Ground Gen for Airmen



Ground Gen for Airmen


A brief guide for airmen of all trades and grades to the interior economy of life in the RAF. It includes a lot of detail about ranks, pay, duties, regulations, discipline and trades.

This item was sent to the IBCC Digital Archive already in digital form. No better quality copies are available. Pages 30 & 31, are missing.





42 page printed booklet


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Ground Gen
for Airmen


Editor, A.T.C. Gazette

How you can settle down in the R.A.F.; what you can do and what you can’t; with tips on trades, pay, promotion, leave, and other matters that make R.A.F. life interesting




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[underlined] PITMAN’S “SIMPLY EXPLAINED” SERIES [/underlined]


A Brief Guide for airmen of all trades and grades to the interior economy of life in the Royal Air Force.


Editor of
The Air Training Corps Gazette



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AIRMEN must live and learn as well as fly and fit. They can find plenty of printed advice on the latter but here for the first time they can study some hints about the domestic economy of life in the Royal Air Force and the problem of living at ease in a barrack room.

The notes have been written by one who has had experience of what he is writing about, but who no longer holds any official position in the R.A.F., and can therefore write with detachment.

PAY 13

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Your New Titles. You have become (or are about to become) an aircraftsman, an airman, and perhaps an aircrafthand. It all sounds very aeronautical and rather confusing, but of one thing you are certain. You are no longer "Mr.” "Mr." means master and, whatever you may have been before, you certainly seem to be no one's master now, not even your own.



Let us examine your new titles. The words airman, aircraftman, and aircrafthand have meanings in the Royal Air Force rather different from those which the civilian attaches to them. When the R.A.F. was formed in 1918 from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, the Air Ministry with a very English disregard for the English language appointed certain words to do certain work in the new service. To the outsider some of these words still look like round pegs in square holes; but you will soon get used to them and learn to attach to them their proper Air Force meanings, just as ever since childhood you


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have used some words in half a dozen different ways-the word "board," for instance, which can mean a committee, a piece of wood, a side of a ship, a thing for playing chess on, a regular supply of food, or the act of getting on a bus.

What is an Airman? Every man in the Royal Air Force who is not a commissioned officer is, in official language, an



“airmen.” The term thus includes aircraftsmen, corporals, sergeants, and other non-commissioned and warrant ranks, and its equivalent in the army is "soldier" where they say ”officers and soldiers" instead of "officers and airmen." There is a little confusion about this, because people, even government departments themselves, often use the words "soldiers" and "airmen" when referring collectively to commissioned as well as non-commissioned ranks, but you will soon get-used to it.

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To describe such people as yourself as "airmen” may seem to your modest mind to be a flagrant example of the liberties the Air Ministry has taken with the English language, but you will find on further reflection and after some experience that you are as much a member of the R.A.F. team as those who now fly, and that your services are necessary to the work of the Royal Air Force, whether you are going to fly or not. Therefore you may rightly called an airman, just as a general and a Royal Army Pay Corps sergeant major are called solders though neither of them may do any actual fighting.

Your Rank. But no one calls you "Airman Smith" or "Airman Murgatroyd." You are known as "aircraftman," the word "aircraftman" denoting your rank, a rank which corresponds to private, gunner, sapper, etc., in the army. Though a humble rank, it is not the very lowest. Strictly speaking, boy entrants, aircraft apprentices, apprentice clerks and others under the age of 18 rank still lower, and if you catch one of these misbehaving you have the right (and indeed the duty) of ordering him to desist. But don't start being officious yet.

There are three kinds, or classifications, of aircraftmen:- 2nd class, 1st class, and Leading. Progress from one class to another is officially knows as "re-classification," an operation which depends on your passing a trade test and being recommended by your commanding officer.

Corporals and L.A.C.s. Subsequent progress to Corporal and beyond is not by re-classification, but by promotion.



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Here it is necessary to point out the difference between a leading aircraftman and a corporal. The latter is a non-commissioned officer, the former is not. The L.A.C. may be placed in a position of authority over you and then you will have to obey his orders. But his authority is specific and limited and he remains an aircraftman like yourself. You can call him "Bill' and when off duty drink with him or punch his nose without being guilty of any serious offence. The Corporal on the other hand is a junior non-commissioned officer whose authority is more universal and whose nose must never in any circumstances be punched, even by another corporal, however much it may appear to you to be in need of punching. He is forbidden to drink or play cards with you or otherwise fraternize with you, although in a very distant elder-brotherly sort of way you may find him on occasion to be quite a good friend.

You will learn more later about the advantages and disadvantages of being a corporal. Let us return to your humble self.

Your Trade. Besides being an airman and an aircraftman you are (unless you have already been passed as a skilled tradesman) an "aircrafthand." Do not imagine that means you are going to handle aircraft-not yet at any rate.

