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Research Advice Needed Please

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Research Advice Needed Please

Postby -Lauren- » Thu May 01, 2014 6:53 pm

I'm trying to research my grandfather's time in the military. He served in North Africa during WW2. He survived the war, but died before I was born so I'm curious to learn more about him.

My grandfather was born in 1924 in Rhodesia / Zimbabwe. He was a prisoner of war at the Risiera di San Sabba concentration camp in Trieste. I'm told by family members that he served in the Long Range Desert Patrol and I really want to find out if this is true. After my father died, my grandfather's medals disappeared so I can't look to those for help. I recently found out that I could request a copy of my grandfather's service record since I would be able to get the permission of his next of kin, my uncle.

My question is this: where would I find my grandfather's records? He served with the British army even though he was Rhodesian so does that mean his records might be in the British archives? Or would they be in the Zimbabwean archives since that's the country of his birth?

Any advice would be really appreciated!
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Re: Research Advice Needed Please

Postby ColinB » Thu May 01, 2014 7:20 pm

Records of those who served in the British Army ( or Navy or Air Force ) in WW2 are with the Ministry of Defence. The application forms are here : ... ce-records

You need one form for your details and one for the serviceman. Scroll down the page to find the appropriate forms. The fee is £ 30 and the records are not always as informative as you might hope.

Good luck

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Re: Research Advice Needed Please

Postby JaneyH » Thu May 01, 2014 8:45 pm

I wish you every bit of luck with finding the relevant records, but I feel I should manage your expectations. A couple of years ago my Dad applied to the MoD for his father's (my grand-father's) service records from his time in the RAF - roughly 1920 to 1965 - only to find that these records had been destroyed.

He was in a "back-room" role as an electrician and maintenance manager rather than being a pilot, but even so it was most disappointing. Grandad was based at Biggin Hill in 1940 during the Battle of Britain, helping to keep runway lights working along other key electricity supplies. Not as exciting or dangerous as being air-crew, of course, but important nonetheless.

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Re: Research Advice Needed Please

Postby junkers » Thu May 01, 2014 9:40 pm

There should be a War Diary if you know which unit he was in, it might help us to guide you if you could give your grandfather's name, there may be records at The National Archives, Kew.
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Re: Research Advice Needed Please

Postby JaneyH » Fri May 02, 2014 9:54 am

Thanks, Junkers -

I've just gone back to the email exchanges between me and my Dad a couple of years ago when he made the application for Grandad's MOD personnel records. What I had forgotten was that while he worked WITH the RAF for the whole of his working life he was only IN the RAF for a much shorter spell.

He served in the Works and Bricks Company of the RAF from 1921 to 1929. This was then subsumed into the Air Ministry Works Department (the civil service department responsible for overseeing the RAF) so at this point he technically left the RAF although he continued doing the same job at various RAF bases over the years. In the 1920s he was at RAF Uxbridge and RAF Henlow; during WW2 he was based at various locations, including Biggin Hill, Duxford and Leiston. After WW2 he had overseas postings to Iraq and Sharja in the Gulf, before moving to North Luffenham and Wittering for the rest of his career.

If you think there might be material in the National Archives then I may be able to make a trip to Kew in the next couple of months.
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