View Full Version : P/O on probation C. E. L. Tapley Circa 1931

20th July 2012, 13:17
After the success of my first query

On or around June 11, 1931 Pilot Officer on probation C. E. L. Tapley bald out of an aircraft at Digby, Lincs of No 2 FTS

He subsequently resigns his short service commission Sept 26, 1931.

Can anyone please provide his full name or part there off from Air Force List many thanks

Note: I have not identified this aircraft or confirmed the date


20th July 2012, 13:22
Hi Paul,

From July 1931 list

Colin E L Tapley

Online London Gazette gives Colin Edward Livingston Tapley


Service numbers sequence for above is

Seavill 29216
Strath ?
Tapley ?
Wakeham 29219

So I'm 99.9% certain Tapley was 29218


20th July 2012, 13:39
Paul, Hi,

This yr man?:-

Civil registration event: Death
Name: TAPLEY, Colin Edward L
Registration district: [?] Cirencester
County: Gloucestershire
Year of registration: 1995
Month of registration: November
Date of Birth:7 May 1909
District no: 4801 Reg no: 32D Ent no: 140 DOR: 1195

Real shot in dark. 3rd Forename poss 'Livingstone'

Peter Davies

20th July 2012, 14:11

Thanks for that -- Looks like this is 100% my man


How did you get the Service numbers sequence?

Seavill 29216
Strath ?
Tapley ?
Wakeham 29219

I thought service nmber not allocated until WW2

However, I wonder if they left "gaps" in allocation based on when someone joined service and then resigned comission before ww2 as in Tapley case if they joined back later?


20th July 2012, 14:25
Hi Paul,

Pre war officer service numbers are something I've been working to unravel for a few years now.

In 1940 the Air Force List changed to give service numbers in the names index (see the Oct 1940 for example).

I had been producing a database of pre war officers with their gradation dates so I added the milestone numbers from the 1940 AFL.

With a few exceptions it worked out that most had a service number begining with the year they were commissioned Acting P/O so for your man 29 being his AP/O issued in 1929.

Comparing names gave an alphabetic sequence which corresponds with the sequence given in the London Gazette.

As long as the gaps between milestones is not too great then a good guess at service number is possible.


Service No Surname Initials F1 F2 F3 F4 F5
29200 Berry E R Edward Reoch
29201 Blair H G Henry Gordon
29205 Douglas-Jones E A Eric Alfred
29208 Harkness H Hill
29209 Hinckley G George
29210 Hue-Williams I V Ian Victor
29211 Jarman G T Geoffrey Twyford
29212 Jenkins G L S Griffith Llewellyn Christmas
29213 Redgment E D Eric Donald
29214 Richmond R C Robert Calvert
29215 Samuels N P Norman Philip
29216 Seavill F C Francis Cecil
29217 Strath F A A H Frederick Arthur Agar Hawker
29218 Tapley C E L Colin Edward Livingstone
29219 Wakeham F S Frederick Sleeman
29220 Warfield J M John Mortimer
29222 Williams O P E Owen Paul Edward
29224 Winn R I B Raymond Ivor Burgess

An example of a quirk that throws the sequence is between
29205 Douglas-Jones E A Eric Alfred
29208 Harkness H Hill

One of the officers in the Gazette Listing has an out of sequence number, but which one?

Exclusions to the rule are Cranwell Cadets and SSC officers from overseas and other services. There is a pattern for these officers but it needs a bit more black magic in how interpretation is applied.

As to reuse of prewar numbers it depended on how long on the retired list and if they rejoined under a different service eg AAF/RAFVR/RAFO.


20th July 2012, 15:20
As it not a common surname, you woudl have found the name very easy just searching in the LG during the year 1931, I know now you have more info than you expected but, jus' sayin'.

You got the 1931 resignation info from Flight Global?

20th July 2012, 15:30

Thanks excellent research there.... and most useful for the future.. One interesting case I had to sort out for someone was the service number of Jeffrey Kindersley Quill who transferred to the reserve in 1935

He never "officially" rejoined RAF and remained in R.A.F.O throughout the war the first indication of his service number #32110 was when he requilished his commission as Flying Officer (retaining the rank of Squadron
Leader) in 1958

His service number (AFAIK) was never used in the London Gazette until this date. So I wonder if he had cause to use it at all during ww2


20th July 2012, 15:43
Hi Paul,

Quill flew in 1940 with operational squadrons during his time as a test pilot and his service number, issued just after his commission to P/O on 9 Oct 1931 was retained when he transferred to RAFO on 31 Dec 1935, would have been used in the official returns as well as mess bills!

