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Annette Carson

Research in TNA records

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I apologize if this is an elementary question, but I am wanting to check on a particular victory listed in 'Above the Trenches' with the reference 'CR/RFC 9.11'. I have only a brief extract from the relevant page in Shores et al, so I guess the references are explained somewhere in the book - but sadly I didn't receive a copy of this. The incident took place on 9 November 1916, hence I assume the reference '9.11', but can someone please explain which section of The National Archives I must search in?

Thanks very much

Annette

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AIR, I think though you might need to know which unit claimed the victory? An expert will hopefully be along soon...

 

Bernard

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Thanks - tried that! Simply prefixing AIR produced a nil result. I know the unit, the date, the individual, the aeroplane and even the time of day. The National Archives search facility isn't a patch on the British Library (sniff) - but I guess one solution would be to call the switchboard tomorrow. 

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Annette

 

Please don't take  offence at my suggesting going back to first steps, but have you looked at this advice on the NA website? http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/royal-air-force-operations/

 

With the information that you have I would hope that it would be enough to trace the record.

 

Keith

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'CR' is combat report. I presume you are looking for the victory claimed by DV Armstrong of an Albatros DI in Nieuport A211 of 60 squadron.

The expert is Trevor Henshaw who compiled his excellent book 'The Sky their battlefield' largely using these reports.

I'm sure he will read this and give you the exact reference

I can't immediately find the reference for 60 Sq for this period so it probably lumped in with other squadrons

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It's possibly in AIR 1/911/204/5/835 "Miscellaneous combat reports Oct 1916 to Dec 1916"

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Sorry - just checked the above file and it doesn't seem to be in it. Other possibility is AIR 1/2397/262/1 'Combat reports 1916-18'

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Keith - no offence taken! I have been looking under Royal Flying Corps so maybe that's my mistake. I am at home searching TNA for 15th-century manuscripts so thought 20th-century records would reveal themselves more readily than they have done so far. I will follow your link - many thanks. To Nieuport11, I am reluctant to describe it as a claimed victory until I know more about the combat report, assuming I can find it. My most reliable guides to DVA's aerial achievements and sorties have so far been his DFC citation and info from Frank Cheesman (sadly missed) but I note that Above the Trenches includes this incident with 60 Squadron with a source reference so I need to see what clues are offered.

Thanks very much for your pointers

Annette

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Annette, from a quick rummage of the material on hand it'd appear that D'Urban Victor Armstrong scored the majority of his aerial victories with 151 Squadron. 

 

I came across him indirectly via similar 39 (Home Defence) Sqdn/78 Sqdn/151 Sqdn postings of Giles Noble Blennerhassett, who also flew Camels by day and night in the last year of the war. 

 

However, I digress. Your interest lies in the 1916 aerial victories of 60 Squadron? Unfortunately I think some of these files are boxed separately from one another. (I think it may have been due to the association of the squadron with a particular Wing, or Brigade, at different stages of the war).

 

The AIR 1/12xx/ almost always turn up a box in which there are folders of combat reports of different squadrons. See:

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/browse/r/h/C4086361

 

(For what it's worth, the 151 Sqdn are contained in one file. Perhaps on account of their service as RAF on the Western Front with no RFC/RNAS predecessor? http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7158247 ).

 

The 'CR' ref in 'Above the Trenches' would be to a page ref in the combat report files. These are numbers stamped onto the upper right-hand side of the loose-leaf combat reports. I've found that in some cases a combat report will run to two pages but the second page wouldn't be stamped with an 'x.A' or 'x.1' suffix; instead the numbers would continue. (I think it was the AHB's efforts at putting some sort of file classification in place but the people tasked with the work just processed the files from start to finish: you'd also see it in some of the Squadron ORBs, in which pages that have fallen out of sequence are nevertheless numbered in the sequence of whatever way there were stored on the day in question). Numbered pages are often missing from the Combat Report files: I think that there was some theft, but equally likely are fragile pages falling apart and falling out of files in the years before the grouping/boxing, as the treasury-tags used are not the most sensitive means of keeping material preserved. 

 

Here's a 40 Squadron example, with a number in the top-right hand corner.

 

 

40_Sqdn_Pg228_eg.png

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ID: 10   Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, nieuport11 said:

'CR' is combat report. I presume you are looking for the victory claimed by DV Armstrong of an Albatros DI in Nieuport A211 of 60 squadron.

The expert is Trevor Henshaw who compiled his excellent book 'The Sky their battlefield' largely using these reports.

