Why don’t you have the card for my relative? They definitely died whilst with the RFC. The Casualty Cards are by no means complete – the series seems to have started in 1915 (although there are a few cards for casualties in 1914) and there are very few cards for Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) or those in the ranks. The cards also cover only those serving with the Royal Flying Corps and RAF. If the Royal Naval Air Service created similar records for its casualties they seem not to have survived.
How can I find where my relative is buried? The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's database http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx while show where those who died are buried, and the memorials that commemorate those with no known grave.
My relative isn’t in the Muster Roll The Muster Roll lists NCOs and men who were serving in the ranks who were transferred to the RAF when it was formed on 1 April 1918. Officers are not included. It is possible that: • Your man had left before that date (perhaps on transfer to another branch of the Army or Navy, or had been killed or injured) • He did not join the RAF until after 1 April 1918
The service number I have doesn’t match the one in the Muster Roll Men who transferred from the RNAS were given new numbers, to avoid confusion with similar RFC numbers. RNAS men who transferred to the RAF had 200000 added to their original numbers, and the prefix F was dropped – for example F4800 Leading Mechanic Wildbore became 204,800 Corporal Mechanic Wildbore. All RNAS personnel were renumbered in 1918, including the dead.
Why are there two sets of casualty cards? The two cards contain different information. The large cards record how the person became a casualty (for example, details of the aircraft involved and any other occupants) and the smaller cards record further news, such as a report that he had been reported a Prisoner of War.
In some cases there are two large cards (often marked I and II) with no corresponding small card – this seems to be in cases where the person was known to have been killed and no further news was expected. The two large cards may have been kept in different filing systems, but this needs further research.
Can I see the original cards? One of the aims of our digitisation project has been to prevent the records becoming damaged through handling. If the electronic images are not clear enough, we will check the original, but it will not be possible to use the originals for general research.
Where can I find photographs of the person I’m researching? Photographs of individuals are hard to find. Personnel records do not include photographs but many men used commercial photographers to obtain portraits that they could send to their relatives. The Museum holds a relatively small number of these. Group photographs were also taken, but often there is no key giving names.
The Imperial War Museums www.iwm.org.uk have large photograph collections which may include relevant images.
Many RFC and RNAS pilots applied for Aviator’s Certificates issued by the Royal Aero Club; the Club’s archive includes the photographs submitted by applicants, and these are available via www.ancestry.co.uk
Local newspapers often printed reports of men from their area who had been decorated or killed. Your local library or county record office should hold collections of local papers.
Why are there so few women in the records? Women don’t appear in the Muster Roll or Air Force List because the Women’s Royal Air Force was a separate organisation. There are some Casualty Cards for women in the main sequence.
What do the abbreviations in the “Terms of Enlistment” column of the Muster Roll mean? “DW” stands for “Duration of the War” – there was no fixed period of service, and the man would – in effect – serve for as long as he was needed.
“OE” may stand for “Ordinary Engagement” – in such cases he would have agreed to serve for a certain number of years, followed by a period in the Reserve, from which he could be called back to serve again.
My relative was killed in a flying accident - how can I find details of any investigation? The cards usually give a summary of the Court of Inquiry. The full records of such Courts have not survived.
Is the rate of pay daily or weekly? We believe it is per day. One shilling in 1918 is worth approximately £1.10 today.
The first column often refers to a casualty return, Court of Inquiry or a form with a reference number. Casualty returns are among the records compiled by units held in the National Archives (in series AIR 1) but the records of Courts of Inquiry have not survived.
What is a Flying Officer? During the First World War ‘Flying Officer’ was the basic employment grade of a qualified pilot and carried the rank of Second Lieutenant (2/Lt) or Lieutenant (Lt). The next grades up were Flight Commander (captain); Squadron Commander (major) and Wing Commander (Lieutenant Colonel). The basic employment grade of an observer was Flying Officer (Observer) – abbreviated as FO(O) and ranked as 2/Lt or Lt.
The RAF rank of Flying Officer was introduced in 1919, replacing the RFC rank of Lieutenant.
Why do some cards show two regiments? Some officers transferred to the Royal Flying Corps or Royal Air Force on a temporary basis, having been commissioned into a regiment or corps. They are shown as 'attached RFC [or RAF]'
Many held commissions in the Special Reserve or Territorial Force and are shown as S.R. or (T) - these were organisations formed before the war to supplement the regular forces, in the way that today's reservists support the RAF.
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