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390 Pilots added thanks to RAF Museum Archive Records

2015-10-02

The RAF Museum maintains an archives with pilot log books. The story of how the RAF came to maintain the log books itself is fascinating, and in their words;

"When aircrew were reported missing their effects were collected together and held in a central depository. Whilst in most cases their property was later handed over to next of kin, unclaimed logbooks were retained by the Air Ministry. By 1959, these unclaimed logbooks covered some 6500 feet of shelving. It was decided that representative samples would be preserved in the Public Record Office and the remainder destroyed at the end of 1960. This decision was announced in the Press and a number of people claimed logbooks. But the vast majority were destroyed, ironically just a few years before the RAF Museum was founded."

Wow! At least some were preserved, but what did we lose? We (allspitfirepilots.org) were given an XML file containing summary information on these remaining log books. The file contains a record for each pilot log book in the collection, so there were some duplicates in the 500 records. We were able to successfully parse (using code) all of these records, and add 390 pilots to the site, with name, rank, and log book reference no. We also skipped pilots who were tagged as Civilian (after the war), but, we certainly included auxiliary transport, and as a result a number of female pilot logbooks are available. We could also determine, possibly (if the log book covered a date range past 1945), whether the pilot survived the war. This would be indicated in the status. If the pilot was KIA or did not survive the war, we don't have that information, and, would rely on users to add this. A link to the RAF aircrew log book page at RAF museum is linked to each of these pilot pages, should a user wish to visit the archives, they can use this accession number. Hopefully if a user does visit the archives, they will think to use the features of this site to fill in the details such as aircraft flown (by serial number) or other.

We didn't have access to additional meta data, for example, country of birth. We had to provide a value for our database, so we made all of them "United Kingdom" fully knowing that a good portion may be from other countries, and users are invited to use the wiki feature to research pilots online or via the archives and make corrections. Then, a second quick pass to at least change the Czech and Polish pilot (obvious) names, and, either we'll get to the rest 1 by 1, or maybe some users will come along and join in on editing pilot pages. That's the whole point of the site really, to harness the wisdom of the crowd and build a site that honours the pilots. Wouldn't it be ideal to have electronic copies of the log books available, perhaps the museum will get to that one day, in the meantime, you've got to visit the archives to read them if you want the operational details.

To review the list, click pilots, then, click "most recently added" (as of Oct 2015) and you should get that list, about 30 pages worth of 10 pilots per page, you will see standard text in each pilot description indicating the source, and the archives accession numbers, that's how you will know you've landed on a page that needs some work. Should you visit the London RAF museum archives, please be in touch, we'd love to work more closely with you.

We're still looking for international volunteers and even board members, so we can build up a non-profit and continue this project.

Kurt
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