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Thread: When did the RAF stop training Observers?

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    Default When did the RAF stop training Observers?

    I am currently researching a gentleman who is proving to be a bit of a conundrum. The gentleman in question is 106944 Pilot Officer George Edward IDE. He was commissioned from LAC on the 30/08/41; my assumption is that this is at the completion of his aircrew initial trade training. He arrives at No.78 Squadron some time at the end of 1941 and takes part in his first operation on the 17th December, where he is shown in the ORB where a Wireless Op/Air Gunner would normally be recorded. He flies somewhat infrequently, 17/12/41, 14/02/42 and then seems to have a break for all of March and April before returning to operations on the 30th May and then is operating on almost every op that the Squadron undertakes. His crew position seems to alter in the ORB which doesn't help. Later in 1943 he seems to have left the operational side of things and is going around the country with some sort of publicity show called "RAF ON THE TARGET". This seems to be based on aerial photographs, both before and after shots of German cities, which have been attacked. In one newspaper report he is referred to as an ex Bomb Aimer, specifically talking about photos of Cologne, following the 30th May 1942 thousand bomber raid, with the comment of "I was on the target myself; this tallies with the Squadron ORB.

    So would he have been trained as an Observer and during his Whitley operations carried out the role of Nav/Bomb Aimer and possibly those of a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner too or would he have been trained as a pure bred Bomb Aimer?

    Grateful for your views, also if anyone has anymore information on George Edward IDE or the "RAF ON THE TARGET" scheme I'd be most interested.

    Thanks

    Daz

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    Default Re: When did the RAF stop training Observers?

    Hi Daz
    As far as I am aware - there were different sub categories of RAF Observer,some of them were very highly qualified for multi tasking as part of a crew.
    I saw a list of sub categories a couple of years ago but cannot remember where.I would imagine the observer training might have sometimes been tailored for the type of aircraft they were likely to be posted to.
    Even prewar the Observers I believe were giving some W/T training,below I have attached a table of academic subjects.


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    Default Re: When did the RAF stop training Observers?

    I forgot to add that prior to the introduction of the 'N' Badge all Observers would be trained for both Navigation and Bomb Aiming as a minimum.
    He would have trained as an Observer as the changeover to Navigator was in 1942.
    Last edited by bvs; 26th November 2021 at 10:45.

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    Default Re: When did the RAF stop training Observers?

    Hi Daz,

    From Observers and Navigators by W/C Jefford....

    AMO A.1019/1942 of 17 September
    "The introduction of N, B and E badges has been sanctioned by King's Order 480 which had been approved by HM King George VI as early as 27 July 1942 (AIR30/274)"

    So prior to July 1942 presumably would have worn the O badge.

    Peter

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    Default Re: When did the RAF stop training Observers?

    Quote Originally Posted by bvs View Post
    Hi Daz
    As far as I am aware - there were different sub categories of RAF Observer,some of them were very highly qualified for multi tasking as part of a crew.
    I saw a list of sub categories a couple of years ago but cannot remember where.I would imagine the observer training might have sometimes been tailored for the type of aircraft they were likely to be posted to.
    Even prewar the Observers I believe were giving some W/T training,below I have attached a table of academic subjects.

    Many thanks
    Daz

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    Default Re: When did the RAF stop training Observers?

    Hi Daz
    Just out of general interest - the certficate of qualifications for RC Instrell


    Last edited by bvs; 26th November 2021 at 15:51.

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    Default Re: When did the RAF stop training Observers?

    And just as a little bit of information!!
    When did the last "O" Brevet leave RAF service (either as a Regular, or on some Reserve)? My Wg Cdr (Elect Eng) 38 Grp was definitely an "O" Brevet. I think he was PFF as well. That must have been at Benson in the early 1970's. Make a good quiz question - if we knew the answer!!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Default Re: When did the RAF stop training Observers?

    AFAIK any aircrew could wear whichever Flying Badge they were qualified to wear once they no longer were appointable to aircrew.
    So ex aircrew could wear any flying badge they had been qualified to wear once they stopped flying,but whilst still employed as aircrew they had to wear the badge for the role they currently filled.
    Our SWO at Cottesmore in 1972 was an ex Air Gunner and he still proudly wore his 'AG' Half Wing :).

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    Default Re: When did the RAF stop training Observers?

    Thank you all for your posts, very informative.

    Daz

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    Default Re: When did the RAF stop training Observers?

    From the rules (ever changing) governing the issue and right to wear various aircrew badges (this relates only to British Commonwealth air forces, probably up to the 1950s/60s) it is pretty clear that any aircrew member could only wear the aircrew badge he was entitled to, and if he had qualified for several badges (over a career) he was still only entitled to actually wear ONE badge, so had to choose the one that would then become his permanent badge. Generally if he had ever qualified as a pilot, for obvious reasons that would usually be the badge he would choose to retain for normal wear, even if he was no longer serving as such. Of course he would then have to spend the rest of his military career explaining why he was no longer a pilot (loss of medical, too many pilots in the postwar air force, etc.!) Air Ministry attempted to restrict the range of aircrew badges available at any given time, and to remove obsolete badges from circulation, but these plans did not always pan out as hoped, with the Air Observer badge in particular refusing to die until decades after it was first officially declared obsolete in about May 1942. In fact, supplies of "N" badges did not reach the RAF until well into 1942, something which I once wondered might perhaps have been the equipment side of Air Ministry having a horror of dumping perfectly serviceable items from stock simply because somebody declared them to be "obsolete"! (Presumably a hangover from the days of peace when supplies of all types of new equipment were very tightly controlled due to the extreme reluctance to spend money on new equipment.) Many types of military badges were retained in circulation, even after replacement badges had been ordered, for this reason, with the proviso that the obsolete badges only be issued until "all stocks exhausted", which was then the signal to introduce its replacement.

    There was a minor revolt throughout the RAF in 1942 re the "withdrawal" of the famous "Flying A" badge, which apparently raged for many months, and in the end Air Ministry decided to let those who had already been awarded (quite legitimately) their Air Observer badges (probably only those awarded up until about May 1942), retain them, but all subsequent awardees had to give them up (but also not without a fight!) I have several times posted the fact on this Board that the last "Air Observer" badge I saw being worn by a serving airman for real was in about 1987/90 period, at RNZAF Base Wigram; he may well have been the last member of the RNZAF to wear the badge in uniform, although I think his trade at the time was serving as a gate guard (no much glamour there!) Incidentally the training of an Air Observer early in WW2 encompassed the following recognized trades. Navigator, Air Gunner, Air Bomber, (aerial) Photography, and some W/T duties also.
    David D

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