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Query for Danny or other WW2 Veterans - WW2 RAF Flying Suit/Overalls

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Query for Danny or other WW2 Veterans - WW2 RAF Flying Suit/Overalls

Old 30th Oct 2017, 22:35
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Query for Danny or other WW2 Veterans - WW2 RAF Flying Suit/Overalls

My elder sister died a month ago two weeks short of her 95th birthday, and going through her papers came across these photographs of her and her WW2 RAF boy friend.
My query to Danny or other WW2 veterans is whether the flying suit/overalls shown in the photo was standard WW2 design or were they specific to Command e.g. Coastal, Bomber, Fighter etc. Photograph is dated October 1941.

Sadly my sister’s boy friend, the airman in the photograph, Sergeant John Redmond (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve), died on 23rd March 1943 whilst flying as an air gunner in a 172 Squadron Wellington, based at Chivenor in Devon. According to papers in the National Archives the aircraft set off on patrol over the Atlantic on 23rd March 1943, but was never heard from again. No wreckage or bodies were found and I got John’s details (date of death and squadron and service number) from the Runnymede Memorial which is inscribed with the names of 20,456 men and women of the Allied Air Forces who lost their lives in the Second World War on missions and have no known grave.

As WiKi says:
“The Air Forces Memorial, or Runnymede Memorial, in Englefield Green, near Egham, Surrey, England is a memorial dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from air forces of the British Empire who were lost in air and other operations during World War II. Those recorded have no known grave anywhere in the world, and many were lost without trace. The name of each of these airmen and airwomen is engraved into the stone walls of the memorial, according to country and squadron”
The Runnymede Memorial courtesy of WiKi Commons

Any help would be much appreciated – thanks WT
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 00:25
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I have my late dad's flying suit, boots, helmet and gauntlets in his old trunk in the loft. It looks identical to that in your photograph. It comprises a heavy canvas outer in olive drab with a dark brown fur collar. The inner is a down filled silk-like material in dark brown and both suit and inner are marked as 'Sidcot Suits'. Indeed, this is what Dad always referred to them as. He joined in 1942, training in Canada and then being sent to Burma on Dakotas. My Mum has just passed away and I have inherited the suits and intend to display them on a tailors dummy in a suitable location yet to be decided! I too have a photograph of him standing on a wooden hut step in Regina during his training in the flying clothing. He also told me that in Burma he usually flew in KD shorts and shirt and not the Sidcot Suit due to heat
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 07:19
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Sidcot reflects the name of the inventor of the suit Sidney Cotton. He was renowned for his PR exploits over Germany prior to WW2 which he carried out initially at his own expense.


Last edited by FantomZorbin; 31st Oct 2017 at 08:51.
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 12:31
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Never knew that Fantom Zorbin, thanks.

I did of course know that the film actress Mae West invented the inflatable life jacket
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 13:40
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What the Well Dressed Danny was Wearing.

Warmtoast (#1),

I append an extract from a Post of mine, describing what they gave me at 7 ITW, Newquay (1941).
".............................................(I) THE THEORY

"During our time at Newquay we were issued with full flying kit. This consisted of a zipped brown rayon "teddy bear" inner overall, and a green canvas outer with a fake fur collar ("Sidcot suit"). We got three pairs of gloves, silk inner, then wool, and leather gauntlets on top.. Flying boots were Morland "Glastonburys". Helmet, goggles and oxygen/radio mask completed the issue. All this was supposed to keep you warm for hours in an unheated, draughty bomber at 20,000 ft on a winter's night over Germany. Whether it did or not I can't say, but it certainly made us sweat when we had to model it in a Cornish summer. I never needed to wear any of it (except the mask, helmet and goggles), but somehow managed to hold on to the boots, which were a Godsend in the snow back home in the cold winters just after the War".
And a whole Post on what I actually wore Burma 1943-44: (rather long, but never mind !)
............................................(II) THE PRACTICE

