lack of info on RAF servicemans record...

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by clark136, Oct 15, 2018.

  1. clark136

    clark136 Junior Member

    Evening all,

    We have just received my Wifes' Grandfathers' service record and there appear to be a few gaps, and little information. Any help gratefully received as always!

    LINFORD, Frank Buttree 1352538

    The details are as simple and vauge as:

    • No. 9 RC, Blackpool / 09.07.1940
    • W. Raynham / 22.07.1940
    • M. East / 05.02.41
    • NWAAF 55 Sqn / 01.10.43

    And there he stayed (with 55sqn ) until discharge until 1946.

    We are confused as to why he was only at the recruit centre for 2 weeks before being posted to West Raynham... was 2 weeks basic training all that airmen got at that time?

    We are also assuming that M. East stands for Middle East... anyone know of anyway of verifying that at all? We believe that it was 1942 that he qualified as an armourer - but we have no idea where he would have done that. Were trades like that taught overseas (i.e. in the middle east)?

    It just seems so odd that there is no squadron information until 1943...

    When i get a chance, I will get a few scans put up; but any thoughts in the mean time gratefully received.

    Many thanks as always,
  2. RAFCommands

    RAFCommands Senior Member

    The Form 543 is an index cover sheet that clerks used to record salient info to other documents that contained the detail.

    543 was the only document from service records to be retained as it contained all pertinent data for pension etc.

    So you need a bit of understanding on Raf formations to understand it in context.

    Not all airmen were tradesmen and squadrons were only one of the many formations that a man could be posted to.

    The other parts of the record e.g. mustering proficiency all go to build the picture as does unit orbs

    Without sight of the 543 we are only getting your interpretation rather than the official record that we can expand on for you.

  3. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    What we're saying is "Please scan and post the document up for us to read and interpret for you."

    Ground crew weren't generally shown as Squadron members, as they tended to work at the airbase servicing whatever Squadrons were there, which could change as the aircraft and crews were posted elsewhere, to new tasks or new airfields.

    From what you posted, seems he went to the Middle East where no doubt he received specialist training in Egypt as an armourer before servicing aircraft in the North Africa Campaign (North West Africa Air Force might be the acronym).....

    No doubt you've read up on 55 Squadron, with Blenheims, Baltimores and Bostons

    What else does the family know about his time in WW2? Surely he sent letters home, photos, souvenirs, medals etc?
    All that added to the mix can flesh out much more than bare Service records.
    Tullybrone and Incredibledisc like this.
  4. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    RAF recruits,ie, direct entrants would normally have induction training which would amount to 6 to 8 weeks.All those destined to be enrolled for technical training or aircrew would enter as Aircrafthands....all with AC2 classification.Those selected for other trades would attend their trade training school after their induction training....some who were selected for duties which structured training was deemed to be not required received "on the job training"...this sometimes occurred with those destined for the high skilled trades when training places at schools were not available.

    As regards squadron groundcrew manpower.Squadrons had their own posted groundcrew who would discharge the role of "1st Line Servicing".Minor and Major servicing would be undertaken outside Flying Wing as "2nd Line Servicing".There would occasions when airmen were posted to and out of squadron groundcrew strength and this would be recorded in the airmen's service record.A good example of this is the armourer trades where such people were designated as Squadron Armourers involved in 1st Line duties on a squadron and Station Armourers who were involved in 2nd Line duties such as the receipt and maintenance of bomb dump stocks together with the delivery of bomb loads to squadron aircraft at their dispersals.

    Cannot understand the absence of the usual induction training but an immediate posting to W.R might be related to the adverse war situation.At the time of the posting, W.R had been selected as the main training station for No 2 Group Bomber Command with No 101 Squadron based there equipped with Blenheim Mark 1V. The squadron had not been worked up to be involved in operational flying until July 1940 .During the summer of 1940,No 139 and No 18 squadrons within the Group passed through W.R presumably related to Group training.The other unit based here was the No 2 Group Target Towing Flight,formed in early 1940, equipped with an assortment of aircraft using some of No 101 Squadron Blenheims,additional Mark 1s and 1Vs and a Battle target tug.

    I would think that Frank Linford's progress to Armourer was achieved via the"on the job training" path at W.R.
    ozzy16 likes this.
  5. clark136

    clark136 Junior Member

    Hello everyone,

    Just sneaked on at work to say thank you for your responses – much appreciated. The photocopies that the RAF sent us are pretty bad to be honest, however I will scan them tonight when I get home and post them up for you to see.

    He passed away several years ago and didn’t speak of his experiences too much. We know about 55 Sqn and can track their movements during the period he was with them, but it was the 3 years prior to that, that we were particularly keen to find out more about.

    Many thanks once again to all for your replies – I will get the scans up as soon as I can.


    Attached Files:

  6. RAFCommands

    RAFCommands Senior Member


    Entry into the RAF was as General Duties Ground Gunner.

    1939/1940 Army was charged with local defence of aerodromes when the RAF was deployed in the field but with the withdrawal to UK mainland aerodromes and the loss of Army equipment/manpower this was not possible in June 1940.

