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Air Marshal Sir Richard Atcherley (16140)


Air Marshal Sir Richard Atcherley Richard Llewelyn Roger      

b: 12 Jan 1904                 r: 4 Apr 1959                  d: 18 Apr 1970

KBE - 31 May 1956 (CBE - 5 Jul 1945, OBE - 1 Jan 1941), CB - 8 Jun 1950, AFC - 1940, Bar 24 Sep 1941,  MiD - 17 Mar 1941, MiD - 11 Jun 1942, MiD 1 Jan 1945, NWC - 18 Dec 1942.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

1st Prize, 'R M Groves' Competition - 1924

Plt Off: 31 Jul 1924, Fg Off: 31 Jan 1926, Flt Lt: 13 Nov 1929*, Sqn Ldr: 1 Apr 1937, (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Mar 1940, (T) Gp Capt: 1 Mar 1942, Wg Cdr: 20 Nov 1942 [1 Oct 1941], Act A/Cdre: 9 Jan 1944?, Gp Capt (WS): 9 Jul 1944, (T) A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1946, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1946, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1947, Act AVM: 31 Jan 1949, AVM: 1 Jan 1951 Act AM: 20 Dec 1955, AM: 1 May 1956.

* Seniority reduced to 14 May 1930 with effect from 7 May 1934.

 xx xxx 1922:              Flight Cadet, 'A' Sqn, RAF College. (Flt Cdt Sgt)

31 Jul 1924:                Appointed to a Permanent Commission

31 Jul 1924:                Pilot, No 29 Sqn. (Snipe - Duxford)

 xx xxx 1925:              Attended Central Flying School.

xx xxx 1925:               Pilot/QFI, No 29 Sqn. (Snipes Duxford)

26 Oct 1925:              Pilot/QFI, No 23 Sqn. (Snipes Henlow)

 4 Aug 1926:               QFI, Central Flying School.

 6 Oct 1928:                Pilot, RAF High Speed Flight.

10 Oct 1929:               QFI, Central Flying School.

 9 Dec 1929:               Flight Commander, No 23 Sqn.

13 Oct 1930:              Flight Commander, No 14 Sqn..

xx Sep 1934:              Test Pilot, Experimental Section, RAE.

xx Jan 1937:               Attended RAF Staff College.

1 Jan 1938:                 Air Staff, HQ Training Command

1 Jul 1939:                  Staff of AM Sir Charles Burnett, Inspector-General of the RAF.

xx Oct 1939:              Officer Commanding, No 219 Sqn

xx May 1940:             Officer Commanding, Air Element BEF, Norway.

xx Jun 1940:              Officer Commanding, RAF Drem.

1941:                         Officer Commanding, No 54 OTU - RAF  Church Fenton.

1942:                         Officer Commanding, RAF Fairwood Common.

1942:                         Officer Commanding, RAF Kenley.

11 Apr 1943:             AOC, No 211 Group  - Tripoli

xx xxx 1943:              Group Captain - Training, HQ Fighter Command.  

1944:                         Head of RAF Section (Temporary), Training Section, HQ AEAF.

xx Mar 1944:             Deputy Head of RAF Section , Training Section, HQ AEAF.

xx Jul 1944:                Commandant, Fighter Leaders' School/OC, RAF Millfield

25 Feb 1945:              Commandant, Central Fighter Establishment.

xx xxx 1945:               SASO, Commonwealth Tactical Air Force.

xx Sep 1945:              Commandant, RAF College - Cranwell.

31 Jan 1949:               Chief of the Air Staff, Royal Pakistani Air Force.

 1 Jun 1951:                AOC, No 12 Group

xx Nov 1953:               Head of RAF Staff - British Joint Services Mission, Washington.

20 Dec 1955:              AOC in C, Flying Training Command.

Richard Atcherley, universally known as 'Batchy' gained a reputation together with his twin brother, David, as a practical joker, despite which he was an exceptional pilot and a charismatic leader.   Their father, a retired army major and then Chief Constable of the West Riding of Yorkshire (he was recalled during WW1 becoming Major-General Sir Llewelyn) had taken up ballooning in the early part of the 20th Century.  They attended Oundle School and both applied for admission into the RAF as  Flight Cadets at the RAF College, Cranwell.  Richard was accepted whilst his brother was turned down on medical grounds.   In 1927 he was selected to fly as a member of the School's aerobatic team and remained a member for the next two seasons.

In 1929, he was selected as a member of the RAF High Speed Flight which was tasked with flying Britain's entries in the Schneider Trophy Air Races.   Selected to fly N248 in the competition, he unfortunately turned inside a pylon and was disqualified, however he subsequently went on to set records at 50 and 100 km of 332 and 331 mph respectively.  Another aspect of the work of the High Speed Flight was exhibited in 1929, when 'Batchy' with G H Stainforth as navigator, took part in the King's Cup Air Race.  They flew a 2 seater Grebe and won the competition at an average speed of 150.3 mph.  His success in the Schneider Trophy and King's Cup Air Races had brought him fame around the world and in 1930 he was invited to take part in the Chicago Air Races in the USA.  On arrival it was apparent that his demonstration of aerobatics in a standard British light aircraft would fall short of the American experts in their specially designed high performance aircraft.  Therefore he decided to give a display of 'crazy flying', in which he flew the aircraft as though it was being flown by an unqualified pilot.  His display was so spectacular that he was asked to return the following year, although by then he had been posted to Amman in Trans-Jordan with No 14 Squadron and this annual visit to the USA had to start with a flight home to the UK in his own aircraft. 

