Can you de­ci­pher this Sec­ond World War RAF ser­vice record?

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - QUESTIONS & ANSWERS - Phil To­maselli

QI’m try­ing to find out what my fa­ther-in-law, Fred­er­ick Les­lie Simm, did dur­ing the Sec­ond World War in Egypt and Italy. He joined the RAF on 10 De­cem­ber 1941 and served over­seas from May 1943 to July 1946. His ser­vice records don’t seem to re­veal what he did in ei­ther coun­try, or how and when he be­came a Cor­po­ral. Ann Simm, by email

ARAF ser­vice records are dif­fi­cult to in­ter­pret be­cause the RAF used ini­tials, acronyms and numbers to iden­tify post­ings and peo­ple served in a va­ri­ety of sta­tions, train­ing units, squadrons and sup­port units dur­ing their ca­reer. Records were also com­piled in Bri­tain so de­tails of ser­vice abroad are some­times in­cor­rect. The first post­ing for your fa­therin-law, Fred­er­ick Les­lie Simm, was 3 Re­cep­tion Cen­tre (Bournemouth), then 10 ( Sig­nals) Re­cruit Cen­tre (Black­pool). There he be­came a WOP (Wire­less Op­er­a­tor). He then moved to 3 Wire­less School. Af­ter a hospi­tal stay, he served in a se­ries of RAF Sta­tions: Swan­ton Mor­ley, Hon­ing­ton and Snet­ter­ton Heath. RAF sta­tion his­to­ries can be found on­line (search by RAF sta­tion name).

Next, Fred­er­ick is at Ren­scombe Down, where se­cret Air Min­istry Ex­per­i­men­tal Sta­tions (AMES) were es­tab­lished. These mo­bile radar units op­er­ated close to the front­line to de­tect en­emy air­craft. He was posted to the Mid­dle East (the record’s out of or­der here) then to the North West Africa Air Force in May 1943. He didn’t re­ceive it, but may have been en­ti­tled to the Africa Star medal. By July 1943, Fred­er­ick was with 8032 AMES whose records are in AIR 29/191 at TNA Kew ( but not on­line), serv­ing with them through the Si­cily cam­paign and in Italy. He’s noted as re­join­ing them on 17 Au­gust in Si­cily, where they op­er­ated at coastal sites de­tect­ing Ger­man air­craft and guid­ing fight­ers to­wards them. In Oc­to­ber, they landed at Salerno, con­tin­u­ing to watch for en­emy air­craft, sev­eral of which were shot down as a re­sult of their work.

In April 1944 he was posted to 242 Group (a mixed Group of bomber, fighter and sea­plane squadrons), then had two spells in hospi­tal be­fore go­ing back to 242 Group, re­turn­ing to the UK and be­ing dis­charged in Septem­ber 1946. An ac­count of 8032 AMES in Si­cily and Italy is on­line (

FL Simm’s dis­charge. Post­ings dur­ing his time in the RAF are shown on sub­se­quent pages

Simm’s cer­tifi­cate of ser­vice with a pho­to­graph of the young air­man

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