View Full Version : Tracing dads service 1939 - 45 in the Far East and India

Harrys daughter
5th September 2012, 17:30
I've got some detail from the RAF records at Cranwell, and I'm hoping I can start to do more detailed research.

Dad, (LAC Harry Pollitt 965830) Enlisted March 1939 at 3 Depot Padgate 1 wing 3 of School of Technical Training Padgate
16.5.40 - 1 wing 3 of School of Technical Training 50 squadron RAF Halton, Aylesbury Buckinghamshire
6.1.41 100 squadron , shipped to Singapore from Glasgow
March to May 1941 No 4 AACU RAF Seletar, Singapore
June 1941 February 1942 No 4 AACU RAF Tengah, Singapore ( Dad said he left Singapore to go to Java & escaped from Java by ship for Australia, but two ships were sunk and his ship turned and headed for India.
March 1942 arrived in Karachi India
March 1942- 44 with No 1 School of Technical Training in Ambala Punjab India
27.1.1944 Home Embarkation from India
20.3.44 arrived in UK letter sent to mum from Station Rd Blackpool.
21.6.44 Field Recovery Unit in RAF Odiham
July & Aug RAF Halton
Sept 1944 RAF Odiham
28.11.44, BBRU Europe, Hamburg, Brussels, Calais, Weasmunster
4.12.45 BAFO / PHU A release10.12.45 RAF Cardington demob
He was awarded the Pacific Star, France-Germany Star, 39-45 Star and 39-45 defence Medals.

I'd like to find out more about his time in Singapore & the sqaudrons & units he served with, what he would have been involved in, and his arrival in India, I'm second guessing he had a fortunate escape from Singapore & Java!

I have what is probably the last letter he wrote to mum from RAF Tengah where he mentions radio silence & not to worry.

I would be grateful if anyone could advise of any sites where I can do further research on his squadron, partilcuarly 4 AACU, and what happened in Amabala?

I'm goign to Singapore in November and have kindly been invited to visit RAF Tengah were it really all started for dad, so to find out as much as I can before I go would be wonderful.
Many thanks.

5th September 2012, 19:31

While defensive operations were in progress in Malaya the Anti Aircraft Cooperation Unit was daliy moving some of it's Shark and Blenheim Is off the Island to the Southern Malay aerodromes to allow better dispersal at Tengah to reduce the losses due to the constant air raids.

When the Japanese forces crossed the border into Jahore State the evacuation plan was put into place to withdraw RAF units to Java. This took place at the end of January 1942.

So most ground staff were moved from Singapore to Java in the last weeks of Jan and the first week of Feb.

I'll dig out the unit ORB tomorrow to refresh my memory of the actual recorded events and dates for the AACU element.


Harrys daughter
6th September 2012, 08:56
Thank you so much.

6th September 2012, 14:12

A few bits of info.

"21.6.44 Field Recovery Unit in RAF Odiham"
This was actually "Forward Repair Unit" and it was more precisely known as No. 511 Forward Repair Unit. It was part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force which took part in the D-day operations and the liberation of Europe.

"28.11.44, BBRU Europe, Hamburg, Brussels, Calais, Weasmunster"
On 28.11.44 part of No 511 Forward Repair Unit was reformed as No. 151 Repair Unit which was a mobile formation that followed the advance of the Allied frontline as it advanced across Belgium, Holland and into Germany.

Are you sure that "BBRU" is correct? I have not encountered that abbreviation before. There was a "BARU" - Base Aircraft Repair Unit and it was the BARU in No. 511 Forward Repair Unit which was reformed as No 151 Repair Unit.

Sorry it is so confusing.


6th September 2012, 16:20
Just a few bits,

4 AACU had 3 Blackburn Sharks during this time frame........

K8923 crashed on Changi Sports Ground 3.6.41
K8505 crashed force landing at Payar Lebar 30.6.41

Chris Shores "Bloody Shambles" gives a very good idea of what went on at that time, and he says the Units last Shark, presumably K8933, should have taken part in the attack against the Japanese landings at Endau on 26.1.42 during which 100 squadron was decimated. Fortunately for the 4 AACU crew it broke at the last minute and never went!

This book also details the evacuation from Singapore and later Java.

No doubt you've already found the 100 Squadron Association, www.100squadronassociation.org.uk, which also has a very good history section.

