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An uncle in the RAF in WW2

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An uncle in the RAF in WW2

Old 5th Nov 2021, 21:42
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An uncle in the RAF in WW2

I wonder if anyone can help me or point me in the right direction? I am putting together a family history book for my family and have got stuck on an uncle who died in 1978. I have the barest of information: DOB, copies of birth certificate, marriage and death certificates, social history after 1948 and the information that served in the RAF in WW2.

Unfortunately no service record number - have applied for his service record with as much info as I could give them but 4-6 month backlog and not sure they will even accept it without service number. I have trawled Forces War Records, Ancestry, Find my Past and Fold3 and failed to come up with relevant military information.

I know that he was recruited at Padgate and have a photo possibly of his Passing out Parade marked 'February 1940'
I know that he was posted to Cambridge to construct 'Dummy airfields' where he met future wife
I know from the family photographs that he was posted to India and stationed for at least a year in Ceylon
Photo marked November 1944 Bombay
Photo marked June 28th 1945 183 Wing Ridgeway
Photo marked September 1945 Mount Lavinia
Photo marked September 1945 Ratamala
I have a photo of him in possibly 1944 in uniform, probably ground crew, with Corporal stripes

Is there enough information there to work out which squadron he was assigned to and then I can put together a narrative to go with the photographs? I assume from the dates that the Cambridge posting was the earlier one and have found an arial photo of crop marks of the dummy airfield on Mitchell Farm in Cottenham, Cambridge, where he met his wife, and know that there nearby airfields at Mepal and Witchford but beyond that I keep going round in circles.

My own father was in the Chindits in Burma at that time and I realise that the RAF played a critical role in supporting the Burma campaign and generally in the the Far Eastern theatre of war 1943 to 45 but again I have failed to make any progress on tracking down why he was where he was and what his role might have been. Any ideas would be very gratefully received!
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Old 6th Nov 2021, 04:36
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Not a lot to go on from the information that you have posted unfortunately.

Can't help with the earlier part of your uncle's service or the Bombay area.

No.183 Wing, based at Ridgeway, which I believe was just south of Colombo, Ceylon, controlled all the AMES units in that area. It was formed on 1.1.44 and was disbanded on 31.12.45. AMES stood for Air Ministry Experimental Station, a cover name for radar units. Mount Lavinia, which appears in the September 1945 photo, was the home of No. 524 AMES and was located near RAF Ratmalana, an operational flying base.

There were many trades associated with the operation of an AMES unit so it isn't really possible to say what your uncle might have been doing. Might there be any clues in the photos?

Not much help unfortunately. Your uncle's service record would certainly be a great help if you are able to obtain it.
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Old 6th Nov 2021, 09:58
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Hi and thank you so much for taking the trouble to reply. Unfortunately the photos are all the formal 'staged' ones they sent home to friends and family at the time, although there are a couple of pages of just of aircraft - Louis Mountbatten's Avro, an engine being swapped out on a Lancaster bomber etc, which are probably just for his own interest I should think. He was a grocery delivery driver before the war and settled home as an agricultural labourer after it, so doesn't seem to have come home with any transferable skills or great ambitions!
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Old 8th Nov 2021, 08:18
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I am no expert, but just as an idea I would look into 80 wing, as based on sources that was responsible for many of the "dummy airfields" (Starfish sites):
"The Royal Air Force’s 80 Wing supervised 27 sites and employed 2,000 personnel on STARFISH operations."
source: http://airwargreatbritain.********.c...rfish.html?m=0

Regarding list of Starfish sites and units responsible for those:
Arborfield Local History Society - WWII Starfish Decoy Sites

Apparently the 80 wing was established for electronic countermeasures:
"On June 1940, a RAF Radio Counter-Measures (RCM) unit was formed at a requisitioned country hotel, Aldenham Lodge, in Radlett, Hertfordshire, to provide electronic countermeasures (ECM) and intelligence on enemy radio/radar systems.
On 7 October, it was renamed 80 (Signals) Wing, with the motto "Confusion to Our Enemies". 80 Wing worked under the immediate control of the Air Ministry, but kept in close touch with RAF Fighter Command's operations room at RAF Bentley Priory."

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._80_Wing_RAF

Combining this to lauriebe's infromation it would make sense that your uncle was involved and that would narrow down the search.
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Old 8th Nov 2021, 12:11
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A name etc would help as would DOB
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Old 8th Nov 2021, 15:14
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On the photos does he have a clenched fist holding lightning bolts on his sleeve?
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Old 8th Nov 2021, 16:25
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...
A name etc would help as would DOB
from another place - https://forums.flyer.co.uk/viewtopic...80930#p1880742

William Humphreys - DOB 10th August 1921. It would be useful to know if he had a middle name or three ?

Ridgeway Place is a small part of Colombo, between the port and Mt Lavinia. (viz. googlemaps.)

Sir Joseph Ridgeway was a previous Governor of Ceylon - his wife gave her name to the famous Lady Ridgeway Children's Hospital in another part of Colombo.

LFH
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Old 9th Nov 2021, 06:22
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Have you tried obtaining his RAF record? I've done it for my father. It's easier to get next of kin to apply:

https://www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-service-records
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Old 12th Nov 2021, 21:47
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An Uncle in the RAF in WW2

Please forgive the length of this post. I have been delighted with the response of this and two other forum(s) which have been incredibly helpful and have enabled me to develop a narrative of sorts to tell his story. I hope to eventually have access to his service record which might refine and clarify the details but would very much welcome any corrections or further suggestions. Otherwise I just wanted to thank everyone for their enormous help and support.

