would I be able to find out anywhere which ship he came back on from Canada? Unfortunately leave doesn't seem to be reported on the RAF files as it was on my Dad's Army service record but it still feels a long gap between his return and being sent to 42 OTU.
    Oh well, back to the drawing board but thanks again.
    Richard

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    Default Re: 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

    Hi Richard

    As well as leave he could have been attached from 7 PRC to another unit as a holding post but remained on the books at the PRC, who didn't report it to Record Office?

    Malcolm

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    Default Re: 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

    Hi Malcolm,

    I suppose that could be possible. My frustration is really that I have been unable to trace him directly to a squadron or squadrons in the records. I know he attended squadron re-unions but as I've mentioned before, we have no idea which squadron that was. I've nearly been through all the squadrons ORBs for Bomber Command, just a few more to check with some additional downloads shortly. I think next I will have a look at the various original RAF Station records at TNA when they eventually re-open to the public.

    I have to say that I had actually thought it would be easy to trace him, but that was 'innocence' speaking I think now!!

    It is fun and I certainly don't give in easily!!

    Thanks again for your help.

    Richard

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    Default Re: 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

    Richard, it was not at all unusual for Canadian-trained aircrew to have a very quiet life (operationally speaking!) if they arrived in the UK from about April 1944 onwards. Reason of course was that "the powers that be" had to take into account the possibility of the worst possible outcome of the Normandy landings, and thus kept the BCATP aircrew training machine going at full throttle until the actual unfolding of the invasion itself provided most of the answers required for future planning. As air losses particularly were fairly light during the invasion period (against many gloomy projections), the BCATP almost immediately began the long process of reducing output (in timed stages) and the rather embarrassing glut of part-trained aircrew throughout all the schools in Canada (plus in New Zealand and Australia, also the USA (Tower and Arnold Plans), South Africa, India and Southern Rhodesia) remained clogged up as the UK had as many aircrew in the operational squadrons as well as in the operational training organisation as could be accommodated. In July 1944, Canada was told to extend courses substantially to reduce numbers coming across the Atlantic, while Australia and New Zealand were told to cease sending all aircrew to Canada for advanced training, as well as all fully qualified aircrew immediately. I have seen the histories of many airmen from New Zealand who spent a good part of 1944 visiting distant relatives in the UK, or became tourists throughout England, Scotland and Wales, as the OTUs were fully booked up for months to come. Some had to wait till early 1945 to get back into the training system (Pilot or Observer Advanced Flying Units generally, then OTUs, etc). Some finally reached the stage of being posted to a front-line squadron just before VE-Day. Through no fault of their own, they had failed to make the long journey which separated volunteering for aircrew until finally taking off on their first operational flight, after a period of perhaps two years or more in the service.
    David D

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    Default Re: 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

    David,

    Many thanks for the additional information you have given. It could well explain why I have been unable to find anything in the records and also explain his service record where later in Nov 1945 until his release in mid 1946 it says he was on Ops Room Duties at Great Dunmow, HQ 38 Gp, Shepherds Grove and Upper Heyford. He did mention in one draft letter to a friend in Bomber Command (who had trained in South Africa) that he was 'grateful' for the bomb drop on Japan so that he wasn't shipped out there with a squadron to fight. In a sense, one of the lucky ones to have survived training and not to have been sent on Ops, although I could understand his frustration as well. I will have a look at the RAF station records to see if I can locate any further information on his activities and potential squadron association.

    Very appreciative of the additional insight.

    Richard

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    Default Re: 42 OTU between November 1944 and May 1945

    Richard,

    I suspect you may have misinterpreted the information from Lamb's service file. There were three types of syllabus for navigators training in Canada

    Navigator - 20 weeks of navigation training only; designed for those mostly going to 4-engined bomber or transport units
    Navigator (B) - A six week course at a Bombing and Air Gunnery school followed by 22 weeks of navigation training. Course members usually ended up on twin engined aircraft used by Bomber, Maritime, Airborne Forces or Special Duty units, although the Maritime role did include some 4-engined types.
    Navigator (W) - A 24-week course training at a Radio School in the UK, followed by a 20-week navigation course in Canada. ( Jefford: Observers and Navigators, pages 172 and 186).

    From your #5 your uncle went down the Navigator (B) route. The bombing/air gunnery aspect of the course was probably included as most of the types of aircraft a Navigator B was destined for had smaller crews than the 4-engined heavies and there was a possible need for multi-tasking (my assumption - happy to be corrected).

    As Canadian flying conditions, over flat country (not sea) and often in fine weather (don't jump on me folks) all navigators completed their training on return to the UK with a 4-6 week acclimatisation course at an (Observers) Advanced Flying Unit ((O)AFU), before being sent to an operational squadron or unit: (Jefford page 173). In your uncle's case this was No 6 (O) AFU at RAF Staverton (AIR 29/546/2); flying being undertaken in Ansons (https://www.rafweb.org/Members%20Pag...20Observer.htm)

    Having qualified as a Navigator (B) your uncle's operational unit was 42 OTU at RAF Ashbourne. The unit's role was to train pilots of glider tugs, the aircraft used for training being Albemarles, an obsolescent, twin-engined bomber (https://www.rafweb.org/Organsation/OTU_3.htm). Thus he was not sent to the unit for his A/B training (not sure what this means - your #1), but as a navigator on aircraft being used for training tug pilots. (Image at https://www.tangmere-museum.org.uk/a...orth-albemarle).

    42 OTU was disbanded in March 1945 so I wonder if your May 1945 in #1 is a misprint for Mar 1945?

    One thing which seems a little strange in respect of his commissioning is that he was commissioned direct from LAC to PO on 2 June on completing his Canadian training, skipping being an NCO, and his subsequent promotion to FO came 6 months later (2nd December) whereas in most instances 12 months was normal. His pre-commissioning service number suggests he enlisted during December 1941.

    In summary it is perhaps not surprising you have been unable to trace him to a bomber squadron (your #7) as he was never in one; his career took him to Airborne Forces and, so far as I can see, 42 OTU did not appear to maintain an ORB - or it's been lost.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 22nd June 2020 at 21:20.

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