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Observers and change to single-seaters


Perth Digger
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A silly question probably. When a squadron (such as 70 Squadron in July 1917) changed from two-seaters to single seaters, were the Observers just transferred to other squadrons or sent off for pilot training? Are there any accounts of this happening?

Thanks

Mike

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On 20/03/2022 at 07:30, Perth Digger said:

A silly question probably. When a squadron (such as 70 Squadron in July 1917) changed from two-seaters to single seaters, were the Observers just transferred to other squadrons or sent off for pilot training? Are there any accounts of this happening?

Thanks

Mike

Hi

Generally a trained observer or 'air gunner' would just be transferred to another two-seater squadron.  If the observer had put in a request to train as a pilot then he would go for training if accepted, but that would be when a place on a course was available and would not depend on a change on aircraft type on a particular squadron.  After successfully training as a pilot he would probably be sent where needed and less likely back to the same squadron (although it sometimes could have happened I believe).  James McCudden in 'Flying Fury' describes flying as an observer then returning to train as a pilot at CFS, before returning to France flying two-seaters before going on to single-seaters. William Barker was another observer who went back to train as a pilot and returned as a two-seater pilot and later a single-seater pilot (see 'Barker VC' by Wayne Ralph).  Neither of these left because of a squadron change of type and did not return to their original squadron.  

I hope that is of some minor use.

Mike

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Hi Mike

Many thanks for the information. I've just got hold of a copy of Waugh's short history of 70 Squadron in Cross & Cockade (expensive) that says the observers were all transferred to other units when the Camels arrived in July 1917. That may not have done much in the short term for squadron morale, perhaps.

Mike

 

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The most experienced observers would be given the option of pilot training, the others posted , perhaps to another squadron on the same airfield .l think 45 squadron observers transferred to 20 Sqn .

It was an illogical system guaranted to upset a squadron's smooth running.

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Thanks Nils. The whole process of changing planes would have been worrisome in the extreme. Pilots also had little chance to get used to the new plane (and the Camel was notorious for its quirks) before heading over the lines. There were numerous accidents during the changeover.

I've just seen the thread on Kenneth Wallace who was an Observer transferred from 70 to 100 Squadron in August 1917. 

Mike

Edited by Perth Digger
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6 hours ago, nils d said:

The most experienced observers would be given the option of pilot training, the others posted , perhaps to another squadron on the same airfield .l think 45 squadron observers transferred to 20 Sqn .

It was an illogical system guaranted to upset a squadron's smooth running.

Hi

Reference 45 Sqn.  Norman MacMillan in 'Into the Blue' page 148, had this to say on the changeover:

WW2RAFsqnest164.jpg.e0fa2b9088aea4fbbd5fd164b999b337.jpg

Mike

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I can't seem to dig out my copy of the O'Connor /Franks history of No. 1 Squadron but they gave a brief few paragraphs on the shedding of observers etc. Will rummage around but I vaguely remember one or two being mentioned in relation to pilot training.

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Thanks for the 45 Squadron material, Mike, and I look forward to anything you may find, Airshipped.

 

Mike

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