View Full Version : 1920s Meteorological Section photo

23rd February 2008, 16:56
Hi all,
you might like to follow this link
where Rootschat (family history orientated) members are discussing a wonderfully informal photo of a 1920s Meteorological Section.
Would be splendid if the CO could be identified - he has enough medal ribbons!

23rd February 2008, 17:42
There I was just enjoying Wales beating Italy at rugby, Ireland well on the way to beating Scotland, and who cares what England and France do to each other? And you give us, in the RafCommands Met Section, a picture like this to disembrangle!!!!
Leave it with us. We will take the necessary investigative actions.
I have had easier tasks!!!!
Peter Davies

23rd February 2008, 17:51
delighted that you have seen my post. I knew there was a Met specialist on the forum, but could I find your posts on the search function?
Perhaps my grey matter would be improved by watching the Six Nations.
Enjoy the investigation!

23rd February 2008, 18:01
Looking for a AFC/DFC between wars holder who had something to do with the Met section.

I would suggest our Met boys start with

Stafford Berkley Harris.
F/O 1st April 1918
F/L 30th June 1923
S/L 5th March 1930
W/C 1st July 1936
G/C 1st Jan 1940

His first DFC was gazetted 30/05/1924
In recognition of distinguished services rendered with Waziristan Force between Jan 1922 and April 1923.

His bar was gazetted 26/06/1931
In recognition of gallant and distinguished service rendered in connection with the operation on the North West Frontier of India between 23rd April and 12th Sept 1930.

His second bar was gazetted 08/09/1933
In recognition of gallant and distinguished service rendered in connection with the operations on the North West Frontier of India during the periods 28th Jan 1932 to 6th Fen 1932 and 6th March 1932 to 18th March 1932.

He was serving with No.39 Sqn for the Bar and Second Bar.

Not 100% sure that he is the man in the centre of the group. Just a strong hunch.


23rd February 2008, 18:08
Could that be a Military Cross ribbon next to the DFC?? Might narrow it down even more....

23rd February 2008, 18:29
Harris was Jennifer Ehle's (of Camomile Lawn, Pride & Prejudice etc fame) grandfather. So if things getting really stuck it maybe worth asking her via her management company. One never knows, it may work.


Ken MacLean
23rd February 2008, 18:52
Keep her Mum in mind too. British actress Rosemary Harris is G/C Harris' daughter.


23rd February 2008, 19:28
Ross, well thats a turn up for the books, and Amrit - I am indeed going after the Harris/Ehle family to see if an eyball can be done.
I never fail to be impressed at the expertise in evidence on this site.
Cheers to all

23rd February 2008, 19:40
Metman coming in Dave, with thanks for posting this link. I'm a retired forecaster with a strong interest in met history, and I was sent this photo some time ago, by a colleague in the Royal Met Society with a view to identifying the civilian. (There is nothing in the Met Office Archives that would help.)

The quality of 'our' photo was not very good, the medal ribbons were indistinct and the writing on the folder illegible, but I felt the photo had to be between 1922 and 1930. My logic was (1) the uniform and (2) the chestful of ribbons of the Flt Lt - I thought if they'd been awarded it was probably WW1, in which case he would have had a higher rank at a later date. If Ross is correct in his thinking then I was on the right lines - if for the wrong reason.

I thought there might have been an Indian connection (the F/O in my photo had an Indian appearance), but having spoken to Somnath Sapru, author of 'Skyhawks' (about WW1 Indian RFC pilots) without success, decided to give that a miss.

The two chaps, back left, are probably the W/T operators allocated to the met office; there were no teleprinters in those days and data were received by W/T.

The two seated chaps appear to be holding the sort of slide rules used to calculate upper wind speeds from balloons followed by theodolite. I'm not sure what the object is between the Flt Lt's feet, but now I have a clear photo I can chase that up.

Ross encourages me to think this is definitely between 1923 and 1930, in which case the location can be whittled down to possibly one of 9 UK airfields. Very few airfields had met offices with a forecaster between 1923 and 1930; it varied from year to year, but was rarely more than 9. These included Andover, Grain, Cranwell, Calshot, Leuchars, Shotwick (Manchester) and Farnborough (although this is probably best considered a civilian station). I can post a comprehensive list, but I need some documents form the Met Office Archives.

However, airfield met offices in the UK were manned by civilians - usually 2-3 assistants and one forecaster. As those in this photo are predominantly servicemen it is possible the photo was taken overseas, an idea supported by the sandy nature of the soil. The Air Estimates for 1927 includes a statement that "It is not practicable to give RAF officers the highly specialised training and long experience in meteorology now required for an aviation forecasting service, and the remaining officers and airmenof the RAF hitherto employed on meteorological work overseas are being replaced by civilian members of the Meteorological Office."

This leads me to suspect the civilian might be a first replacement at an overseas station and that the photo dates to between 1927 and 1930. However, if this was the case I'd assume the civilian would occupy a more prominant position in the photo.

Going back to Ross again, and if the Flt Lt is Harris, I wonder if this is a light-hearted photo to celebrate his promotion to S/L - which would date it to 1930.

The big (and it is big) flaw with the whole of my above arguement is that I'm assuming the civilian is a forecaster.

My colleague and I would be very interested in chasing this to a definite conclusion.


Would it be possible for the originator of this thread on the other forum to copy me the high resolution image? It would help me chase this up from the met side.


