The author has researched a fascinating and unusual story from World War Two. The battles, politics and technology of the 1939-1945 War have been covered by a mountain of books and miles of film, but almost no attention has been paid to one area that is now becoming important as families try to trace the stories and end of relatives who fought in a global conflict that saw combatants fighting in almost every kind of climatic condition and almost every type of terrain.
NAME: Missing Believed Killed, Casualty Policy and the Missing Research and EnquiryService 1939-1952
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Stuart Hadaway
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
GENRE: Non fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War Two, 1939-1945, Second World War, MIA, KIA, MBK, forensic research, casualty recording
DESCRIPTION: The author has researched a fascinating and unusual story from World War Two. The battles, politics and technology of the 1939-1945 War have been covered by a mountain of books and miles of film, but almost no attention has been paid to one area that is now becoming important as families try to trace the stories and end of relatives who fought in a global conflict that saw combatants fighting in almost every kind of climatic condition and almost every type of terrain. In previous battles and wars, the dead were often hastily buried close to where they fell. The Great War was something of a turning point because so many were killed in a relatively small geographic area where the conditions made it very hard to recover bodies. The result was that villages and towns built memorials and huge graveyards were established close to the great battles of the Western Front. Sailors were still buried at sea or in remote graveyards where relatives were unlikely to reach. When the next global war began it was a different environment and one difference was that many of those who fell were airmen. Parachuting from a burning aircraft with serious wounds meant that aircrew could fall into remote ground and never be found. Those who crashed in their aircraft could lay undiscovered because their plane buried them and itself deep in soft ground. Aircraft could stray far off course to hamper any eventual attempt to locate crash sites and the remains of any crew who went down with the aircraft. Eight decades after a plane was lost, it might be discovered by accident in a desert, a jungle or underwater. The size of the task facing those responsible for accounting for all missing personnel was enormous. The author tells the story of how the Air Ministry established the Missing Research Section in 1941 and expanded it to just 14 people in late 1944. How these 14 were expected to locate 42,000 missing aircrew is perhaps as much a mystery as the location of the missing flyers. With the War in Europe ended and signs of an end to all fighting, the MRS was expanded to more than 350 personnel, still a very small unit to locate so many missing people. The author has done a first class job of explaining how the unit operated, why people joined it, and how it rapidly developed forensic skills to search out remains from the Arctic to the jungles of Burma and also operate behind what was becoming the Iron Curtain as relations between the Soviet Union and its former Allies deteriorated. The story itself is fascinating and unusual, but many readers will find the final chapters particularly valuable in explaining how to trace RAF members through available records and providing details of where the records are kept and how to access them.