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Thread: Aircraft Servicing (1929 to 1940)

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    Default Aircraft Servicing (1929 to 1940)

    Does anyone have any information on squadron aircraft servicing from 1929 to 1940.

    My questions are:

    1. Did each squadron carry out "daily servicing" of its own aircraft (carried out by personnel on strength of the squadron), with other maintenance / servicing work carried out by personnel on strength of the station or was all servicing (including daily servicing) carried out by personnel on strength of the station?

    2. Did the situation change at all during the period?

    Your usual help on the matter would be much appreciated

    Regards

    PeteT
    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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    Default Re: Aircraft Servicing (1929 to 1940)

    Hi Pete

    During the 1920-30s many stations were single squadron stations so there was no differentiation between Sqn and Stn personnel.

    As SHQs began to be formed they don't appear to have had an Engineer officer allocated to the staff until late in the 30s/1940 so presumably all servicing remained under squadron control until then.

    Malcolm

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    Default Re: Aircraft Servicing (1929 to 1940)

    If you have access to the RAF Narratives, the answer may be contained therein. I believe that this planned series was never completed, but at least the first volume was published and included the story up until at least 1940. From vague recollections, the squadron personnel did all "normal maintenance/servicing/inspections" until 1940, divided into the same flights as served also for operational purposes, but after that it got more complicated, but more pragmatic. By 1939 single squadron stations would have been pretty rare, probably extinct in most cases, and "Station workshops" would have been created to handle all "heavier" tasks (as already mentioned above) such as the more complex periodic inspections, as well as minor repairs to accident damage, and perhaps incorporation of new modifications, etc, leaving a much smaller "servicing" party as part of the squadron's establishment. From my readings, it seems that similar developments were being introduced by most if not all World air forces for similar reasons throughout the war period, including German, Japanese, USA, Soviet Russia, etc., all trying to economise on ground staff on squadron strength, and having the most skilled staff on permanent station or depot strength, and not directly attached to the operating units. The idea for mobile squadrons was that they should be kept as light in personnel strength as possible for logistical reasons, and to attempt to have "permanent" base units for the heavier work at centralised locations as far forward as sensibly possible (considering that most of the UK was itself fairly accessible to enemy raiders for much of the war period, although strong and skilfully constructed air defences greatly reduced the danger of attack) . During much of WW2 in RAF, many (most?) RAF operational squadrons entirely lost their servicing personnel, which were transferred to nominally independent Servicing Echelons (for more mobile squadrons, such as in 2nd TAF), or Base Wings (at least that is what I think they were called) for the more static units, such as Bomber and Coastal Command squadrons. and probably also the latter transport Command squadrons. Hope that my vague memory of the RAF narrative in question is at least somewhat correct in the general thrust of my argument as outlined here!
    David D
    Last edited by David Duxbury; 29th November 2020 at 20:17.

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    Default Re: Aircraft Servicing (1929 to 1940)

    In his very interesting bio 'Tool Box on the Wing' - Geoffrey Ellis (who was in the same Cranwell Apprentice entry as Frank Whittle ) describes....

    1923 Cranwell App
    1926 posted to No 24 Sqn Kenley as an AC1 Fitter (engine basher)
    Placed on the Nominal Roll of 'B' Flight.
    Initially put into Station Workshops to help clear some Mono Rotary Engines out of servicing.
    After that he was moved into the 'B' Flight Hangar on a Bristol Fighter with Rigger Fred Jolly to do daily servicing.

    After approx 2 years he was posted to 58 (Bomber) Sqn on Vickers Virginias,on these larger a/c there were 2x Fitters and 2x Riggers for each a/c (for Daily serv).
    But certainly I think it would be fair to say that many pre war sqns were quite an autonomous entity,and in those days most of the day to day running of the technical sections was left to the SNCO's (Flight Sergeants etc) .

    Unfortunately he does not go into any details about heavier servicing.

    If you can forgive a little thread drift....
    Probably not easy to give a definitive answer unless one has some info on squadron organisation etc - organisational ideas came and went,there are only so many ways of doing things and if you stayed in the aircraft servicing game long enough then you could often say - ''yeah they tried that before and it did not go too well''.
    In my time with military aircraft I worked both the 'Squadron' system and the 'Centralised Servicing' system and I think it would be fair to say that most people preferred the 'Squadron System' as you do get 'esprit de corps' and it is usually more satisfying working with a small team.

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    Default Re: Aircraft Servicing (1929 to 1940)

    Thanks, as always, for the very useful feedback.

    My main focus is 35 Squadron, which seemed to be stationed with 207 Squadron for much of the period in question, but as you say, probably working on an autonomous basis.

    In May 1939, the squadron became a non mobilising unit tasked with training the output of the Flying Training Schools up to an operational standard. Later that year, it merged with 207 Squadron (and other squadrons) to form one of the Group Pools. It may be that arrangements for daily servicing and ongoing repairs and maintenance started to change at this point

    Regards

    PeteT
    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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    Default Re: Aircraft Servicing (1929 to 1940)

    Hi Pete
    Yes I believe that by 1937/38 the Sqn/Station servicing/maintenance organisation was changing from Squadron/Flight Autonomy to having Station Personnel/Station Servicing sections taking over the heavier maintenance.
    The prewar Cranwell and Halton ex Apprentices were highly trained engineers and from my previous post above I did not mean to suggest that they just solely did D.I's (daily inspections),the Flight/Squadron fitters and riggers would also have been involved in quite extensive repair/scheduled servicing/rectification and maintenance work.
    As the RAF expanded in the late 1930's this trained/experienced core of engineers would have been gradually diluted by the posting in of less qualified/less experienced tradesmen,many of whom would have been put on Daily Servicing as Flight Mechanics and ACH's (aircraft hands) until they gained experience whilst working with more technically qualified tradesmen.

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    Default Re: Aircraft Servicing (1929 to 1940)

    Just widening my thought process, in the early 30s, would the Aircraft Depots have had a role in rectification of more complex faults and scheduled servicing?

    PeteT
    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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