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Terry

Kite Balloon Officers...Aircrew?

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Terry

In connection with another thread concerning a 1914 Star trio in my collection (star to private,1/4 Suffolks; war and victory to lieutenant,RAF), I have a question. Since the fellow ended up in the Kite Balloon section of the RAF, would he be considered aircrew? Would balloon officers (obviously observers as opposed to ground admin types) wear any type of wings?

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Dolphin

Kite Balloon observers were considered to be aircrew, and I've seen photographs of observers wearing the winged 'O' also worn by their counterparts in aeroplane units. However, the wing is sometimes obscured by the straps of the observer's parachute harness.

Peter Cooksley's 'The RFC/RNAS Handbook' is a good guide to the organisation and deployment of British balloons.

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Jon Shattock

On a related matter, I've recently bought the WW1 pair to 38844 1am J Chase RAF. On his service papers it shows him with 28 KB Sec and his trade as KBO (tele). I'm hoping this means he he was responsible for manning the telephone in a kite balloon. Would he have worn an observers "wing"? Any thoughts or further info will be appreciated.

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StevieB

Your best source of information is in C.G. Jefford's book "Observer's and Navigator's". From memory, as I don't have the book to hand at the moment, is that it is very, very unlikely that your man was actually aircrew as this was usually the role of officers, and often attached officer's from the R.A. who would already understand the rudiments of artillery observation. The RFC did introduce some NCO observers later as the need for observer's grew, but no A.M. from what I know. I seems much more likely that your man had his feet firmly on the ground!

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John D

Terry

Your man W J Dooley was attached to No.1 Balloon Wing (served France). Some details (probably not much) are held in the officers particulars book (PRO ref AIR1/1767/204/142/23). This will probably give the number of which Kite Balloon section he was attached to. I do not have any other info for him, so he must have been appointed a Balloon observer after April 1918.

Re the observers badge, I believe that he would only be entitled to this once he was formally 'qualified' as a Balloon observer (presumably after training and practical experiance). The above book usually confirms such an appointment as do the routine orders issued by 1st Balloon Wing HQ. These are also in the PRO, but take a bit of trawling through.

Hope this helps

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Terry

John,

Many thanks! This certainly helps in building up a file on Dooley. I will track down this file,

Cheers & Happy New Year from Canada,

Terry

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Terry

Coincidence! A packet of research arrived from Jonathan Collins this morning. Several bits of info on Dooley. He earned a Silver War Badge on his discharge due to wounds from the army, and then joined the RAF. Several entries from 2 Balloon Training Depot, training as an observer. Later posted from the Home Establishment to 10 Balloon Company (28 Oct.,18); to 3 (?) London Gen Hospital 10 Feb.,1919; unfit G.S. fit home service 25 Mar.,1919.

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John D

10 Balloon company was one of the 4 companies that made up 1 Balloon Wing. each company usually had two Kite Balloon sections, and in this case they were (I believe) for 1918 numbers 5 and 28.

I have a BWM to an observer officer attached to that company. He started duties about April 1917 (I have information on the hours in the air through to June 17), but I found the authority for him to wear the observers badge in the routine orders with an effective date of November 1917.

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Guest Pete Wood
Several entries from 2 Balloon Training Depot, training as an observer.

I am fairly sure that 2 BTD was based in Richmond Park, west London.

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Terry

Thanks, guys; every little bit of information is welcome!

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John D

And again.....

Whilst rummaging, I found another entry for Dooley. He is mentioned in the 5 KBS report 'book' during Oct 1918 (PRO ref AIR1/1518/204/61/1).

These are reports on Balloon flights, usually listing the names of those 'in the basket', length of time in the air and details of any shoots. Some entries can be very brief if the visibility is poor. Although he may be shown on an ascent, the info may not be worth pulling the file for.

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Yorts

With regard to AM not being aircrew; I used to own medals to a AM in the RNAS. He served as aircrew with the seaplane trials and experimental establishment at Dundee 1917-1918. It was standard practise to take riggers / fitters / mechanics aloft with these seaplanes on trials, as many of the faults encountered on testing could be rectified by landing at sea and performing impromptu repairs. These men were in addition to the aircrew and could easily be accomodated in the large Felixstowe type aircraft.

Without being aircrew he could never have received his victory medal, as all UK based groundcrew only got the BWM in the RNAS.

Rgds,

Alex. :D

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Robert Dunlop
Kite Balloon observers were considered to be aircrew, and I've seen photographs of observers wearing the winged 'O' also worn by their counterparts in aeroplane units. However, the wing is sometimes obscured by the straps of the observer's parachute harness.

In the recently published 'Guns, kites and horses' (ISBN 1 86064 906 8), Walter Giffard (an observer) wrote:

'Heard that Tony and I had got our "wings", we put them up today. Tony said he had got a stiff neck from continually looking to see if they were still there'.

The notes, supplied by the editor Sir Sydney Giffard, describe that they 'were awarded observers' wings in the form of an oval shield, with RFC embroidered on it, and one wing, in cloth, to be sewn onto the tunic above the left-hand breast pocket.'

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