RAF AIR 27 Air Ministry Operations Record Books give researchers the details in daily records of aircrew

The Royal Air Force AIR 27 records are an absorbing collection of official Air Ministry records. Consisting of RAF Operations Record Books (ORBs) for its squadrons these documents are primarily from after the First World War, though they do include some early squadron records from 1911 to 1918. The ORBs were intended by the British military to be a historical record of a unit from its formation, and contain daily entries written on standard forms. ORBs are made up of Form 540 – Summary of Events, and Form 541 – Detail of Work Carried Out and were to provide an accurate record of the functioning of the Royal Air Force and some Dominion and Allied squadrons under the command of the British.

The Operations Record Books documents can be used by the researcher to discover the stories of the brave aircrew in the Second World War who battled against the odds in the fight, and give insights into their everyday lives. You can use the collection on TheGenealogist to follow an airman’s war time experiences, and so they give a fascinating insight into your relatives who were serving in air force wartime units.

Case Study: The childrens’ storyteller – Roald Dahl

Sometimes it comes as a bit of a surprise to us when we find that famous people, as well as our own past family, carried out extraordinary things in World War II. Some of the airmen may have told their tales, while others remained silent. In the case of Roald Dahl, he wrote about a number of his experiences in his book Going Solo, including his crash landing on arrival at a new squadron in North Africa. Now, however, we can read how the official RAF Operations Record Book recounted this mishap and how he was badly burned in the accident.

You can read more about Roald Dahl in the Operations Record Books here.

Roald Dahl, taken by Carl Van Vechten in 1954
ORB detailing Dahl's crash in the desert

Case Study: Ace in a Day - Archie McKellar

The Battle of Britain (10 July - 31 October 1940) saw war-time prime minister Winston Churchill give the name “The Few” to the pilots who defended these islands from the Nazis after France had fallen. Of these pilots, any that achieved five or more victories to their name were then referred to as being an Ace.There is an even smaller cohort of these aviators that were unofficially referred to as being an Ace in a day, just four!

Scotsman Archie McKellar, his fellow Brit Ronald Hamlyn, the New Zealander Brian Carbury and Polish pilot Antoni Głowacki all had the unusual distinction of notching up five enemy aircraft destroyed in one day. In our article on finding Squadron Leader Archie McKellar in the ORBs, we note the unemotional military language that records for posterity the day when Squadron Leader McKellar obtained his five victories in one day: “The next patrol... was remarkable for the success of S/L McKellar.” Find out more about how we used the ORBs to discover the story of our Ace in a Day here.

Portrait of Archie McKellar by Cuthbert Orde
602 Squadron ORB for June 1940 on TheGenealogist – McKellar promoted and transferred as France capitulates to the Germans
1 November 1940 Time up: 07:40 but no time down. A dash indicating S/L McKellar had crashed.

Case Study: Guy Gibson and The Dambusters

On the 16th May 1943 a flight of Lancasters, modified to carry the legendary bouncing bombs created by Barnes Wallis, took off from RAF Scampton in Operation Chastise. Their targets were the Ruhr dams in Germany and they were a newly formed No 617 Squadron under the command of a young pilot named Guy Gibson.

Wing Commander Gibson DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar at age 24 had already flown 172 sorties by this time. On the 16th May 1943, after dropping his bomb, he then flew alongside another aircraft as it attacked, machine gunning the defences to allow the other Lancaster to attack undisturbed. Gibson then carried on to the Eder dam to indicate the target to other crews for them to bomb and stayed in the zone to assess the results. For this bravery he and two others received the Victoria Cross.

We have found the Dambusters mission in the RAF ORBs and our article on these records of the legendary mission and its young leader, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, is here

ORB reporting the success of Operation Chastise
Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, King George VI and Group Captain John Whitworth discussing the Operation Chastise 'Dambusters Raid' Hensser (F/O), Royal Air Force official photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Air Chief Marshal Dowding with some of
Air Chief Marshal Dowding with some of "The Few"
Loading bombs during World War II
Loading bombs during World War II