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Thread: PathFinder Force

  1. #1
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    Default PathFinder Force

    Does anyone know if there was an AMO (or similar) issued when the PathFinder Force was established which set out its role and the terms and conditions relating to the crews that volunteered. My primary interest at this stage is to establish if there was a definitive statement about increase in rank, although it would be useful to have a copy of the complete document if one is available

    Any help 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]

  2. #2
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    Default Re: PathFinder Force

    Just off the top of my head, I think it highly unlikely that an increase in rank on transfer to the Pathfinder Force could have been authorised as that sort or arbitrary action would be seen as some sort of elitism, something I think that Harris in particular was set dead against. However I look forward with interest as to what pops up in due course. I have seen the record of service for quite a few PFF types, and have never noticed any such thing. Maybe somebody mooted such a thing when the Force was being organized.
    David D

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    Default Re: PathFinder Force

    Pete: I don’t have a document on this but my father related in his audio memoirs that he had been asked to go to pathfinders with his crew. Ultimately, he said they did not go there because his crew vetoed the move as it would have meant a longer tour. Dad was disappointed. He did say in this discourse that it would have meant an increase in rank.

    A perusal of pathfinder ORBs indicates pilots with consistently higher ranks than Main Force squadrons. There are some Master Bombers at the rank of Group Captain, which on a Main Force Base would be “Base Commanding Officer”, typically a non operational position.

    Jim

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    Default Re: PathFinder Force

    Hi Pete,

    The battle to establish PFF is well covered in 'Forming the Pathfinders, the Career of AVM Sydney Bufton' by Hugh Melinsky. It gives the background to Harris's later comment in the Final Despatch that 'The Air Ministry, however, insisted on the formation of a separate Pathfinding Force as a separate Group - yet another occasion when a Commander in the field was overruled at the dictation of junior staff officers in the Air Ministry.'

    Harris and his Group Commanders had concluded in a conference that 'creaming off the best crews of all the Groups in order to create a corps d'elite in a special Group' was a bad thing. Once ordered to do so, Harris insisted that the requirement for longer work hours and for opening the marking over the target should be rewarded with a special badge and higher pay (through a step-up in rank). The Air Historical Branch Narrative ''RAF in the Bombing Offensive Against Germany Vol IV' gives a reference for the formation of PFF as 'C.S 12848/41 Enclosure 37A dated 14/06/42' - good luck finding that through TNA's Discovery engine. The AHB Narrative confirms promotion and badge in its account of PFF formation (based on the same reference). Fortunately, the BC ORB has Organisation Circular 128 dated 31/08/42, which seems to be the internal admin order for creating PFF. under 'Conditions of Service' it says aircrew must volunteer for 60 ops (incl any already completed elsewhere) - and 'physical or nervous failure' after 30 ops will not be regarded as LMF. Qualification as a member of PFF will be recognised by provisional award of the spacial badge, which will become permanent on satisfactory conclusion of a tour (or proportion if ended through wounding). Under 'Promotion', it gives a new establishment for PFF squadrons to allow 'accelerated promotion'. For example, a PFF squadron has 1 G/C, whereas a main force squadron has none. PFF get 6 S/L vs main force 2. Main force squadrons have 103 Sgts, PFF only 34, but PFF get 70 F/Sgt posts vs only 4 for main force. It then gives the number of ops required for a step-up in rank to be awarded: 15 for promotion to F/L or F/Sgt, 20 for acting S/L or acting WO and 25 for acting W/C.

    Hope this helps,

    Richard
    Last edited by Richard; 10th February 2021 at 12:18.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: PathFinder Force

    Thanks for all your comments both online and offline; much appreciated as always

    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]

  6. #6
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    Default Re: PathFinder Force

    I feel more educated now! As these promotions were outside normal time-dictated system (which applied to NCOs. and P/O to F/L only), something "extra" would have been required and I now see that this was attained by completion of minimum number of op sorties. Interesting that promotions for the more senior NCOs and officers were to acting rank only; I presume these would have remained in force until they attained the equivalent War Substantive (w.s.) rank by whatever means. It seems to me that this strategy of having middle-ranking officers (S/L to G/C) in acting rank (many with w.s. rank of F/L only) was extremely common in the wartime RAF, and does make it very difficult to identify such individuals in RAF Officer Lists, as at some early point in WW2 it was decided to enter the middle-rank officers concerned under their w.s. rank only, whereas I believe all Air rank officers were shown with w.s. AND (invariably higher) acting rank. I wonder if the middle-ranking officer personnel subject to this "accelerated" promotion were permitted to retain the higher, acting rank (and pay) after completion of their PFF tour, or would they have to revert to their original, pre-PFF rank? (as was the case with many acting appointments) Perhaps these rules changed later in the war; it is common knowledge that, although the original crews transferred to the new PFF were high-performing ones from the Main Force, many later "normal" line crews (perhaps some even straight from OTUs?, not certain of this though) were posted in with no special outstanding attributes, and by most accounts, performed their duties to the hoped-for standards.
    David D
    Last edited by David Duxbury; 11th February 2021 at 18:55. Reason: Clarrification and correction of some serious factual blunders!

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    Default Re: PathFinder Force

    Yes, thanks Richard. That's really useful.

    Jim

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