23rd February 2008, 20:16
Hi Brian,

If the bod is Harris then I put the photo July/Aug 1928 on his appointment as Personal Assistant to Air Officer Commanding RAF India and Air Staff Duties 31st Aug 1928.

Harris took over as C.O. of No.39 Sqn from S/L Champion de Crespigny on 28th April 1930.


23rd February 2008, 21:06
Many thanks Ross - so there might be an Indian link, albeit not the one I thought. I know I'm pushing my luck, but do you know Harris' whereabouts at that time? As I said my interest is in the civilian, if indeed he is a meteorologist, and if I have the location the identification is easy.

Another thought crosses my mind - if it is 1928 they might all be celebrating the fact that the RAF were no longer responsible for the met services, as per the 1927 Air Force Estimates (Flight, 10 March 1927), and (some) were going home. That would also explain the doleful expression on the civilian's face!


I suggest you direct the Rootschat people to this forum.


23rd February 2008, 21:50
Does anyone know whether there are any publications for the following stations as Harris was commander during the following periods?

RAF Hucknell 3 Jan 1938 to 11 Aug 1938
RAF Stradishall April 1940 to January 1941?


24th February 2008, 00:12
The instrument between the F/L's legs is a Finemann nephoscope, used for obtaining upper winds from cloud movement. The technique was used operationally until the end of WW2, and the equipment remained on many stations until the 1960s - I can remember doing the odd NEPH (the name of the coded met message) out of curiosity myself whilst at Upavon circa 1967.

As cloud heights were estimated the wind speeds so obtained were approximate. As an aside, during the early 1920s a forecaster, using nephoscope observations of cirrus clouds, identified the belt of strong upper winds (20 years later rediscovered as the 'jetstream' by the Americans) that often accompany frontal systems.


Errol Martyn
24th February 2008, 00:56
Does anyone know whether there are any publications for the following stations as Harris was commander during the following periods?

RAF Hucknell 3 Jan 1938 to 11 Aug 1938
RAF Stradishall April 1940 to January 1941?



Royal Air Force Stradishall, 1938-70
by Spencer Adams, Jock Whitehouse, Jock Whitehead

But hard to come by.


24th February 2008, 01:51
thank you for your splendid thoughts.
Brian, looks as if what comes around goes around as it looks as if the holder of the photo has been in touch with The Royal Meteorological Society and this is probably the source of that query. She found it behind an old family photo that dated from 1915 and there is nothing obvious to her as to a family connection.
She cannot get a better resolution to her scan.
I will give her the link to this thread.
If the chap is Harris, I'm smiling at the suggestion that it marks his promotion - or the hand over to civilian operation hence "the doleful expression on the civilian's face".
On the Ehle/Harris front, an e-mail to Ms Harris' agent has bounced, but I will persevere.
And so to bed - to dream - of have nightmares about Finemann nephoscopes.

24th February 2008, 08:08

The first print on the Rootschat website is infinitely better than the one I have, my colleagues is just as poor. It's just possible that if I had a copy of that on Rootschat I could do something with it - I'll try anything once.


Ken MacLean
24th February 2008, 14:15
The announcement of Harris' appointment to 39 Sqn mentions that he is a specialist in meteorology.

(London Times, 20 May 1930)

alain charpentier
24th February 2008, 15:22

When I read you, it is like to read a novel of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle !!

Chapeau, Messieurs !!

Amicalement Alain.

24th February 2008, 16:18
nice one! And a search for him at The Times without his middle name brings more details and a nice potted history upon his appointment to Cranwell.
Brian, I hope the Rootschat lady will be sending you a scan soon.
Alain...excuse us, It is just 'les Anglais' getting stuck into a dog's dinner -but I do not know how that would translate into coloquial French.

24th February 2008, 16:39
Be careful here or you might get involved in the technical differences betwen a "dog's dinner", a "dog's breakfast", or even a "pig's ear" as English expressions for something not altogether straightforward!!!!
Peter Davies

24th February 2008, 23:43
Sorry to come back to this one, but in addition to the Times reference to Harris dated 20 May 1930 (thanks Ken), there was a later one dated 18 April 1933 (thanks Peter for your off-board message). Taking the two together it seems unlikely that the photo, if indeed the Flt Lt is Harris, can be dated to 1928. Harris, a specialist in meteorology, as well as being a pilot, had two 5-year tours in India; the first 1921-26, and the second 1928-33. He started the second tour as PA to the AOC, which means it is unlikely he would have appeared as the rather scruffy (look at his shoes) individual in a met section photo in 1928.

He was promoted Flt Lt at the end of June 1923, and awarded the DFC in May the following year. This means the photo must have been taken between May 1924 and whichever month he left India to return to the UK in 1926 - I wonder, given the informality, if it was taken just before the end of this tour.

I've asked the Met Office Library to look at the Annual Reports that include the years 1924, 1925 and 1926, to see what Met Office presence there was in India at this time.

Watch this space.


25th February 2008, 00:10
Hi Brian,

I concur that if it is Harris then the photo is earlier than 1928 due to the medal ribbons.

I've been looking at his early branch listings and in the April 1918 list he is a Lieutenant in the Dirigible Officers listing.

In the June 1926 Air Force List he is listed with a Met qualification and as a Supernumerary to HQ Royal Air Force India from 10 Feb 1925 whilst attending course at Staff Ciollege Quetta.

