After enlisting in 1941 and completing his training at No.1 Technical Training School in St. Thomas Ontario,
Shultis became a member of the No. 9419 Servicing Echelon which was stationed at Middleton St. George.
Each squadron in Bomber Command was assigned a separate group designated as a Servicing Echelon. The group
used the squadron it was attached to as part of their number, all Bomber Command SE units began with "9".
Hence 419 Squadron's SE was 9419.
The idea of SE units started with fighter command, who began to look ahead to a time when fighter bases would
be mobile and the squadrons working out of France. Their idea was that SE units could be moved around to any base as they were
needed, rather than being part of one squadron at one base.
For Bomber Command, based in Britain the idea was not followed in the same way. Each bomber had a Sergeant or Acting Sergeant
(Corporal) along with five or more trades looking after an operational aircraft. Each Flight had a Flight Sergeant
responsible for ten aircraft ground crews.
The details of what the SE unit's duties were seems to be hard to find. The main day to day maintenance for bombers
was carried out by men of different trades who were assigned an aircraft under a Sergeant's watchful eye. For the more lengthy
repairs the tasks may have fallen to the SE units. In one of the photos of Cpl. Shultis there is a wing tank sitting on the ground next to them. The tank was not easily reached and would have involved removal of wing ribs to
facilitate the work. This may have been the work of the men working in a SE unit. It is not clear if the Service Echelon men reported to the Squadron
Engineering Officer or the Base Engineering Officer.
Like the ground crews attached to an aircraft, the 9419 SE did their work outside in all the elements the weather could
throw at them. It was a cold, miserable and often dangerous duty during the winter and rainy weather months.
Mention in Despatches
For recognition of his work within the 9419 Service Echelon, Cpl. Norman Shultis was presented a Mention in Dispatches in 1948.
One of the oldest Imperial forms of recognition for bravery or distinguished service is when a serviceman
or servicewoman was Mentioned in Despatches.
A despatch is an official report, written by a senior commander in the field to pass on information about
the progress of military operations. Commanders would include in their despatches the names of those
deserving attention to their services. Mentions may be for a specific act of bravery or for a period
of outstanding service. During the Boer War it became common practice to list the names at the end of a despatch.
If your name appeared in these lists you were said to have been "Mentioned in Despatches". The despatches
were usually published in The London Gazette, so a mention equated to a public commendation.
This and the Victoria Cross were the only forms of recognition for gallantry or distinguished service in
action that could be made posthumously.
Prior to 1919 those Mentioned in Despatches did not receive any form of recognition other than having their
names published in The London Gazette. In 1919 a certificate was introduced to acknowledge those who received
The following year an emblem of bronze oak leaves was issued to individuals who had been Mentioned in Despatches
between 4 August 1914 and 10 August 1920. The device was to be worn at a low angle in the centre of the ribbon
of the Victory Medal. Only one device was awarded per person, even if an individual was mentioned more than once.
After the First World War the emblem was changed to a single bronze oak leaf. Emblems granted for mentions
during the Second World War were worn in the centre of the 1939-1945 War Medal.
Our thanks to the Shultis family for allowing us to present the photo collection of Norman Shultis.