6th September 2012, 16:51
After the war started it became difficult to send Indian recruits to the UK for training, so No 1 School of Technical Training was set up at Ambala to train technicians for the RIAF. So I would presume thats what your Dad would have been doing.
Source Indian Air Force website.
cheers Peter

7th September 2012, 08:19

The ORB starts in 1938 and ends in Nov 1941 and, as usual, for a unit with limited flying is full of Station Monthly Orders.

The orders give a detailed picture of conditions, and relaxation activities for a unit in pre war Singapore. More importantly it shows the gradual drift to war footing of Far East units.

With hindsight, the saddest part is the sections on how to move airmen dependents to Singapore from England during the dark days of Aug/Sept 1940 and then throughout the Blitz. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The end of ORB pages from Nov 1941 was the last batch sent on and relates to the loss of records when the fortress was surrendered.

A similar situation has happened to his service record from Cranwell.

The ORB for No.4 AACU has the following entry for 19th June 1941:


Weather Fine, Spotting exercise with Faber F.C., Fixed defences by one Swordfish. Major McLeod Carey taken up to observe camoflage effects. Drouges towed for 243 Squadron.

NZ39014 Sgt Pilot Saul, A R P, posted from No.243 Squadron.
619540 AC1 Gilroy, J Flight Mechanic (e) and 965830 AC2 Pollitt, H Flight Mechanic (a) posted from No.100 Squadron."

So you need to look at No.100 from arrival in Singapore to 19th June 1941.

I was intending to put the unit ORB up on the fixed price list and will do that later.


7th September 2012, 09:49
It may be worth noting that the WS Convoy carrying 100 Squadron (WS5B) arrived in Singapore on 11th March 1941.

Picking up on Ross's feedback, this means that there is now a gap between 11th March and 19th June which needs to be filled.



(Convoy information has been sent to Harry's Daughter)

UPDATE: I have found this article which summarises activity in the Far East at this time; hope it is of use: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/LondonGazette/38216.pdf

Harrys daughter
10th September 2012, 09:12
All this information is fantastic, thank you all so much, I really am very grateful.

Harrys daughter
11th September 2012, 09:23
I think I've filled the gap between 11th March and 19th June, letters to mum showed he was at RAF Seletar and then moved to RAF Tengah, would that fit? Would I be right in assuming he would still be in 100 squadron at RAF Seletar and them moved to 4 AACU when he went to RAF Tengah?

From what I have read about 100sqd, they were all but desimated at the fall of Singapore.

I've also just read in "Singapore Burning" by Colin Smith, that an RAF Tengah station commander,a Group Captain, shot himself after being reprimanded for not getting Hurricanes into the air fast enough, despite the fact he had done his utmost to raise the morale of ground crew. I wasn't sure if there were any Hurricanes at Tengah?

Shortly after, the base was abandoned. It really does seem to be these were truly horrible times. No wonder dad was relectant to talk.

11th September 2012, 10:23
He would have been on the strength of No.100 Sqn from embarkation at the UK until posting on 19th June to No.4 AACU.

No easy short answer to your other questions. It was all a result of early problems.

The pre war planning envisaged that the RAF would move forward into new aerodromes constructed in Malaya with the small Army forces protecting the landing grounds.

As such the limitations of the four aerodromes on Singapore Island could be addressed ie cramped/no dispersal/grass fields liable to flooding/no below ground air raid shelters etc.

However due to the rush to finish the new construction work in Malay did not have dispersal, concealment, adequate ground access etc and a dispute arose on protection duty by the Army.

Due to the demands on equipment in Europe and the Middle East replacement aircraft and Radar equipment had been diverted leaving few shipments to the Far East.

War resupply time was estimated at 6 to 9 months prewar but Middle East conflict had virtually closed the Med and the Suez Canal route. It was also planned that the USAAC and Dutch would assist with material should Singapore be threatened.

Japan moved their forces closer to Malaya in Peacetime by establishing bases in IndoChina and China allowing forces to be massed within bomber range of the RAF aerodromes.

During late Nov 1941 the RAF and Army forces were moved to their forward bases to but constrained from operating over/in Siam until Japan made the first hostile move.

The bulk of the Japanese invasion force landed in Siam and quickly set up land aerodromes to operate the short ranged Zeros while a smaller landing force attacked the North East corner of Malaya near the closest RAF aerodrome.

Air attacks with small bombs were designed to destroy RAF aircraft on the ground but leave the aerodrome facilities relatively undamaged. The seaward assault was to take the aerodrome and quickly get it operational for the Zeros.

A number of RAF aircraft were destroyed in the initial day of fighting but these losses were sustainable, it was what happened the next day that cast the die.

