RESEARCH ENQUIRIES

The RAF Pathfinders Archive does not receive any public funding and is financed solely by private donations.

Unfortunately, due to the ever-increasing volume of enquiries and our limited resources, we can no longer undertake research enquiries except for a selected few. We have to be pragmatic about this and therefore the ones to which we can attend are those which promise to add interesting information to the Archive, or where the enquirer is willing to make a generous donation to fund our research time.

We do not at present have research facilities which you can visit except by special arrangement.

Please note that the Path Finder Force consisted of a number of different squadrons, it was not The Pathfinder Squadron as is sometimes mistakenly believed. We need the individual Pathfinder squadron if we are looking at the records. Please check our page PFF Squadrons and their Bases for the various PFF squadrons and their bases, so as to be sure that the person you are enquiring about was a Pathfinder, i.e. serving in one of the Pathfinder squadrons or training units, or serving on one of the Pathfinder bases. The only anomaly is for those Pathfinders serving in 5 Group: 97 Squadron, 83 Squadron, and 627 Squadron (Mosquitoes) were ‘loaned’ to 5 Group in early 1944, and the first two squadrons were based at Coningsby while 627 Squadron was at Woodhall Spa.

Please be aware that there is no overall computerised list of aircrew who were in the Pathfinders, or indeed in Bomber Command, so names cannot be searched for on a list except in the case of 97 Squadron where, thanks to Kevin Bending’s research several years ago, names can digitally be searched for – for this squadron only.

It is extremely difficult to find out information about ground crew as they were not documented extensively like aircrew. The only way to trace a member of ground crew’s service history is through their service record and even then it is very difficult to find out more details.


RESEARCHING AIRCREW AND GROUND PERSONNEL

Before research can begin, you will need some basic outline details. These are:

  • INVALUABLE
    • Full Name
    • Aircrew – squadron or unit
    • Ground personnel – unit (i.e. station served at or squadron served with)
    • Approximate dates of service
  • USEFUL
    • Service Number – however, given the nature of the records, this is generally only useful for verification purposes. N.B. there were often two service numbers if someone had been promoted to officer rank.

If the person whom you are enquiring about was unfortunately killed in the war, the best place to start researching them is the excellent Commonwealth War Graves Commission website:  https://www.cwgc.org/ This often lists the squadron or unit to which the person belonged when they died.

If they were fortunate and survived the war, please establish their basic outline details (see above) before making your enquiry to us. If you do not have them the likeliest place to find them would be the service record (see Frequently Asked Questions).

If the person whom you are enquiring about was involved in a wartime crash in the Netherlands or came down in the North Sea off the Dutch coast, they will be on Jan Nieuwenhuis’s superb database: https://www.airwar4045.nl/


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

HOW DO I GET A SERVICE RECORD?

We do not hold British service records – these must be obtained from the Ministry of Defence by permission of next of kin.

The National Archives in Australia, New Zealand and Canada are excellent and often have full copies of a service record for aircrew and ground crew from their country.

HOW CAN I FIND OUT ABOUT A SQUADRON OR DATES OF SERVICE?

In addition to the methods outlined above, you may be able to find someone’s squadron and approximate date of service if they won a decoration such as the DFM. These were listed in the London Gazette, and its Supplements, which can be searched online.

If you know a member of aircrew’s squadron or unit but not his dates of service, the National Archives at Kew has ORBs of training units and operational squadrons which can be searched through.

HOW DO I FIND A MEDAL CITATION?

You can search The London Gazette online using the name and other details you may have, or alternatively go through their Home Page: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/

Alternatively, there is a very good Database Query tool (see description below) at:

  http://www.rafcommands.com/database/awards/index.php?qaward=DFC 

RAF and Commonwealth Air Forces Awards

This is a database of all Commonwealth Airforces Awards in the Second World War. Database developed with help of Malcolm Barrass and Jagan Pillarisetti. DSO listing provided by Hugh Halliday. Citations sourced from the London Gazette Website. Medal Ribbons from Wikipedia.

In this context we recommend reference books that include Honour the Air Forces by Michael Maton, The Distinguished Flying Cross and How It Was Won 1918-1945 by Nick Carter and Carol Carter, The Distinguished Flying Medal: A record of courage, 1918-1982 by I. T Tavender

HOW DO I GET REPLACEMENT MEDALS?

Enquiries about replacement medals should be sent to the Ministry of Defence.

CAN I GET A PATHFINDER EAGLE BADGE AUTHORISED RETROSPECTIVELY?

You can try enquiring about this with the Ministry of Defence, but as the Path Finder Force was disbanded in December 1945 the answer is likely to be in the negative.

HOW DO I GET A REPLACEMENT CATERPILLAR CLUB PIN OR CERTIFICATE?

We do not hold records for all those who won a Caterpillar badge. You could try writing to Irving who ran the wartime Caterpillar Club: https://www.irvingq.com/our-story/caterpillar-club/