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Dates on Databases Do Not Agree with Other Sources


Sometimes you will find a date in one of our databases that differs from one you find elsewhere.

First thing to state up front is that we do NOT claim our database material to be correct. We HOPE it is, and experience has shown over the past several years that the number of corrections we have been offered has been trivial compared to the millions of datapoints encompassed by the totality of our databases. However, PLEASE do not assume our data is correct and that which you have found elsewhere is in error. Rather, send us the discrepancy so we can check it out and either correct our own data, or include a note to the effect other information exists. 

We have spent many man-years developing our databases BUT this did not include exhaustive checking of the facts themselves. We simply don't have the resources to do that. The origins of our data are many, from official national archives to data found in books or assembled by other researchers and used with their permission. Even National Archives can get things wrong and if they do, we will probably have it wrong too. Ditto authors and other researchers.

Our own work has been initially to organize the data, remove internal inconsistencies, re-format certain data elements so they have a consistency across the various databases (for example bringing dates into a standard YYYY-MM-DD format which is the only one capable of being SORTED) and designing layouts that are attractive to look at and fast to use, and doing the detailed technical work required to make all this accessible to you from our servers. Such work takes hundreds or even thousands of hours.

Over time we have added more data that results directly from our own researches, and have added other elements such as squadron insignia, and - importantly - have built links between the various databases so that, for example, a search on a crew member flying in RAF Bomber Command could bring you to the entry that shows all his fellow crew members and a summary of what happened to the plane PLUS a link to a detailed, researched Archive Report on the incident AND a link to the Luftwaffe pilot responsible for the loss AND a subsequent link to that pilot's full operational record. So far as we know, this cross-linking of databases is unique to Aircrew Remembered.

There is a specific case where you might encounter one date from our database and a different date for the same incident from German sources. Let us explain why this is so.

When a database record is of a bomber loss, then usually the plane took off late evening, flew overnight to the target, but never returned. We will have an accurate record of its take-off, say 20 April 1942 at 9PM. The date of the shoot-down was not recorded at the time in the RAF records on which our Bomber Command Database is based. What was originally encoded was a date in this format "20 Apr 42" or possibly "20/21 April 1942" or sometimes "42-Apr 20/21". That's all that was known at the time.

As explained earlier, it is not possible for us to use the date in these formats if we want to allow researchers to SORT on date. 

It was a minor nightmare for us to figure a programmatic way to bring all the dates into a standard format. We could not possibly do this by hand on the 100,000+ records in the Bomber Command database alone, never mind the hundreds of thousands of entries in the other databases!

We had to choose a date and reformat the date into this format 1944-04-20 as this is the only format on which SORTS can be performed. So which date do we choose? The take-off date OR the date when it might have been lost (ie 21 April)? Nobody knew at the time when the plane was shot down. So we chose the only definite date we knew, the take-off date. Strictly speaking the date recorded was the date the briefing for the mission was made. This usually was earlier in the day when take-off occurred, though occasionally take-off occurred after midnight, and so strictly speaking 'the following day'. In all cases our database records the briefing date.

Later when Luftwaffe records became available it was possible to cross-reference claims with recorded losses, especially when these included the serial number of the plane shot down.

So the Luftwaffe claim for this example would record the date as 1942-04-20 (the same date as our take-off date) if the shootdown occurred before midnight 20 April, otherwise it would record it as 21 April, the day AFTER our take-off date.

The best solution we have come up with is to note this issue on the Bomber Command Database so that when you look at our Luftwaffe Victories by Name database you will know to look at both dates (20 and 21 in this example).

It's not a perfect solution. But we have worked hard to get the data reliable and comprehensive so hopefully you will still find it useful. 

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Article details
Article ID: 121
Category: Knowledgebase
Date added: 2016-07-15 19:48:59
Views: 938
Rating (Votes): Article rated 3.7/5.0 (18)

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