How to look for Royal Air Force operations record books 1939-1945

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

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We do not provide copies of online records – please download to view

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Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

What are these records?

These are Air Ministry operations record books (ORBs) for squadrons. Most of them date from the Second World War but there are some from the 1920s and 1930s and a few from the First World War.

The ORBs, in series AIR 27, were created to provide a complete record of a unit from the time of its formation. Each book includes an accurate record of operations carried out by the unit.

This online collection also includes some operations record books for dominion and Allied Air Force squadrons under British Command.

At present only part of the series (AIR 27/1-2893) is available to view online.

What information do the records contain?

The ORBs comprise of:

  • ‘summary of events’ forms (also known as Form 540)
  • ‘detail of work carried out’ forms (also known as Form 541)
  • appendices where applicable (which may include operational orders, miscellaneous reports and telegraphed messages)

Information includes:

  • aircraft type and number
  • names
  • rank of flight crew
  • names of passengers
  • weather conditions
  • flight/sortie details

The records can be used to create a list of all the flying operations that RAF aircrew completed. They are also an excellent source for building a picture of squadron operations.

How do I search the records?

You can search the records using the fields below.

You don’t need to complete the date field to find a record but it may help you by narrowing your search.

Alternatively, go to Discovery, our catalogue, to search by catalogue reference.

Date (yyyy):

Date (yyyy)

What do the records look like?

The records are arranged by squadron number and date and time of sortie or flight.

The majority of the records consist of standard RAF Form 540 diary pages with a mix of handwritten and typed formats.

To get an idea of what the records look like have a look at the below examples which show the summary of events and the records of events of 101 Squadron for December 1943.

Summary of events (PDF, 0.80MB)

Records of events (PDF, 4.26MB)