"Aircrafthand" is simply the Air Force name for an unskilled airman who may be ordered to perform almost any unskilled duties from sweeping out a hangar to ordering someone else to sweep out a hangar (for same airmen remain aircrafthands though they became corporals and sergeants).

You are probably an "aircrafthand under training" and as soon as you have had your training and passed your trade test you will be remustered to another trade. The word "muster" is defined in the dictionary as meaning "an assembly or parade of soldiers, etc. " In the Air



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Force its application is limited to trade callings. You are not mustered or remustered to a squadron or to a flight. but only to a trade. When you are sent to a new squadron or other unit you are "posted."

A New Language, There are many other words and expressions to which the Air Force gives its own shade of meaning. For instance, the word "order" means an edict issued by a superior authority, as in "Air Ministry Orders,” "Station Orders," "'Standing Orders,"' or perhaps simply an order which a corporal may give you verbally to empty a bucket. If, however, you require a new Spitfire or a new spanner you do not "order" it from the Stores Officer as you might at an ironmonger's shop. You put in a "demand" for it, or strictly speaking a "demand note," for as no cash is handed over in R.A.F. stores transactions, everything has to be accounted for by certain printed forms (called demand and receipt notes) filled in and signed by the authorized persons.

This little book might easily be filled by definitions of such terms, especially if we included all the slang words and colloquialisms peculiar to the Royal Air Force. However, you will learn them by experience, which is much better and easier than leaming them from a book. You have read enough to realize that the Air Force has a little language of its own, and that the language must be learnt if you are going to be an efficient airman. We will now go on to discuss other matters, but before doing so let us, especially for the benefit of future airmen, revert for a moment to the subject of trades and mustering.


Most of us at some time or other am inclined to think that the other fellow has the best job, and that we and the job would get on much better if we were doing it. But changing trades in the Royal Air Force is a complicated procedure involving much administrative work. If all the demands for "remustering" were readily met the Air Force would soon get into an unholy mess, and so requests by airmen for re mustering are usually sat on, unless an order inviting such

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requests has been issued, or unless the airman has outstanding qualifications for the job to which he wants to remuster.

If you turn to page 14 you will find a list of about one hundred trades which are followed in the R.A.F. But you have not the choice of the whole hundred. Your choice is limited in the first place by what tradesmen the Air Force happens to be requiring when you apply to join. In certain trades only a few men are required. In others, particularly in the technical trades, there is an ever-increasing demand. You must, therefore, ask at the Recruiting Centre which trades are open. Your choice is still further limited by your own qualifications, age, and medical fitness. If you are an expert fitter it is most improbable that you have its your short life been able to qualify also as a balloon fabric worker or an instrument repairer. If, however, you are qualified in more than one trade it is better for yourself and for the Royal Air Force that you should leave the easier trades to your weaker brethren (or sisters) and choose the more highly skilled.

All Air Force trades are arranged in "Trade Groups." There are six of these groups, as you will see by references to page 14, and each of these groups its own scale of pay, as set out on page 15. In addition, there are five other scales of pay for air-crew men.

Provided you pass your trade test you are accepted as an aircraftman 2nd class in that trade, and will be paid from the outset the rates of pay authorized for that trade.

After having done your recruit's course and such other training as may be necessary, you will have opportunity of being reclassified to aircraftman 1st class and leading aircraftman, at substantially higher rates of y.

If you are not skilled in any R.A.F. trade, two opportunities may lie before you. You can enter as an ``aircrafthand" (that is an unskilled man) and be employed on miscellaneous duties, taking your chance of being remustered to a trade at some future date. Better still, you can enter as "aircrafthand under training" for some particular trade. In the latter event you will be given a course of instruction in that trade, and at the end of the course you will, if you pass the trade test, be remustered.

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The R.A.F. has at the moment a great need for men to be trained for air-crew work and for technical trades, such a flight mechanics, instrument repairers, armourers, electricians,, and wireless mechanics. If you are considered to be worth training in one of these trades you will get a good course of instruction and have opportunities of reaching Group 1, the most highly paid group.

But perhaps your ambitions are higher? You want to be a pilot or other member of an air crew? If so, the Recruiting Officer will be pleased to see you, so pleased in fact that he is willing to attest you at a age of 17 1/2 instead of the normal 18. But, however keen you may be, the Recruiting Officer cannot relax his standards. There is the medical standard, and if you want to know now whether you are likely to pass you can consult your own doctor, who will be able to give you some idea of your chances. Then there is the educational test. Great literary or other academic qualification are not expected of you. But you will be required to have a good working knowledge of elementary mathematics. If you have any doubts about your ability in this direction they can be put at rest by the Air Training Corps. Full particulars of the conditions of entry for members of aircraft crews are contained in Air Ministry Pamphlet 96.