A maximum effort was made by the RAF in the early morning from the remaining Malay aerodromes to attack the Kota Bharu naval invasion force. After landing the troops this force had withdrawn to the Siam area leaving the RAF aircraft without a target, some aircraft bombing troop concentrations before returning to their bases.

While the RAF aircraft were refuelling and re-arming the Zeros attacked the aerodromes. Without either effective Radar or Observer Corp warning the air patrols were quickly overwhelmed and many RAF aircraft destroyed on the ground.

So on the second day of war operations the Air assests for defending Malaya and hence Singapore Island had been virtually wiped out.

Most Operational squadrons ceased to exist and both crews and ground staff were posted to other formations to make up numbers. Usually non operational aircraft from support units such as the AACU were pressed into service for subsequent attacks.

A series of moves by Japanese ground forces threatened to entrap Allied forces on the West Coast and each time a stop line was set up, Japanese forces used captured native shipping to infiltrate behind the line, cutting supply routes.

The remaining RAF forces withdrew initlally to Singapore Island but these bases rapidly became overcrowded and subject to daily bombing attacks from Japanese Forces in Indochina. The Radar equipment lost in Malay was keenly felt as few units made it back to set up in the Island to give early warning.

Some aircraft in shipping that were destined for India/Middle East were divereted to Singapore and it was the MU at Tengah that worked miracles in getting these ready for service. The airmen had no experience in servicing Hurricanes but they managed to erect the first one within 24 hours of the packing crates being moved to Tengah.

Ground losses continued at high levels preventing replacement of the early losses keeping the RAF strength below effective levels. This was the reason for the strong reprimand to the Tengah OC.

Most RAF aircraft were dispersed to Java to leave the four Island aerodromes less of a target and the ground crews to support them were also shuttled by sea to Java at the end of January 1942.

However the last four Swordfish of No.4 AACU were destroyed on the ground at Tengah on the 9th Feb by Zeros diving in through the Hurricanes circling to escort their photo recce operation.

The last of No.4 AACU ground crews sailed at 06:30 hrs from Singapore for Batavia on the 12th February in the Empire Star with seven other ships and the escort cruiser Danae.


Harrys daughter
11th September 2012, 18:49
Thank you so much for this infomation it fills so many gaps I wanted to find out. I am very grateful.

11th September 2012, 23:14

It is believed that HP may have sailed on the ship KOTA GEDE, which departed Tjilatjap in Java on 26th/27th February 1942 arriving in Columbo on 8th March 1942 and Karachi 21st March.

(see http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/war-sea/47904-escape-singapore-february-1942-a-2.html#post528586)

Does your source regarding "No.4 AACU ground crews sailed at 06:30 hrs from Singapore for Batavia on the 12th February in the Empire Star with seven other ships and the escort cruiser Danae", identify how / when they travelled from Batavia to Tjilatjap?.



12th September 2012, 09:17

Bloody Shambles described how the LAST of No.4 AACU ground crews left Singapore.

Campaigns in the Far East, Vol II, Air Historical Branch Nomograph also describes how units were no longer cohesive formations. A thining out withdrawal of personnel took place from 20th January from the Naval Base leaving only cadre of some essential units in place.

By 31st Jan only the fighter force remained on the Island, the four Swordfish resurrected by No.151 MU and Sharks stripped of equipment and left as dummy aircraft.

Any unserviceable aircraft remaining were to be struck off charge unless repairable within seven days.

It also describes that the almost constant bombing of Singapore Island from 1st Jan had resulted in the methodical and organised initial evacuation process becoming disorganised and confused in Keppel Harbour.

Local dock labour disappeared and had to be replaced by RAF men for bunkering and loading operations drawn from the groups awaiting shipping space splintering units further.

Crews deserted from shipping, including the RAF Depot ship which resulted in further splintering of units to provide temporary manpower to man these vessels.

AVM Maltby, Senior Staff Officer in Sumatra reported in his despatch how in the first few days of February about 5,000 raf personnel landed at Palembang in great disorder, not as units but as a mass of individuals in most cases without even nominal rolls.

He goes on to say that the situation was greatly complicated by the arrival of men at Palembang by men destined for Java - these had to be organised, entrained for Oosthaven and shipped hence to Batavia.

The withdrawal over the causeway on 31st Jan led to the Naval Base being un-usable for evacuation and all the men waiting in this local being sent over the island to join the chaos at Keppel Harbour.

In Java units did not exist as formations only collections of men and equipment. Re-organisation in Feb was on the basis of Hudsons to Semplak, Blenheims to Kalidjati and fighters to Tjililitan and the groundcrew individuals to which type they were experienced in handling.