"The Well Dressed Danny".
"You might be interested to know what the well-dressed aircrew wore for operations over Burma. Much of it was a matter of personal choice, but we had to consider that we might have a long trek home if we had to bale out over jungle (hopefully evading capture). Therefore a bush jacket (preferable as more pockets) or long sleeve shirt (both cellular) and khaki drill slacks were a must for mosquito protection after dark (underclothes? - don't be silly).
What we had on our feet was most important; we would have to hike over rough terrain, and through rivers and streams. While in the States, I'd bought a pair of basketball boots. I didn't play the game much, but the boots came in handy now. They were ideal for the job, canvas with thick sponge rubber soles and ankle pads. (The Japanese soldier wore a similar thing, I believe, with a separate compartment for his big toe). Mine were very light and comfortable, they'd keep out the leeches and it didn't matter if they got wet. And they gave me a much more delicate touch on the rudder pedals!
I'd been issued with a .38 Smith & Wesson and a box of 18 rounds at Madhaiganj, together with blue webbing belt, shoulder strap, ammo pouch, holster and lanyard to go with it. Hung on rhe other side for balance, I had a fierce looking kukri (the Gurkha knife). I'd picked this up in some bazaar or other with no intention of engaging in Errol Flynn heroics; the thing was for the purpose of cutting through undergrowth (who was Errol Flynn, Grandad?)
This ensemble was completed by a RAF side pack beside the kukri, and the other shoulder strap to go with it. The side pack carried a first-aid kit, a jungle survival outfit (water purification tablets, fish hooks and line etc, I suppose there must have been a compass), and a spare pair of socks.
It also held leaflets in Burmese, for villagers you might meet and whose help would be vital. In translation they read, so I was told, something like this:

"Dear Friend",
"The bearer of this letter is a British soldier come to save you from the hated Japanese who have caused so much sorrow in your land. If you treat him well, hide him from the Japanese, and help him to reach the British Army, you will be very well rewarded by Government".
This was all very well as far as it went, (and the Burmese were generally well disposed to us, particularly the Naga and Kachin tribes in the north), but I couldn't help feeling that if I floated down in or near a village that we'd just blown off the map, it wouldn't go down too well with "Dear Friend" - always supposing I could find one who could read.
You might think that all this was quite enough to carry, and you would be right. But the ever-solicitous RAF had one more treat in store for us. To back-up the ingratiating letter, the Intelligence Officer doled out a cotton money- belt apiece. This had sewn into it sixty Indian rupee coins, which were still legal tender in Burma (the Jap hadn't bothered to print any occupation currency; he didn't need to; he took what he wanted at bayonet point. This was a serious error on his part, it alienated a populace which might otherwise have decided to throw in its lot with him as a welcome change from us).
The money-belts were to reward helpful villagers, as you would have no cash of your own. Figuratively speaking, you must go naked into battle. Nothing personal can go with you. Cash, wallet and everything else in your pockets (except a watch) has to be put in an envelope, sealed and left with the I.O. for safe keeping until (if) you come back.
The money-belt idea was sound enough, but a disturbing rumour arose that a bad mistake had been made in the filling of the first batches of these belts. They had been filled with newly minted 1942 rupees. There shouldn't be any 1942 rupee coins in Burma - the Japanese had taken the country early in the year before any of these coins had been put into circulation. All the Jap had to do now was to offer ten rupees for every bright new rupee handed in, and he'd be hot on the trail of any escaper! We were assured that all such belts had been withdrawn, and the contents replaced with worn coins, but the doubts lingered.
So now you get the picture. Your bush-jacketed, bush-hatted and khaki- slacked young man first tied this belt round his middle. Then he buckled himself into his webbing, ending with crossed shoulder straps, holster and pistol on his left hip, lanyard (on shoulder under epaulette flap, NOT round his neck), On his right hip lay the the kukri and side pack. (The webbing belt was buckled over the money belt).
Thus encumbered, he climbed up into the cockpit, scorching after hours in the tropic sun, sat down on his hot parachute seat cushion (hotter still if he hadn't folded the back over it when he last climbed out), fastened the shoulder and leg straps tight (or his chance of posterity might, after bale-out, be negligible), then clipped the four ends of the seat harness in the quick-release box and tightened that over all. Thank Heavens, all our trips were over land, so we didn't have to wear "Mae Wests", or sit on the lumpy, abominably uncomfortable "K" dinghy pack!
By the time we'd donned flying helmet (tropical, cotton), and goggles over our fevered brows, we were damned glad to get the big fan in front working. That first long blast of air (hot as it was !) was pure bliss. Our canopies were always left open, In the climb, temperature drops at the rate of three Fahrenheit per thousand feet, so at 10,000 it was 30 deg cooler and we shivered. But by then we'd be running in to our targets, closing our canopies, and would be down in the hot-air oven again very soon.
I can feel for the poor squaddie in Helmand today, with body armour and all his kit in 40+ C. (My Grandfather was out there 130 years ago; I have somewhere his India General Service Medal with clasps for Mohmand and Kandahar - Nothing changes!)
What happened to all my armament? Well, the Smith & Wesson and its 18 rounds was handed back intact when I left India. I hadn't fired a single shot. I never heard of anyone using his pistol in anger, but on VE day some wild colonial boys were reputed to have fired feux-de-joie through their Mess basha roof - a practice greatly deprecated by their seniors (and, as Chugalug will I'm sure agree, was apt to bring down a shower of beetles - and worse!)
The kukri was a most imposing piece of hardware, with its silver-banded grip, and the kit of two small skinning knives fitted into a silver-mounted scabbard. It came home with me, and on my return I ran into "Bert" Andrews, my pre-war line manager (and an ex-Captain in the RFC, flying Sopwith Camels). He'd climbed two rungs on the Civil Service ladder while I'd been away, and was now an S.E.O. in another Department.
Before the war, he'd kept me spellbound with tales of his adventures, and when I went into the RAF gave me one of his old RFC tunic buttons for good luck. This has the same crown and eagle as an RAF button but with a "rope" design round the rim. I kept it for long enough, but somewhere it had got lost. Never mind, I'd had all the luck I could reasonably hope for.
Bert had a teenage son who was an avid collector of exotic swords and knives. I passed the kukri on to him. There wasn't much call for them in Southport then. (Nowadays we'd have the Armed Response Squad round within the hour!)
The money-belts? We had to turn them back in to the I.O. after each trip. We were very honest; he didn't need to count the "bumps" in each one.
Will get back to the main story next time,..................."
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 16:52
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Cynicalint and Danny