If your first application to be accepted as for training in air-crew work is not successful, do not despair. Perhaps there is some slight defect in your health or education which with a little training you can rectify. Have another try later on. Even if you join the R.A.F. in some other trade you may have an opportunity for training as pilot, etc., later. A little persistence is often rewarded. You remember the story of Wing Commander Bader, the legless pilot, who persisted until he was allowed to fly again and then won the D.S.O. and bar, and the D.F.C and bar?

When you enlist you enlist for the duration of what official language calls “the present emergency.” You cannot, even if you wish, enlist as in peace time, for a mere twelve years, and you cannot enlist in the Regular Air Force. All war-time enlistments are in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Although you have been accepted for the Royal Air Force

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you may be sent home to wait before being required to join a unit, since training courses cannot be arranged to suit your convenience. You would be wise therefore to hang on to your job until you have received orders to join a unit.

If you have dependants, you should waste no time in making claims for allowances. You can obtain 18s. a week for your wife, 7s. 6d. for the first child, 13s. for two children, and 4s. for each additional child. Families living in the London Postal Area get an additional 3s. 6d. In order to show your goodwill you have to supplement these allowances by allotting a certain part of your pay. Family allowances cannot be paid until you have made a claim, and the claim must be supported by marriage certificate and children’s birth certificates. You should, therefore, have these ready so that there will be no delay. When joining up, however, you should remember that in the interest of the public every claim has to be investigated, and that some little delay may occur while inquiries are being made. You should, therefore, make provision for the support of your family for a week or two.

Other Dependants. If you have a parent, grandparent, step-parent, or other near relative who has been mainly dependent on you, you can apply for a Dependant's Allowance. The standard rates are 13s., 18s., 21s. 6d. and 25s. a week, varying according to circumstances. Here, again, you must make an allotment of your own pay as well. You must apply on R.A.F. Form 1219 (which you can obtain at
your unit) and the dependant must claim on Form 1220 which is obtainable at any Post Office.

Allotments. You may, if you wish, allot part of your pay to anyone who is not dependent on you. This is called a voluntary Allotment, and the Government will not augment it.

Special Allowances. The War Service Grants Advisory Committee has been set up to deal with cases of special hardship. This Committee will grant up to £2 a week to any one airman in order to enable him to meet financial obligations. Applications for such a grant should be made on Form M.S.A.C.21, which you can obtain at your unit.

Everyone connected with the issue of these allowances has the duty of seeing that you get what you are entitled to.

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They are powerless to give you more and have no desire to give you less. Your part of the business is to make the facts known in the right quarters and furnish all the necessary proofs. If, after you have done that, any difficulties or delays occur, make the matter known to your commanding officer, and he will try to put things right.


Pay is the responsibility of the Station Accountant Officer, who is usually a chartered or other qualified accountant. The Accountant Officer is responsible both to the Commanding Officer of the Station and to the Air Ministry and his accounts are kept in duplicate, though you do not get paid in duplicate. As soon as you have been posted to a unit after attestation an account is opened for you in the pay ledger and thereafter you will be paid every Friday (or in some stations every other Friday). Pay in the Air Force is always calculated on a daily rate, seven days being counted to the week. Payment is made to the nearest shilling, after an approximate amount has been reserved to meet any special charges on account of income tax, forfeiture of pay, barrack damages, etc. Thus a certain amount of money is likely to remain to your credit. After these charges have been finally settled the exact amount of the balance due to you is paid wherever possible at the first pay parade after the end of a quarter. If, owing to stoppages of pay or other deductions, you are heavily in debt you are still entitled under Section 138 of the Air Force Act to be paid at least one penny a day, though as a general rule the minimum issue of pay is not less than 6d. a day.

There are nearly one hundred different basic rates of pay for airmen in the Royal Air Force and these rates are varied by additional pay, flying instruction pay, bonus for drivers and divers, and payment for good conduct badges, etc., so the Accountant Officer is kept fairly busy in calculating your pay. The job is simplified to a large extent by the documents referred to in another section, which he can consult at any time, and which tell him exactly what you are entitled to. Any promotion, detention, re-classification, and other events

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which vary your entitlement are recorded on casualty lists issued periodically by the Commanding Officer and from these the Accountant Officer can calculate just what is due to you.

For pay purposes the R.A.F. trades are divided into the following groups:-


Many of these trades are now closed for recruiting, as certain work formerly done by airmen is being handed over to the W.A.A.F. Other trades are open only at certain times, and the intending recruit should apply to the Recruiting Centre to find out which are open.

[table of trade groups]

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[table of trade groups continued]

The daily rates of pay for the tradesmen in each group and for air crews are given in the table below.

[table of daily pay rates]

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War Pay at the rate of 6d a day is issuable in addition to the rates of pay set out above.

Additional Pay. - In addition to substantive pay non-substantive pay is issuable as follows, the rates being daily rates unless otherwise stated:-

[table of pay rates]

Flying Instructional Pay.- Airmen are eligible for an allowance of 2s. a day while under instruction as pilots. Airmen while under instruction as air observers are eligible for an allowance of 1s. 6d. a day.

