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Air81 Casualty Files at the National Archives, Kew

Allied Air Force Research would like to thank Sarah Minney

for contributing the following article to our website.

The best series of records at the National Archives for finding information on a downed WW2 aircraft is the AIR 81 series. These records, for reasons of sensitivity, are only now being made available to the public. Many contain sensitive information on the crew and the circumstances of their crash and where applicable, their deaths. Some even contain photographs. This sort of thing would have caused great distress to immediate family.

© Clare Wilson, AAFR

As soon as it was known that an aircraft was missing or had crashed, a file was opened by the Casualty Department of the RAF. There is an excellent book “RAF WWII, Operational And Flying Accident Casualty Files in the National Archives – exploring the contents” by Mary Hudson which gives great detail of how the information was received and what happened next. It explains very clearly how different departments got involved and therefore what type of papers one can expect to find in the files.

The AIR 81 series is catalogued on the National Archives catalogue “Discovery” with a great deal of information. Here is an example of a recently opened file:

This shows that you can search by Aircraft, crew names or date.

This is an on-going project and only files up to early 1942 are open so far. Of course, Covid has delayed opening of these files but they now seem to be back on track and being released in batches every couple of months or so.


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