RESEARCH ENQUIRIES

We are always very pleased to have new information about our key subjects. If you have something you would like to share, please do get in touch.

Our charity collects material on the Pathfinders and their world, publishes items from the Archive on social media and the website, and liaises with other bodies with Pathfinder material, either to arrange displays or to pool information . We do not at present have research facilities which you can visit except by special arrangement.

LIMITATIONS TO HOW WE CAN HELP WITH RESEARCH

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 cannot answer any general research enquiries without at least some basic outline details. These are:

  • ESSENTIAL
    • Full Name
    • Aircrew – squadron or unit
    • Groundcrew – unit (e.g. 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; note, there were often two service numbers if someone had been promoted to officer rank.

Please note: 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 here: Squadrons and Bases for the various squadrons or bases. For training units, look at this page: Training the Pathfinders

Further down this page you can find a useful section on how you can carry out your own preliminary research which will establish the basic details of a person’s wartime service.

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.

AREAS OF INTEREST TO THE ARCHIVE

This is not an exhaustive list but will give a general idea of what we are looking for.

Photographs, documents and information relating to:

    • Pathfinder aircrew and ground crew
    • The experiences of the families and friends of Pathfinder aircrew and ground crew
    • The experiences of other members of Bomber Command, and their families and friends
    • Bomber Command as the force in which the Pathfinders operated
    • General wartime context where setting the background to the experience of personnel in the RAF and their friends and families
    • The RAF – management, Public Relations, Medical Services, Intelligence, etc
    • The training units, including those overseas in Canada, the USA and South Africa
    • Prisoners of War
    • Evaders
    • Aircraft losses, accidents, ditchings, baling-out
    • Aircrew mascots, superstitions, religion
    • Aircrew morale and LMF


UNDERTAKING YOUR OWN RESEARCH

If the person whom you are enquiring about was unfortunately killed in the war, the best place for you to start researching 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 lucky and survived the war, you will need to find out their basic details before making your enquiry to us, and if you do not have them the likeliest place to find them would be the service record (see Frequently Asked Questions).

If you have a squadron name for the person you are researching, you can check our pages here: Squadrons and Bases and Training the Pathfinders to ascertain whether they were in one of the Pathfinder squadrons or training units, or on one of the relevant bases.

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.

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

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 someone’s squadron or unit but not their dates of service, the National Archives at Kew has ORBs of training units and operational squadrons which can be searched through.

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/