RAAF in the Battle of Britain?

RAAF in the Battle of Britain?

Joined: October 19th, 2003, 6:40 pm

April 12th, 2009, 1:59 pm #1

Of the very few (circa 22 one source gives?) Australians who flew in the Battle of Britain, does anyone know if they were part of the RAF wearing RAF Blue Grey SD with BG shoulder titles, or did any wear Midnight Blue RAAF SD?
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Joined: February 28th, 2004, 3:00 pm

April 12th, 2009, 3:07 pm #2

I'd have to check my records for each one (can do if you want?), but like the rest of the war, there may have been an Aussie in the RAF wearing RAF Blue Grey with titles. but there was definately RAAF as somewhere I have a photo of an RAAF Pilot sitting in a chair at dispersal, not only wearing the dark blue uniform, but also the gold rank lace (like RAF) that was superceded by the RAF style in 1940.
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Joined: September 5th, 2004, 10:59 am

April 12th, 2009, 9:01 pm #3

Ric,
I imagine there is some photographic eveidence of RAAF dark blue uniforms but most photos I have accessed show the Aussies in RAF uniform. A Few of the Few by Dennis Newton is a good read on this subject but as an Aussie I would say his definition of some of the pilots as Australians seems tenuous. Looking through it now the only picture that seems to show an Aussie in RAAF uniform is that of Gordon Olive on page 39. As I'm sure you know, a great many Australians undertook 1 year of wings training at Pt Cook then transferred for a six year short service commission with the RAF (see 'The Third Brother'). They were then members of the RAF and were expected to wear the RAF uniform once their own wore out. Reading Gordon Olives book the price of RAF uniform purchase was quite high, I think about 1-2 months of salary. The most famous wearer of RAAF kit seems to be Les Clisby who fought in the Battle of France. In books I have read they have stated he wore it despite it needing replacement as he didnt want to change. I imagine he must not have been compelled to change by authority or he would have done so. Most of the Aussies ex RAAF, like Des Sheen and Pat Hughes are shown in RAF uniform. My last comment is that not all Australian pilots in the RAF were ex RAAF. The book 22 Temporary Gentlemen details the RAF recruiting of Australians who sailed to Britain to join the RAF and undertake training. As Alex said I have seem photos of the older pre-war kit in use and that was a super uniform.

One thing I have often wondered was why the Australians were the only Dominion air force to implement a distinctive uniform. I am quite surprised that the Candians didnt do so as they seemed in many other ways to be quite distinctive and unique.
Mark
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Joined: March 18th, 2007, 11:55 am

April 13th, 2009, 8:56 am #4

Great answer and an example of what I really enjoy about intelligent Forums. Thanks for this.
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Joined: July 21st, 2008, 7:16 pm

April 13th, 2009, 9:57 am #5


I agree with Andrew's comments. Mark, you have answered a question that has been pestering me for a long time about Les Clisby's uniform-as I was unsure from the few photographic evidence that I have of him whether or not he was wearing RAAF uniform. What draw me to this was the fact that his rank braid was so different. Thank you for answering this question, it has been bothering me for a long time

Cheers

Ben
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Joined: February 28th, 2004, 3:00 pm

April 13th, 2009, 11:30 am #6

A few odds on the men that were mentioned.

As you say Mark, many of the Aussies were former RAAF. Gordon Olive had joined the RAAF in 1933, spending almost four years with them before transferring to the RAF in 1937, later joining 65 Squadron. He returned to Australia before the end of the war and I think transferred back to the RAAF. Being killed in mid May, Leslie Clisby isnt actually regarded as a BoB participant. Des Sheen, like Gordon Olive, also joined the RAAF pre-war (in 1936), transferring to the RAF the following year where he completed his pilot training, being then posted to 72 Squadron. He remained in the RAF until 1971, retiring as a Group Captain.