Thank you for the replies. Sidcot Suit it seems to be.
As Danny says whether it wold keep one warm on a winters night, especially if sitting in the rear-gunners position of a Vickers Wellington is a very moot point, but thanks again. My curiosity has been satisfied.

Meanwhile, among my sister's papers I came across this Victory Day Certificate signed by the king that was issued to school kids in 1946 - i.e. me. Very evocative especially as on the reverse there is a listing of significant WW2 dates.
Not really relevant to this thread, but interesting nevertheless. Copy attached.

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Old 31st Oct 2017, 18:06
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Damn ... I was too young to have started school (dob 31 Oct 44) so missed out on the Certificate. What a lovely thing, and a hopeful inspiration for a better future.
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 18:26
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Warmtoast (revisiting #1),

How powerfully your second pic evokes the world of my youth ! I think the young couple were probably enjoying one of the fine summers on the brink of the war: it has a very "peacetime" feel about it.

...“Alas! regardless of their doom,
The little victims play;
No sense have they of ills to come,
Nor care beyond to-day"...................(
Thomas Gray).

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Old 31st Oct 2017, 18:55
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Tropical flying kit

Danny, your wonderfully evocative and amusing description of the tropical version of WW2 flying kit is a masterpiece. Reading it made me grateful that we in the transport element were not so encumbered, in flight wearing pretty much what we wore when on the ground – KD or Jungle green, or a mixture of the two, it was all the same except that slacks not shorts was rightly the order of the day. As for headgear, the Dak being an American aircraft was properly kitted out with headsets at each crew position, so no sweaty helmets or masks; for radio work speech was via the hand mikes provided, for intercom just shouting at each other. As we never went above 10,000 ft oxygen did not figure; for sure an oxygen system was fitted, but I don't think it was ever charged though my memory may be at fault here.

As for Sidcot suits, only time I wore mine was during SFTS training (in unheated aircraft) during a Canadian winter, as described in a previous post way back.
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 19:07
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Re: Victory Day Certificates.

Neither I nor my elder brother received one of these although we had been schooled in Sussex during the War years.

