How to look for... Royal Air Force operations record books 1911-1963

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • All

What are these records?

These are Royal Air Force (RAF) operations record books (ORBs), though the oldest books pre-date the formation of the RAF in April 1918 and cover operations carried out by its predecessors, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

Most of these Air Ministry records date from the Second World War but there are some from the First World War as well as books from between the wars and beyond, up to the mid-1960s.

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.

What can I view online?

Series AIR 27 contains over four thousand pieces but it’s pieces AIR 27/1 to AIR 27/2893 that you can view and download online (£). To view the remainder of the series, which covers ORBs right up to the early 1990s, you would need to visit The National Archives in Kew.

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.

Some of these ORBs are searchable by the names of the crew, at The Genealogist website (£).

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)