This section essentially represents the main focus of my research activities. The identification of the boys that flew with dad was a relatively easy task once I had had explained the existence and contents of the Squadron’s Operational Record Books. What has proved remarkably harder is to find out more about the individuals beyond that.
My search also highlights the discrepancy between the quality of records kept in the Squadron itself across 3 years of the war – during Bob’s first tour in 1943 I have been relatively successful in finding individual movements in and out of the Squadron. By 1945 it is only the Pilot whose name is recorded and actually, it is an assumption that the first crew list on a raid represents the individuals that actually arrived at the Squadron to begin with.
There also seems to be a distinct difference to the, lets say, ‘resolution’ of information relating to the country of origin of an individual. The ‘oil strike’ document is the ‘Personal Occurance Record’. I’ll let David Duxbury explain to you, as he did me, when generously supplying information about Bob’s crews…………
As you can gather from the information presented below, details of individual aircrew members recorded on the pages of Form 540 (Operations Record Book) and Form 541 (Details of Duty carried out) was not necessarily of the highest standard, and this was particularly so in the case of members of the RAFVR. Members of “Empire” air forces was much better maintained in the final part of the war (1944/45) and provided nationality of service, initials and service numbers, but the poor old RAFVR NCOs were very poorly recorded, and some individuals appeared with up to three or four different first initials (never more than the first) and definitely no service numbers. However this was nothing unusual in the RAF, and in fact on 75 Squadron’s ORB’s (and this would be much the same throughout the RAF) the service numbers of such men only appeared as a matter of course during the 1943 period, although unfortunately if they appeared more than once there were almost always serious discrepancies between these numbers for the same man, and I am convinced that the officers selected for the task of typing up the ORB were invariably dyslexic. The only other time that full details of RAFVR NCOs appeared in the ORB was in case of casualties.
As you can see, obtaining details of RCAF, RAAF and particularly RNZAF personnel are considerably easier, but unfortunately I cannot see that obtaining personal details of the RAFVR man will become any easier in the near future. One might wonder how the RAF managed to administer itself with all this poor information floating about in the records, but the simple answer is that they did in fact manage, and the reason was that THEY relied on a much more reliable series of documents known as Personnel Occurrence Reports (POR’s) which postwar (in mid-1950s?) changed in designation to Personal Occurrence Notices (PON’s). These were generated monthly by every self-recording unit in the RAF (and RNZAF, etc) and noted postings in. postings out (or more correctly arrivals and departures), promotions, appointments, punishments, reversions in rank, attachments, casualties, and sometimes marriages, etc. It was these forms which were compiled monthly and copies sent back to Air Ministry Records Office where they were compared with their information and added to the airman’s official record of service (Form 543 for airmen). Thus the Officer in charge at a squadron (the CO, or more than likely the adjutant who was supposed to be in charge of this sort of administration at squadron level) would automatically go the monthly POR’s to find out when somebody was posted in, posted out, promoted, or lost on operations. Incidentally to get around the problem of having men from several different air forces on strength of the squadron, separate POR’s were compiled, one for each air force (RAF, RAFVR, RAAF, RCAF, RNZAF, etc), with each divided into “Officer” and “Airman” sections. As 75 Squadron was one of the large (three-Flight) squadrons from April 1943 onwards, this meant a large pool of individuals at any one time from at least 4 separate air forces; this entailed a lot of typing work! Typically 75 Squadron in 1943 – 1944 had 35 crews of seven men each, and in 1945 the 3-Flight squadrons (and almost certainly the more common 2-Flight squadrons) seem to have been “double-manned” with two crew per aircraft, that is (for 3-Flight squadrons) about 60 crews of seven men each, equals 420 aircrew in one squadron! I thought that these explanations deserved to be provided with this listing as many people cannot believe how the RAF managed its wartime administration with so many mistakes or more commonly simple vague information contained in the Form 540s; as you can see, they did NOT rely on Form 540s (which were compiled for OPERATIONAL reasons and statistics), but relied on the POR’s. Unfortunately when came the time to dispose of certain of the (massive) accumulation of wartime paperwork, they tended to retain the Form 540’s/541’s and dispose of the POR’s, much to the dismay of the historian of later years hoping to find meticulously maintained (and therefore accurate) Operations Record Books!
Finally and without wanting to sound dark or make light (for research purposes) the loss of an individual, but it also seems that its easier, or more information is available on an individual who was lost during combat than an individual that survived their tour and then quietly returned to the rest of their civilian life after the war.
I note these issues, not by way of an elegant excuse regarding what I have so far found on the 2 crews that Dad flew with, simply to place the activity within context. It is my aim to find something out about all of them and as a personal objective by way of honouring the memory of Bob, to know each of their first names.