Bonus for Drivers. - Drivers (M.T.) not above of rank of flight sergeant are eligible, under certain conditions, for bonus at the rate of 6d. a day.

Good Conduct Badges and Pay. Badges are awarded for very good conduct after 3, 8 and 13 years’ qualifying service rendered after attaining the age of 18 years. Good conduct pay of 3d. a day is awarded for each badge.


Your Number. When you join the Royal Air Force you are given a number which sticks to you throughout your service and forever afterwards. If you rejoin after a lapse of twenty years, as so many men have done in this war, you may get a new tunic, but you will be dished out with the old number and you will rather proud of because the old number will denote that you are an "old sweat." Numbers are roughly allotted in chronological-numerical order. That is to say, the first-comers get the lowest numbers. But that is only true up to a point, because blocks of numbers are reserved for special types of entries. The system of allocation of numbers in this war must be an official secret for the time being, but it can be stated that those who joined in 1922 as men were given numbers round about 300,000. Those who joined in the same year as aircraft apprentices were numbered somewhere about 500,000. The number appears on all your records, a practice very convenient to yourself as well as to the authorities, because it helps to ensure that you don’t get debited with stoppages of pay for debts, etc., incurred by some other airman of the same name, but of less prudence.

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Your Documents. When you join the Royal Air Force a number of documents are prepared, recording all the Air Force wants to know abut you. Some of these, including the attestation paper, are sent to the Officer in Charge of R.A.F. Records, who keeps a record of every airman in the Service. Others are kept by your commanding officer and follow you about wherever you go. Everything of importance that occurs to you during your service career is entered on one or other of the documents by your commanding officer and also by the Officer in Charge of Records. Thus your up-to-date history is always available in two places. One of the important documents a Certificate of Service and Discharge which, besides describing you, gives particulars of your postings, musterings, examinations, promotions and your commanding officer's annual opinion of your character and trade ability. It also makes provision for your discharge at some future date, a point which the Air Force has not overlooked, if you have, and on your discharge this certificate of service will become your very own property until nostalgia for the R.A.F. brings you back to a recruiting office.

You have two Conduct Sheets. A Service Conduct Sheet on which serious offends are recorded, and a General Conduct Sheet for minor offences. The latter if it contains any entries is destroyed after the first six months service, and thereafter the General Conduct Sheet is destroyed two years after your last offence, and on promotion to Sergeant or Warrant rank. Thus you start life afresh, if you have begin guilty of only minor "crimes.”

An important document is the Medical Record which is kept by the M.O. as a confidential document, one which you will never be permitted to see. It is usually referred to by the M.O. when you report sick.

You will gather that these carefully kept records make it almost impossible for you to "swing the lead"' or get away with any mis-statement when making application to the Orderly Room, and you will see how necessary it is to make sure that correct particulars are given on the attestation form. It used to be quite a common thing in the Army for false names to be given on attestation, and regulations had to be devised for the insertion of the true name when it was dis-

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closed. Even now it sometimes happens that a name is wrongly spelt or other particulars are wrongly given, with much subsequent inconvenience to the airman and many other people. In particular you should be careful to see that your religion is correctly given, and that the name and address of the person entered as your "next of kin" is the person whom you really wish to be informed in case of a casualty. For instance, if your actual "next of kin" is a sister in Somaliland, it might be better to enter the name of a cousin at Clapham.

The care of all these documents is the responsibility of your Commanding Officer, who is assisted in the work by the Adjutant and the orderly room clerks. The documents are always available for reference by properly authorized persons, such as accountant officers, who compute from them the rate of pay you are entitled to, so you will understand why it is that your superior officers seem to know more about you than you remember having told them. When you are posted to a new unit the documents follow or precede you, with the result that the Commanding Officer, even before he has the pleasure of seeing you, gets a fairly good idea of your physical and mental stature.


Your Legal Status. When you signed the attestation form and took the oath you immediately became subject to air force law, as defined in the Air Force Act. The Air Force Act, like the Army Act, is peculiar part of the peculiar British Constitution. Both have to be passed by Parliament every year and unless they are passed the Air Force and the Army legally cease to exist. This situation arose out of Parliament's continual tussles with the ancient, dictator-like Kings of England. In the end Parliament managed to establish the rule that the King had no right to maintain an Army except by its permission, a permission that would have to be renewed every year, and that Parliament would decide the strength and the cost of the Army. Therefore, every year the Army Act has to be passed and before it is passed the estimates of the annual cost have to be presented to Parliament. In times
of peace these estimates are published in book form. The

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estimates go carefully into many details, stating how many officers and men are provided for, the rate of pay far various ranks, and the amounts of money allotted for pay, pensions, technical and warlike stores, bootlaces, and such other things of which an army may be in need.

