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Thread: Berlin Air Lift - W.A. Thurston and S.L. Swanton

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    Default Berlin Air Lift - W.A. Thurston and S.L. Swanton

    I have chanced upon a photograph, taken during the Berlin Air Lift, of two Canadians (ex-RCAF) who had enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1947. They are William Angus THURSTON (RAF 59337), who transferred to RCAF 20 June 1951 and Sidney Lloyd SWANTON (RAF 59643), transferred to RCAF, 30 Nov 1951. Has anyone encountered these two men in the course of your other research. Any information about their RAF service would be welcomed, particularly if their Berlin Air Lift units can be identified.

    As an aside, for context, the following is an excerpt from a paper I composed some 20 years ago:

    No sooner had the war ended than the Royal Air Force began to cast about for experienced Commonwealth aircrew to join that force. Precisely why is not clear; it may have been to avoid using National Service personnel (i.e. draftees) in the RAF, or there may have been some sentimental wish to recreate, at least in part, the "Imperial family" that had been the wartime RAF. It was obvious that the small postwar RCAF could not employ all who sought to serve in the Canadian force.

    On 17 October 1946 - less than three weeks after the RCAF had reverted to its peacetime establishment - the Honourable Colin Gibson, Minister of National Defence for Air, announced an RAF recruiting programme directed at RCAF veterans now in civil life. Volunteers could apply to RAF representatives in Ottawa. Those seeking to join had to have been trained to at least OTU standards; operational experience was clearly desirable. Those accepted would be paid according to the new RAF scale, itself more generous than had been the case 18 months earlier. Non-aircrew trades were also being sought. Officers were to be signed on for four years; Other Ranks would be taken on for three. Short service commissions might eventually be converted to permanent commissions.

    Precisely how many former members of the RCAF took up this challenge is unknown, but 64 veterans can be identified. Relatively little is known of their RAF careers. Most appear to have served out the four year minimums and then returned to civilian life. Two made the RAF a permanent career, and a few subsequently rejoined the RCAF. In RAF service, these 64 individuals were awarded one MBE, one DFC, four AFCs one AFM and three Mentions in Despatches.

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    Default Re: Berlin Air Lift - W.A. Thurston and S.L. Swanton

    Hugh

    Both are mentioned here:

    https://uvic2.coppul.archivematica.o...t-w-a-thurston

    So pesumably a Hastings squadron...?

    Additionally, there's a pdf file here:

    https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/30274132.pdf

    which has the following footnote:

    "Several former RCAF airmen who joined the RAF did participate in 'OPERATION PLAINFARE' ... 'Bridges to Berlin' by Sqn Ldr "Swanee" Swanton in the October 1994 issue of Airforce Magazine recorded that: 'Several Canadian wartime aircrew had joined the Royal Air Force during 1947 after demobilization from the RCAF."


    May be worth asking for a copy of the article?

    https://www.rcafassociation.ca/the-m...se-an-article/

    Regards

    Simon
    Last edited by wwrsimon; 28th July 2021 at 16:00. Reason: odd formatting
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: Berlin Air Lift - W.A. Thurston and S.L. Swanton

    Hugh,

    William Thurston was the brother of R7424 Flight Sergeant Harold Jason Thurston, lost on Lancaster W4184 (No. 7 Squadron) 19/20 September 1942.

    Sidney Lloyd "Swanee" Swanton passed away in Victoria, BC 8 February 2009. Obituary has him born St Thomas, Ontario 21 January 1918 then "joined the RCAF at the beginning of WWII in 1939 and was attached to the RAF's Ferry Command flying to North Africa and Italy. After the war, he flew with the RAF for four years serving with Transport Command where he flew the Berlin Airlift. He returned to Canada serving the RCAF until retiring in 1964 as OC, Ground Observer Corps, Winnipeg"

    Regards,

    Dave

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    Default Re: Berlin Air Lift - W.A. Thurston and S.L. Swanton

    David and Simon - wonderful leads - effusive thanks. I have already sent a message to the University of Victoria archives, requesting the Swanton paper. I have been able to consult his article in Airforce Magazine. This is an excellent example of on-line teamwork via the Forum.

  5. The Following User Says Thank You to HughAHalliday For This Useful Post:

    wwrsimon (28th July 2021)

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