As a TB trained man I suspect he would have gravitated to Tjikampek on the futher reorganisation on 18th Feb but have no evidence to support this hunch appart from this was where the surviving 9 Vilbebeest and 1 Albacore were grouped. Equally he may have gone to Kalidjati because of the Blenheims on the AACU.

If he left before 6th March as you suggest then he was not considered essential for operations by No.36 Squadron or Blenheims and suggest he was considered a relatively inexperienced,unarmed, surplus man not attached to any unit.

So as a unit No.4 AACU ceased to exist in reality, only on Air Ministry paper, from Mid Jan and so no neat tick in the unit box on any shipping muster roll from either Singapore or Java.


12th September 2012, 11:45
Moving to where the records allow "a peg to be put in sand".

The No.100 Sqn ORB AIR 27/795 notes the full draft assigned to No.100 Squadron as of 17th March 1941.

FMech(A)2 Pollitt H is named in the list "Disembarked at Singapore ex S.S._ on posting to No.100 Squadron from Home Establishment on 11/3/41 T.O.R.S. 12/3/41"

TORS was taken on ration strength - Ross

So these are the dates he arrived in Singapore and confirms No.100 Sqn from the day after arrival.

No date is given in AIR 27/795 for leaving the unit but the No.4 AACU ORB record of his arrival at that unit can be assumed correct.


12th September 2012, 12:23

That is excellent information as it confirms his arrival on convoy WS5B (which docked Singapore 11th March 1941)



12th September 2012, 13:02

On the Bombay detached part of WS 5BX on either SS Aquitania or SS Empress of Japan.


12th September 2012, 13:36
so that's the easy bit sorted .....

The other two journeys are proving a bit more challenging although I have one possible for Java to Karachi (1942) and one possible for India to UK (1944)

N Wright
1st October 2012, 14:43
I am also trying to piece together my late fathers time during WW2 his name P D Wright 620774 Air Frame Fitter.
his first name Percy but i believe Known as Peter.

His service records show he arrived in the Far East 27/6/41 and No 4 AACU 25/8/41 He told me he had escaped with others from Singapore and that his family were told he was missing presumed dead. I do not recall any further details.
His service records show he arrived Karachi reception centre 11/3/42 and No 1 service flying school Ambala 21/4/42 (No303 maint. unit, No 2 Hill Depot )and was there until 28/4/45 arriving back in the Uk 17/6/45
He was also in hospital on two occasions while at Ambala.
prior to leaving England he was with 220 sqadron Thornaby
Any information covering these periods would be appreciated


Norman Wright

1st October 2012, 15:02
Hi Norman,

The info from the ORB for 25th Aug 1941 is a bit sparse but there is a single line:

16 Airmen disembarked at Singapore and posted to No.4 AACU

This suggests the group arrived and was assigned directly to the unit.

If your relative was part of this group then the service record may show assignment to Far East and convoy embarkation as 27th June rather than arrival in the Far East.

Edit - Convoy WS9B sailed from the UK on 27th June but there was quite a bit of cross decking as parts were detached in the various ports enroute but he was possibly eventually on the Athlone Castle which reached Singapore on the 25th August,


1st October 2012, 17:29

I agree with Ross that his service record dates tie in with the departure of the ATHLONE CASTLE from Liverpool and its subsequent arrival in Singapore.

I was trying to see if I could find anything about his departure from Singapore. Research relating to Harry Pollitt in this thread highlighted the chaos surrounding departures at that time but his date of 11th March 1942 in Karachi does not tie in with the arrival of the KOTA GEDE (see previous posts) which was 23rd March

Having checked arrivals in the port of Karachi on "Convoyweb" there was one ship on 9th (EKMA), two on the 10th (LANCASHIRE AND MENDOZA) and one on the 11th (SANTHIA). Obviously we don't know his port of embarkation so can't narrow it down at present, but this may be a useful start point for you.

Good luck with your research



N Wright
25th October 2012, 20:16
Many thanks for info. I believe my father escaped in a small boat and picked up at some point but have no detail.

His vrecords show he spent 3 periods in BMH Ambala do know if it is possible to find out reasons


28th April 2013, 14:25
Any info on AC1 Ernest Finn - buried at Kranji 3/1/45?
Hi Norman,

The info from the ORB for 25th Aug 1941 is a bit sparse but there is a single line:

16 Airmen disembarked at Singapore and posted to No.4 AACU

This suggests the group arrived and was assigned directly to the unit.

