Hi Dion, you're very welcome, its great to make contact with another of the 75 family, and your posts here and on the Feltwell site have been appreciated by those of us interested in the Squadron history.
I have a favour to ask of you, as I'm extremely curious about a comment you've made about Bill Jordan's 1941 visit to the Squadron to sort out a problem with the Kiwis not wanting to change to RAF uniforms:
Post by allanbreckell on Mar 6, 2015 9:47:15 GMT 12
Hi I am the Grandson of J A Breckell 60077 originally of Liverpool, My farther was born 31/3/1937 in Liverpool. we moved to NZ to locate my Grandfather in 1964
He had settled in NZ after the war, in Auckland, Howick and became quite successful in publishing, Breckell and Nichols publishing sold in the early 60's to Lord Thompson of Fleet Street. made the London times 19/11/1964 I have his medals, and apparently his log books are with his eldest NZ son born in the 50's here in NZ.
I've been away from the board for a while so sorry for the late reply.
All I know about the uniforms story is what my grandfather told me, and that was that the RAF directed them to change their RNZAF uniforms for RAF uniforms. I don't know if this was an across the board directive to include everyone from the various Air Forces serving with the RAF. The Kiwis at 75(NZ) Sqn strongly objected to this and Bill Jordan had to come in to help sort it out. In the end they won the day and got to keep their RNZAF uniforms.
I just do not know what to make of this story about ordering RNZAF personnel to change over to RAF uniforms. To start with, RAF and RNZAF uniforms were practically identical anyway, and I should think that even among British manufactured RAF uniforms you could find differences of shade between items from different manufacturers (probably caused by the dyes used by the manufacturer of the cloth in the first instance). Also the badges of rank would have been all but identical, and under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme agreement, members of Commonwealth air forces were not only entitled to wear the uniform and badges of their parent air force (except those who were actually members of the RAF anyway), but these benefits had all been agreed to by the RAF as an inducement to the wavering government representatives to sign in the first place. I just cannot see that even the AOC Bomber Command, for instance, could arbitrarily issue such an order which would have been in direct contravention of a government to government agreement, which although originally rather vague with respect to Article XV, was later tightened up and then further extended to include the naming and numbering of Dominion squadrons. And for the life of me I can see no reason whatsoever why such an order would have been issued in the first place. It would be bound to cause much dissension in the ranks, and upset very much ALL the Dominion governments, which would not have been a good thing. David D
Thinking on, there must be something more to the "compulsory uniform exchange" story, but it just could not be as suggested. Perhaps it was the WAY certain individuals chose to wear uniform, or maybe it concerned wearing of certain unofficial badges, or even the NZ identification badges, although there should not have been any real dispute about the correct wearing of these items. David D
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 16, 2015 17:00:09 GMT 12
I understand that the New Zealand-made battledress serge was of a much higher quality than the British-made serge. and famously Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery acquired several full sets of the NZ-made Army battledress and ditched his own British stuff. So I guess it's probable that NZ-made RNZAF uniforms were probably less scratchy and thus more comfortable than that which would be supplied by the RAF stores system.
But I agree David hat it's quite strange that a whole squadron might be told to ditch their uniforms and replace them en masse. It seems uneconomic and pointless. The Army would make units change to new uniforms en masse at certain times, usually after coming out of the front lines of a major battle. But it's unlikely the Air Force did this, their uniforms would not have worn out as fast as the Army's to require replacement, and the personnel will all have joined the unit and the Air Force on different dates so uniforms will have worn at different rates and many would be wearing fairly new uniforms. Very strange.
Maybe the officer who gave this order owned a British wool mill?
Another (major) problem would be the officers' uniforms, which were actually the personal property of the owner, and NOT the government (as in the case of airmen and NCOs). That would be an almost impossible order to justify, let alone carry out. Also RNZAF personnel would have gone overseas with only SD uniforms in the period up till late 1942, as the RNZAF version of battledress only come about at that time. The RAF introduced their version of battledress in late 1940, but only to aircrew, and was consequently labelled as a flying suit until 1942, at which point it began to be issued to non-flying personnel as a general type of working uniform. Thereafter SDs were normally only worn for more formal occasions, with battledress being the first choice for most personnel on most occasions. David D
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 16, 2015 18:26:53 GMT 12
Actually in all the photos, and particularly the one in which Bill Jordan is there supposedly to clear up the dispute, all the men are wearing SD uniform and of course Sgt Alec Rowe was on the squadron from March to October 1941, so no RNZAF battledress to be seen.
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 16, 2015 18:30:11 GMT 12
I guess if the Station Diary can be located, and checked between March and October 1941 for visits from the New Zealand High Commissioner to Britain, Bill Jordan, then it may give a date, and if there are no details of a dispute perhaps the date can be checked against records of the High Commission because his visits to stations and squadrons will have been documented, surely, particularly if there was a dispute.
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 16, 2015 18:41:30 GMT 12
Bill Jordan visited Feltwell's Sergeant's Mess on the 13th of August 1941 to attend a "smoke-concert" to celebrate with the men over the awarding of the Victoria Cross to Sgt James Ward.
He also visited the station on Tuesday 2nd of September it seems, where he and his wife watched the squadron leave on a raid, waited six hours and welcomed them back, and then went to the mess with the boys.
Hi Dave, David and Dion, thanks for the further thoughts on this curious episode.
I don't know if it could be related but I read somewhere recently about an airman being pulled up for wearing Canadian buttons, and having to explain that he was actually Canadian, and therefore allowed to wear them. Which would suggest that he was wearing RAF issue except for the buttons? Was there some small, visible difference between RAF and RNZAF uniforms that upset the powers-that-be's understanding of the word?