I'll see if I can find my 1922 list tomorrow.


25th February 2008, 11:05
Thank you Ross. It's always fatal to assume, but the circumstantial evidence certainly points to Harris. Leading on from your last post (and this is another assumption) I wonder if we can date the photo to the winter of 1924-5? Two reasons:

1. All the men are wearing quite heavy clothing, not what would be expected in a country where it becomes extremely hot in summer. The winter of 1925-6 is discounted as he appears to have been at the Staff College in Quetta.

2. I suggest he is 'wearing' what appears to be a lamp to indicate he was a 'bright spark' - something that would fit with the grins on most of the faces. He's a 'bright spark; because he's just been selected for the Staff College.

All right, too many assumptions, but it will give someone a chance to shoot me down.


Ken MacLean
25th February 2008, 22:35
Found another Times entry for Harris:

9 February, 1927 - To RAF Depot, Uxbridge, on transfer to Home Establishment (Jan 10.)

This should put him in the U.K . from mid-January 1927 until his posting to HQ India, which was effective August 31, 1928 (Times, 8 September 1928).

25th February 2008, 22:36
I certainly hope that it turns out to be Harris (scruffy shoes and all) given the effort you have put in to this.
I hope that I have made a postive contact with a represntative of his family.
Too many assumptions? Let them fly high - just like a weather balloon.

28th February 2008, 19:42
A reply has been received from the daughter of F/Lt Stafford Harris. She has viewed the photo and states that her father is NOT present on it.
Ah well, collapse of stout party. It was a tempting trail to follow - a Flt Lt AFC/DFC Met specialist - and so much was being found about him.
Lyffe is exploring the civilian in the hope that he is a meteorologist.
I plan to try an exhaustive search of interwar years Air Force Lists (and have posted a new thread on this point).
One more piece of equipment indentification comes from Lyffe that The object on the CO's head is a thermionic valve and part of the W/T apparatus; the flex from the valve seems to be connected to something like a microphone (in his hands).
So onwards and upwards - nought feet and nothing on the clock.
Please do watch this thread for future developments, I'm determined to crack it.
Thank you all so much for your kind inputs.

28th February 2008, 20:45
Just to add to Dave's post; I'm copying the photo to Hendon in the (faint) hope some help might be forthcoming from that source. As you will appreciate that will probably take some time - so don't hold your breath, you might not be around when an answer comes.


As this thread is out of the normal time frame of RAFC, thank you for allowing this thread to continue.


Ken MacLean
28th February 2008, 21:22

At least we have a useful case file in the forum archive to Stafford Berkley Harris , should he ever become the subject of a future thread :)

Ann Sadler
29th February 2008, 21:33

Looking at the Documents Online site, could he be one of these:

Medal card of Geddes, Alex Ebeneger McLean
Corps: Attached Royal Flying Corps Meteorological Section General List
Rank: Lieutenant...
1914-1920 WO 372/7
Medal card of Gold, E
Corps: Meteorological Section/Special List
Rank: Temporary Captain
1914-1920 WO 372/24
Medal card of Cotton, Arthur
Corps: Meteorological Section Royal Engineers
Regiment No: 303729
Rank: Corporal
1914-1920 WO 372/24
Medal card of Carter, William
Corps: Meteorological Section Royal Engineers
Regiment No: 358530
Rank: Corporal
1914-1920 WO 372/24
Medal card of Brunt, D
Corps: Meteorological Section attached Independent Force Royal Air Force
Rank: Temporary Lieutenant /Acting Captain...
1914-1920 WO 372/24
Medal card of Read, Ralph Sidney
Corps: Royal Engineers Meteorological Section
Rank: Second Lieutenant
1914-1920 WO 372/16
Medal card of Absalom, Henry William Lyon
Corps: Royal Engineers Meteorological Science
Regiment No: 242458
Rank: Corporal...
1914-1920 WO 372/1



29th February 2008, 22:11
And there I was planning a weekend in my deckchair with Snickers and Martini.
Thank you Brian for contacting RAFM
Ken, yes every cloud has that silver lining.
Ann, thank you for kindly providing the listing from Documents On Line. Lots to chew over there. Thank you.
On the associated thread 'Air Force List availability' Ross has provided a Met filter from his Inter War Database and Amrit has already lept in to kick off a couple of updates.
Thanks you to you all

29th February 2008, 22:14
I've had two names suggested to me by a colleague who is extremely interested in this photo for its meteorological connection - the link is still India.

We'd appreciate as much advice as possible on the careers of:

1. Reginald Percy Batty
2. Richard George Veryard (although I suspect it's unlikely to be him)

Both names are mentioned in a history of the Idia Met Department and apparently both were Flt Lts in 1925 - but I'm happy to be corrected.


29th February 2008, 22:30

Thanks for the suggestions, unfortunately Gold, Brunt, Geddes and Read can be definitely discounted. All were 'hostilities only' and returned to civilian life in the Met Office on demobilisation. Not sure about the others, but feel they too would have returned to civilian life.


1st March 2008, 08:35
Hi Brian,

I can confirm that Batty should have been the 53rd name on my list (his Met course annotation had been placed in the wrong column). However he has no decorations declared.

