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Remembered Today:

Observer training, Gosport, 1915


Aljie

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Hi. I am wondering if anyone here might offer some observations on the training of observers for the Royal Flying Corps. The airman I am researching became attached to the RFC some time around August 1915. I had always assumed he had gone straight into his squadron - 13 Squadron based at Fort Grange, Gosport. However, it now appears he might have completed perhaps a month or more of training before joining the squadron.  Was this typical? Also, any information regarding the role of 13 Squadron once it arrived on the Front would be most useful. Thank you!

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As no one else has jumped in may I offer my thoughts?  As I understand it, in 1915 most Observers learnt on the job, at the front, typically going direct from their Regiments to an active service squadron.  After a period of time, of the order of 4-8 weeks or something like that, they might qualify as an Observer and put up their single wing.  This was noted in their record and I think was Gazetted.  I don't think that there was at that point any more formal Observer training, though I stand to be corrected on that.  I think that in 1915 very few spare trained Observers were available, especially at that time (experienced Observers, after one tour, tended to want to train as pilots, so there was a perpetual shortage) so the numbers were made up with untrained or minimally trained men.  Possibly there was a wireless course which he might have been on, but in 1915.... it was perhaps a bit early for that.  So I think it might be possible that he joined the squadron, or a different squadron, completely inexperienced.  But you have been very coy about who you are researching, and his background and rank - no doubt it is 2nd Lt W.G. Lawrence (there's no magic about that, I see you asked a question about him on https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/191474-13-sqn-war-diaries/page/6/ back in April).  Pierce09 still seems to be around - he visited the forum in September - but he hasn't added anything to that thread for a while).   So if we are talking about Lawrence, his summary on airhistory (http://www.airhistory.org.uk/rfc/people_index.html) suggests that he did not actually qualify as an Observer, and that he has an Army file reference WO 339/36583 which may give further information - I suspect you have probably seen that?  Short of there being anything in that, or in private papers somewhere - or possibly the 13 Squadron records @Pierce09 had access to, it may be difficult to fill the gap.  Send him a PM via the forum - if he is still on the email address he was when he registered, he should get a notification, and he may still be able to help.

 

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Thank you, that's very useful. Obviously you are right about my subject. I have a paper appearing next year, and if I seem coy, it's only that I'm in the very first stages of following up new information which may or may not prove to be correct. I had always assumed he transferred direct from his army regiment to 13 Squadron, but it seems likely he underwent a few weeks of training first. So just points of detail, really, for my paper. But I'd not really given much consideration before to his training, while actually it looks like it will be interesting to pursue.

 

Yes, I do have his army records. WO 339/36583 holds no information at all about his training or even his (very brief) service. It is mainly a record of correspondence with his family after his death -- fascinating, though, given the interest in his more famous brother. I'll follow up on everything else, though. So thank you for taking the time the reply, it is much appreciated.

 

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Try Jefford's Observers and Navigators book - I haven't read it but I believe it is the main work on this subject and should tell you what, if any, training was available in 1915.  Certainly probationary observers were turning up in 5 Squadron (my interest) in 1916 having been with their regiments in France a few days before.  

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Happily, parts of this fascinating book are available to read through Google and Amazon, so I've had a quick dip in. Most usefully, there is one account from an observer in training at Gosport in summer 1915. So thank you for drawing my attention to it.

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1 hour ago, Aljie said:

Happily, parts of this fascinating book are available to read through Google and Amazon, so I've had a quick dip in. Most usefully, there is one account from an observer in training at Gosport in summer 1915. So thank you for drawing my attention to it.

Result!

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