I'm sure he will read this and give you the exact reference

I can't immediately find the reference for 60 Sq for this period so it probably lumped in with other squadrons

I appreciate your confidence Nieuport11...!  In The Sky Their Battlefield II I cover every single combat claim up to around the time of the Somme, then reduce back the coverage to looking at what the various RFC/RNAS Aces were doing, month to month, without a blanket appraisal (would have added 120 pages to my book!).  As you'll know, the core of TSTBII centres on all the casualties - that's why I wrote it.

 

Which doesn't help Annette!   Cross and Cockade International wrote a very detailed 5-part history of 60 Sqn in Vol 11, into Vol 12 (1980-81) which is a fantastic source of information on the unit.  I recall they provide a full schedule of Combat claims.  I've checked a few areas in AIR1 - nothing for that period for 60 Sqn, unfortunately.  Around AIR1/1225/204/5/2634/60Sqn they list 60 Sqn Combat reports "for Aug 1916 to Nov 1918" but I understand they really only start in July 1917.

 

If I was hunting these I would search in the 13th (Army) Wing files or III Brigade Files - for they were the parent groups of 60 Squadron at the time.

 

Sorry I can't help more.

 

Trevor

Edited by fetubi

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Joe Warne's detailed history of 60 Squadron published in Cross & Cockade includes detailed listings of combat claims but there is no mention of D V Armstrong thereon. He served with 60 from Feb to Dec 1916, according to another listing by Warne.

 

Errol

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I can't say to what extent this will help but, further to one of Airshipped's remarks at #9, above, I had Combat Reports for 10 Sqn copied by the National Archives some years ago.  A covering sheet stated that thefts of papers for both Wars had been discovered in 1989 and 1990, affecting files in AIR 1, 4, 27, 28 and 50; ADM 207; and WO 95.  After investigation and conviction of the perpetrator, some papers had been returned to the file I wanted, but it was known that others were still missing from it.  There is nothing there from the latter half of 1916 and only one entry for 1918.

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Just had a quick look through what I have from very large folder: AIR 1/1225/204/5/2635 60 Squadron Combat Reports, and couldn't find what you were looking for as I started photographing from late November 1916 onwards. I.e. just missed your date by a week or two. I started at CR report #134 so should be some 133 reports before this. Your answer may be found here. (NB. that at the end of the folder there are some out of order 1916 CRs but these all apply to Albert Ball.)

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ID: 14   Posted (edited)

Oh dear, from these thoughtful and informative replies I fear it will probably be fruitless to seek digital copies from TNA. Looks like a personal visit will have to be made, so I shall print out and preserve all this info carefully and take it with me to Kew when I have compiled my full list of research queries.

 

As regards DVA's activities and claims, I'm not looking upon this as a totting-up exercise in how many victories he had and was he an 'ace', etc., as is so beloved of the media. I am entirely happy to list as many of his sorties as I can identify and leave the unconfirmed or questionable outcomes open. He did some really outstanding work with 151 Squadron, all of it commendable, and there's plenty of detail in his DFC citation. 

 

However, the 60 Squadron incident of 9 November 1916 is a real poser. The curious thing is that it's asserted confidently as a victory, with source cited, in Above the Trenches. Frank Cheesman gave me a list in which it doesn't appear, and DVA doesn't mention anything about it in his photograph album - not that he is much given to mentioning his own exploits anyway. [Sadly I never traced what happened to his logbooks.] On the other hand, in Scott & Warne's Sixty Squadron (page 145) an EA appears credited to DVA on this date as 'Driven Down'. I'd be happy to accept this except that although Nieuport11 says the EA was an Albatros DI, which is I think certainly correct, Warne gives it as a 'Roland DI' which as far as I know never existed, or at least I haven't found it as a Roland machine [if anyone is able to set this straight I'd be very grateful]. For the record, DVA served with 60 Squadron from 15 May until just before Christmas 1916.

 

I shall see whether I can find anything in Cross & Cockade (many thanks to Trevor and Errol!), but unfortunately it precedes Sixty Squadron by almost 10 years so if Warne doesn't mention DVA therein he probably gleaned the detail about 9 November at a later date. In the introduction to his Appendix III to Sixty Squadron he makes it clear that he has weighed up whether claims are 'never substantiated but meritorious' (included) as opposed to 'vague claims of enemy aircraft driven down' (excluded). He enumerates some of the sources he has consulted, including individual pilots' logbooks, and bemoans the state of the PRO records [now TNA, of course], but also adds that 'some further evidence has come to light subsequently'. So he obviously did a LOT of digging. And if the 9 November report was accessed between 1981-1990 it might never have been derived from TNA anyway. 

 

And finally, to Airshipped, I have encountered G.N. (Giles) Blennerhassett as a Lieutenant with DVA in 78 Squadron but didn't know they both served in 151 Squadron as well - thanks for that!

