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The Back Seat Boys are in the ascendant.

  flycatcher1 20:11 29 Jan 2016

I see that a Royal Air Force Navigator is to be the new C.D.S and a Royal Marine his deputy. For a Navigator to climb to the top indicates that he must be rather special and it is about time that a Marine reached the top.

  john bunyan 21:17 29 Jan 2016


I think this is the first time in many years a RM has reached 4* rank. With 2 DSO's he is, perhaps not a Back seat boy...

An advantage with RM officers is that during their career they work with all 3 services at various times so have a good overall view.

My father was a RAF Navigator but only got to P/O when KIA 1943 (Bomber Command Lancaster) .

  morddwyd 09:49 30 Jan 2016

Navigators took over the weapons functions when bomb aimers went out of fashion so I worked a lot with them.

Grey haired ones in particular were good company at squadron parties and could be relied upon to stand their round and nod sagely while you slagged off the Station Commander and all the execs. Lesser beings would whimper pteously and assume a hunted look!

  Forum Editor 10:02 30 Jan 2016

My father was a Bomber Command Lancaster navigator. I think he would have been good company at squadron parties - my mother certainly told me some interesting tales about his off-duty exploits, particularly when he had been playing Rugby. He had a DSO and a DFM, and I have them now - he died a long time ago.

  flycatcher1 10:18 30 Jan 2016

morddwyd I know what you mean about the grey haired ones but, unfortunately, it always seemed that the "Lesser Ones" got on. The Observer trade originated in WW1 qnd contined until halfway through WW2. They were trained in navigation, bomb aiming and radio work, the FE's Father was one. Post war the Bomb Aimer trade was dropped and I was trained as a Nav/ Bombaimer.

John Bunyan Your Father was like so many, before me I have the Observers Badge earned by a Cousin who was kia in a Halifax. I meant no disrespect about Back Seat Marines it is just that it is unusual to see them in high ranking positions even though they, like many Navigators, are there when they are needed and have the abilities required for high rank.

It is good to see that the best rise to the top without regard of Service or professional trades. Shame that the Political world does not operate in the same way.

  HondaMan 12:29 30 Jan 2016

FE and they are only the ones she knew about !!

  morddwyd 19:44 30 Jan 2016

I can remember the shock in the Kipper Fleet the first time a navigator was appointed Captain. In the patrol aircraft of that time he did't even have a window to look out of!

With airborne sensors of today it was not unusual for a Nimrod navigator to have tactical control of a couple of other aircraft and half a dozen assorted ships and submarines from as many different countries.

  flycatcher1 11:05 31 Jan 2016

In a Maritime Tactical situation it is often sensible to have another Aircrew Trade as Captain. Navigator Captains were tried in the "V" Force but the idea was soon discarded. In the Transport Force we sometimes had Aircraft Commanders but, in my experience, they were always Pilots.

An old pilot friend of mine, name of JW like the Whisky Man and very apt, on his first WW2 operational flight lost an engine and did an early return. Same thing happened on his second flight so for the third attempt the Navigator was replaced by an experienced Observer and he was made the Captain. They were shot down and JW was a PoW for the rest of the war.

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