RAF aircraft in bombing raid, by Reginald Mount  (cat ref INF 3/432)

10 January 2014

A collection of Second World War RAF casualty packs is now available to view at The National Archives.

The records were produced by the Air Ministry's casualty branch following the loss of an aircraft or personnel. They include accident reports and correspondence with next of kin.

The first tranche of AIR 81 records contains 316 packs dating from the beginning of the war in September 1939 to May 1940. However many of the files contain correspondence which runs into the 1950s and even the 1960s.

Notable packs in the first tranche include records relating to the raid on the Albert Canal Bridges in Belgium on 12 May 1940, during which five aircraft from RAF No 12 Squadron were lost. The raid resulted in the award of the war's first Victoria Crosses (VC) to Flying Officer Donald Garland and Sergeant Thomas Gray (AIR 81/293), for valour at the expense of their lives.

While some packs deal with crew who were missing and presumed dead, others provide new insight into the service of those who were captured and made prisoners of war. These include Acting Squadron Leader Kenneth Doran (AIR 81/179), who led one of the first RAF attacks of the war on 4 September 1939 and who was later shot down and captured over Norway. You can also read about Sergeant Alfred Fripp (AIR 81/29) a survivor of the Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp (of 'The Great Escape' fame) who died last year at the age of 98.

Casualty packs for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines are in ADM 358 and for the Army in WO 361.

Further tranches in the AIR 81 series will be released over the next few years.

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