 

What a wonderful resource you all are, and how generous with your help. I hope my efforts on DVA's biography will be of interest when finished.

Best regards

Annette

 

Edited by Annette Carson
Failed to thank Errol

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Annette,

 

Have just dusted off my copy of 'Above the Trenches', a wonderful, wonderful book. Alas the CR references they use are entirely made up by themselves, e.g. if there's no Wing or Brigade War Diary reference the CR reference they created is simply an abbreviation of the date of the claim rather than a reference to the file page numbers.

 

On 60 Squadron? I'm sure you've read Scott's book, which indicates in the 'acknowledgements' that he corresponded with Armstrong's father in the course of writing the book.

 

https://archive.org/stream/sixtysquadronraf00scot#page/n7/mode/2up/search/armstrong

 

(If you could trace that paper trail it could prove fruitful? But did a recent reprint not also include some additional footnotes? Ask around, in case anyone has a copy of the recent edition, as the author might have unearthed other routes back to Scott's original material).

 

I recall that the late Mike O'Connor wrote about Armstrong, but it was a brief mention in one of his excellent 'Airfields and Airmen' books. However, although I didn't have direct contact with Mike I'm aware from others that he was not only a first-class researcher but that he was incredibly helpful to others, i.e. he didn't "hoard" his sources. So if he'd done work on 60 Squadron you can be sure that he'd have had occasion to share his knowledge with others; there are bound to be a few here on the forum who could PM some additional information on any 60 Squadron research. 

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On 11/07/2017 at 22:20, Airshipped said:

Annette,

 

Have just dusted off my copy of 'Above the Trenches', a wonderful, wonderful book. Alas the CR references they use are entirely made up by themselves, e.g. if there's no Wing or Brigade War Diary reference the CR reference they created is simply an abbreviation of the date of the claim rather than a reference to the file page numbers.

 

On 60 Squadron? I'm sure you've read Scott's book, which indicates in the 'acknowledgements' that he corresponded with Armstrong's father in the course of writing the book.

 

https://archive.org/stream/sixtysquadronraf00scot#page/n7/mode/2up/search/armstrong

 

(If you could trace that paper trail it could prove fruitful? But did a recent reprint not also include some additional footnotes? Ask around, in case anyone has a copy of the recent edition, as the author might have unearthed other routes back to Scott's original material).

 

I recall that the late Mike O'Connor wrote about Armstrong, but it was a brief mention in one of his excellent 'Airfields and Airmen' books. However, although I didn't have direct contact with Mike I'm aware from others that he was not only a first-class researcher but that he was incredibly helpful to others, i.e. he didn't "hoard" his sources. So if he'd done work on 60 Squadron you can be sure that he'd have had occasion to share his knowledge with others; there are bound to be a few here on the forum who could PM some additional information on any 60 Squadron research. 

 

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All this is much appreciated. I have been in something of a quandary about seeking help with DVA because (I believe) I have all the obvious and well-known material and I wouldn't want to trouble GWF members by issuing a general request to tell me everything they know. My original research was for a book which is out of print, so I guess I'm permitted to give its title: Flight Fantastic, the Illustrated History of Aerobatics. Then I moved to South Africa and bethought myself of a biography of DVA. I made contact with his family and got access to all their original papers and memorabilia and his photograph album. Frank Cheesman and John Barfoot generously gave me everything they had at the time (late 1980s/early 1990s) but then it all came to an end because I couldn't find a publisher. So although the overall gaps in my knowledge are few, I'm grateful to be alerted to anything that's been published mentioning DVA since about 1990. I imagine Mike O'Connor probably comes into this category, so I'll see what I can track down. I have been in touch with Cross & Cockade and have ordered some back numbers, also I have the edition of Sixty Squadron updated by D.W. Warne (1990).

 

The latter appeared at exactly the same time as Above the Trenches, therefore logic suggests that the authors of both books had accessed a newly uncovered combat report relating to 9 November 1916, otherwise they would not BOTH have recorded a successful engagement by DVA (although the outcome was categorized differently) which had not previously come to the attention of knowledgeable reporters including John Barfoot and the meticulous Frank Cheesman. Since it APPEARED that Shores/Franks/Guest had given an actual source for their citation, I assumed it was a TNA document. Now, thanks to Airshipped kindly dusting off his copy of Above the Trenches, I deduce that if it had been a TNA reference they would probably have given it in full, whereas this code 'CR/RFC 9.11' seems merely an internal code used within their book. 

