Blog22 Jan 2013
Our resident expert Stephen Rigden, pictured below, answers your queries.
From Lawrence Plaskett:
‘I am amazed, since I have a family chart of 1600 names, to find a surprising absence as late as WWI. My grandfather was Herbert Charles Plaskett. He was born in June 1875 and died in 1964. I knew him fairly well and I possess a short account of his life but I have little idea about his war service in WWI. I have had periods of searching for it but to no avail. I also have the 1911 census record of his family.
It was said in my family that Herbert went to Italy, where he backed up the forces as a lorry driver. Apparently he found it very pleasant because he could get around and visit the various art galleries of Italy, something that his menial railway job at home could not provide for him. There was no mention of warlike activities but I think that since this was often repeated it is likely to be right. I have a photo of him wearing an Air Service badge but I have no idea whether he was always in the Air Service and do not know in which year he went in and came out, but suspect 1915 as the year for entry.
Recently, on contacting my cousin, a daughter of Herbert’s sister, I was told surprising things. She lived with Herbert during his later life and said that he had a respiratory symptom that he blamed on gas that he had been exposed to on the Western front. She said he was at Ypres, where he experienced a ‘hard time’, being finally invalided out due to the exposure to gas. Was he in the Air Service there?
There were some WWI records destroyed in WWII in London. Could they have been among them? Or is there a special place to look at the Air Service records?’
‘Thanks for the interesting question about your airman grandfather Herbert Charles Plaskett.
Generally speaking, records for servicemen in the Air Force and Navy are less well served online than those of the Army. At present, on findmypast.co.uk we have one interesting record set which does provide certain information about your grandfather. This is the RAF Muster Roll as at 1 April 1918. There was no RAF as such prior to the spring of 1918, when it was formed out of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. This set of records shows Air Mechanic 1 no 16183 H C Plaskett. He is described as having been previously a Driver (Mechanical Transport). He joined the forces on 11 December 1915, enlisted for the duration of the war, and was promoted on 1 June 1917. His normal rate of pay in RAF from 1918 was 4s 0d per day.
So he certainly was in the RAF and in one of its precursors, although which isn’t clear at this juncture. The National Archives holds a very nice record set, series AIR 79, which includes service records of men such as your grandfather and which will be digitised and appear online in the fullness of time – probably within the next one to two years. In the meantime, you could either visit The National Archives at Kew, or hire a local researcher there, to look at the original papers. This should clarify what your grandfather got up to during WWI.’
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