The British, Commonwealth & Polish Air Services Personnel Archive

Geoffrey Negus    

The British, Commonwealth & Polish Air Services Personnel Archive is believed to be the world's largest non-government record of air force fatalities. Started in 1984, its purpose is to record and eventually publish (electronically) details of those who died while serving with the following:

* Air Ministry (war deaths only)
* Air Training Corps
* Air Transport Auxiliary
* Army Air Corps Glider Pilots Regiment
* Australian Flying Corps
* British Overseas Airways Corporation (war deaths only)
* Burma Volunteer Air Force
* Canadian Air Force (World War I)
* Civilian Technical Corps (Canada)
* Fleet Air Arm
* (Free) Polish Air Force
* RAF Iraq Levies
* Rhodesia Air Askari Corps
* Royal Air Force (including the Reserve of Air Force Officers, RAF
* Regiment, Volunteer Reserve and Auxiliary Air Force)
* Royal Australian Air Force
* Royal Canadian Air Force
* Royal Flying Corps
* Royal Indian Air Force (pre-independence)
* Royal Naval Air Service
* Royal New Zealand Air Force
* South African Air Force
* West African Air Corps
* Women's Auxiliary Air Force
* Women's Royal Air Force.

The Archive currently includes details of more than 131,000 personnel in the following main categories:
* all personnel died to 30 September 1921
* all air force personnel died 3 September 1939 to 31 December 1947
* all naval airmen buried or cremated in the UK, or commemorated at the Fleet Air Arm Memorial, Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire.
* numerous British and Commonwealth personnel who died outside the above dates 
* non-Commonwealth air force personnel whose graves are in the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Archive is computer-based and can be interrogated, using various powerful search programs. Many personnel have been traced using only very sketchy or even misleading clues.

The Archive differs from Commonwealth War Graves Commission records in several important ways:
* in many cases, full circumstances of death are recorded. For example, if the death occurred during operations the Archive may include details of the aircraft, location and circumstances of loss.
* the Archive includes personnel (except of the Air Ministry and BOAC) who died in peacetime.
* the burials and cremations at each location are listed chronologically, rather than in surname order. This makes it easier to group together individual crews.
* the Archive is extensively cross-indexed, including by date, squadron, unit and name.
* the Archive includes details of many hundreds of Polish airmen, not included in the CWGC Registers.

Almost all entries for the UK include: location of burial/cremation, including directions from nearby towns and, where applicable, OS Grid Reference if in UK; date of death; service number; rank; crew function; full name; decorations; squadron (with base and equipment); age at death; place of origin. Many entries also include unit (if not a squadron), circumstances of death and personal (e.g. professional, sporting and academic) achievements.

The Archive is compiled by Geoffrey Negus, an aviation historian since the 1960s. A journalist, he has produced TV items on many aeronautical topics and numerous aviation magazine articles. He was co-author of one book about aviation in the Midlands, and sole author of another. He is active in several aviation history organisations and is currently a member of the Council of Air-Britain.

How the Archive could help you
Enquiries are welcome provided:
* they of reasonable proportions.
* information is acknowledged if it is published.
Postal enquiries: UK enquirers enclose SAE (size DL or bigger). EC enquirers enclose one International Reply Coupon (Coupon-Réponse International). If outside the EC, please enclose two IRCs (one rarely covers postage). It is a great help if letters are typed or word-processed, as many are scanned for archival purposes. If you do hand-write, please print names in block capitals. Reply is unlikely if you neither provide information nor fund return postage.
e-mail is free and the preferred medium. Send only straight-forward plain text (ASCII) messages, with NO ATTACHMENTS.
Please exercise patience - this is a spare-time activity.
A record is kept of questions that have not been answered satisfactorily, as later research often reveals solutions. However, because of the cost of postage, overseas enquirers can be contacted only if they provide an e-mail address, or have made a donation.
Commercial researchers (but not authors) will be asked to pay a fee.

How you could help the Archive
The Archive is a clearing house for information for ex-service personnel, local historians, genealogists and aviation history researchers. If a family member or friend died while in one of the services covered, can you add extra details for his/her entry in the Archive?
Relevant photographs of the person especially welcome - but please write first for guidance.
If you have researched a particular locality, squadron, unit or airfield, do you have information that could be added to the Archive?
If you could investigate local sources, please get in touch. It is suggested that you write first to ascertain what is already on record.

Donations are greatly appreciated, as research-related costs are considerable.

8 February 2008

Geoffrey may be reached via email [change '(at)' to @]

For any other comments on the site -- email [change '(at)' to @ ]

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