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Thread: Letters home and censorship - UK vs. North Africa 1942/43

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    Default Letters home and censorship - UK vs. North Africa 1942/43

    I am researching the service of a Danish-Canadian RCAF pilot, Frank Sorensen, for a coming biography on his life and service. A large number of letters kept by the family are an important source for the description of his daily life during the war (in training, in operational service in the UK and in North Africa, and as a PoW in Stalag Luft III). However, the number of letters drops significantly as he get off the troop ship in Philippeville on 7 December 1942. And the censorships seems hard.

    This leads me to my question: In this case it seems that a pilot was allowed to give a fair amount of details about his service, while operating from England and writing to family in the UK and Canada, but that the censorship kicked in as soon as he was overseas.

    Does any one know, if this is a coincidence in this case or representative of the censorship system as such?

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

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    Default Re: Letters home and censorship - UK vs. North Africa 1942/43

    From what little I have read, censoring of airmen's letters (so far as I know, officers' letters were NOT censored, although this may not be true of very junior officers, such as P/O, F/O) was carried out by other officers (probably not of very high rank), and was definitley not a popular duty. From what I can gather, they were simply informed that they were to "censor these letters, and now", probably at a time when they thought they were "off duty". Don't think there were any "specialist" censors, although Intelligence Officers would have probably been consulted if any question as to what could be ignored, and what could not. My ten cents worth.

    There might be something about this in wartime editions of KR&ACI, and maybe also in RAF Pocketbook (AP 1081), although not certain there were wartime editions of this publication.
    Last edited by David Duxbury; 6th November 2023 at 23:06.

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    Default Re: Letters home and censorship - UK vs. North Africa 1942/43

    Hi Mikkel
    Definitely not my area of expertise but I generally agree with DD's post above.

    Was Sorensen still a non commissioned pilot at that time ??
    Sgt/Flt Sgt letters would definitely have been censored (not sure about Warrant Officer rank ??).
    In theory junior officers letters would not be officially censored unless there was a security scare or if a pilot came under suspicion etc.

    Censoring on sqns was definitely done by normal sqn pilots of P/O and above.

    Some sqn personnel used their own code words/phrases etc to tell wives/loved ones their locations etc.

    regards baz

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    Default Re: Letters home and censorship - UK vs. North Africa 1942/43

    I believe my Uncle, Lieutenant J.R.D. Cave with the 23rd Field Regiment (Self Propelled) was responsible for censoring the letters of at least some of those men under him. His letters he sent to his wife from Normandy and Holland offer some indication of what was allowed. He alluded to what was going on by saying thing like “Yes, I was on that offensive. What you read in the news is what happened.” Sometimes he offered that events were not good. And he remarked on the Hitler Youth and also some rather derogatory comments about the “conscripts” who were pressed into action later in the war.

    I only have a few of dad’s letters home. Mostly he just mentions about being on ops, and that about packages and letters. But there is one letter that is particularly interesting and that was in March 1945, where he talks about the recently announced increase in tour length from 30 to 40 operations. He was pretty pissed off about it. And…it was the subject of a pretty sharp exchange between the “RCAF Overseas” and the RAF. In the end, the RCAF prevailed and dad was screened at 30-31 operations, depending if you count his NOET to Cologne 21-December-1944, or not.

    Jim

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    Default Re: Letters home and censorship - UK vs. North Africa 1942/43

    Thank you for further responses.

    Quote Originally Posted by bvs View Post
    Was Sorensen still a non commissioned pilot at that time ??
    Yes, he was a commissioned officer at the time, and as such he was himself involved in the censoring of the airmens' mail. However, he was also himself subjected to censorship both in terms of words blanked out and - perhaps - self-censording. The latter in the sense that he writes that he has difficulties writing interesting letters home, because he cannot write about the operational side of things.

    Even as an NCO in 403 Sqn he seemed able to write about these events when in the UK until the fall of 1943. Hence, my question.

    Mikkel
    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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    Default Re: Letters home and censorship - UK vs. North Africa 1942/43

    Hi Mikkel
    I have never heard of British officers having letters censored on a large scale,however I do wonder if Officers who originated in countries other than Britain/Commonwealth and might be German language capable had a different set of rules as regards censorship whilst operating abroad ? I have never heard of that but I guess it is possible.
    Also I wondered if they might have a voluntary system where they might give letters to fellow officers to check for them - I have never heard of that either,but some squadrons might have had different rules/procedures.

    regards baz

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