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Printed From: Cross & Cockade
Category: General Discussion
Forum Name: General
Forum Discription: General Discussion
Printed Date: 26 Sep 2020 at 01:38
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 10.03 -

Topic: RFC or RNAS
Posted By: BERTIE
Subject: RFC or RNAS
Date Posted: 12 Oct 2010 at 19:58
I am trying to trace my father in law's service records during the 1st World War, at every turn I hit a brick wall.  He was in the Northumberland Fusiliers then transfered to either the RFC or RNAS.  I have been unable to find any trace of him being transfered. 

I have the following information:
Name William Alexander Welch Watson
Joined RFC/RNAS in 1917?
Long Number 
256094 and an RAF service number of 319479 Flight Cadet on his discharge papers.

I have consulted the research staff at the RAF museum at Hendon and they believe that the 6 digit number belongs to the series of RNAS personnel transferred to the RAF

I would be grateful for any assistance

Thank you


Posted By: John-G
Date Posted: 12 Oct 2010 at 21:06
This looks like a RAF service number and it should be available in class AIR79/2805 at the NA these documents are not on line and you will have to visit the NA and request the file that covers numbers 328858 to 329000.


Posted By: John-G
Date Posted: 12 Oct 2010 at 22:40

Sorry I gave you the wrong file it should be in AIR79/2764  which covers the numbers 319454 to 319580.



Posted By: BERTIE
Date Posted: 13 Oct 2010 at 19:46
Thank you Huck J for your reply to my posting

My father in law is a man of mystery, I have looked through the RAF records at Kew and I have 3 records relating to him.  However apart from these records I have been unable to find any other records relating to his service in the RFC/RNAS.  How he joined the RFC/RNAS from the Northumberland Fusiliers is a mystery. The army records I have state he is still serving in the army post 1922, he was discharged from the R.A.F. 2nd. April 1919.  Army records supposed amongst the burnt records.

He was in the 55 TDS, 57 TDS & 50 CW

Thank you once again for your help I will keep on looking



Posted By: John-G
Date Posted: 14 Oct 2010 at 07:32

Many men applied for a transfer from their regiments to join the RNAS/RFC/RAF quite often there were granted a commission.

If you believe that he served after 1920 in the army, he might have been released from the RAF and rejoined the Army.  If this is so I think you need to contact the Veterans Agency over the web and apply through the Army section for any records, it would help if you have any post WW1 army service number and advise them which regiment he served in.  It cost about £30.00 and you will need to prove your relationship and there is no guarantee that you will find much information.

huckl -


Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 14 Oct 2010 at 09:34
There is a service roll in the RAF Museum (listed by service number) of everyone serving in the ranks of the RAF on 1 April 1919.
Commissioned ranks will be included in the Air Force Lists from April 1918.
The likely path was :
Conscription in to the Northumberland Fusiliers (which, having more battalions than any other regiment during WW1, took recruits from far and wide).
Then, either :
1. Application for a naval commisison in the RNAS (he may have been called up while waiting for his application to be processed).
2. Application for secondment to the RFC as a prospective pilot. This was a normal process for other ranks, though many sought a commission first.
On the formation of the RAF secondments persisted until after the war when the choice was offered to apply for a regular RAF commission or cease the secondment (together with any temporary/ acting rank). As the RAF contracted postwar, the number of permanent commissions available were limited, and so the choice for many would have been to return to the army or navy, or appear on the reduntant list.
The choice as to whether you could return to the army or navy would depend on what sort of commision you had. If it was a New Armies commission this was for the duration only, and there would be a need to apply for a regular or territorial commission postwar.
Examples : Lt Colonel CE Bryant, RAF, returned to the 12th Lancers as a Captain having failed, twice, to gain a permanent RAF commission. Bell-Davies returned to the Navy on deciding that he did not wish to serve postwar with the RAF. He later commanded HMS Furious, which seems a reasonable compromise !
I suspect that what happened is that there was a period of secondment from the Northumberland Fusiliers to undertake pilot training. Presumably this was not completed before the end of the war (which is why the discharge papers note 'Flight Cadet'), resulting in a return to the army.
I have seen War Diary entries mentioning other ranks being seconded for pilot training (e.g. Petitt from the 12th Lancers), and there may well be a Northumberland Fusiliers War Diary record confirming this. However, that assumes overseas service with the Northumberland Fusliers and an idea of which battalion the service was with. The Medal Index will confirm overseas service (or otherwise).

Posted By: BERTIE
Date Posted: 14 Oct 2010 at 21:29
Thank you HUCK J and Nick Forder for you help.


Posted By: BERTIE
Date Posted: 12 Mar 2012 at 21:02
Hello Again
Since my last posting regarding my father in law William Alexander Welch Watson, I have visited Handon, I spoke with the archivist who checked the records and found no mention of a William A W Watson. After this visit I went again to Kew and found the following information.
Official Number 319479 William Alexander Watson
No 5 Cadet Wing 26.01.18
RFC 26.01.18
RAF 01.04.18
Dishcarged date 02.04.19 on appt to Hon Com RAF under ......... WO 1473 para 28
Granted 07.05.18 Trade classification Pilot 26.01.18
Wounds 07.11.16 (accidentally)
G.S.W R leg slight 31.05.17 HA 10086
55 T.D.S 57 T.D.S Cranwell
St Leanords 5OCT 22.01.18
5OCW Denham 23.03.18


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