 

Consequently my next request is whether anyone knows if Warne, Shores, Franks or Guest happen to be still living and whether it is possible to make contact with any of them? Or would this enquiry be best posted separately as a new thread? I'm not yet quite familiar with how to operate within this great forum. Again thanks for the marvellous replies I've received. Without your combined knowledge I wouldn't have got this far.

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Just to add that the official history notes for 60 squadron start by saying 'all the papers of 60 squadron having been burnt in November 1916'

but by the armistice 'the destruction of 274 enemy machines can be traced in the documents which exist'

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I gathered from Scott/Warne that Officers Record Books 'recommenced late in November [1916] after the fire in the Squadron Office'. Frustratingly for a historian like me the date of the fire isn't given. Also there's no bibliography, so I didn't know there was an official history. I am reluctant to rely on Wikipedia but there is a 1967 book mentioned in its 'Further Reading' entitled Sixty Squadron: 1916 Royal Flying Corps, Royal Air Force 1966 - A History of Fifty Years Service; authors Young and Warne. Is this the official history of 60 Squadron? Or did you mean in your opening line that there are 'official history notes' but they haven't found their way into print? Help!

2 hours ago, nieuport11 said:

Just to add that the official history notes for 60 squadron start by saying 'all the papers of 60 squadron having been burnt in November 1916'

but by the armistice 'the destruction of 274 enemy machines can be traced in the documents which exist'

 

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Annette,

 

Here is my 60 Sqn Bibliography from my 60 Squadron notes:

 

Bishop, WA.  Winged Warfare. Reprint of 1918 original, edited by Stanley Ulanoff. Folkstone: Bailey Brothers and Swinfen Ltd, 1975.

Bishop, W Arthur.  The Courage of the Early Morning.  London: Heinemann, 1965.

Bowyer, C.  Albert Ball, VC.  London: William Kimber, 1977.

Fry, WM.  Air of Battle.  London: William Kimber, 1974.

Kiernan, RH.  Captain Albert Ball VC DSO.  London: The Aviation Book Club, 1939.

Scott, Group-Capt AJL.  Sixty Squadron RAF.  A History of the Squadron from its Formation.  London: Heinemann, 1920.

Sturtivant, R and Page, G.  The SE5 File.  Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Air Britain, 1996.

Tredrey, FD.  Pioneer Pilot. The Great Smith Barry who Taught the World to Fly.  London: Peter Davies, 1976.

Warne, J.  60 Squadron, Parts 1-5.  Cross and Cockade International, Vol.11, Nos. 1-4 , 1980 and Vol. 12, No.1, 1981.

Warne, J.  No. 60 Squadron, Royal Air Force.  Scale Aircraft Modeller, October 1987.

 

Could be something additional in there somewhere...?  Hope it helps.

 

Trevor

 

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And just to add a couple of pieces of circumstantial "evidence" - let's call it corroboration - I see that this claim for a victory on the 9th November by Armstrong is noted in both the Cross and Cockade Nieuport Monograph, in the serial listings assembled by Mike O'Connor and Mick Davis - both top experts about the service of the Nieuports in the RFC and RNAS, and as well, I see it in some notes the great Ray Sturtivant shared with me, on the type.  He gives a time of 10am, but cites it was a Roland DI that was driven down.  The citing of a time should give you encouragement that there is a Combat Report somewhere...

 

Trevor

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Quote

 

There was an item on Armstrong's old school in a "Flypast" about 10 year ago.Seen it?

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Thanks, Trevor! My 60 Squadron research file is growing very fast. I shall certainly follow up your bibliography, and greatly appreciate your dusting off your notes and sharing them. Both Scott/Warne and Shores et al give 10.00 a.m. but the latter says it was an Albatros DI which makes sense. Warne's appendix, like Ray Sturtivant, describes the EA as a Roland DI but I didn't know any such Roland type existed [can anyone please enlighten me?]. If nothing else this suggests they shared the same source.

 

To nils d, thanks, that's interesting. I didn't see the item on Hilton College but I think I have that side of things pretty much covered. The family donated DVA's memorabilia to the school and they have a cornucopia of items in their display including the vertical stabilizer of his red Camel C.6713 'Doris' (together with illustrations from my book on aerobatics in which artwork of 'Doris' was provided by Lynn Williams). I think I have squeezed them dry of every scrap of information they have, including school reports and photographs. I interrogated everyone there about where his log-books were, but they and the family didn't know - which is a serious loss.

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Norman Franks is alive, I believe.  You may be able to contact him by posting a thread on The Aerodrome forum (theaerodrome.com

"People" section).  You may get better results if you ask for the Webmaster's help (Scott Hamilton) as he often confers with Franks.

Josquin

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Annette, I can confirm that Joe Warne is dead. The other three authors you mention are all still with us, I believe.

 

Errol

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