Batty, R P, Reginald Percy, F/L 02 October 1925, Met, BA

Veryard is a similar entry
Veryard, R G, Richard George, F/L 02 October 1925, Met, BSc


1st March 2008, 08:54
Hello gents, just going back to a earlier post of mine, but does it not look like the airman has a Military Cross ribbon on his chest? We can clearly see a DFC/AFC ribbon as the second medal ribbon on his chest. To the left of this we can see another medal ribbon. Now the wire connected to his helmet runs across the middle of the ribbon but it seems to me to be that of a Military Cross. White-purple-white (I have my grandfathers Military Cross sitting next to me as a reference!). Are there any other gallantry/higher awards with white-?-white colours?

In the order of medal wearing i believe the MC would be worn before the DFC/AFC? If that is right it fits in with the ribbons on his chest. If it is indeed an MC/DFC/AFC combination it would cut down the number of contenders that could be the airman on the photo. I note on Ross's interwar AFL list thread that there is Lance Browning MC DFC.

Just some thoughts.

Cheers, Tom

1st March 2008, 09:00
In between his mention in 1925 and below, their appears to be no other LG listings of his promotions.

To relinquish their commns. in class CC on appt. to emergency commns. in the Meteorological
Br. R.A.F.V.R.: — Gp. Capt. R. P. BATTY, 1st Nov. 1942

Air Ministry, 18th May, 1954. EMERGENCY LIST.
The undermentioned relinquish their commissions under the provisions of the Navy, Army and Air
Force Reserves Act, 1954, and have been granted permission to retain rank, as stated, with effect from 10th Feb. 1954.—
Group Captain R. P. BATTY, retaining his rank

and there is a mention of his OBE in the The Times Monday, Jan 02, 1950, where he is listed as Ass Director Metereological Office, Air Ministry

Ken MacLean
1st March 2008, 10:22
A previous thread on G/C Batty:


1st March 2008, 11:08
Once again my thanks for your efforts gentlemen.

A new version of the photo has been posted at http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php/topic,287542.90.html in an attempt to improve the text on the folder. My colleague believes he can make out the words 'Empire Air routes' and 'Karachi', but his eyes are obviously better than mine.

It has been suggested that the civilian's clothes are more 1930s than 1920s (some tailors have become involved).

I'm still concerned at the F/L's ethnic origins.


2nd March 2008, 21:22
Hi Brian,

Started to look at my second runner Lance Browning. Initially I had discounted him because I had no indication of service in Middle East.


The Nov 1922 List records him as F/O Technical Duties (Met) from 13 Oct 1921 at RAF HQ Iraq.


2nd March 2008, 21:30
His DFC was also awarded for services with 63 Squadron in Kurdistan, LG 9th July 1920.
Can't find the LG mention for the MC.

2nd March 2008, 21:54
I've found it. LG 11th October 1918:
Awarded the Military Cross.
Lt. Lancelot Harold Browning, R.F.A. and
For conspicuous gallantry and daring
whilst carrying out independent bombing behind
the enemy's lines. He was attacked by a
fast enemy scout machine, which by skilful
piloting and accurate shooting he drove down
to its aerodrome. No sooner had the enemy
aeroplane landed than Lt. Browning dropped
a. bomb, completely obliterating the pilot,
who had started to run away, and damaging
his machine. He then continued bombing,
and while doing so was attacked by two more
enemy scouts, both of which he drove off.
He showed fine skill and courage throughout.

I've found two contenders on ancestry.co.uk (although they are very similar):
Lancelot H Browning born fourth quarter of 1897 and registered in Christchurch. No mothers maiden name given.
Lancelot Harol Browning born second quarter of 1899 and registered in Christchurch. No mothers maiden name given.

Might be of use.

Cheers, Tom

3rd March 2008, 00:12
From Flight August 16, 1928

FLIGHT-LIEUT. L. H. BROWNING, M.C., D.F.C., of No. 3 Fighter Squadron, R.A.F., who was killed on August 2 (1920), as the result of an accident whilst flying over the Holbeach ranges, in Lincolnshire, was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. B. P. Browning, of Old Court, Whitchurch, Ross-on-Wye, and was thirty years of age.

Which would make him the first of the two Brownings listed by Tom.


L. H. Browning, M.C., D.F.C.,to Headquarters, Middle East, Egypt. 10.5.23

The undermentioned Flight Lieutenant posted to R.A.F. Depot on transfer to Home Estab., with effect from 30.10.25 :—
L. H. Browning, M.C.,D.F.C.

L. H. Browning, M.C., D.F.C., to No. 3 Sqdn., Upavon : 4.1.26


3rd March 2008, 00:50
The Times June 1921:

Mr L H Browning and Miss Trollope.
The engagment is announced between F/O Lance Harold Browning MC, RAF (late Royal Artillery) only son of Mr and Mrs B P Browning of Rose Hill School, Bantstead and Nancy Woollright , fourth daughter of the late Howard W Trollope and Mrs Howard Trollope of Banstead, Surrey.

There is also a mention for his death. It adds that the aircraft was a Woodcock.

3rd March 2008, 10:58
I think, gentlemen, this one could run forever as more and more names come into the frame. The problem is we have names, but not photographs, and only one of those will settle the matter once and for all.

I have spoken to Jeff Jefford, as he has a large store of knowledge about this era, but he has been unable to come up with any immediate ideas. I suggested it could have been a 'set-up' photo, with a local dressed in a F/L's uniform, to which he replied:

"That said, I'm a bit uncomfortable with the ''native' dressed up in the Boss's kit' explanation - right down to the shirt and tie. That's not prejudice; it's just that I would have thought it far too risqué (risky?) an exercise for that, still very colonial, era - and the idea would have had to be condoned by the Fg Off and the Sgt Major - unless they were cross-dressing too - it all seems a bit unlikely."

