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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Aeronautical Inspection Department


ceebee

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I have been researching the military career of 305 Pte Charles Edward (Ted) Parsons, 17 Battalion AIF. Ted’s service papers contain correspondence about his proposed discharge from the AIF and employment at the Aeronautical Inspection Department. Sadly he was killed in action on 23 August 1916 before the transfer could occur. He was aged 52.

Now, Ted was a locomotive engine fitter by trade and had considerable experience across several continents. How he came to the interest of the Aeronautical Inspection Department is not recorded in the service papers.

I would be grateful for information about the Aeronautical Inspection Department and how it attracted employees. For instance, was there a recruitment drive in the services for various specialists?

Cheers

Chris

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How he came to the interest of the Aeronautical Inspection Department is not recorded in the service papers.

I can't claim specific knowledge here but surely a locomotive engine fitter would have been a highly skilled technician, and as the trade of Aeronautical Inspectors had started from scratch only a few years previously and was rapidly expanding, he would have been just the man they wanted.

Adrian

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Adrian

I'm sure you're right about the technical skill of the locomotive engine fitter and value to the aeronautical industry.

I am not a mechanically minded person, so I presume such a person was placed somewhere in manufacturing process.

And there is still the question of recruitment.

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By 1916 there were regular trawls across the other units to find people with skills useful to the technical units such as the air services and tank corps etc.

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papmpt

Thanks for your information. Your comments correlate with material about the AID I found over the weekend.

It appears that the PID underwent an expansion and reorganisation in the latter part of 1916. An interesting article on the PID can be read here.

The UK National Archives information sheet (see here) refers to the growth of the Department from 13 staff in December 1913 to 10,600 by 11 November 1918. The range of responsibilities was extensive, as illustrated by the following statement from the NA:

The scope of the inspection carried out by AID comprised not only aircraft but supplies of many other kinds utilized by the Flying Service, such as balloons, hangars, tents, machine tools, raw materials, fabrics and a variety of general equipment. In the inspection of these multifarious supplies almost every trade was dealt with, and some idea may be formed of the department's technical requirements when it is realized that detailed inspection was made of all materials, of the manufacturing process to which they were subjected, of the assembly of various parts into component units and of the erection of the aircraft, engines, etc.

It’s not surprising that the services were regularly tapped for technical people.

Ted Parson’s service record suggests that contact with the AID was made at least by August 1916. His technical credentials would have been checked by the AID and, upon acceptance, letters were sent to AIF headquarters in France and London to arrange his discharge. These administrative steps occurred over August and September 1916, a period during which the 17th Battalion was engaged in the Somme offensive at Pozieres. On 21 August the Battalion moved into the Sunken Road trenches and relieved the 5th Battalion. On 23 August 1916, the day of Ted’s death, the 17th Battalion relieved the 19th Battalion in trenches east of Pozieres. Two days later the Battalion was relieved by the 19th Battalion and went into reserve in Sunken Road. Quite possibly if Ted had survived the Pozieres stint he may have also survived the war.

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Phil

Yes indeed. An apprentice railway engineer with the Great Northern Railway.

From Wikipedia:

During World War I, he was a captain in the Royal Naval Air Service, where he played a major role in improving the design and manufacture of Clerget engines for the Sopwith Camel and the Sopwith Snipe aircraft. These were known as the BR1 (Bentley Rotary 1) and BR2 and were made by Humber. For this he was awarded an MBE, and an award of £8,000 from the Commission for Awards to Inventors.

Any idea whether he was engaged by the AID?

Thanks

Chris

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  • 7 years later...