The constitution of the Royal Air Force is based largely on that of the Army and the same procedure is followed. in peace time you could buy a copy of the Air Estimates for three shillings and sixpence and learn from it a whole host of things about the Service. It may be of interest to note that from 1919 up till about 1936 the Air Estimates amounted to less than twenty million pounds a year. By 198 the figure had risen to over one hundred million pounds for the year. In war time the publication of the estimates would give the enemy valuable information about the strength of the services, so we are not told what the cost is now, though we can safely assume after a quick look round that it has gone up by more than half a crown.

The Air Force Act.

The Air Force Act contains none of the technical and financial details and therefore you can still consult it. It seldom alters from year to year. You can buy it separately or (if copes are still available) in a volume called the "Manual of Air Force Law" a book based on the old "Manual of Military Law," and containing the Air Force Act itself in a few pages, followed by several hundred pages in which clever lawyers try to explain what it means by



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reference to ancient and modern legal decisions. Unless you are one of those unpromotable persons known as “barrack room lawyers," you will not want to make a deep study of it. Yet sections of it do affect you, especially Sections 4 to 44 which include a list of offences and punishments to which you become liable under Air Force Law. As these sections so vitally concern you it has been decreed by authority that



a copy of the Act should be kept in the airmen's reading room at all permanent stations at home and abroad, and lest you should neglect to read it there owing to the counter-attractions of the coloured comics, the C.O. is enjoined to ensure that these sections are explained to you from time to time.

Broadly speaking the Air Force Act does not deprive you of the ordinary rights of citizenship, or absolve you from civilian sins, but it does bring you within range of a large number

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of military offences, such as disobeying orders. offences which are punishable with more severity during war time, or “when on active service" as the official phraseology has it.

On the other hand, the Air Force Act relieves you of some of your civilian troubles. If a man sells you a pup on the instalment system he cannot proceed against you if you fail to keep up the payments. Nor can he get your Commanding Officer to stop the money out of your pay. The Air Force Act also relieves you of any responsibility for any legal act done in the proper discharge of your duty. For instance, if you land your "Spitfire" in a greenhouse, the owner of the greenhouse cannot make you replace the glass. But if the forced landing was due to your own neglect or wilful disobedience of orders you may under the Air Force Act be liable to certain stoppages of pay, though not to the extent of the whole cost of the “Spitfire" and greenhouse.

“Kings Regulations.” Parliament, through the Air Force Act, concerns itself only with the broad lines of R.A.F. discipline, specifying maximum penalties for specific offences. Detailed regulations must be left to the R.A.F. itself. The bulk of these are contained in a large volume of several thousand paragraphs called "The King’s Regulations and Air Council Instructions for the Royal Air Force."

"King's Regulations" for the Royal Air Force were originally based on “King's Regulations" for the Army, but through the years they have been continually amended and brought up to date as new Air Force problems requiring new rulings have arisen. They are modified from time to time by Air Ministry Orders and by periodical amendment lists. Paragraph 1070 (2a) decrees that an up-to-date copy of the book will be "kept in the station reference library or such other place as the C.O. may decide" for reference by airmen. You will find when you come to look at them that the "King's Regulations " are most exhaustive and deal with nearly everything, from the use of oxygen at 16,000 feet (paragraph 714A) to the provision of diving pay for airmen qualified as divers (paragraph 3460). Most of us, though perhaps aware of the need of oxygen at 16,000 feet, were perhaps quite ignorant of the existence of airmen divers. But paragraph 3460 knows all about them and provides that they should be

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paid four shillings an hour for an ordinary dive and as much as twelve shillings an hour for a dive to 25 fathoms.

Local Orders. It would be nicer if you could fillet "King's Regulations" and epitomize in a few pages those which immediately and personally concern you. But that is quite impossible and, moreover, would still be inadequate. King's Regulations, recognizing its own inadequacy, provides (in paragraph 61) that your Commanding Officer should issue Station or Unit Standing Orders, and that Daily Routine Orders should also be published by Commanding Officers. These are the things that vitally concern you and if you read them carefully and listen to the verbal instructions given you you will get along quite well for the present.

Familiarity with "King's Regulations" is still very useful to you, however, and you will make yourself a more competent airman by devoting a little of your leisure to studying them. But two words of caution are necessary. Make sure that the volume you are reading has been amended up to date. Amendment lists are always being issued, sometimes very cryptic ones which are apt to be overlooked, such as, for instance, "Para. 9050, line 6, delete the word 'not."' If the someone has not deleted the word "not," and you act on the assumption that it is still operative, you will not be popular.

Nor will you be popular if you mug up King's Regulations and then fling them in the face of your superior officers or others when you notice something which to your critical eye is not being dune quite according to the book. Tact in such matters is as necessary in the Air Force as it is in civil life. In any case, keeping to the letter of the law may be quite an amusing exercise for a little while, but in the end it breeds trouble and strife and lawyers. It is better to keep to the spirit of the thing, and the spirit of “King's Regulations” for the Air Force is quite a generous one.