Jeff also pointed out the filthy state of the F/L's shoes, something I'd noticed and which compare unfavourably with those of the junior ranks.

I wonder if anyone has a copy of K Hemingway's "Wings over Burma"? The book was dedicated to a G/C Seton Broughall and it might contain a photo of him - I've had a suggestion he might be the Flt Lt.


3rd March 2008, 11:15
No picture of Broughall in "Wings over Burma"


3rd March 2008, 17:19
Have read recent posts with great interest.
As regards Lancelot BROWNING here is a listing incorporating Times searches and Amrit's Flight searches, along with items from Tom and Ross along with info from Norman Franks' MS on medal winners.
Born Bournemouth 25/09/97 making him the first of the two entries on ancestry and freebmd.
Educated Rosehill Scholl Banstead Surrey (owned by his father) and Wellington College 1911-1914.
12/10/14 entered Royal Military Academy, Woolwich 7,509 marks
28/7/15 2/Lt RFA
15/5/16 RFC
6/6/17 30 Squadron Mesopotamia
15/8/17 F/O
RFC HQ Egypt for pilot training
7/12/17 30 Squadron Mesopotamia
3/9/18 ~ 23/11/18 111 squadron
11/10/18 MC
5/19 63 Squadron Mesopotamia
21/6/20 announcement of engagement
9/7/20 DFC
13/10/21 F/O Technical Duties (Met) RAF HQ Iraq.
10/5/23 Headquarters, Middle East, Egypt
30/10/25 R.A.F. Depot on transfer to Home Estab
4/1/26 3 Squadron Upavon
1/12/26 attended 3 Squadron annual dinner, Trocadero Restaurant
4/4/28 note in Times that he has no connection to a namesake listed in a recent civil aviation accident
2/8/28 accident at Holbeach Ranges to a Woodcock of 3 (Fighter) Squadron, Sutton Bridge. The pilot, Flt Lt Lance Harold Browning MC DFC killed
Finally, I have copied Norman's illustration of Browning, which I would invite all interested parties to contact me for a copy...

Ken MacLean
3rd March 2008, 20:08
Speculation ad Infinitum Dave,

Has the submitter of the original photograph on the Rootschat Forum been thoroughly interrogated regarding both the circumstances of the discovery of the photo and if there is a possible family connection?

Was this photo part of a collection directly related to the submitters family or was it discovered in a box that someone acquired at a rag sale?

As Lyffe mentioned above - "this one could run forever".

3rd March 2008, 21:22
the photograph holder states that it was the backing (or rather packing) to a framed photo of a family member dating from 1915.
The photo itself is mounted on board, so there is no access to any possible notations on the rear of the photo.
She has no connections to anyone serving in the RAF, nor any recognition of any of the sitters.
Her relevant family names are:
Ivins (this is where the photo came from)
Does make one wonder if the photo was acquired in a rag sale.

10th March 2008, 20:37
Hate to show my ignorance but what was the location of HQ, Middle East, Egypt in 1923, and ditto for HQ Iraq in 1921? (I'm beginning to like the look of Browning.)

Also, can anyone advise as to when Browning was promoted Flt Lt?


10th March 2008, 22:43
Surtivant/Hamlin/Halley: RAF Flying Training & Support Units (page 9) gives location of HQ, Middle East, Egypt as Cairo (previously Middle East Area HQ and prior to 18/03/1920 was Egyptian Area HQ). RAF Iraq is shown as previously Mesopotamian Group but without date or location. Might Baghdad or nearby Hinaidi be too obvious? Page 194 gives AHQ Iraq at Hinadi in 1938, and page 195 gives Iraq Command (AHQ British Forces In Iraq) as formed 01/10/1922 at Bghdad.
Franks' MS gave promotion to F/O 15/08/17 - however this might well be my rushed note taking and F/O ought to be F/Lt.
Correspondents on this thread have all been sent that Browning photo, and like yourself are warming to him.

11th March 2008, 10:32
Hi Brian,

Should you wish to look at appointed civiy Met men or match the background office to other photos, the Met stations circa 1922 for RAF Iraq were:


Brownings Gradation date for F/L was 1 Jan 1923.

His replacement at RAF HQ Iraq was F/L John F Lawson AFC and his appointment commenced 5 Dec 1924.

In Nov 1922 and June 1926 RAF HQ Iraq is listed as Baghdad City.


11th March 2008, 11:51
Thank you gentlemen.

As Dave summarised earlier, between October 1921 and May 1923 Browning was F/O Technical Duties (Met) at HQ Iraq. My theory is that the photo shows an informal Met Section group celebrating his promotion during the winter of 1022-23 at HQ Iraq. (Winter temperatures in Iraq are similar to more temperate climates, hence the heavy clothing rather than tropical kit.)

The promotion date you give of 1.1.23, Ross, fits my ideas pefectly. Unfortunately it's still circumstantial.


11th March 2008, 12:20
Hi Brian,

"promotion during the winter of 1022-23 at HQ Iraq"

Well that puts a new slant...

We need to abandon the RAF List and look at the Army List for before the Battle of Hastings!

Wonder if he was on King Harold's staff?

Sorry could not resist it.

