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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

RFC Unit and Rank Abbreviations


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I am researching a great great uncle, George Mowatt 19511, from Edinburgh who joined the RFC on 26/01/16 as a Rigger (Aero).

I've managed to get hold of his service record from the NA, but am struggling with some of the abbreviations.

I've attached an extract from his service records which lists his units. He served for most of the war, until August 1918, with a single unit - which looks like "35 FS", "35 RS" or maybe "35 RF". I am not sure what his final unit was from the service record.


Also, his initial rank is given as "2/am" (airman? air mechanic?). His last rank in the RFC was "F/Sgt" (flight sergeant?) and on transfer to the RAF in April 1918 he became what looks like a "Ch Mech" (?).

Would anyone be able to help with what the units or ranks might be?



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35 RS is Reserve Squadron, basically an operational training unit. TDS is Training Depot Squadron. M O Sch is a School of some kind but not sure about the MO

2/am would be Air Mechanic Second Class, more usually abreviated to AM2 or AMII, but abbreviations were not always standardised. F/Sgt would certainly be Flight Sergeant, equivalent to an infantry Colour Sergeant or a modern Staff Sergeant. Ch Mech was Chief Mechanic, a trade rather than a rank; a F/Sgt with a little more pay for his specialist skills.

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M O Sch could be Marine Observers' School (one at Leysdown and another at Aldeburgh).

On 10 August 1918 No 35 Reserve/Training Squadron RAF was based at Port Meadow; it was disbanded into No 44 Training Depot Station (together with No 71 TS) on 15 August.

I hope this is useful.


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Thanks both - that's really helpful.

Would there still be any records out there about 35 Reserve/Training Squadron, and what planes they flew?



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No 35 TS was a two-seater training unit that used the following: BE2c, BE2e, Bristol F2A, Bristol F2B, RE7, RE8 and Armstrong-Whitworth FK3.



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RD is Recruits Depot

Yar Stn is probably Yarmouth Station

The MO School Aldeburgh was only formed in October 1918, (Leysdown in August 1918)

Formed 1 st February 1917 at Filton
Redesignated 35 Training Squadron from 31st May 1917.
D.H.1; Grahame-White XV; B.E.2c 4442, B.E.2e A3060;
F.E.2b 7212; Avro 504A A8505; R.E.7 2194; R.E.8 A4653;
F.K.3 A1484; D.H.6 82817; Shorthorn B4759; F.2a A3325;
F.2b A7135; F.E.2b; R.E.9 A4600.
An element detached and became 'A' Flight, 2 Training Depot Station on 15th August 1917.
Disbanded 15th August 1918 at Oxford and merged with 71 Training Squadron to become 44 Training Depot Station.
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Formed in 21st Wing at Filton 1.2.1917. Pre-ordained as a Higher Reserve Squadron and establishment, set 23.12.1916, 6 RE7 + 6 Bristol F2B + 6 Avro. To Northolt and 18th Wing 6.2.1917. Given temporary HD duty over the summer of 1917. To Port Meadow and 21st Wing 16.12.1917. Disbanded into 44 TDS at Port Meadow 15.8.1918.

Commanding Officers

Major L Henderson.

Representative Aeroplanes

AMC DH6 B2817, C7222.

Avro 504A/J 7718, A5903, A8505, A8515.

AW FK3 A1484.

Bristol F2A A3314, A3325, A3332, A3344, A3345, A3351.

Bristol F2B A7103, A7122, A7135, A7136, A7173, A7180, A7212, A7218, A7238, A7249, A7263, A7267, A7273, B1140, B1159, B1172, B8919, B8921, C830, C831, C897, C4647, C4660, C4674, C4804, C4805, C4812, C4813, C4830, C4833.

MF Se.11 B4759.

RAF BE2c 4442.

RAF BE2d 5747, 5824.

RAF BE2e 6263, 6296, 6755, 7207, A2853, A2952, A3060, A8637, A8681, B746, B4442.

RAF FE2b 7212.

RAF RE7 2194.

