Assistance please in researching

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RichL
Leading Aircraftman
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Joined: Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:36 am

Assistance please in researching

Post by RichL » Wed Jun 19, 2019 9:25 am

Thank you for accepting me onto this forum. This is my first posting to the group so I would appreciate any advice that can be given to my query below.

I am investigating my uncle’s time in 38 Group during WW2. Unfortunately he passed away in 2017 so I am unable to ask him any questions although like many involved in the war, when family tried to ask he was generally very reticent to provide many details other than a few general stories. However, I would like to try to bottom out what he actually did during the war years. One of the repeated stories was that he flew in Mosquitoes/Pathfinders but my initial searches have not uncovered anything about those from the particular airfields he was based at, especially as the bases were mainly using Stirlings.

I have his full service records and have been able to determine a few things from them. He enlisted in 1941, was trained as a navigator/bomber and was sent to No. 5 Air Observer school in Winnipeg, Canada (July to Aug 1944) and then sent back to the UK and placed initially in the 42 OTU and then the 1665 HCU. He was based at several airfields (Ashbourne, Saltby, Matching, Great Dunmow, Shepherds Grove) from Sep 1944 to Feb 1946 with that unit or 38 Group HQ but there is no mention as to any squadron he might have flown with which I thought to be unusual. There is also no log book that has been found amongst his possessions, whether he would have had one or not I don’t know. His rank was Flight Officer during that period of time and subsequently promoted to Flight Lieutenant in June 1946 so I would have thought his name would have been recorded on flights if he made them. However, I am also aware that SOE ops were flown from these bases and that some people have indicated that records may not be available if he flew on any of these (I stand to be corrected if that is an incorrect conclusion).

I know there are Operation Report Books available for the various squadrons based at the named airfields and also for the 1665 HCU. I don’t want to order copies online as yet as that could turn out to be quite expensive and a waste if he is not actually named in them, so my plan was to go to Kew to try to view some of these books.

Are these books/records and Kew the best places to initially start looking for further information or can anyone suggest anything else that I might consider? I am not looking for anyone to do the research on my behalf as for me that is half the fun of researching family history but just to give me a few pointers in the right direction.

Thanks in advance for any advice on this matter that can be given from experienced researchers on this forum.

jamesinnewcastle
Flight Lieutenant
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Joined: Fri Oct 15, 2010 12:31 am

Re: Assistance please in researching

Post by jamesinnewcastle » Wed Jun 19, 2019 1:02 pm

Hi

Go to Kew just for the experience, but you can learn what sorties he took from the ORBs and in what aircraft. For my paticular crew of interest their arrival on base was noted in the ORB so you may get some chronological data too. The ORBs were not filled out in exactly the same way on each squadron so you might find that where one gives you detail another may not. Some are handwritten others typed, pot luck really. As your Uncle survived, the amount of recorded information might be very small - usually you get more info if something unpleasent (or very nice) happened!

I don't know if you have researched going to Kew but you can't just turn up and access the files. You are charged for every print (page) you take from the micro-fiche reader (the original books are not available) so I'm not sure that you will be paying less compared to downloading files - if they have been scanned that is.

Kew is amazing - a massive library where you might wander past a researcher rolling open a mediaeval scroll or someone poring over an Edwardian map of Portsmouth.


Cheers
James

RichL
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Joined: Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:36 am

Re: Assistance please in researching

Post by RichL » Wed Jun 19, 2019 2:22 pm

Hi James,

Many thanks for responding to my query. Yes, I have researched Kew access so I am aware of what I need to do in advance. Once I discover which ORBs my uncle appears in then I may well download them if possible but I simply didn't want to download all those available only to find he didn't appear in them at all - wrong squadron, for example, as that could get expensive. I have never been to Kew so as you say it will be an experience but I really wanted to try to get a heads up on what to look for and possibly pre-order in advance so that I can make the most of my time there.

Luckily he survived and I do accept that the interest may be in more what happened to those who sadly didn't or did exceptional things and as such more info is available. Anyway, I'll have to see what I can find out.

Thanks again for replying.

Richard

Charles
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Re: Assistance please in researching

Post by Charles » Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:07 pm

Hi James

I think I'm right in saying that if you take your own laptop to Kew and then log in to the system while there, you can download any info which is available digitally for free. This would apply to all the squadron ORBs, but not the conversion and other training unit ORBs which are only available as the original paper files. My last visit was nearly two years ago, but someone who has been more recently might correct me here.
Good luck with your trip

Charles
https://dambustersblog.com

RichL
Leading Aircraftman
Leading Aircraftman
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Joined: Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:36 am

Re: Assistance please in researching

Post by RichL » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:09 pm

Hi Charles,

That is useful to know and will look into it when I go. Pity about the conversion and training units but guess it will be interesting to look through the documents on paper for a change. Any ideas as to what information may be in say the 1665 heavy conversion unit document? I am hoping for crew names so that I might have a chance of finding out a bit more about my uncle or is that wishful thinking on my part? Do you happen to know whether these are likely to be voluminous record books or not as I have no real appreciation of such documents at the moment?

Richard

jamesinnewcastle
Flight Lieutenant
Flight Lieutenant
Posts: 342
Joined: Fri Oct 15, 2010 12:31 am

Re: Assistance please in researching

Post by jamesinnewcastle » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:31 pm

Hi Charles

I didn't know that, I must buy a laptop! Would be better if they would load files onto your memory stick!

What I find odd about the Kew set-up is that I have paid to have a document scanned but they haven't subsequently offered it for download on their site? Seems like a process doomed to waste money. Same applies to RAFM at Hendon.


Cheers
James

Charles
Corporal
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Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:44 am

Re: Assistance please in researching

Post by Charles » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:18 pm

Hi Richard

Sorry not to have replied before now. I went away on holiday for a few days and have only just got around to checking this forum.

You might be lucky with 1665 CU. I found quite good records on 1660 Conversion Unit, and if I recall correctly it seemed as though there were good records on other units of this time. (They are all bound in one large book). I looked at 110 CU's ORB in early 2018 and found quite a lot of information on the crew I was researching (it was then under the pilotship of a Sgt Graham Bower but would end up flying on the Dams Raid under Sqn Ldr Melvin Young when Bower got signed off sick). But I think there are gaps in the records, so hope that there are none in the period you want to cover!

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