11th March 2008, 13:38


Ann Sadler
11th March 2008, 15:46
Hi all,

From the LG, 8th August 1917:

2nd Lt. L. H. Browning, R.A., from a
Flying Officer (Observer). 27th June 1917,
with seniority from 17th May 1916.



11th March 2008, 16:48

I think we should be careful in the interpretation of Flying Officer at this time. The RAF rank of F/O was not introduced until the RAF's formation on 1 April 1918. Prior to that the term 'Flying Officer' was used to indicate an officer qualified to fly.

So far as Observers were concerned once they had completed their training, such as it was, they were graded as 'Observer on probation', whilst still retaining their Army rank. They could only be graded as 'Qualified observer' once they had completed a minimum number of operational flights 'in the field'.

This was not abolished until Nov 1916 when any observer in the field, provided he'd completed the necessary training, was gazetted as Flying Officer (Observer) - but it was not a rank.

(Summarised from Jefford's "Observers and Navigators".)

In fact Dave's summary of his career is misleading as it implies he became a Flying Officer on 15.8.17, whereas he should have been graded 'Flying Officer (Observer)' in November 1916. I think the entry you've found means he reliquished his Flying Officer status to become an ordinary 2nd Lt when he reported to RFC HQ Egypt for pilot training - only when that was completed would he have regained his Flying Officer status.


Ann Sadler
11th March 2008, 20:47
HI Brian,

I found that entry on a page of the LG on someone's family history information (Browning was nothing to do with him, just on the same page as his ancestor). There wasn't the page prior to that one which would I think have more info as to what was what.
I have no success at all with the LG search engine, it drives me to drink almost, so I haven't tried finding the other page.



Errol Martyn
11th March 2008, 21:31

"I think we should be careful in the interpretation of Flying Officer at this time. The RAF rank of F/O was not introduced until the RAF's formation on 1 April 1918. Prior to that the term 'Flying Officer' was used to indicate an officer qualified to fly...

...I think the entry you've found means he reliquished his Flying Officer status to become an ordinary 2nd Lt when he reported to RFC HQ Egypt for pilot training - only when that was completed would he have regained his Flying Officer status."

Actually, Flying Officer as a rank was not introduced until August 1919 (when the regular RAF was established).

I think it unlikely that he would have had to relinquish his Flying Officer (Branch) status when training as a pilot. As a qualified observer he was still entitled to remain there, even if in due course he failed his pilots course.


15th March 2008, 11:35
There's a fair amount of work on this thread going on behind the scenes, and my colleague and I have good reason to think the location is either Abu Sueir in Egypt (probably the stronger contender) or Baghdad or Basra in Iraq. Without meaning to state the obvious, both countries experience very high temperatures for much of the year, but the winters are relatively cold. The fact that the group in the photo is wearing clothing that is unsuitable for tropical temperatures suggests the photo was taken during the winter.

Can anyone tell me during which months tropical kit would have been worn? I'm guessing at Mar or April to November.


Ann Sadler
15th March 2008, 13:51
HI all,

Found 2 entries on family trees with this man in them (both on Rootsweb). I have e mailed the posters of the trees, one e mail bounced back and I haven't heard anything as yet from the second. However, these may not prove to be of any use as the posters had an awful lot of names on their trees and the relation to Browning may be very distant.
I'll let you know if any useful information appears. It appears that his father's name was (Bertie - have found that he seems to have been referred to as B. Percy Browning) Percy and the mother's name was Amy Isabelle (Isobel) Allom:
They were living at Whitchurch, Herefordshire at the time of Amy's death in 1933. It might be worth while looking for an obit for Lancelot in a Whitchurch local paper (it could contain a better photograph).



16th March 2008, 21:00
Have just returned from Kew and have notes to type up and submit in the next few days. We can certainly confirm Browning as on Met postings in the early 1920's in Iraq, but time was too short foir me to persue AIR 5 into Egypt for Abu Sueir.
Like you, Ann, I have pursued the family angle with the same results from Rootsweb.
Brownings father was a schoolteacher, and Browning Jnr attended his father's school. Grandfather Browning was a solicitor.
The Alloms are interesting, Lancelot's grandfather Thomas was an architect (a founder of RIBA) and also an accomplished artist.
Alas for Lance, his engaement to Nancy Trollope was abortive, she went on to marry another in 1925, but alas died young in 1933.
Lance was buried back home at Whitchurch. The local press angle is an excellent one to have a go at.

16th March 2008, 22:00
Just in case anyone was thinking of following Ann's suggestion about finding Browning's obituary, I've already asked Herefordshire Library Service for assistance.


18th March 2008, 21:52
Results of a day at Kew looking at background of Lance Browning and Herbert Broughall.

