My research into the origins and early history of 419 Flight and 138 Squadron started a few years after my father died, leaving me his logbook and a few photos. He had been posted to No. 1419 Flight in August 1941, and he flew as John Austin’s Wireless-Operator/Air Gunner until February 1942. He remained at Tempsford as 138 Squadron’s Gunnery Leader, flying occasional operations, until near the end of 1942 when he left for pilot training in Canada.
When I had finished reconstructing my father’s wartime career — he had talked to me about it only once, and was reticent even then — I was curious to find out how 419 Flight had been started. There was little information about the eight months between August 1940 and April 1941, and there were no clues about how it had been started. Ken Merrick and Freddie Clark had attempted to fill the gap, but Ken’s focus had been wider and longer, and Freddie, a 138 Squadron pilot later in the war, was understandably focused on the Tempsford years. Crucially, several files and documents had not been available to them. In addition it took me several years and some good fortune to trace the owners of many documents in private hands.
I started with my father’s logbook, John Austin’s help and encouragement, Freddie Clark’s book on Tempsford, and a National Archives reader’s card. About ten years later, in April 2014 I gave a lecture to the RAF Historical Association about the origins and formation of Britain’s Airborne Forces at Ringway, which mentioned some of these early events. Several of the RAF officers involved with the foundation of the Parachute Training School at Ringway were to play key roles in the development of 419 Flight. I’m still unearthing more about this fascinating subject. I hope this evolving site brings it to life for you.