Whilst serving in Palestine, he carried out night flying/navigation experiments which he would later perfect into an approved night landing system.  Another of his eccentricities at this time was his menagerie, which included a pet lion which he often took flying with him.  Prior to leaving the Middle East, however, his antics caught up with him, when he carried out an aerobatic display over a tennis party which included the AOC, Sir Cyril Newell.  Court Martialed, he lost 50 places in the seniority lists and was prevented from attending the RAF Staff College.

Whilst he was in Chicago, he witnessed some experiments in Air to Air Refuelling and was immediately fascinated by them.  As a result in 1934 he found himself posted to the second of his initial ambitions, the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, where he was able develop his ideas on air refuelling alongside other methods then being tested.  He also continued his previous experiments in night landing systems and even suggested that aircrews should wear specially designed flying suits based on the ski-suit (another common feature today).  Following his tour at Farnborough, he was allowed to attend the course at the RAF Staff College at Andover from which he had been previously been barred.

Appointed a staff officer at HQ Training Command, he was tasked with increasing  the output of the command, which required both aircraft and airfields.  He used his own aircraft for both searching for suitable airfield sites and for visiting Public Schools.  He set up the Public School's Air Cadet Wing, whereby Schools' OTCs were affiliated to RAF Stations and at least two masters in each school were responsible for the training of OTC cadets in air matters.  He went further, setting up annual camps for these cadets with Air Experience in Ansons and initial flying training for selected cadets in Tiger Moths.  His brother David also assisted him and when unable to run the last camp before the war, David successfully stepped in and took over.

With the German invasion of Norway, he was sent to organise the airfield at Bardufoss for the Gladiators of No 263 Sqn and later the Hurricanes of 46 Sqn.  In order to make the landing ground safe. it was necessary to clear the snow from the runways.  With limited resources, he was able to coerce the local population to undertake the task.  With the situation in Norway becoming untenable the RAF personnel were ordered to evacuate and burn their aircraft.  However, not wishing to lose valuable aircraft, he and 'Bing' Cross (OC, No 46 Sqn), decided to attempt the evacuation of the Hurricanes and Gladiators by landing them aboard HMS Glorious rather than destroying and abandoning them in Norway.  The actual landing of the squadrons aboard the carrier was a complete success, but unfortunately it was sunk on it's way to Britain.

On his return to the UK, he assumed command of RAF Drem in Scotland, where he continued development of his night landing light system, eventually adopted by the RAF and known as the 'Drem' system.  Later at Fairwood Common, he was replaced by his brother and many of the station personnel did not even notice the change.  At Kenley he often flew with the Wing but after protests from the squadron commanders that he could not see the enemy quick enough and when asked by the AOC in C to stop flying with the Wing he readily agreed.  However, the next day the AOC in C, was informed the 'Batchy' had been shot down and was at that moment somewhere in the English Channel. 

Rescued from the Channel having been wounded in the engagement a period of recovery was followed by a posting to the Middle East, where having been promoted Act A/Cdre in the Western Desert Air Force he crashed a new Kittyhawk, incurring the wrath of new AOC, AVM Harry Broadhurst.  As a result he found himself returned to the UK as a Group Captain.   

Whilst at HQ AEAF, he had proposed the idea of a Central Fighter Establishment and when the idea was eventually put into action in 1945, it was logical and appropriate that 'Batchy' should become it's first Commandant.  This unit was responsible for developing new tactics and assessing new fighter designs. The dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki removed the need for the planned Commonwealth force of which he was to have been the SASO and instead he became the first ex-Cranwell cadet to become Commandant of the RAF College.  Here he developed a technique whereby he inspected the whole station, permanent staff, cadets and apprentices whilst flying inverted in his personal Gloster Meteor.  He was also responsible for returning Cranwell to the glory of its pre-war years.

Leaving Cranwell, he then proceeded overseas to take command of the newly created Royal Pakistan Air Force which came into being following Indian independence and partition.  Here he set about giving the new service the firm foundations needed for a growing air force and established its own 'Cranwell'.  Rejoining Fighter Command, as AOC, No 12 Group after which he moved to the USA to take over as Head of the RAF staff attached to the British Joint Services Mission.  Having managed to fly both the Hunter and Swift in Britain before leaving for America, he was able to add to his total there when he was allowed to fly the F86 Sabre, CF-100, although even he was unable to persuade the US General in command of the base to allow him to fly the prototype F-100 Super Sabre.  In his final appointment as AOC in C, Flying Training Command he introduced the Jet Provost into the training syllabus and recommended the adoption of the Gnat as the RAF's new advanced trainer.  Following his retirement from the RAF, he retained his connection with aviation by joining the Folland Aircraft Company as Sales Director, a post he held until 1965.  When he was taken ill and died, he had been about to set off to the USA to witness the launch of Apollo 13.

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