AIR 23/457 War Diary Jan 1923 (Iraq) [series starts Jan 1923]
Change of Sdn Met Officer. Flt Lt Oxland handed this duty on 10/01/23 to Flt Lt L H Browning MC DFC who in turn handed over to Flt Lt A E Gendle OBE on the latter’s arrival on 27/01/23
General Routine Orders No 4 24/01/23 (AM posting list 235 14/12/22)
From HQ Iraq Command for temporary duty with effect 20/11/22 [[corrected GRO No 7 to 18/10/22]] F/O Lance Harold Browning MC DFC
AM posting list 242 29/12/22. To HQ Iraq Command on ceasing to be attached to 8 Squadron, with effect 27/11/22 F/O Lance Harold Browning MC DFC

AIR 23/458 War Diary Feb 1923 (Iraq)
Kirkuk Met Station opening delayed by Flt Lt Browning’s absence on special reconnaissance work. Hoped to get station working in March

AIR 23/459 War Diary Mar 1923 (Iraq)
General Routine Orders No 4 From 70 squadron (Iraq Command) to 55 Squadron (Iraq Command) 18/11/22 for flying duties F/O Herbert Seton Broughall MC

AIR 23/460 War Diary Apl 1923 (Iraq)
Met report signed by Gendle, as usual

AIR 23/461 War Diary May 1923 (Iraq)
Flt Lt Browning proceeded by road from Baghdad en route Cairo 07/05/23. Arrived Ramadi 09/05/23. Left Ramadi 10/05/23 and struck off strength of RAF Iraq with Effect 10/05/23
Met stations are: Hinaidi Kirkuk Mosul Ramadi Shaibah

AIR 27/32 3 Squadron ORB
04/01/26 Flt Lt Lance Harold Browning MC DFC posted to this Squadron from RAF Depot
01/03/26 With P/O Mackenzie to Farnborough in co-operation with 1st AA Searchlight Battery, Blackdown and returned Upavon 05/03/26
02/05/26 General Strike With P/O McMillan and Kellett plus 20 airmen, to Cardiff, attached Welch Regimental Depot. To keep open emergency landing ground. Returned 18/05/26
13/06/26 – 19/06/26 Aldershot Torchlight Tattoo. Based at Farnborough, Returned 20/06/26
07/02/27 Part of supporting party to funeral of P/O Lewis (flying accident J7736) Senny Bridge, Swansea
10/03/27 Single Seater Fighter Race (HQ Fighting Area) 100 miles in 2 laps
1st F/O Cranswick MC J8292
2nd Flt Lt Browning MC DFC J7732
3rd P/O Kellett J7725
24/04/28 Attended conference at Tidworth with Sdn Ldr Digby Johnson re army co-operation
22/05/28 Attended an Armoured Force staff exercise at Old Sarum with Sdn Ldr Digby Johnson
02/08/27 Flt Lt Lance Harold Browning was killed at Holbeach Ranges whilst carrying out air firing as a result of the failure of a wing of his Woodcock machine. The funeral took place at Whitchurch, Herefordshire on 05/08/28
03/08/28 Instructions from HQ Fighting Area that owing to the failure of the wing of the aircraft flown by Flt Lt Browning, and other similar failures, on no account should this type of machine be flown at a speed exceeding 130mph
21/08/28 Signal from HQ Fighting Area to the effect that flying of Woodcock aircraft should cease forthwith
[August and September 1928 The squadron re-equipped with Gloster Gamecock]

AIR 76 RAF Officers to 1918 no papers for Broughall nor Browning

Air Force List
Checked 1919 March 1920 Jan, details of postings start 1920 Aug
1920 Aug Broughall RAF Depot
Browning Inspector of Recruiting
1921 Jan Broughall RAF Depot
Browning Inspector of Recruiting
1922 Jan Broughall 70 Sdn Egypt
Browning Iraq
1923 Jan Broughall 70 Sdn Iraq
Browning Tech duties (Met) 13/10/21
1924 Jan Broughall 216 Sdn Heliopolis
Browning RAF Middle East Cairo (Met) 10/05/23
1925 Jan Broughall 4 FTS Abu Sueir
Browning RAF Middle East HQ Cairo (Met) 10/05/23
1925 Jan Broughall 207 Squadron Eastchurch
Browning RAF Depot

Ann Sadler
19th March 2008, 07:59

I've had a reply to my e mails from the posters of family trees on Rootsweb. The ladies in question are going to dig around and ask relations and see if anyone might know anything. I have given them the link to this thread and also sent the picture of Browning that David sent me. Just waiting now to see if they can help confrim whether or not it is Browning, however, they both have limited info on him so they may not be able to find out.



11th June 2008, 23:32
About four months ago Dave started this thread, seeking help in the identfication of the people in the photograph at http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php/topic,287542.0.html, and the location.

One of my colleagues has been working hard behind the scenes and has identified the Flt Lt as Herbert Seton Broughall, who died as Gp Capt Broughall (Rtd) on 18 April 1955 at Menai on Anglesey. The identification was made by his great-nephew. The photo could well have been taken at Abu Sueir in Egypt.

He had a daughter, Jane Felicity Strathy Broughall who married David A Shawyer in 1951; we've been unable to find a death certificate for either of them, which suggests they are still alive (about 80), but an attempt is being made to trace them in the hope there may be an annotated copy of the photograph.

The name 'Shawyer' is quite unusual, most seeming to live in the southern counties, but the telephone directory has yet to provide a hit.

If anyone has any ideas I'd be grateful to hear them.


Ann Sadler
12th June 2008, 09:36
Oh, well done Brian, I was only thinking about this the other day. It appears that he was born in Canada, so perhaps Hugh/Chris/Floyd can provide further info on him. It appears that he is mentioned in the book below:
For Your Tomorrow: Canadians and the Burma Campaign, 1941-1945 by Robert Farquharson
See all pages with references to "Seton Broughall".
Excerpt - on Page 41: " ... C. Fields" greeted them in an unmistakably Canadian accent. This was Group Captain Herbert Seton Broughall, born at Toronto in 1898 of a long and proud military line and a strong Canadian heritage. ...