Re: Sidcot suits.

These were still in use in 1951/52 at RAF Swanton Morley although the 'inner suit' was rather too bulky to be worn in the confines of a Proctor. The only recollection I have of them is when two students were out on a motor-cycle while wearing them and had an accident. Redesigned the suits in the modern manner of 'ripped jeans'.
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 19:59
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Flying suit 1930 Sidcot.........produced in grey green rubberised material, full length side zip also cuff and ankle zips, large map pocket on left breast, two large fleece lined knee pockets - stores ref.22C/53 or 22C/310-316.
First introduced during WW1 by Sidney Cotton. Fur detachable collar - ref. 22C/52.
The 1940 pattern suit was identical in design but produced in green heavy denim material and the knee pockets were unlined - ref 22C/360-366.
The 1941 pattern was identical to the 1940 Sidcot but with the addition of electrical heating elements - ref 22/C773-779.
The above taken from a reference guide to Flight Equipment of the RAF 1920 - 1945.
There should be a stores ref. label somewhere in your Sidcot warmtoast.
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Old 31st Oct 2017, 22:56
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Your #8
How powerfully your second pic evokes the world of my youth ! I think the young couple were probably enjoying one of the fine summers on the brink of the war: it has a very "peacetime" feel about it.
Photo dates from 1942 and was taken in the back garden of our house in Holloway, N. London. Not visible is the "Anderson" bomb shelter which was sunk in the ground and covered by earth. My father planted nasturtium flowers on it and it looked quite pretty considering what it was.
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Old 1st Nov 2017, 11:57
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Warmtoast (#12),

Wrong again ! Ah, well.... First reaction: "Why is he not in uniform ?" Probable answer: it is 1942 yet; he is a volunteer, has been accepted and enlisted, then sent home on "Deferred Service" ("Go home [without pay] till we're ready to take you in"). Uniform not issued until they did so.

If I'm right, he would have been "loaned" a little "RAFVR" silver-ish lapel badge to wear while on 'deferred service'. He's not wearing his ? .............. What has your sister got on her left lapel ?

No inkling of the tragedy to come......just as well.

We were in Maghull, eight miles North of Liverpool, did not rate an "Anderson" (although the AA shrapnel rattled on our roof most nights in the "Blitz".

Happy Days, Danny.
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Old 2nd Nov 2017, 17:51
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Cannot identify my sister’s lapel jewellery. Photo dates from 1941 I think when John was on leave and staying with us in N. London.
It was the time of the blitz and during his stay he slept in the same bedroom as me. I remember that to this day because during the night a bomb exploded very near to us in Camden Road, Holloway, N. London and I awoke crying and terrified (I was eight at the time) having been woken by the loudest bang I’ve ever heard in my whole life. The windows were blown in and I and remember to this day John comforting me in my distress - from then onwards he was my hero. Sadly as mentioned above he died on active service two-years later.
As regards his VR status there is a photograph of him currently with my daughter for copying that shows him in his RAF uniform wearing a forage cap that has what appears to be a wide white stripe running from front to back – would this indicate he was RAF (VR)?
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Old 2nd Nov 2017, 22:47
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Warmtoast (#14),

I'm surprised that John would be wearing "mufti" in wartime, to my recollection we wore uniform all the time during the war. Might be wrong.

The "white flash" was issued to all airmen under training for aircrew trades (or was it just pilots and navs ?) I was told it signified "Potential Officer" (analagous to a midshipman's white patches or the white Cranwellian capband. But this has been disputed by other contributors here.

It was a small wedge of felt-like white material, and fitted in the front fold of the Cap, Field Service ("Side Hat" or - whisper it - "C**t Cap" - from the obvious anatomical resemblace.

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Old 3rd Nov 2017, 00:42
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Definitely all aircrew trades, Danny. I've seen photos of several eventual gunners with the white flash too.