If your relative was part of this group then the service record may show assignment to Far East and convoy embarkation as 27th June rather than arrival in the Far East.

Edit - Convoy WS9B sailed from the UK on 27th June but there was quite a bit of cross decking as parts were detached in the various ports enroute but he was possibly eventually on the Athlone Castle which reached Singapore on the 25th August,


28th April 2013, 15:00
See separate thread also started by Dave12


5th June 2014, 17:32
HI This is my first attempt at using the site so apologies if I get things wrong or incorrect! I have just received details of my dad's RAF service record & it shows various abbreviations that don't appear on the paperwork they also sent.

What does 2 P.O.C. stand for?

Also he was assigned to ACSEA 21.8.1944 & SHQ Santa (? cant read next word)

Any information on these would be much appreciated.


5th June 2014, 18:40
SHQ Santa Cruz? Present day Juhu Airfield near Mumbai (Formerly Bombay)

5th June 2014, 23:00
2 POC could be 2 PDC (2 Personnel Despatch Centre)



9th June 2014, 17:11
Hi & thank you Pete T & Jagan. I guess it is just the poor writing that I cant understand. He was posted there(Santa Cruz) 27/10/44. The records then show that he was posted to HQ225 G?P(again cant read the writing) 2 RAF Pol Schl(A)...the following year 30/6/45. Next posted back to SHQ Santa Cruz HQ Prov Serv 13/8/46.

There is also an entry 5.12.45 admitted to BMH Colaba - Discharged BMH Colaba 3.1.46.

Any chance you could give me some feed back on any of these postings? My dad never spoke of his time in the service whether home or abroad...everytime I asked he would change the subject or just ignore the question. I never persued it out of respect for him. I do have a few photos of his time abroad and it would be nice to know if they relate to the entries I am asking about.

Thank you for your support much appreciated.

10th June 2014, 02:02
HQ 225 GP - Headquarters, No.225 Group.

The 222 Group and 225 Group, located respectively at Colombo and Bangalore, were under Air Headquarters, India Command. The 221 Group at Calcutta and 224 Group at Chittagong were under Air Headquarters, Bengal, Air Vice Marshal T. M. Williams in command. The 222 and 225 Groups were responsible for general reconnaissance and for the defense of their areas. Coordination of RAF and AAF activities against the Japanese was through headquarters of the India Air Task Force, located at Barrackpore, and the RAF Bengal Command. Relations were most cordial, and "operations conferences" between the two forces were held each day to plan for activities throughout the following twenty-four hours.

Colaba is also one of the localities in Bombay/Mumbai.

10th June 2014, 09:48
BMH is the British Military Hospital, Colaba, Bombay. Could the other one be 2 RAF Police School?



10th June 2014, 11:19
Once again thank you for the information provided.

I believe my dad was posted to the 2 RAF Police School but where would this have been based?

Is there a way of finding out why my dad was admitted to the BMH Colaba? Also the last entry on his record is about 6 weeks after being discharged from BHM Colaba to 101 PDC with Class A Rel(I think) recorded against it. Can you tell me where 101 PDC was based & what Class A Rel means?


10th June 2014, 15:07
101 Personnel Dispersal Centre was based at RAF Kirkham (or RAF Warton after 1st June 1946).

From here he returned to civil life, but he was still on reserve and could be called up again if needed. There was a Class A and Class B release (I think Class B were released faster than Class A, but my computer is broken so I haven't got access to any of my files at the moment so can't give you any more details)



11th June 2014, 10:16
Hi Once again I am grateful for the information provided. I have now looked through my dad's "form 543" and see some things that intrigue me.

Under the Miscellaneous section it has the following listed:
Annual Filming
WS1 3years
WS1 4years
WS1 5years

What do these mean?

It also mentions form 3905...I have seen from other posts that the RAF did not keep these forms(however it states "See Also" form 3905 - A - Suplementary Record of Service - which is filed separately) but can someone tell me what they were & what information they would have had on them?

Also in the bottom left hand corner of this record it shows PWR6/44...any idea what that is or refers to?

Thank you.

8th November 2014, 20:19
i have just got the war records of my late farther clifford higgins searved from 1938 till 1946 singapore cylon india the attached letter has a section stating regrettably, the only remaining documentatoin is the raf form543. Therefore.there are no additional documents this office can refar to explian further the events resulting in the `CC` {Closed Custody} annotation under `Time Forfeited section for the above record. can anyone please explain wht this means thanks for any assitance.