02 January 2008

WW2 RCAF service files

I promised Jan, a distant cousin in Australia, an email with information on her relative who was killed when his Wellington bomber, on a training flight over Worcestershire, crashed during WW2. Born in Alberta, he moved to California as a child and returned to Vancouver in the early 1940s to enlist in the RCAF.

I'd had no previous reason to look at WW2 service files, at Library and Archives Canada. Many people don't know that the service files are open for all to read, as long as you can prove the person has been dead for at least 20 years. You don't have to be a relative, although of most interest for your genealogy and family history. Unlike the WW1 files which have been stripped of much information those from WW2 are largely intact.

The one I looked at contained extensive official information. Here are some of the things I found in the file: record of service airmen; photos, pay book; post office savings book; dental records; occupational history form; fingerprint card; airman's statement of embarkation; report of medical board; assessment of suitability for further training; clinical chart (showing a period during which his temperature rose above 103 degrees); Province of BC death certificate; burial return; casualty notification form; pilot training report; Bomber Command hospital or sick list record card; Airman's / Airwoman's record sheet (active service); record of pay; RCAF record of kit; interview report; St John's Ambulance first aid certificate; RCAF individual record of flying; RAF brief statement of service and certificate of discharge; RCAF report on pupil pilot - flying and ground training; RAF report of beam approach training; RCAF attestation paper; fatal casualty file; Air Force estates file (including inventory of effects).

Three relatives were named, with addresses, and five people who were references on previous employment. The blood group was mentioned; about the only thing missing was a DNA sample, and I wouldn't be surprised if DNA lurked somewhere in the file for the super-sleuth to discover.

After going through the administrative rigmarole with LAC I took digital photos of about 30 pages. Jan's email inbox overflowed as did her gratitude.

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