RAF RE8 A3556, A3557, A3653, A3748, A3877, A3892, A4192, A4511, A4653, A4654, A4655, B739.

RAF RE9 A4600.

Unit Marking

Red & white chequerboard on the noses of DH6 and F2B at Portmeadow.



Formed in 21st Wing at Port Meadow 15.8.1918, ex 35 and 71 TS. To Bicester in 21st Wing 1.10.1918. Autumn 1918 establishment 36 Bristol F2B + 36 Avro. Re-designated 44 Training Squadron 8.1919.

Commanding Officers

Representative Aeroplanes

Avro 504J/K D2123, E1743, E4252, E4336, F8749, F9817.

Bristol F2B A7238, B826, C759, C826, C830, C897, C4675, C4779, C4788, D7987, D8012, F4313.

Sopwith Pup B6128.

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Thanks everyone - that's very kind

He is shown as enlisting 26 January 1916, and his first unit is shown as 35 Reserve Squadron. If 35 RS wasn't formed until February 1917, I wonder what was he doing until then?

Is this just a question of the service record being unclear/incomplete, or would he have been training somewhere else for some or all of that period (e.g. did the RFC have centralised recruitment and training in 1916)?

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Ch Mech was Chief Mechanic, a trade rather than a rank; a F/Sgt with a little more pay for his specialist skills.

I was under the impression that Chief Mechanic was an interim rank early on during the formation of the RAF !

Perhaps it was introduced to mollify the Chief Petty Officers who were transferred to the new fangled RAF,but eventually it reverted to Flight Sergeant rank by 1919

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From Flight Magazine March 21st 1918,the RAF rank structure.

But as I said in my previous post - this had been simplified by 1919 and the chief mechanic rank had reverted to F/sgt.

Interesting though that the 'Master' rank was reintroduced post ww2 for both aircrew and groundcrew !


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Sorry for the slight thread drift but this gentleman had an interesting war and rose to the rank of Chief Master Mechanic !

A scarce Great War M.M group of four awarded to Chief Master Mechanic C. I. Collett, Royal Air Force, late Royal Flying Corps, who served as an Observer in R.E. 8s of No. 12 Squadron

Military Medal, G.V.R. (413 Fl. Sjt. C. I. Collett, 12/Sq. R.F.C.); 1914-15 Star (413 Cpl. C. I. Collett, R.F.C.); British War and Victory Medals (413 T.S.M. C. I. Collett, R.F.C.), generally good very fine (4) £1100-1300


M.M. London Gazette 27 October 1916. The original recommendation states:

‘On the evening of 17 March 1916, a British aeroplane had to land just W. of Arras in full view of the German lines. No. 12 Squadron sent a party to render assistance. Flight Sergeant Collett, Corporal Beddows and 1st A.M. Gill salved the instruments, Lewis gun and mountings under very close and accurate shell fire. At the ninth shot the machine was hit direct and set on fire. During this time a French officer and soldier, who were standing close by, were hit, one being killed and the other wounded.’

Charles Inglis Collett, who was born in Stratford-on-Avon in February 1890, originally served as a Bombardier in the Warwickshire R.H.A. (Territorial Force), from which he transferred to the fledgling Royal Flying Corps in October 1912, in common with two of his brothers. Appointed an Air Mechanic 1st Class in No. 5 Squadron in August 1914, he first went out to France in April 1915, but returned to the Home Establishment in the following month. Then in October of the same year he returned once more to active service in France.

And he was serving on the strength of No. 12 Squadron by the time of his M.M.-winning exploits on the Arras front early in the following year. After then being advanced to the temporary rank of Sergeant-Major, he qualified as a Gunner & Observer in September 1916 and flew in the Squadron’s R.E. 8s, gaining mention in at least one R.F.C. communique for good work in assisting our gunners in hitting an enemy battery. Ordered back home in October 1917, Collett was appointed Chief Master Mechanic in the newly established Royal Air Force in April 1918, and was discharged in October 1920; sold with a file of research.

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