A common complaint about service discipline is that it is not civil enough. Certainly it sometimes apps harsh and tactless, though in this respect it is improving. But when we

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come to compare Air Force and civil discipline with clear eyes we shall find that there is much to be said for the former. You may argue that there is no such thing as civil discipline. But you cannot deny that there are civil laws which have to be obeyed and that civilian employers impose rules and regulations to which their employees must conform or lose their jobs, and, finally, there is that intangible thing called



“public opinion" or “respectability" which bears very heavily on the surburban [sic] or provincial householder.

Let us compare a middle-aged sergeant clerk with his civil counterpart, the shiny-trousered chief clerk in a city office.

The sergeant has to do his job efficiently, dress according to regulations, and salute and obey his officers. If he fails to salute he may be reprimanded. If he disobeys he may be reduced in rank (but only after a trial by court martial) and if he is alleged to be inefficient he has the benefit of a trade test before any action is taken against him.

The civil clerk has also to do his job efficiently, obey his superiors and raise his hat to then. He has to dress according

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to custom, and in addition is expected to lead a quiet and respectable private life.

If he fails to do any of these things he may be summarily sacked without test or trial (and for a middle-aged clerk the sack entails the punishment of remaining unemployed for a long time, if not for the rest of his life). He may also be sacked for no reason at all except that the boss has a liver, or a relative who wants the job, or that someone has offered to do it for less money.

Yet in spite of the obvious advantages of Air Force life you often wish yourself back in civil life. Then you could wear what clothes you liked (provided you could afford them and they conformed to fashion), where you could change your job when you liked (provided you could get another), go anywhere you liked (provided you got back to work in time), and so on.

Well, it's quite impossible for the time being at least, so the only thing you can do is to make the best of it. Air Force discipline has developed out of military discipline and military discipline, embodying the experience of centuries, is so designed that the individual is firmly held. "If you broke your mother's heart, you won't break mine," says the sergeant, "Double march." If discipline irks, the best way of making it less irksome is to throw your heart into your job.

Air Force discipline. while imposing many restraints, leaves you with some to impose on yourself. In your spare time you are free to indulge in eating, drinking, smoking, swearing, praying, sleeping, dancing, and other amusements as you were in civil life, and as in civil life, you have to ration yourself in these.

The extent to which you do so is a matter in which you have already made resolves, or better still, formed habits, and it is only necessary here to point out that you need not get the idea (as you might from Kipling) that single men living in barracks must be heavy drinkers and what not. Some men have spent years in the Air Force without indulging in some of these things, and have not suffered or been ostracized for their abstinence. Some go to church on Sunday evenings, some to pubs, and some find it not incompatible to

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go to both. The rule to observe is that you should not, either by over-indulgence or too strict abstinence, become less efficient at your work or make yourself a nuisance to your fellows.


Barrack Room Tone. The domestic economy of Royal Air Force Stations is fairly uniform, so far as buildings and supplies permit. Even when they take over a smart seaside hotel, as they sometimes do in war time, the authorities usually contrive to fix things up so that the interior, if not the exterior, looks like a good imitation of a regular barracks. But there are subtle differences even in the regular stations and those differences persist though commanding officers come and go and the whole personnel of the station change in the course of a few years. It is as though each station had a character or a tone of its own.

Things Not Done. You will be wise to try to sense this tone and conform to it as quickly as you can. In certain matters such as in folding your blankets or laying out your kit in a certain way, you will have to conform. But there may be things, such as polishing the soles of your boots, which had to be done at your last station but which are optional at the new one. Things like this which do not have to be done are "not done," and you will not achieve any popularity by doing them.

That does not mean that in the workshop or on the aerodrome you should not exert every ounce of skill and energy to do your job. That is what you are in the Air Force for, and nobody of any consequence will complain if you reveal yourself to be a more skilful pilot or fitter than your fellows. But the barrack room is in a sense your home and no one will like you if you start boot cleaning competitions there, though it is well to remember that you will also be unpopular if you are slovenly and untidy. The thing to do is to conform to the average standard in these matters and reserve your greatest efforts for your job.

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Début. To enter a strange barrack room in which you have to live for the next few months, a barrack room full of strange faces, some of them attractive and some repulsive and all of them taking stock of you without showing any sign of admiration, is always a bit of an ordeal however often you may do it. In the recruit stage it is not so bad because the



others are all recruits in the same boat. It is later on when you are posted to a new unit among old sweats that you have to watch your step. Sometimes you are accompanied by two or three people from your old unit, which makes things easier, and you will find that however many new friends you may make in the new unit and however long you may stay there you will always have a feeling of fellowship for those who accompanied you there. They were your fellow explorers in a strange land.

