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Thread: Mad, bad and half-French

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    Default Mad, bad and half-French

    Have finally received my uncle's service record, and we are all rather disconcerted (not to say mildly offended, in my father's case) by the fact that it has large red annotations in several places noting his Non-British Parentage. In fact, the Prior family is Anglo-French; we are the product of a World War I marriage between a British corporal and a Frenchwoman.

    As a result of his sinister French mother (who was by this stage dead, anyway), Uncle John has red warnings plastered across his service record to the effect that he is not to be posted without reference to the Section Commander (whoever he was), and that he is "Not to be employed other than as a pilot or obersever without reference to the Air Ministry. (M.7)."

    I'm curious to find out the background to this. Can anybody tell me the history of this policy, and what it actually meant in practical terms (ie how it might have affected somebody's career and postings). I would like to think it was simply a bit of wartime red tape rather than pure xenophobia--we are all quite proud of our French ancestry.

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    Natalie,

    "he is "Not to be employed other than as a pilot or obersever without reference to the Air Ministry. (M.7)."

    I have sighted this instruction before, on the record of an RNZAF airman. I don't know the reason behind it, but in your father's case I don't believe it relates in anyway to his French background.

    Errol

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    Hi Natalie,

    I have not seen such a thing but I suppose that note "Not to be employed other than as a pilot or obersever without reference to the Air Ministry. (M.7)." is quite good as I understand it if he is posted for example to some RAF unit in UK and the CO will decide to make an AG from him he needs to get a agreement from the AM.

    In other words I suppose it was some kind of prevention of commonwealth airmen that they will be serving according to wishes of their own authorities... but it is only my opinion.

    There was an example of Czech pilot finishing tour with Czech bomber squadron and sent to the OTU. He was drafted for one of Millenium operation without agreement of Czechoslovak authorities and he was killed. Then there was an argument between AM and Czechoslovak Inspectorate General if AM can use Czechoslovak airmen for operations without previous agreement from CIG or not...

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    I should explain perhaps that my uncle was not Australian; he was a British citizen of mixed parentage, born in Britain, and mostly raised there. (My father emigrated to Australia as a young man, and there are a lot of family members still in the UK.) There were still family members in France, but contact was severed due to the war, and when attempts were made through the Red Cross to find them afterwards they were unsuccessful. There were no Commonwealth connections; this only concerned the RAF and British authorities. To the best of the knowledge, my uncle never had French citizenship, though the family was living in Rouen when he was born; every time my grandmother had a baby, she was despatched back to the UK to give birth. I believe this was commonly done by British families resident in France to make sure that any sons were not liable to be called up for French military service.

    The notes about the "Non British Parentage. Mother French. Not to be posted without Reference to Section Commander" are typed in the Miscellaneous section of the service record, and underlined very firmly in red pen. Then there is a red stamp right underneath it, saying in capitals "Not to be employed other as pilot or observer without reference to Air Ministry". They definitely look as if they are meant to be connected.

    Has anybody else seen anything equivalent?

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    Ok Natalie so it looks like it has a different meaning.
    Anyway about parantage: in my last book I was writing about an RCAF airmen with Czech roots - his granfather came to the USA, his father was born in the USA as American and he himseld also BUT still in his RCAF record is mentioned that he is of Czech origin.

    So it seems to me that your father was not the only one...

    Hope that someone else may help us to understand these things...

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Hi Natalie
    It might be worth looking at the French side of your family to see how much contact or even support they may have had with/for the Vichy French Regime after 1940, which regime was hostile to the Allies during WW2 and many of who's personnel were frankly Anglophobic. It is the kind of thing that will trigger the innate paranoia of the "Security Services". The employment restriction was quite likely not an attempt to keep your Uncle as a pilot or Observer, but to prevent a routine posting(say on a rest tour), without further vetting, to a job that could have brought him in contact with "sensitive" material as a job in an HQ or the Air Ministry might have done.Seen from that point of view,the Annotations on his record need not be the slur that they appear to be but merely the application of a slightly paranoid security routine. The records of his postings may give some indication. Any actual vetting would probably not remain with his personal record.
    Regards
    Dick

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    Dick, the possibility that someone in the French side of the family may have looked "dodgy" has also occurred to me, but I honestly do not know enough about them to comment. I would frankly find it unlikely that they had any connections with the Vichy regime. From what I can gather they were just ordinary working class French people, and at least one of my grandmother's brothers was a WWI vet who lost an arm in the trenches.

    It has also occurred to me that they might have been worried about sending my uncle on bombing missions to France--that he might perhaps have balked at dropping bombs on his relatives. As it happens, the part of Rouen where they lived was bombed to bits by the RAF during the war, which is one of the main reasons the family lost contact. As I said, my grandfather did make efforts through the Red Cross to get in touch with them, but I think there were just too many displaced persons and they were never found. It was not until the 1980s when I obtained my great-grandmother's death certificate that my father actually discovered that his maternal grandmother had survived the war. The family in the UK all thought she must have been killed.

    Ironically, all Uncle John's operations with 149 Squadron were to targets in France, mostly V weapons sites, and it was in France that he was killed.

    What I suppose I would like to find out is whether this warning on the service record was something to do with our family particularly, or whether it applied to every new recruit with naughty French blood.

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    Hi Natalie,
    I would suggest that it is a completment rather than an insult to your Uncles parentage. I would assume that local possible geographical knowledge would be the reason for the instruction to employ him in the most obvious positions to utilise his supposed expertise. You have stated that all his missions were over France and against some of the most heavily guarded a best consealed sites the Germans had. I would suggest that this is the reason that high importance was given to your Uncle and for no other reason.
    Regards,
    Rob Jerram.

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    Natalie,
    I go along with Rob. I think it is highly likely that yr Uncle's file had been marked due to the fact that he had a French mother. Knowledge of France (however slight!) was always of interest to "The Spooks". In my opinion there is just the very faintest of whiff on the air of yr Uncle being a possible SOE candidate! M R D Foot in his book "SOE 1940-46" alludes to the fact that Service Records were combed for persons with any familiarity with the countries in Occupied Europe. As SOE didn't officially exist at the time and was, in any case highly Top Secret(!), those person's files were simply marked with some anodyne phrase/stamp that would mean little - except, possibly, to the Station Intelligence Officer.
    Just a thought
    HTH
    Peter Davies

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    Natalie,

    "The notes about the "Non British Parentage. Mother French. Not to be posted without Reference to Section Commander" are typed in the Miscellaneous section of the service record, and underlined very firmly in red pen. Then there is a red stamp right underneath it, saying in capitals "Not to be employed other as pilot or observer without reference to Air Ministry". They definitely look as if they are meant to be connected."

    They may not necessarily be connected: the former notice relates to postings (e.g. a transfer from one unit or place to another), the latter to remustering (e.g. a change of 'trade')

    Errol

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