    Local aerodrome defence was to be carried out by RAF personnel trained to operate Lewis/Vickers machine guns etc.

    No trade training was in place for this hasty requirement (later to be established on the Isle of Man and to create the forerunner of the RAF Regiment). So he was rapidly kitted out at Blackpool - taught the basics of service life then shipped off to his assigned aerodrome to be taught the requirements of Ground Gunner on the job.

    See this for a first hand account of Blackpool Ground Gunner training
    BBC - WW2 People's War - My life in the RAF. (Part 1).

    Having been taught the basics of Vickers/Lewis it would have been an easy local continuation of training to become an armourer which Prof confirms as his trade 31/12/42.

    Looking at mustering it looks like the actual date of Trade Group change to armourer was 6/10/42. Shortly after Trade Group change he was also promoted to AC1 to mirror the trade group status.

    As a Ground Gunner he was not on the strength of any Squadron or unit - rather the was part of a force designated as Headquarters Holding (HH in reason). This meant that he was classed as available for casualty replacement by HQ to any other station but West Raynham was responsible for pay, messing, on-going training etc.

    M East - Middle East as you correctly noted was the date he was transferred from Home Force to another Command - this was a paper transfer date and not usually the date of embarkation.

    NWAAF - North West African Air Force was Ground Gunner duties as before until he changed Trade Group to Armourer where he became part of the listed establishment of No.55 Squadron on 1st line servicing.

    As part of both Home and NWAAF Commands he would have gone where sent and the location detail will not normally be recorded in anywhere but the personal diaries of the serviceman. As far as RAF Records section was concerned all they needed to record was Home HH and NWAAF.

    Have a look in at the West Raynham Station ORB to get a flavour of aerodrome defence
    WEST RAYNHAM | The National Archives

    WEST RAYNHAM | The National Archives

    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
  7. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    As an aside.

    One source of officer manpower as army airfield defence commanding officers was from veterans of the Great War who were recalled to the colours.

    One such individual was Lt Col Haley- Bell,late of the R W Surrey Regiment who last commanded a battalion in March 1918.He returned to the colours and headed the RAF Hemswell airfield defence unit until the RAF Regiment was formed.During the Battle of Britain a number of army personnel were killed at Hemswell when a lone raider bombed the airfield in August 1940, attempting to hit the airmans mess with the parade ground in front of the mess being hit.

    Haley- Bell was better known as John Mills' father in law.
    timuk, ozzy16 and Tricky Dicky like this.
  8. clark136

    clark136 Junior Member

    Ross - that is really great information, thank you so much for taking the time to go through it and explain everything. So interesting! I will have a look through those National Archive links. It did surprise me to hear that records of non-squadron based personnel movements (other than Home or NWAAF for example) were not kept. I guess so long as they had "x" number of men to fulfill certain ground duties, they didnt really feel they needed to know who they were?

    Interesting snippet of history also from Harry - thank you.

  9. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    .... and explains the origin of Hayley Mills name (I think, Harry, that it was HaYley-Bell)
    From a brief read, had he stayed in post, the Japanese advance on Singapore and its surrender may have been altered.
  10. RAFCommands

    RAFCommands Senior Member

    Hi Chris,

    RAF Records recorded chapter and verse on every airman and, as with all bean counters since time started, men wen only assigned where a FUNDED need was identified, agreed by authority.

    Just like for your records today to keep these records cost money so each record was created to record a specific item and once the need no longer existed they were disposed in a manner dictated by Parliament.

    The main record for an airman was Form 280.
    I created a guide to the creation, content and disposal of this a few years ago on RAF Commands


    Forms – RAF Commands

    From this you can see what was recorded at the time and what fragments now survive.

    ORBs or Operations Record Books had a similar defined content and use.
    See David Duxbury post on here
    RAFCommands :: Old Forum Archive

    Given the intent of ORBs the lack of ground crew names in Station, Squadron, Flight is intended as there was another admin method (PORs) to pass info the RAF Records.

    For detail on PORs - Personnel Occurance Reports

    POR, Personnel Occurance Report Summary

    As I said in my original reply - the detail was recorded - every airman/woman left a footprint in the sand - just that with the passage of time only fragments exist and should not be considered as the full and only record produced.

    Last edited: Oct 18, 2018
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  11. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    As I see it, Haley- Bell is the correct spelling of the surname.I say this from comment posted in the IMP non public publication of the RAF Hemswell Association Magazine reflecting the station situation in 1940.The female first name Hayley might have been chosen as a variation from the grandfather's surname.

    The LG supplement of 10 June 1918 confirms the Lt Col's surname as Haley- Bell.
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  12. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Probate was printed as "Bell, Francis Hayley"; as was the newspaper obituary announcement and the Electoral Registers for 1937;38 and 39 and the 1939 Register, but they may be wrong, too. His signature on his Marriage certificate was written as Francis Hayley-Bell, but it's a moot issue on someone else topic unrelated to this. Let's leave it as unproven!
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  13. clark136

    clark136 Junior Member

    Hello Ross,

    forgive the lateness of my reply.

    Many thanks once again for another great post of information - my Wife and I will read those threads with great interest.

    Kind regards,


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