I am new to this forum,
This is an old case concerning an unidentified buried airman. I have tried for years to decode the details below:
English aviator, underwear marked Wall, 2148423 or R 148423 and a crown with A. M., Size L H, 527450/41.
What can you tell me based on the mentioned details? The airman died in 1943 in NW Europe.
Finn, an interesting question.
If you look down, there is a recent posting about names and numbers, particularly concerning the other (non British) Commonwealth Air Forces.
At the end of the war, and for several years afterwards, teams known as GRU (Graves Registration Units) would go around thousands of sites across Europe (and no doubt across the world) where Airmen had been laid to rest, usually if there was some suspicion or uncertainty over the identity. One intent was to eventually re-locate all these men in the large mass war cemeteries, the other to establish the exact identity of the casualty, as they were often buried in wrongly marked graves or with details that didn't tally with the missing figures. The bodies would be exhumed and examined, with the first task to try and determine how many bodies were buried in any one grave. Often, because of the nature of an air crash or a body falling from great height, it was difficult to determine details, or even a single body at the time they were buried.
Assuming a single body could be determined, it was then checked for ID, by such means as dog tags, clothing, and physical appearance. For example, a body might be in poor condition, due to the crash or time buried and without Dog Tag ID. However, remnants of clothing might reveal a part or whole service number, badges might reveal a trade, rank or nationality, and characteristics might reveal height, hair colour etc. In some cases positive ID was made, but in others two bodies (for example) could not be distinguished and therefore would be buried in a 'collective grave'.
I have a number of these reports which surprisingly were sent to me by the authorities after I made a general enquiry. Others were sent to me by families after they had done the same, and they are quite graphic as you can imagine.
To answer your query, 'Wall' would be the man's surname. The '2148423 or R 148423' is his service number. However, this throws up a question. The number on its own would almost certainly be RAF, whereas the R prefix number would be non commissioned RCAF. The crown with 'A. M., Size L H, 527450/41' is the usual 'Air Ministry' markings as applied to clothing and equipment, with the size (large) and the contract number, with year of manufacture on the end (1941).
Now, I have checked the air force casualties for 1939 to 1945 and the name 'Wall' (including versions such as 'Wallace', 'Walley' etc) does not match either number, so something must be incorrect. Unless that is so, the only other option I can think of is that the man was RCAF with the number R/148423, who was later commissioned. He would have then received a new service number with a 'J' prefix, at the same time keeping his old clothing which had been marked with his old number.
The easiest way to determine that is to contact Ottawa and see if they have an airman who matches that name and the R prefix number, and if so, to see if he was later commissioned. If they let you have the new number, you should be able to trace the exact date of death, squadron, aircraft, crew etc.