Pat Hughes though is interesting. He joined the RAAF on January 20th 1936 as a Cadet, and after training was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in February 1937. Later that year he travelled to the UK, but was apparently only attached to the RAF, he didnt actually transfer to it. He was promoted again to Flying Officer in November 1938, and then to Flight Lieutenant in late 1939, and was killed in action on September 7th 1940. Its interesting Mark that you say Hughes is shown in RAF uniform, as I have a photo of him in the early RAAF one (dark blue with gilt buttons and gold rank lace), as a Flight Lieutenant, which would date it as between late 1939 and September 1940 when he died, at least two years after he sailed to the UK, which would reinforce the note that he was only attached to the RAF and not actually a member of it. Even more confusing is the fact that the Commonwealth war Graves Commission records him as a member of the RAF, the Australians record him as a member of the RAAF, but both with the same service number!
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Joined: September 5th, 2004, 10:59 am

April 13th, 2009, 1:51 pm #7

Hi all,
Following the additional info from Alex I have tried to do some more research on this subject. I am certain that Hughes transferred to the RAF on a ssc following graduating in Dec 1936. Given the undoubted evidence through photos of Clisby (killed in May 40) there is precedent for these chaps to retain RAAF uniform. In looking at wiki (a dubious source if used without correlation) today I see the comment ref Hughes 'Always a proud Australian, Hughes always wore the slightly darker blue uniform of the RAAF throughout his service with the RAF, but with RAF insignia.' This may explain why it appears in photos that he wears RAF wings.
The RAF ssc idea was agreed at the 1923 Imperial conference and commenced in 1926. A portion of each RAAF graduating course would transfer to the RAF to serve four (+one) years before return to rejoin the RAAF. This probably explains why they may be listed in some records as still RAAF. Aus and UK govts would split the costs. The first seven left Australia in Oct 1926 and the scheme continued to 1938. Many of these officers decided to remain in the RAF permanently eg Hugh Edwards VC, DSO, DFC, Don Bennett AOC PFF. In 1935 the UK Air Ministry requested extension to six years. About 20 members of the 1936 class went to the RAF. My reference states that up to Jul 1938 149 RAAF officers had been sent to the RAF on ssc following award of wings in Aust. I have reserached about 50 of these chaps (incl the whole 1936 course) in the past and they are listed in the RAF List.
Just found this link. Have a look at the photos of the three airmen near the top under the heading Aldergrove Jan 38.http://users.cyberone.com.au/clardo/raaf_personnel.html These chaps graduated in the 1936 Pt Cook course and are still wearing their RAAF uniforms in RAF service 1938.
Regards - Mark
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Joined: February 28th, 2004, 3:00 pm

April 13th, 2009, 2:31 pm #8

Thats an interesting addition Mark. I have heard of Clisby wearing RAAF uniform 'When flying on operations in case he was forced down', which may or may not explain why he and others wore the darker blue on some occasions and not others. All very interesting. The photo's of the trio are nice, especially the cadet ones, although the one of the three together gives no indication (by the colour) of them wearing the darker blue, aside from the metal cuff eagles, it lookes more like theyre wearing blue/grey.
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Joined: September 7th, 2008, 5:53 am

April 13th, 2009, 6:38 pm #9

There was an article that appeared in either Flypast or Aeroplane during the past three months or so or maybe it was a special Hurricane issue of about the same time put out by one or the other magazine that was the biography of an Aussie that was flying in France in 1939/40. I did not note his name but he may be one of those already mentioned. He had been in the RAAF and then in the RAF but insisted on wearing his RAAF blues although, as the article said, "they were in tatters." If I remember right, he was killed in the latter stages of the 1940 France battle. It might have been the Hughes fellow already mentioned. I believe that he wore a battledress style blouse. Maybe somebody here has the magazine in question and can study the many photos of him more carefully than I....and report back.
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Joined: October 19th, 2003, 6:40 pm

April 15th, 2009, 7:40 am #10

Of the very few (circa 22 one source gives?) Australians who flew in the Battle of Britain, does anyone know if they were part of the RAF wearing RAF Blue Grey SD with BG shoulder titles, or did any wear Midnight Blue RAAF SD?
Thanks for the insightful replies to my question, it has been a great help I take it that these chaps were Commissioned as the reason for asking was the appropriateness of an RAAF FS pilot uniform appearing at a BoB event.
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