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Thread: Supernumary pilot

  1. #1
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    Default Supernumary pilot

    Hi,

    What does it mean when a pilot was posted to a squadron as a supernumary? And what was his role?

    Thanks,

    Alex

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    Could it be "supernumerary"?

    Mikkel Plannthin
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Hi Alex
    I suspect that supernumary means simply that he was one of, however many, pilots that were over and above the normal establishment of a squadron. They would not have been allocated their own a/c or been part of a regular section but would have filled in when one of the regular pilots was not available and in time, due to "wastage", would have been incorporated into the Sqn strength. Do you know what level of experience he brought to the Sqn? In the Battle of Britain pilots were often sent into action with very little flying time, as the literature points out, but as the war progressed it seems to have become possible to feed them in more gently and give them more time on type. Even a pilot returning after a rest period would have possibly been held back to avoid interfering with established Sections and Flights, but supernumary kept a small supply of ready replacements available in a way the more frantic BoB did not allow.
    Regards
    Dick

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    Alex,
    As Dick has already guessed, supernumerary simply means "in excess of normal establishment". Every unit in a Commonwealth air force had an official establishment at any given time, and the actual number of bods in each rank and trade (or officers in each rank and Branch) was know as the strength. Trainig units had a staff establishment, while all the pupils were on strength as trainees (the school would have had a designed intake and output, on which the establishment of instructors, and rest of the staff was based). However it was quite normal for any unit to be slightly above or below strength at any given time due to various factors, such as replacements not being available immediately, or increased duties (work or duties over and above the designed level) might entail additional personnel being posted in and carried on strength, with perhaps an official increase in establishment being approved by higher authority if this situation became the norm.
    If somebody was specifically posted in and annotated "supernumerary to establishment" it would normally indicate that this posting was for some specific (usually temporary) reason, and once the reason or desired result had been achieved (whatever that might be) the person concerned might be posted back to his original unit, or perhaps even re-posted (but without annotation) to the new unit. One that I can think of was in the RNZAF in mid-1944 when a Fighter squadron had TWO Squadron Leaders on strength; one was the normal Commanding Officer; the other was an experienced S/L who was posted to the squadron for a tour of duty in the South Pacific, at the conclusion of which he was given his own squadron to command for a second tour of duty. For the first tour he was posted as supernumerary. I could not guess particularly why your man was posted in on a supernumerary basis, but there would have been some reason. Hope this rather garbled expanation is of some help.
    David D

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    As per David's example above it was not uncommon for pilots to be posted to a Squadron as a "Supernumerary" to get back upto speed after non-operational duties (instructor, staff duties etc) before assuming an establishment slot with another unit, particularly if they were to become a flight commander or commanding officer.

    Best Regards

    Andy Fletcher
    Per Speculationem Impellor ad Intelligendum

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    Hi guys,

    Thanks for your explanations. I have a Flt Lt A N W Johnstone who wa sposted to 263 Squadron on 3rd September 1942 as a supernumerary and attached to 'A' Flight. From your posts it would appear he may have been posted in to gain experience before taking over a flight of his own.

    Alex

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