How to research a WW2 RAF or Commonwealth pilot.
Do you want to research a family member who flew in the Second World War? Here is a guide that hopefully might help.
The following is a list of websites I found useful and recommend as a good start to use for your research. Please let me know if you have found any others.
- Google and Wiki
Search last name by squadron but also by “wing”. Eg my grandfather was 132 Squadron but was 125 Wing, as information can be attached to either.
- The Imperial War Museum http://www.iwm.org.uk/
Search by squadron, and/or by last name
Has different information, I found gun camera films from many squadrons, some are uploaded there and able to be viewed online. Some are not uploaded yet.
- National Archives (Kew, England) http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14548
War Office: Directorate of Military Intelligence: Liberated Prisoner of War Interrogation Questionnaires (Called WO344 series)
This series consists of approximately 140,000 Liberation Questionnaires completed by mainly British and Commonwealth Prisoners of War (POWs) of all ranks and services, plus a few other Allied nationals and Merchant seamen. While the plans to question all liberated POW’s never materialised, these records nevertheless represent a large percentage of those still in captivity in 1945. Some are online here, some have not been scanned yet and are only available in Kew, England.
Combat reports (Called AIR 50)
These records are Royal Air Force combat reports written during the Second World War. They are the official reports which pilots or air gunners filed after they had encountered enemy aircraft on operational flights.
The reports cover action seen by the squadrons, wings and groups serving with Fighter Command, Bomber Command, Coastal Command and the Fleet Air Arm. Now held at The National Archives in series AIR 50, they include Commonwealth, United States Army Air Force and Allied units based in the United Kingdom during the Second World War.
Available online for a fee.
Operations Record Book (ORB’s) http://testlb.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/raf-operations-record-books-1939-1945/
“AIR 27” series can be viewed online for a fee. Basically the Form 540 is the diary entry, and the Form 541 gives you the serials, the pilots taking part, up and down times, and a brief report on the operation.
The ORBs, in series AIR 27, were created to provide a complete record of a unit from the time of its formation. Each book includes an accurate record of operations carried out by the unit.
This online collection also includes some operations record books for dominion and Allied Air Force squadrons under British Command.
Air Ministry: Casualty Branch P4: Enquiries into Missing Personnel, 1939-1945 War (Called AIR 81 series)
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission website http://www.cwgc.org
The casualty database lists the names and place of commemoration of the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars.
It also records details of the 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died “as a result of enemy action” in the Second World War.
Other websites and blogs:
- archway.archives.govt.nz ——-archives for New Zealand also try your country’s military of defence records.
- allspitfirepilots.org ——–Canadian website where public can upload details on Spitfire pilots.
- rafcommands.com/forum/forum.php ——–forum with useful information
- rcafcampborden.blogspot.co.nz/ ——-for Canadian trained pilots (some Commonwealth country personnel trained here)
- spitfireassociation.com.au ——–Australian Spitfire pilot details
- forum.12oclockhigh.net ——–forum with useful information
- raf.mod.uk/ahb/ ——–Air Historical Branch of the RAF (U.K)