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Soft Pedal. When you come to a now unit it is best to keep quiet and let the others find out what a good fellow you are. if you have any medals the ribbons will be on your tunic. If you have any special qualifications they are recorded on your documents, and news of them will in due course filter out from the orderly room or the flight office.

Finding Friends. If you proceed (in official language you always "proceed" and never merely "go"') to a new station alone you will feel the need of friends, and you will have as a rule little difficulty in making them provided you are not stand-offish either because of pride or shyness. The herd instinct is very strong in the human race, and the best way of becoming part and parcel of the herd is though the introduction of one of the existing members. For the airman in peacetime when the Air Force was small this was fairly easy. He would usually find at a new station at least one or two people he had met before either at his training school or at another station. That is less likely to happen to you now, so you must make your own introductions. Choose someone whose face you like and try to exchange a few words with him. If the conversation does not develop don’t try to force it and don't be discouraged. Perhaps the man likes the look of you but is busy or worried. Just have a shot at someone else, and you may find a friend for life.

Be Careful, Crœsus. Do not try to buy friendship. Only the inferior brands are on sale. Also, if you have more money than most of your comrades, do not be ostentatious with it. Some of them are as hard-working, good, and clever as you are, but have family responsibilities or do not have the good fortune to be on the pay-roll of a wealthy borough council or a bank which makes their money up to its pre-war level. They do not want your charity nor do they want their life made harder by having your money flaunted in their faces. It is better to put your surplus in war savings, as civilians are doing (and remember that some civilians are having as hard and as dangerous a time as you).

If your surplus wealth comes from a private income you will not need this advice, you have probably been taught to be discreet with your money and have less to be discreet with now, owing to bad business and high income tax.

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Old School Tie. Another thing it is desirable not to flaunt is the old school tie. The tie that is in most danger of being flaunted in the R.A.F. at the moment is not the public school tie, but the secondary and high school tie, the wearers of which probably outnumber the others by several to one. But remember that though the secondaries are beginning to fill the middle ranks of the R.A.F. most of the high ranks are still occupied by men who went to public schools, and though they may have forgotten exactly what they learned there„ they are still loyally conscious of which one they went to.

Although the increasing complexity of much of its work calls for men of "higher education," the Royal Air Force contains a very large proportion of men from elementary schools, as there are not enough of the former to meet all its requirements-another example of how in time of peace we fail to prepare for war.

If you are so well educated that you do not knew anything about elementary schools you would do well to note that people from these schools start working at the age of fourteen, do the bulk of the world's work, and have the privilege of choosing the governments, since they form the large majorities that turn the scales at elections. Sometimes they elect themselves and get into the Cabinet so that you have to salute them. Besides producing Bevins, Morrisons and Alexanders, these schools turn out Nuffields, Dickenses, Mannocks and McCuddens, so you would do well to judge the ex-elementary school man on his merits and not on the fact that he did not get one of the limited opportunities for higher education during boyhood. He may be highly educated now by reason of having studied at night school, public libraries, or in the R.A.F.

On the other hand, if you are an ex-elementary school man, do not enviously regard the other fellow as a "flannelled fool." He must have learnt something at school, probably quite a lot, and if he doesn't reveal it on every occasion when you talk to him it may be because he is trying not to be ostentatious with his learning.

A few old "workhousians" are to be found in the non-commissioned ranks. Between these and the old public school boys there is a distant camaraderie based, no doubt, on the fact that our charitable institutions and our public

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schools are run on much the same disciplinary and educational lines, with the exception that the alumni of the former are not burdened with Latin and Greek. The camaraderie is strengthened by the fact that the former often share the homes of the latter by taking jobs as servants.

However, just as people are beginning to revert to the old English custom of judging beer by its taste and not by the quality of the tankard, so there is in the R.A.F. a healthy revival of the ancient British habit of assessing a man on his character and skill and not by the school he did not go to. In the R.A.F. you are all wearing the same plain black tie, and you are all at the same school. Aviation is a hothouse of education where a man, whatever his age or station, will stall unless he continues to learn.


The inborn thirst for knowledge which most of us bring into this world is often damped by parents and schoolmasters, who, unable or too busy to answer our questions, try to make us learn something they don't very well understand themselves. Yet, though we fail to learn at school and though we fluff our examinations, there are few of us who do not go on learning new things all our lives. We learn the names and the averages of county cricketers, something about the lives and habits of film stars, and the positions of the teams in the football league. We learn those



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Perhaps the best time to start this self-education is when you have finished with your course of instruction and find yourself, as sometimes happens, even in war time, with some mental energy left after having put your best in your work There are a hundred or so trades going on about you, all of them having a direct bearing on your own, and to have some understanding of the other man's job is of some help to you in doing your own. Permanent officers in the Royal Air Force are given frequent changes of appointments, going perhaps first to a fighter squadron, then to a bomber squadron or a flying training school, with a spell as staff officers, with the result that by the time they reach high rank they are well versed in all the work of the Royal Air Force.

