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Thread: Wireless Mechanic recruited by SOE goes AWOL

  1. #1
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    Default Wireless Mechanic recruited by SOE goes AWOL

    [FONT=Helvetica][COLOR=#000000]Please excuse me if this is posted in the wrong place...[/COLOR][/FONT]

    [FONT=Helvetica][COLOR=#000000]I'm a historical novelist seeking information about WW2 RAF procedure. One of my characters Michael, is a second generation Russian immigrant who signs up for the RAF as as wireless mechanic in 1939. Initially sent to the West Midlands to train, his intelligence and flawless grasp of four other languages attract the attention of the fledgling SOE and he is recruited. However, soon after this he mysteriously disappears - on British soil.[/COLOR][/FONT]


    I need to know how the RAF/SOE would have reacted to his disappearance -- and especially what they would have told his wife back home in York. I assume he’ll immediately be designated as Absent Without Leave and his pay will be stopped. How much effort did they go to to track down people who went AWOL? And because of the sensitivity of his new role, would his case have been handed over to the military police or special branch?

    [FONT=Helvetica][COLOR=#000000]I assume that they would have made some effort to contact his wife and let her know her husband had disappeared. Would there have been a telegram, perhaps? Would they have tried to interview her and interrogate her about his whereabouts?[/COLOR][/FONT]

    [FONT=Helvetica][COLOR=#000000]Any information gratefully received and thanking you in advance.

    Karen Charlton[/COLOR][/FONT]

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    Default Re: Wireless Mechanic recruited by SOE goes AWOL


    I am doubting that anything like you describe ever happened during the war, but my educated guess (as a senior serving Military Policeman / ex civvy copper / very amateur military historian), is that Special Branch would have become involved at some point quite quickly. Then, as now, the military would have stopped paying him, declared him AWOL, etc, probably after a month or so. Given the sensitivities involved, SB would have conducted a personal visit to his home address and spoken to his near and dear. No telegrams I fear. During that visit they would have obtained further details, state of mind, clothes he was wearing / or any missing possessions, location of his ration book, ID card, etc. They would visit other suggested locations (his accommodation, parent's address, favourite aunt, etc). Given the sensitivities, they may have conducted an interview of the spouse at the local nick.

    His details would eventually have been circulated to the civvy police, on the off chance they came into contact with him (or his body was found), along with contact details to call if he was found. This used to be done through The Police Gazette (Supplement D), but I have no idea whether this system was still used in this way during WW2. Given the sheer numbers of AWOL involved, it was probably swamped. After a while, and if the trail had gone cold, the system would have stopped visiting locations to check up on the man.

    I'm not familiar with the org, but it makes sense that SOE would have followed its own internal security protocols as well. It stands to reason that they would have looked at any ramifications arising from the absence of personnel, i.e. what classified information did the absentee know, are people in danger, do systems need to be changed, etc. I have no doubt that SOE would not have been familiar with dealing with military absentees. They were all volunteers, it was exciting stuff, and there would have been a nagging concern that the system wouldn't take it too kindly if they did go over the wall. I'm sure someone from Baker Street may have gone on the run during WW2, but there could not have been very many of them.

    There should be a detailed procedure for dealing with AWOL RAF personnel in the RAF Manual of Administration. Unfortunately mine is in storage and I can't check for you, but it may be worth using that procedure as a handrail.


    In fond memory of Corporal James Oakland AGC (RMP), killed in action in Afghanistan on 22 October 2009. Exemplo Ducemus.

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