His name was William Humphreys
He was born born 10th August 1921 at 21 Queen Street Heywood Lancs
Father John Cannon Humphreys, Tanner in a leather works
Mother Annie Humphreys formerly Hickford
When WW2 declared 1 September 1939 Bill was 18 years and two weeks old
When 1939 register was taken four weeks later he was still living with with parents JC Humphreys and Annie Humphreys at 5 Heywood Hall Cottages Heywood Lancs, profession given as grocers driver.
He was known to have served in the RAF. Several photos have fortunately now surfaced:

Photo 1: Marked ‘February 1940 Padgate’ presumably passing out parade. Padgate being a small RAF station near Warrington used as a basic training camp for servicemen. Basic training was usually 12 weeks, which would have meant commencement November 1939 to pass out in February 1940. Possible service numbers would have been in the range 96500 to 1149977.

Four possible service numbers in this range at Padgate under name of William Humphreys: 978384, 1057547, 1145663, 1117491.

There would seem to be three possibilities:

1) Bill enlisted as a young Reservist and gained driving training/ possible driving license (although licenses discontinued 1939-45) Heywood (Pilsworth) had a large RAF Maintenance Unit, No 35.

2) He was amongst the huge influx of RAF volunteers simply attested as recruits and then sent back to civil life with a lapel badge to be called up at later date;

3) With his driving experience he may have been recruited as motor transport (Trade group V - “Little needed to be become an efficient airman”)

We now have seven photographs after the passing out parade at Padgate. The uniform indicates ground crew and he he gained two stripes during his service. Just two photographs have (barely) discernible insignia:
The two officers in the passing out parade.
The photo of Bill on the motorbike in Colombo (although very poor quality)

Two broad periods of service have emerged:

Period 1: From passing out at Padgate February 1940 until November 1944 when we have a photograph in Bombay. We know that Bill was deployed to Mitchell farm Cottenham, Cambridge involved in constructing a a decoy airfield, where he met his future wife who lived on the farm. These ‘decoy airfields’ were established both across Cambridge and the rest of the country in an attempt to mislead the bombers of the Luftwaffe.

I understand that these would have come under the 180 Signals and Communication Wing, built and maintained by a secret ministry unit with no official title, referred to as ‘Colonel Turner's department’. Arial photos of crop marks outlining the ‘runway’ of this decoy airfield are in the archaeological record.

Photo 2: was taken possibly towards the end of this period in the garden at Heywood with his brothers, possibly 1944 before he was sent abroad.

Period 2: Possibly starts from a Photo (3) dated 1 November 1944 marked Bombay, India. From this time, for at least 14 months, until the last photo marked January 4 1946, Bill served in the Far East.

I understand that the RAF Third Tactical Air Force was formed December 1943, to provide close air support to the 14th Army, enabling British forces to proceed against the Japanese in Burma. At this point the 183 Signals and Comms Wing controlled the airfields in Ceylon where he was based.

Photo 4: Marked Pettah (Colombo, Cylon) January 1945

This was found with several undated photos of airfields (one identified as Ratmalana) and aircraft including Dakotas, Lancaster bombers (one Lancaster bomber having engine swapped out), Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Avro York.

Photo 5: Marked 183 Wing Ridgeway, June 28th 1945. I understand “Ridgeway” to be named after a person rather than a location to avoid identification.

Photo 6: Marked September 1945 Ratmalana, Ceylon (Bill on motorbike with blurred shoulder badge)

Photo 7: Marked September 1945 Mount Lavinia (recreational photo on a beach)

Photo 8: Marked December 30th 1945 Colombo, Ceylon

Photo 9: Marked January 4, 1946 N’ Eliya (Nuwara Eliya, Ceylon)

I understand Ceylon was a major signals and communication centre with powerful transmitters and receiver sites servicing long-range conventional communication and the vital development of radar at Mount Lavinia.

However, I suspect that Uncle Bill was deployed not in a technical position, but in a more practical one, in the construction and development of the several permanent and temporary airfields required, in this theatre of war. After the war he seemed content to settle on the farm in Cambridge on which he had been stationed, and spent the rest of his working life as a farm labourer.

He was married on the 16th of September 1948 and died on the 12th of June 1978.
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Old 13th Nov 2021, 08:23
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Sorry, I seem to be unable to upload the photos, if anyone is sufficiently interested please contact me and I will try again, Pam
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Old 14th Nov 2021, 16:04
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I was based in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from 1956-1957, stationed at RAF Negombo (Katunayake) and later at China Bay (Trincomalee). FWIW your mention of Nuwara Eliya on Photo No.9 brought back memories, because Nuwara Eliya whilst I was in Ceylon was an RAF R&R station, high in the mountains. I never got to visit it, more's the pity, but after a certain time at sea level one was entitled to a week at Nuwara Eliya to enjoy the relatively mild climate high in the mountains.
Thought you'd like to know.
WT
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Old 14th Nov 2021, 20:26
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Thank you so much, all this information is so helpful in filling out the picture of a real person rather than a list of dates and places, Pam
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Old 15th Nov 2021, 13:37
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Looks like you'll need a couple more posts before you're allowed to post photos. I you want, I can post them for you. Just send me an e-mail (see link in my profile).
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