I came across a man who later joined the Auxiliary Police in Ireland (qualification for membership being an ex-officer). His name was Harold Axel Benson

1917 Oct 1. The undermentioned to be temp. Hon. Lts. whilst empld. as Asst. Insprs., Aeronautical Inspn. Dept. - Harold Axel Benson - click for my notes including his RAF record

His RAF record (which has minimal annotations) says "Temp Hon Lt whilst employed as Assistant Inspector at Aeronautical Inspection Division

I had not realised that this Division actually had 10000 men on its payroll

My question is "why was it necessary to make men like Benson "hon Lt" It appears to have carried out a Civil Service type role

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I came across a man who later joined the Auxiliary Police in Ireland (qualification for membership being an ex-officer). His name was Harold Axel Benson

1917 Oct 1. The undermentioned to be temp. Hon. Lts. whilst empld. as Asst. Insprs., Aeronautical Inspn. Dept. - Harold Axel Benson - click for my notes including his RAF record

His RAF record (which has minimal annotations) says "Temp Hon Lt whilst employed as Assistant Inspector at Aeronautical Inspection Division

I had not realised that this Division actually had 10000 men on its payroll

My question is "why was it necessary to make men like Benson "hon Lt" It appears to have carried out a Civil Service type role

Hi

When AID was the 'Aeronautical Inspection Department' it was under the control of the War Office, so personnel probably had to have a 'military rank' to have 'authority' on military installations. However, in March 1917 AID came under the control of the Ministry of Munitions and became the 'Aeronautical Inspection Directorate', so not 'military' but they may have continued with 'honorary ranks'. By the end of the war it had a total of 10,657 personnel of all grades of both sexes. The female element consisted of eight inspectors, 535 examiners, 4,274 viewers and some 500 office staff, that was up from zero in 1914.

Mike

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Mike

Thanks for that information

With that I can see Benson was "'Aeronautical Inspection Directorate'". I had taken the "Dir" as "Div" with the handwriting

Do you know therefore how any Inspectors and Assistant Inspectors there were

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Mike

Thanks for that information

With that I can see Benson was "'Aeronautical Inspection Directorate'". I had taken the "Dir" as "Div" with the handwriting

Do you know therefore how any Inspectors and Assistant Inspectors there were

Hi

My source for the information on AID in WW1 is the first part of a series of articles by Bruce Robertson from 'Aeroplane Monthly' November 1993. He does not give the full breakdown for 1918 but mentions that AID personnel were not exempt from military service and approximately half the workforce was female at the end of the war. So roughly half of each 'trade' position in AID, so doubling the figures would probably give you a very rough estimate of 'Inspectors' etc. In August 1914 he gives the figures as one chief inspector, two inspectors, three assistant inspectors, four chief examiners, 27 examiners and 12 clerical and maintenance staff.

I hope that is of use.

Mike

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Mike

Very useful, thanks very much

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  • 5 years later...

This thread came up on a search I was doing for the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate. Thanks very much for the information. Are there any other sites/sources that you can recommend for information on the establishment of the Directorate and its processes?

 

Thanks in advance, Paul Simpson.

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23 hours ago, xbspaul said:

This thread came up on a search I was doing for the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate. Thanks very much for the information. Are there any other sites/sources that you can recommend for information on the establishment of the Directorate and its processes?

 

Thanks in advance, Paul Simpson.

Hi Paul

Tried to PM five times and failed to work, this is what I tried to send:

Hi Paul

The sources I have at hand are: 'The Official History of The Ministry of Munitions, Volume XII, The Supply of Munitions Part I Aircraft' Chapter II Methods of Supply pages 48-53, Naval & Military Press facsimile reprint of 1921 edition.  'British Aviation, The Great War and Armistice' (11 pages in index mention AID) by Harald Penrose, Putnam 1969.  'Aeroplane Monthly November 1993' , article 'An AID to quality' Part 1 by Bruce Robertson.

Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mike

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Paul - There is a 40 page booklet entitled ‘The birth of aeronautical inspection : a short history of the origins and early years of the Aeronautical Inspection Department AID 1913-1918’ which was written by K.J. Meekcoms (1980). You might try getting a hold of a copy.

MB

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Thank you, both. I had seen these sources cited in a couple of other papers out there and will be trying to get hold of copies. They do seem to be difficult to get hold of, though. Yes, PM does seem to be an issue. I tried a couple of times before it would allow me to message you, Mike.

Best regards, Paul Simpson

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