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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

What do these letters/numerals mean?

Rory Reynolds

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Attached is a photo of my Grandfather, Lt. Albert Percy Rapson, who was initially RFC and then RAF. What is the significance, if any of the lettering/numerals on his plane and what plane was it? Below is a small bio of him:


Lt. Rapson joined 32 Squadron at the beginning of November 1918 making his first combat patrol on 9 November. His acting Flight Commander was the American Lt. Bogart Rogers who described him and another South African in a letter home. Rogers described the characters in his flight referring to the two newly joined South Africans as "lean, ugly looking men who are both regular persons, good pilots, and very keen about the work".

In the same letter Rogers described the four patrols conducted on 9 and 10 Nov as "all uneventful, no Huns about altho quite a good bit of archie".

Albert Rapson became an RFC Cadet on 16 May 1917 attending No 2 Officer Cadet Wing Hursley Park, Winchester. He then went on to No 2 School of  Military Aeronautics at Oxford. He was appointed Temp 2nd Lt. on 30 August 1917 and sent to Egypt for his flying training to 58 Reserve Sqn at Suez arriving probably in Sep.


After basic training he went on to No 195 Training Sqn at Abu Sueir (Suez Canal) where he was confirmed in the rank of 2nd Lt. on 14 November 1917. Completing his flying training he went to No 3 School of Military Aeronautics at Heliopolis outside Cairo on the staff. It was around this time that a large intake of South African recruits to the RFC arrived in Egypt for training and instructors for them had to be trained locally. In mid 1918 he was posted back to UK to No 41 Training Depot Squadron at London Colney which was equipped with SE5a's and Snipe's in addition to Avro 504's. By the time he arrived at 32 Sqn he was an experienced pilot though lacking operational experience.



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12 hours ago, nils d said:

Looking  at the  photo he's  not  ugly!


You can be a dope without being ugly. I think that dope was a lacquer paint applied to the fabric of the airplane. It tightened the weave and helped make the fabric waterproof.

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  • 3 months later...

Hi Rory,

Just noticed your mention of No.2 Cadet Wing Hursley Park. I research the history of Hursley Park. and would be very interested in any information you would be willing to share on your grandfather's time at the Cadet Wing. I have quite a lot of material on the Wing's time there so may be able to help too if you are interested?

A little on the Cadets at Hursley here: https://hursleypark.wixsite.com/history/single-post/2017/07/13/The-Fledglings



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