This is the service number sequence round Quill

Service No Surname Initials F1 F2 F3
32103 Isemonger A D Anthony Delves
32106 Leborgne P R J Paul Richard Joseph
32108 Lockett C E S Charles Edward Stuart
32109 Moncrieff A Alexander
32110 Quill J K Jeffrey Kindersley
32111 Ross Q W A Quentin Weston Aldridge
32112 Sisson J C John Clayton
32113 Somerville D MacD Duncan MacDonald
32114 Sutton J J A John Jonas Arthur
32115 Wild F W L Frederick William Lyder
32116 Bristow F B Follett Berkeley
32117 MacFarlan R Robert
32118 McMullen C C Colin Campbell
32119 Sorel-Cameron R Robert


20th July 2012, 16:14
Ross thanks

So to get my understanding service numbers were issued to RAF officers prewar but never used in the London Gazette until 1940



20th July 2012, 16:18

Yes I got the 1931 resignation info from Flight Global but not the rest of his name

and anyway my reference to his bale out just had him down as "C.L. Tapley"

20th July 2012, 16:26
Officer Service numbers were issued and in use from April 1918 just not published outside RAF Records Office.

These were all W/C on the formation of the RAF

Service No Surname Initials F1 F2
00051 Breese C D Charles Dempster
00855 Preston W G Walter George
01026 Groves P R C Percy Robert
01042 Blackburn H Harold
01059 Cave-Browne-Cave T R Thomas Reginald

I seem to remember that Officer Service records circa 1920 from the TNA download have the service number on them but cannot find an example on my new hard drive.


20th July 2012, 16:27
Thanks Ross I have learnt something new today...

Errol Martyn
21st July 2012, 01:42

Service numbers for RAF officers date back to 1918, when seniority lists were assembled leading up to the merger of the RFC and RNAS into the RAF on 1 April 1918.

Service numbers in the publicly available edition of the Air Force List index first appeared in its September 1939 issue.


21st July 2012, 02:14
32103, Wg Cdr ISEMONGER, Anthony Delves was killed-in-Action with 60 Sqn 13 Mar 1943 age 34. Isemonger was also with 60 (B) Sqn at Kohat, India, from late 1932 to early 1936. He then served with .....? then on 22 Jan 1938 posted to 76 (B) Sqn, Finningley for two years. Between 1940-1943, no further postings known. Commanded 60 Sqn in early 1943. Times Thursday May 20 1943 reports: Reported 'missing at sea', in March 1943, due to enemy action. Wing Commander A.D. ISEMONGER, son of the late F.M.Isemonger, Odlam, Stone-cum-Ebony, Kent, and the late Ruth Isemonger, husband of Daphne Isemonger. 9 Plymouth Court, Buitenhaut Street, Capetown, South Africa.

21st July 2012, 03:13
Hello Norman,



Andy's Tip for the Day: Stay out of German breweries, and Spanish Tapas bars!

Paul. Re your man TAPLEY. He was somewhat of an athlete (a hurdler, mainly). The following snippet from The Times:

The Times. Thursday, July 30, 1931. p.5

The Royal Air Force championship meeting was begun at Uxbridge yesterday and will be continued to-day and concluded on Saturday.


Leading Aircraftman Finlay (Grantham) (holder) 1.
Flying Officer Spenlove (Upavon) 2.
Pilot Officer Tapley (Digby) 3.

Won by seven yards. Time: 15.5 sec.

Now, to be beaten by seven yards in a 120 yard event seems somewhat of a poor effort, until you realize that the winner, LAC Finlay, is none other than, Donald Osborne FINLAY (later 36031), who later won a Silver Medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games!

Best of luck with The Games!


21st July 2012, 14:25
Hello Col,

Thank you for the lead to more Isemonger information. My profile on him was clearly out of date as I never considered 60 Sqn RSAF. Theres a photo of him in the flight magazine of March 17th 1938.

Meanwhile, no more tapas
With bruises healing


25th September 2012, 08:54
Thanks to the kindness of Errol Martyn, C E L Tapley from being one of my least known person has become my best known bale out.

Colin Edward Livingston Tapley was from New Zealand and had anything but a quiet life, he was a member of the first of Richard Byrd's expeditions to Antarctica, the joined the RAF but had to resign his commission after the parachute jump on June 11 1931 resulted in concussion (I am still attempting to ID the aircraft and serial) probably 2 FTS at Digby, Lincs. He then went back to NZ and ended up winning a Talent Competition moved to the USA and became an fully fledged 'Hollywood' actor.



He joined RCAF in 1940 as a flight controller, and ended up in the UK post war, married in to the Hambro family and continued acting, he played the adjutant in Angels One Five and the moustached, bespectacled scientist Dr W H Glanville in The Dam Busters.

See also:


He then had various parts in TV series and died in 1995.