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Thread: What does the R prefix to a service number mean

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    Default What does the R prefix to a service number mean

    I found a picture of my father pilot James Lauder with airmen whom I assume were his Stirling bomber crew when he was posted to 218sqdn in 1943. Signatures and service numbers on the back show their names and numbers but I can find no trace of two of them, one of whom is Donald McCool R148557. Can anyone tell me please what the "R" means? And how do I trace what happened to him and the others?
    Vincent Frederick Gowland 658997
    Geoffrey Donovan Knight 573958
    William Henry Conrad Rhodes 1390369
    Phillip Jennet or Jenner 1295740 or 1295240

    One airman did not sign the back of the pic.
    Cheers
    Ian Lauder

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    Default Re: What does the R prefix to a service number mean

    Hello,

    The "R" prefix signifies the man was an NCO in the RCAF.

    http://www.rafcommands.com/archive/01782.php

    https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/ti...852&fhid=12163

    658997 Flight Sergeant Vincent Frederick Gowland; commissioned Pilot Officer 26 May 1944. Commissioned number 178651. Born Lewisham, London January 1915; deceased Berkshire 2002
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/...upplement/3758
    573958 Flight Sergeant Geoffrey Donovan Knight; commissioned Pilot Officer 19 April 1944. Commissioned number 54659. Born Middlesex 1919; deceased Oxfordshire 1996
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/...upplement/2479
    1390369 Flight Sergeant William Henry Conrad Rhodes; commissioned Pilot Officer 29 November 1943. Commissioned number 170865 Born Essex 1919; deceased Warwickshire 2000
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/...supplement/997

    Regards,

    Dave
    Last edited by alieneyes; 3rd January 2021 at 23:41.

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    Default Re: What does the R prefix to a service number mean

    Dave
    That is incredible. How great to have that knowledge to be able to answer such queries so fully and quickly plus of course the selflessness to want to do it for others. Assuming Donald McCool went back to Canada, I just need to identify Phillip Jenner / Jennet 129570 / 129520.
    Thankyou so much.
    Ian

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    Default Re: What does the R prefix to a service number mean

    Reginald Derek Marcham JENNER 1295429

    https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...ls/r/C15624515

    Image 10 of 52

    Could he be your man?

    Chris

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    Default Re: What does the R prefix to a service number mean

    Dave
    I replied so quickly that I had not of course read the comprehensive entry you found on Donald McCool and we now know all about his life and family in Canada.

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    Default Re: What does the R prefix to a service number mean

    Chris
    Thank you so much and you are Very very close but although the number you found and the clear part of the number written on the back of the photo is 1295---, the first name on his signature is clearly Phillip.
    Cheers
    Ian

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    Default Re: What does the R prefix to a service number mean

    Ian,

    Have you checked the 218 Squadron ORB. It should clarify the surnames and initials. I would check myself but '1943' is a bit vague. Can you tie it down to more exact dates?

    Chris

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    Default Re: What does the R prefix to a service number mean

    Chris
    I now know that it is not a picture of Dad's Stirling crew when they were posted to 218 Squadron in 1943 because, thanks to the info from Dave I know these men were pilots who survived the war and lived to a good age. How can I be sure? Dad was hospitalised almost as soon as he was posted to 218 and his crew went off with another pilot and did not return, which played on Dad's mind for the rest of his life. When he recovered from surgery, he was made an instructor first with pilots learning to tow Horsa gliders and then on advanced instrument flying. As we also now know that all 7 in the picture were pilots, I am guessing it was 1944/5 which is even more vague. One of them died in 2000 in Warwickshire where I live now, so a friend who deals in genealogy is trying to trace family. Who knows, they may have a similar photo signed by those on the course.
    Thank you once again.
    Ian

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    Default Re: What does the R prefix to a service number mean

    Ian

    The men identified by Dave are not pilots
    Gowland was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
    Knight was a Flight Engineer
    Rhodes was a Navigator
    Pilot Officer is a rank that does not indicate that they were actually pilots. Sounds more like photograph is of an individual crew.

    Donald Secord McCool was commissioned from the rank of WO2 wef 29th November 1943. He was an Air Gunner.
    https://collectionscanada.gc.ca/data...mposmok95pouf0

    Chris
    Last edited by cozzy711; 4th January 2021 at 21:03. Reason: Additional detail

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    Default Re: What does the R prefix to a service number mean

    Chris
    I am getting an education here. I do appreciate you both helping me in my ignorance. I remain amazed at your knowledge in finding this information. I would not know where to start in finding their individual specialisations. A few days ago I just had a photo of 7 men and the only one I knew anything at all about was my father.
    I did think they looked like a crew and a Stirling crew was 7 men. But I can be sure it was not the crew that Dad told me about as he was often upset that they did not survive.
    Last edited by Ian Lauder; 5th January 2021 at 10:25.

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