There's a great collection of oral history transcripts in the Australians at War Film Archive, which I've had cause from time to time to peruse. Here's an extract from the interview of Lionel Rackley, who would eventually become a 630 Squadron pilot - which this discussion reminded me of [my bolding]:

Originally Posted by Lionel Rackley
See, air crew trainees went into a place and they were there for a month, six weeks, and went out again. But the ground staff people were there, so the town belonged to them, really. In those days, we used to wear a forage cap, and air crew trainees wore a little white flash on the front of the forage cap, that denoted us as air crew trainees. And these ground staff, they had set word around Temora that out at the aerodrome there, there's a venereal hospital. And all those fellows around town with white flashes on their caps, they're the patients. So we had to live with that, in Temora. And I've spoken to other fellows and ground staff did that in other places as well. They did strange things to air crew trainees.
Those sneaky ground staff!

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Old 3rd Nov 2017, 16:02
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Adam (#16),

The answer lies in your word "eventual". In 1940 I was certainly enlisted as an ACH/GD (u/t Pilot/Air Observer) at their option - and nothing else. After "Reception" (2 weeks) and "Initial Training Wing" (6 weeks) together, the usual train of events was: some of us were "selected" (with a pin?) to try as a pilot. If we failed, they retrained us as "Air Observers" (ie "Navigators", but the old "Observers" jealously hung on to their "O" brevets - the "Flying **********" - instead of the new "N"s). Presumably the rest of us were sent direct to the Air Navigation Schools.

Then the more complicated multi-engined things needed a "Signaller", these were recruited from the ground signaller trades (just as the later Flight Engineers came from ground engineers). They also needed Air Gunners, for all the turrets coming into use. First idea, give your new Signallers a month's Course in gunnery. The Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Wop/AG) was born. He wore an "AG" brevet (and, if an airman, the W/Op badge on his sleeve).

Later, the turrets multiplied: a Lancaster crew would have three turrets but only needed one signaller: it is clearly wasteful to use Wop/AGs as just gunners, enter the "Straight Air Gunner", who was that and nothing else, he only had the "AG" brevet.

On completion of training, a small proportion of pilots and navs (1/5, at a guess), and much fewer number of other trades would be commissioned. The rest were promoted to Sergeant (and were much better off).

All this was "over my head", as a S/E (and nearly all single seat) Pilot I bumbled along quite happily as my own Nav/Wop/Signaller/factotum (had a Rear Gunner, but had no confidence that he would hit anything except our own tail); I felt no loss.

No idea about "Bomb Aimers", "Air Electronics Officers", and all the others who sported brevets by the end of the war: I just lived the simple life in India/Burma.

(The Pilot "Rejects" from the American Schools [Arnold and BFTS] were sent back to Canada for retraining, perhaps harrym, who trained there, may be able to show some light on their fate).

This has a bearing on the case of (#14) Warmtoast's sister's beau John (RIP): ..."It was the time of the blitz"... So, that was the '40/'41 winter, had he even got into uniform then ? (but in #12 you say ... "photo dates from 1942"...). Still don't see why he would want to wear "civvies". I was sporting wings and stripes in March, 1942 (Was it even permissable for Servicemen to wear plain clothes in wartime in Britain ? - How could the Police, or the M.P.s on Railway stations check your Leave Pass ? More likely to chuck you in clink as a Deserter - or at least AWOL.

You would be so much more of a "babe magnet", too (with the "white flash" * up - quite the "intrepid aviator"), do we know John's D.o.B. even approximately ?
Note *: The good folk of Temora must've been stupid beyond belief to fall for that one. Hope they were swiftly disabused !

Trust you can follow this, Danny.
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Old 3rd Nov 2017, 16:06
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Mufti in WW2

Danny, surely it was permissable to wear civvies while on leave in UK? I certainly did, and was happy to do so.
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Old 3rd Nov 2017, 16:30
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harrym (#18),

I bow to your superior memory ! To the best of my knowledge or beliief, I packed up my "civvies" in a brown paper parcel and (the RAF?) sent them home from Babbacombe; certailnly didn't wear them again until I set out for the States six months later with my 30-bob grey pinstripe and beret (to wear in transit through US). Back in UK Apl-Oct '42, sure I wore only uniform until embarking for India.

Came back four years later; everything fitted me fine; just as well as clothes rationing in force. Demob kit was a bonus.

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Old 3rd Nov 2017, 18:36
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Danny, looks like you did not get much leave during your April-Oct '42 period! As for demob clothes, mine were of remarkably good quality with the jacket and shoes in particular lasting for years.
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