Help with rank in RAF

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Mike Black
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Help with rank in RAF

Post by Mike Black » Wed Jul 20, 2011 7:41 pm

A relative of mine, serving in the RAF, died in Thailand during WW2. All the information I have gathered from Scotland's People, CWGC, and a photograph of his grave in Jefferson Barracks Cemetery show his rank as AC1. From various sources I believe he was a war correspondent covering a low level bombing mission in a USAF Liberator which was shot down in November 1944. His remains were buried along with the rest of the crew in November 1949.
There is a report of the event in the SEAC newspaper in December 1944 which gives his rank as Pilot Officer and describes him as assistant editor of the SEAC paper.
Is it possible he was given this rank to enable him to fly?

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Re: Help with rank in RAF

Post by SandySandilands » Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:42 pm

Hi Mike

My husband tells me that your relative would not have been given the rank of Pilot Officer purely to enable him to fly nor would he have gone from AC1 to Pilot Officer. Perhaps he was an RAF press liason officer who was attached to the USAC and the newspaper reported his rank incorrectly?

Then again, my husband could and is probably wrong! LOL Since our conversation I have found this gentleman's memoirs: ... 7236.shtml

apparently he served as
an AC2, AC1, LAC and Pilot Officer

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Re: Help with rank in RAF

Post by Currie » Thu Jul 21, 2011 7:11 am

Hello Mike,

Sergeants could be pilots during WW2 and from June 1940 this was the lowest rank for RAF aircrew. ... rcrew.html

I guess this is the fellow we’re discussing:

“SEAC Scribe Dies In Crash
CALCUTTA - Pilot Officer William George Duff, RAF, assistant editor of SEAC, daily newspaper for the British troops, was killed this week in the crash of an American Liberator bomber, about 330 miles north of Bangkok.
Duff was aboard the plane as a war correspondent, to report on a low-level bombing mission. The aircraft was on its second run over the target when two engines went out in flames, apparently from ground machine gun fire. The plane crashed into a hillside with 11 men aboard.” ... 20744.html

There’s more about him in “Silently into the midst of things: 177 Squadron Royal Air Force in Burma” By A. Sutherland Brown, 2001. ... C&pg=PA112

Pages 112 to 117 are to do with an earlier article in the SEAC newspaper written by war correspondent Bill Duff about a Beaufighter sortie in April, 1944. It sounds to me like the same fellow although the article says he met his demise in a Mitchell bomber. It’s only a preview so hopefully you can see the same pages that I can.

Here’s a bit more http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.o ... w=previous

He’s been mentioned as a reporter and a war correspondent but he’s also a member of the RAF and perhaps he did need to be given appropriate rank so that he could be taken along on operational missions as aircrew.

Hope that helps,

LATER - Crew list and crash description here ... 22&f=false

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Re: Help with rank in RAF

Post by Roxy » Thu Jul 21, 2011 6:57 pm

A couple of points worth considering:

AC1 was, I believe, a rank generally assigned to someone newly integrated into the RAF - AirCraftsman - grade 1. Airmen were often quite quickly promoted once they had completed their training; it is similar today; airmen aircrew are acting sergeants until they have completed their operational conversion and our LAC - Leading AirCraftsman (we only have ACs in training) are promoted to SAC - Senior AirCraftsman - a year after joining up assuming that they have successfully completed the Trade Ability Tests.

Early in the war, air gunners were not often aircrew; quite often a fitter or rigger would be offered the opportunity to fly as the gunner as a treat! Later on (1941 IIRC), possibly as a result of increased numbers of POWs, all aircrew were sgt or higher in rank.

I'll think of something appropriate soon!

Mike Black
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Re: Help with rank in RAF

Post by Mike Black » Thu Jul 21, 2011 8:14 pm

Thanks to everybody for their help,links and comments.
Yes the person was W G Duff, a cousin of my mother. I'm sure like many others doing research I wish now I had listened more carefully to her stories ( she had 42 cousins so there were lots of them )
W G Duff's parents were both teachers in Fife. They both died very young and I have him living in Edinburgh in 1927 when his mother died. His sister was also a teacher who married a journalist who also became a war correspondent. I still have one of his scrap-books which makes fascinating reading.
Don't suppose the question of rank will ever be proved and does it really matter? He must have been a very brave man.
On the subject of errors in reporting, one American site lists him as being in US Navy.
Again my thamks


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Re: Help with rank in RAF

Post by Alan SHARP » Thu Jul 21, 2011 8:58 pm

apparently he served as an AC2, AC1, LAC and Pilot Officer
Greetings Sandy.

I went to reply last night, but I lost my link. If you were to obtain his training records you will find dates recorded against each achievement. Starting with basic military training, Aircraftman 2nd class, Aircraftman 1st class, Leading Aircraftman, Pilot Officer. All going well, weather wise etc these block courses usually lasted about six to eight weeks.

Google "World War 2 RAF Abbreviations" and you will get the A to Z.

The young men in New Zealand, being trained to be Pilots, were expected to get an exam pass of 80%, or greater, before they moved to the next level. Some moved sideways, and were then trained as Radio & Navigation officers, or had to redo a course.


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Re: Help with rank in RAF

Post by SandySandilands » Thu Jul 21, 2011 11:46 pm

Greetings Alan

Thanks for the info - always very interesting :D Hubby has some reading ahead LOL


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Re: Help with rank in RAF

Post by islandee » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:34 am

There is a misunderstanding regarding how to interpret the abbreviation "P/O". The problem is basically that you are looking at a USAAF, not an RAF, document. In this instance, it stands for "Press Officer". See note 26 in the article Kaeng Luang Railroad Bridge for an explanation: note 26, on the right of the page.
Last edited by islandee on Sat Nov 29, 2014 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Help with rank in RAF

Post by StewL » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:46 am

Hi Alan
Fond memories of my navy communications training, pass mark was 80% for all subjects, except morse and typing which was 98% :D

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