Dave, I've tried to track Bill Jordan's visits by cross-checking anecdotal references, photos, newspaper reports, etc. against the ORBs, with not much success. Seems like a lot of visits went un-recorded. I have access to the Mepal Station Logs but unfortunately not the Feltwell set. Very frustrating.
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 17, 2015 16:15:58 GMT 12
The two visits to Feltwell that I noted above for Bill Jordan came from articles in Papers Past which noted them.
Another thing about the uniforms, the Free French Air Force and the Polish Air Force members who were flying with the RAF wore distinctively different uniforms from the RAF standard, I believe. So why would someone get upset by the almost identical RNZAF uniforms, I wonder?
I personally think this might be a misunderstanding. Maybe the RNZAF members were a lot like their cobbers in the NZ Army who were being continually censured by the Brits, and ignoring them, for wearing no hats, and walking round with hands in pockets rather than saluting? Although this does seem unlike the RNZAF who had higher standards than the Army.
The colour of RAAF uniforms in Ww2 was unlike any other Commonwealth air service, and if you look at the RAF stores system catalogues (AP 1086, Stores section 22, etc) you will find under flying clothing (22A) that stocks of RAAF battledress items were maintained in (presumably) the RAF stores system for supply to RAAF personnel requiring new items, so no prejudice there! However this may have been somewhat later in the war, so what the REAL problem with RNZAF uniforms (or badges) was in 1941 remains to be uncovered. David D
Here's a photo (admittedly not a very good one) of aircrew from around the same time as in question.
Artie Ashworth's crew from his first tour with 75 (NZ) Sqdn, around May 1941:
RNZAF wearing battledress (left, McSherry), and RAF wearing battledress (right, Broad), while Ashworth is RNZAF wearing SD (I presume?), and Wilson RAF also in SD. Is it my eyes, or does there look to be a colour difference between the two SDs?
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 18, 2015 16:04:43 GMT 12
As David said earlier, Chris, officers had their uniforms tailored in London and they owned their uniforms - they were not service issued, so there was often slight variation between uniforms depending which tailor in Savile Row they went to. I am sure tat the RNZAF will not of issued Ashworth with a uniform at this stage of the war. Perhaps later when he returned to NZ and flew Corsairs, then yes.
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 18, 2015 19:46:31 GMT 12
I think all ranks had both. The battledress would have been issued rather than tailored, I'm sure. But the officers had to get their uniforms, including Mess kit, tailored when they first joined the RAF. I seem to recall they had to pay for it themselves, too. David can you confirm this?
Yes, all officers had their SD uniforms tailored individually, but they were issued with factory-made battledress when these eventually became available. The RNZAF did not introduce battledress until about August 1942. However battledress in NZ was initially in very short supply, so issue was severely restricted in the first instance to ADUs, ACUs and WMUs, and Aircrew (officers and NCOs only, and specifically NOT to ordinary airmen), with other categories to be included as supplies permitted. Officers could obtain one complete battledress suit "on prepayment" but were NOT permitted to purchase BG (blue grey) serge for the purpose of having a tailor-made version made up. However in the RAF the tailor-made battledress suit became de rigeur for senior officers during WW2, and this fad spread to the RNZAF postwar. So NZ battledress would not show up in the UK until late 1942 or early 1943, with aircrew graduates from Canada as well as direct from NZ. However those RNZAF aircrew personnel already serving in UK would have been issued with British-made battledress when it became available from late 1940 onwards, although non-flying personnel would not receive it till about 1942 when it became general RAF issue and was no longer considered purely as a "flying suit".
Officers paid for practically all their uniform items (which is why it is strictly correct to say that they OWNED them), but bear in mid that they were given an "initial uniform outfit grant" with which to purchase all items listed in the appropriate clothing scale, but as all former officers from that time will tell you, the grant was ALWAYS insufficient for this purpose from the start, so the officer was forced to subsidize the purchase to some extent. This would have been partly made up by another grant known as the Uniform Upkeep Allowance, which was payable annually to all officers for the purpose (to replace worn-out collars, socks, underclothing, etc, plus dry cleaning and laundering, and repairs if required), and was initially 10 pound per year. Incidentally, later in the UK in WW2 a moderately sized trade had developed in second-hand RAF officer uniforms (with items being supplied by officers who had left the service for any reason, or been killed or missing) with what remained being auctioned off or purchased by dealers. Thus an officer could pick up a near complete second-hand set of kit for substantially less than an all-new one, although you would probably require some tailoring modifications to get that perfect fit and length of leg/arm, but times were tough! Also in the UK later in war, some manufacturers provided factory-made brand new officer uniforms in standard sizes, if you weren't too proud.
All RNZAF officers who graduated as such in New Zealand would have had NZ-tailored SD uniforms, but as the requirement for Mess Dress was only compulsory for those of F/L rank, most did not bother, but some junior officers purchased tailored mess kit in NZ prior to departure for UK. However the provision of mess kit ceased to be enforced after outbreak of WW2, and soon afterwards its use on stations also ceased to be a requirement, so those with such kit had to stash it away somewhere for the duration, and in NZ it did not really appear again until about 1948/49 in any strength. Aircrew trainees who were sent to Canada during the war under the Empire Air Training Scheme (or BCATP if you like) and who were commissioned on graduation, equipped themselves with Canadian-tailored SD uniforms. A peculiarity of the Canadian-made SD caps was that they possessed a wider chin strap than British and New Zealand-made caps; in fact this greater strap width became the standard for this item postwar.
Most of this arcane knowledge I managed to build up during an "apprenticeship" with the RNZAF Museum at Wigram where I was invited to undertake the complete cataloguing of the textiles collection, and to write a reference book as a follow up. The research for latter probably occupied more time than the cataloguing, but the "hands-on" inspection of actual items provided great insight by the unexpected additional information it provided. David D