Ann Sadler
12th June 2008, 10:12
Hi Brian,

It would appear that Jane died in 1983 and had 3 children, James, Annabel and Penelope. They appear to have been living in Oxfordshire. The Sue Ryder Home at Nettlebed is mentioned for donations to be given to.



12th June 2008, 10:52
I had a feeling you would come up with the answer, Ann - very many thanks. I hasten to add the identification had nothing to do with me, much as I'd like to take the credit. My colleague has quite a lot of detail about Broughall's life and career, but it's this very last bit that is proving elusive.

Thank you again


Ann Sadler
12th June 2008, 11:09
Hi Brian,

He is listed in Hugh's database of awards to Canadians. I have a feeling that I may have got some of the possibly relevants AIR2 files copied and sent to Hugh and he may have updated/further info. This is what I found on Hugh's database:
BROUGHALL, Flying Officer Herbert Seton - Order of St.Anne, 3rd Class, with Swords (White Russia) - awarded as per unknown date and authority; listed by Ray Brough, White Russian Awards to British and Commonwealth Servicemen During the Allied Intervention in Russia 1918-1920 (London, Tom Donovan Publishing, 1991), which spells name "Broughal". Home in Toronto and attended Upper Canada College. Joined British Army in England, 1915; awarded Military Cross, London Gazette dated 22 September 1916 for service with Royal Sussex Regiment (first time under fire). To RNAS, 3 December 1916. With No.10 (N) Squadron, 7 August to 21 September 1917. Shot down on latter date (or 22nd) and became POW. Repatriated in December 1918; sent to Russia, April 1919 (No.47 Squadron). Later awarded Distinguished Flying Cross as per London Gazette dated 11 June 1924 "for distinguished service rendered during operations in Kurdistan between 15th February and 19th June 1923." Flight of 29 November 1923 reports him as going to No.216 Squadron, 14 October 1923. Aeroplane of 3 February 1932 reports him going to No.22 Squadron, 8 January 1932. Remained in RAF and rose to Group Captain. Barker once asked that he be seconded to RCAF.

BROUGHALL, Flying Officer Herbert Seton - Order of St.Stanislaus, 3rd Class, with Swords (White Russia) - awarded as per unknown date and authority; listed by Ray Brough, White Russian Awards to British and Commonwealth Servicemen During the Allied Intervention in Russia 1918-1920 (London, Tom Donovan Publishing, 1991) which spells name "Broughal".

I was in touch with some distant relatives of Browning's, so I will contact them and say that the photo is not of him.
By the way, looking at Hugh's info, he doesn't appear to have had any Met connections, have you worked out why he appears to be at a Met station in this photo?



Ken MacLean
12th June 2008, 14:32
A possible variation of spelling his second forename for those intending to do further research.

The Toronto "Globe" reported on 17 July 1918 that Lieut. Seaton Broughill was one of the tennis double's champions during a recent match at Blankenburg-Nark prison camp.

Of interest to our Canadian posters, the other doubles champ was a fellow well known to many of us, Lieut. Conn Smythe.

Cheers, Ken

12th June 2008, 15:00
Many thanks Ann, but just to add to what has gone before and to bring everyone up to date.

The credit for identifying the Flt Lt and location of the photo belongs solely to Malcolm Walker, effectively the archivist of the Royal Meteorological Society. He and his good lady have put a tremendous amount of work in chasing this down, and the latest news is that they have found some of Broughall's great-grandchildren.

Hugh's database is missing some of Broughall's movements during the 1920s, including two of interest in this story; Broughall was transferred to No 4 FTS, Abu Sueir, on 16.8.24 and he returned to the UK wef 25.3.25. 4 FTS was involved in making meteorological ascents during the early 1920s, and especially during this period, so that is the possible meteorological connection. It is also possible that he might have had responsibility for the Abu Sueir meteorological office as a secondary duty (at the time meteorological offices at RAF stations overseas were manned by men of the RAF Meteorological Service).

The two dates are important because if the 4 FTS connection is correct then the photograph has to date to that time frame.

Malcolm has already contacted the Canadian branch of the family, but it has no information that helps with this photograph.


12th June 2008, 23:26
There is no such thing as journey's end, but this is a breakthrough. I had all my (meagre) money on Browning, but if Malcom's research fixes the 4FTS connection, then great applause to Malcolm and his wife for their hard work.

26th February 2019, 18:44
And 11 years later....

The chap in the helmet is definitely Lancelot "Lance" Harold Browning. You can see a good 1915 photograph of him (he or somebody else ordered a 18x12in print in 1916) that has surfaced in Sutton's Past on Glass project here: https://flic.kr/p/Xk7Gz3. You can read more about the project here: https://pastonglass.wordpress.com/about/.There is another good photo in Norman Franks's Fallen Eagles book.

Incidentally, his ex-fiancee, Nancy Trollope, was the sister of Captain John "Six in a Day" Lightfoot Trollope MC, who also features in the Past on Glass collection as a young boy (https://flic.kr/p/BPzjS1).

Both Browning and Trollope will be featuring in an exhibition of the Banstead-related Past on Glass photographs and stories at the library in Sutton, Surrey, this autumn.

3rd March 2019, 19:00
11 years later? Time has flown!
Thank you banstead100 that is terrific and it is wonderful to see the image.
My money always was on Browning.