You may get those opportunities later. In the meantime you have plenty to learn and you will find leaming easy because you have every aid to learning--an interesting subject, qualified instructors, collective and competitive effort, a new life, open-air surroundings, and a clearly defined ambition.


“Leave" is defined as periods exceeding 48 hours. “Pass” refers to periods of less than 48 hours. Any time on pass is not deducted from the periods allowed by "King's Regulations."

That "leave and passes are indulgences granted at the discretion of the air or other officer commanding" is a very definite statement in “King's Regulations." The Air Force Act gives you no rights in the matter. When "King's Regulations" deal with leave and passes they merely state what may be granted and make no mention of anything that must be granted.

The periods allowed in peace time were 28 days a year to airmen, 56 days a year to airmen pilots, 14 days before discharge or transfer to the reserve, 28 days before going abroad, and on returning home a period varying with the length of time spent abroad. In addition there was local leave abroad, compassionate leave, sick leave, and special leave up to 21 days when an airman had been awarded a medal or other distinction. These peace-time customs are mentioned only to con-

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vince you that the Air Force is normally quite leave-minded - so much that many airmen did not bother to take all the leave they might have had.

What you can get in war time depends on "the exigencies of the Service," and these of course will vary from time to time and from station to station. At an operational unit only a few men can be spared at a time. At a training school a



whole class might go together. It is all left to the decision of your superior officers, so you must make local inquiries, read station orders on the subject, and submit your application.


The establishment of the Royal Air Force provides that there shall be a certain number of non-commissioned officers in each trade, though for the higher ranks certain trades are grouped together. To obtain promotion you must be recommended by your Commanding Officer and be able to pass the appropriate trade test and an educational test. It is also necessary that a vacancy should exist.

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You may sometimes be promoted to fill a local vacancy, but generally promotion is spread throughout the service. Vacancies are obviously most likely to occur in large units or where new units are being formed, and it would be manifestly unfair if a man who was stationed in a small remote unit was deprived of all opportunity of filling one of these vacancies, since a man is not free in the R.A.F., as he is in civil life, to transfer himself to a place where there are likely to be most opportunities of advancement`

if you are entered for training as a member of an air crew you will be reclassified to Leading Aircraftman on beginning your flying training and promoted to Sergeant on completion of it, unless you are recommended for a commission instead.

In the case of airmen training as air crews a provisional recommendation for selection to a commission is made by the selection board on acceptance. This recommendation is confirmed or modified by the Commending Officer of the initial ground training school. The final recommendation for appointment to a commission is made by the Commanding Officer of the service school at which the airman completes his training. It you are not recommended for a commission then, you may be recommended later after a period of service in a unit.

Is it worth it? The question may then arise, is it worth your while to exchange the sergeant's 12s. 6d. a day for the acting pilot officer's 11s. 10d? The answer is simple. If you are any good at all (and you will not be recommended unless you are) you will not remain an acting pilot officer for long, and you will soon be drawing a higher rate of pay as pilot officer, flying officer, or higher rank. And whether your promotion is slow or rapid, you should consider that the honour of holding a commission is well worth a little sacrifice of pay.


You may have joined the Royal Air Force because you wanted to fly or fight or both, or because you felt that in it your special qualifications could best be employed for victory. Colonel T. E. Lawrence when he joined the R.A.F.

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as "Aircraftman Shaw" is said to have told a flight sergeant that he had joined in order to write a book, and there may be other reasons why people join.

Whatever the reason, you are in a service which has produced great men, efficient machines, and fine organization, a service which saved the Empire in 1940, and now faces the task of saving the world.

Victories in the past have been won by courage, discipline, and devotion to duty. Our history is strewn with examples. The Air Force has need of these qualities, and it finds them in plenty. But it has need of other things, and its requirements were well expressed by a former Air Minister, Lord Londonderry, when he wrote:-

"The fellowship of the air is as real as that of the sea, and a man will find within it ready help and mutual understanding, varied interests, and friends everywhere. There is plenty of room for boldness and courage and endurance, but we are opposing our combined wits and our fragile machines against powerful and hardly calculable forces of nature, and we have learnt by mournful experience that clear thinking and accurate knowledge are indispensable foundations of all our work. Therefore, mathematicians, engineers, and scientists unite with pilots and navigators in common endeavour, and in whichever capacity a man serves his generation in the craft of flying, he will find that he relies upon the others and they on him, for success.


Here are brief notes of some of the technical qualifications required of tradesmen in the Royal Air Force. The qualifications, the age limits, the medical standards required, and the number of vacancies all vary from time to time, so you must make further inquiries at your local recruiting centre.

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[table of trades, groups and requirements]

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Leonard Taylor, “Ground Gen for Airmen,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 2, 2024,

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