9 July 2013

“Fly Past - honouring the RAF through the Years” Members’ displays


This was, I suppose, a belated tribute to the 90th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 2008 and also included the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) which dated back to its formation on 13 May 1912 with separate Naval and Military Wings.  The Naval Wing became known as the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in July 1914.  The RAF came into existence on 1 April 1918 and combined the RFC and RNAS into a unified force - although it was not without its political difficulties, especially in creating a new force in the middle of a war.  This then was a display which encapsulated all things flying - be they military, naval; or the new air force.  As you will read, it also encompassed non-British air forces as well !

Peter Burrows started off the afternoon’s displays with the comment that the RAF like the Army had a postal service and he showed a number of forms either designated “RAF Postal Service” or “RAF Forms” which it used.  This included a number of forms associated with the Pigeon Post Service - these were Air Ministry forms, including an illustrated leaflet on “method of wrapping pigeons for dropping from aircraft” !.  Forms from both WW1 and WW2 were shown; he also showed a Postagram form (RAF Form 1924) but more of those later.  The RAF also produced a newspaper and used wrappers (one type having an Official Paid device) to send them out.  Also shown was an RAF recruitment card from 1946 and also some postcard type recruitment cards from circa 2009.  Geoff Hanney was next - a fairly new member - who had a small collection of RAF Post India covers.  He did not know much about them, but there are a number of publications in the Library which should help.  He also showed a couple of covers from the USMC air corps mail which ran a weekly air service.  In 1929 mail was sent via Pan American Airways during the US occupation of Haiti (1915-34).  Also shown was a cover with a No 11 RAF Postal HQ datestamp of -4 OCT 1945 from Aden.  Bill Collingwood showed V-mail from an individual with 1 British Flying Training School RAF at Terrell in Texas, sent on 15/12/1943.  He commented that over 2,000 cadets were trained there.

Jim Hamlin said that renovation work at his home had prevented him from being able to sort out the correct type of material !  All he could muster were items from British people who were interned in WW2 - but two were addressed to the RAF - so that’s all right then !  The material shown was from various European countries and included merchant seamen whose ship had been captured in Norway at the time of the German invasion; a British person who had lived in Belgium since the end of WW1 at least and actors who happened to be in Denmark when the Germans invaded.  Also displayed was a selection of mail from people who had been captured by the French in Algeria, including a letter written to a sergeant in the RAF.  Michael Dobbs displayed RAF mail handled by 8 Air Formation Postal Unit in NW Europe during WW2 (FPOs 758-764); a couple of 1944 Christmas cards from 2881 Sqn RAF Regt and 404 ASP / 591 MSU RAF.  The came a selection of cut-outs of postmarks from RAF Post Offices in the UK from 1945, including parcel datestamps and RAF Post Room units datestamps, RAF DRLS cachets as well as a selection of RAF Post India / SE Asia covers 1944-46.  He also showed the results of his researches into various RAF units involved in the campaign in NW Europe - including Allied airfield identification 1944-45 (A, B, R and Y series); RAF Beach Organisation; RAF Ballon Barrage Squadron; RAF in the American Communication Zone and the RAF in Norway.  Martin Lynes showed a cover to 57 Balloon Section RFC in Aden then a big jump to 1939 and the unofficial method of despatching mail from RAF squadrons in Europe back to the UK.  This was short-lived as the Army Postal Service complained !  Peter O’Keeffe displayed postcards showing uniforms of both the RFC and RAF.  He then displayed WW1 RFC material, including a couple of cards from Larkhill and Swaffam in Norfolk as well as POW material from RFC POWs; also a cover from 12 Squadron RAF, Army of the Rhine with APO S40 postmark in 1919.  For WW2 he showed a range of privilege and registered postal stationery envelopes as well as a selection of RAF Postagram envelopes and letter sheets.

Ian Muchall chose WW2 RAF censors used in Burma and China for his display - including a 1942 enveloped which originally enclosed a Christmas card when went nicely into his next selection which was WW2 Christmas cards or airgraphs.  This was from various units around the worlds, including Canada, South Africa as well as UK bases.  Lastly he showed material from the Commonwealth Air Training scheme in Southern Rhodesia.  Philip Kaye showed an extremely interesting item from the island of Jan Mayen, but knew very little about it, but hopes that it will appear in the Journal (subject to editorial discretion).  The sender was a captain in the Norwegian forces in Iceland and it was addressed to the Norwegian Forces at 83 Pall Mall, London SW and redirected to Box 251; but the sender was actually commander of a small garrison on Jan Mayen Island from May to November 1943.  Alistair Kennedy gave a brief history of the RAF as noted in the introduction and said that the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) was revived in 1938.  He started off with WW1 mail from the RNAS in France and Italy; there was an RNAS airship base near Dunkirk; RNAS squadrons were numbered once they became RFC squadrons and he also showed mail from various non-flying support units.  From late 1918 the RAF began flying mail and Alistair showed various covers, including an RAF phonogram letter sheet for the receipt of mails in Cologne sent via airmail from England in 1919.  He also showed mail from RAF personnel with locally raised units in Iraq - the RAF Levies and armoured car unit.  Ian Muchall had a further showing - this time of WW2 RCAF and RAAF POW items; also a selection of RAF POW mail, individually written up to tell of the exploits of these airmen, some were also illustrated with photographs of the aircraft concerned.  There may have been other display, but I cannot find my notes and so if I have missed anyone I do apologise.

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