Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill

F W Bowhill - 1913

Sir Frederick William BowhillFrederick William               b: 1 Sep 1880                 r: 1 Jul 1942                        d: 12 Mar 1960

GBE - 1 Jul 1941, KCB - 1 Jan 1936 (CB - 3 Jun 1935), CMG - 22 Dec 1919, DSO - 22 Feb 1918, Bar - 3 Jun 1919, FRGS, MiD - 19 Feb 1915, MiD -  5 Apr 1918, MiD - 17 May 1918, MiD -  6 Aug 1918, MiD - 3 Jun 1919, MiD - 22 Dec 1919, MiD - 31 Mar 1920, SV4SB -  xx xxx 191?, R, C - 1 Apr  1920, ON (GC) - 24 Sep 1943, LoM (Cdr) - 27 Mar 1945, SO (GC) - 12 Jun 1945, PR1 - 12 Jun 1945.  

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(RNR): - Midín: xx xxx 1898, Sub-Lt: 19 Dec 1904, Lt: 24 Oct 1911,

(RN/RNAS): - Lt: 1 Apr 1913, Flt Lt: 1 Jul 1914, Flt Cdr: 26 Sep 1914, Sqn Cdr: 1 Jan 1916, Wg Cdr: 30 Jun 1917.

(RAF): - (T) Lt Col [Maj]: 1 Apr 1918, Wg Cdr: 1 Aug 1919, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1921, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1928, AVM: 1 Jul 1931, AM: 1 Jan 1936, (T) ACM: 1 Nov 1939, AVM: 1 Jul 1942, AM: 11 Apr 1943, Act (U) ACM: 1 Jul 1942, ACM: Retained,

Photo (far left) - from his RAeC Certificate

Photo (right) - Sir Frederick William Bowhill

by Bassano Ltd
half-plate glass negative, 5 June 1939
NPG x27106

© National Portrait Gallery, London

xx xxx 1896:              Midshipman, Merchant Marine.

17 Aug 1912:              Attended Central Flying School.

 1 Apr 1913:                Appointed as a Lieutenant on the Supplementary List

17 Apr 1913:               Attached to Naval Flying School, NAS Eastchurch

x Aug1914:                  Officer Commanding, HMS Empress.

xx Oct 1915:                Staff, Air Department of the Admiralty/Officer Commanding RNAS Durban?.

 1 Jan 1916:                 Officer Commanding, No ? Wing/Sqn RNAS (Mesopotamia)

 8 Aug 1916:                Officer Commanding, No 8 Sqn RNAS (East Africa)

28 Feb 917:                 Appointed Head of the Zanzibar Defence Committee.

Jan - Mar 1918:           In transit to the UK

xx xxx 1918:                Officer Commanding, RNAS Felixstowe.

xx xxx 1918:                Officer Commanding, RNAS/RAF Killingholme.

xx xxx 1918:                Officer Commanding, No 62 Wing, Aegean Group RAF

xx xxx 1918                 Member, RAF Detachment, South Russia

 1 Aug 1919:                Awarded Permanent Commission as a Lieutenant Colonel

30 Oct 1919:               Chief Staff Officer, Z-Force - Somaliland

22 Jan 1920:                Removed from the Navy List (effective 1 Aug 1919)

15 Apr 1920:               Embarked at Berbera

20 Apr 1920:               Disembarked at Suez

20 Apr 1920:               Attached, Palestine Brigade (No 5 Sqn) awaiting disposal

26 Apr 1920:               Attached, HQ Egypt Group

14 May 1920:              Embarked at Alexandria for UK

 4 Jul 1920:                  Technical Staff Officer, HQ No 29 Group.

 1 Mar 1921:               Chief Staff Officer, HQ Coastal Area.

15 Aug 1924:              Supernumerary Gp Capt:/Chief Staff Officer, HQ RAF Middle East.

19 Feb 1925:              Officer Commanding, RAF Depot Egypt.

11 Oct 1926:              SESO, HQ Iraq Command.

 9 Mar 1928:              SASO, HQ Iraq Command.

19 May 1929:             Director of Organisation and Staff Duties.

4 May 1931:               AOC, Fighting Area - ADGB

31 Jul 1933:                Air Member for Personnel

16 Aug 1937:              AOC in C, Coastal Command

13 Jun 1941:               Commander, Ferry Organisation

18 Jul 1941:                AOC, Ferry Command

 1 Jul 1942:                 Retired but re-employed as AVM (Acting ACM (unpaid))

25 Mar 1943:              AOC in C, Transport Command

29 Mar 1945:              Reverted to Retired List as ACM.

xx xxx 1946 Ė xx xxx 1947:       Director of Public Relations.

He gained  his Master's Certificate under sail and in 1904 and his RAeC Certificate (No 397) on 21 January 1913.  On 28 July 1913 he flew Caudron Amphibian, '55' from a trackway aboard HMS Hermes underway at 10 knots.  Two weeks earlier, he had been flying its sister '56' when the aircraft fell into the sea a mile off shore, forcing him to cling to the wreckage before being rescued by a motor launch.  

Whilst commanding the Seaplane carrier, HMS Empress he took part in the Cuxhaven raid on Christmas Day 1914 (See Archives) and later the Gallipoli landings.   'Z' Force carried out the first air policing operation, the target being an old 'thorn in the British side', "The Mad Mullah" and resulted in his exile in a matter of weeks compared with the years of ground fighting which had already ensued with no firm result.  The success of the campaign was amongst Trenchard's ammunition when he proposed the use of these methods in policing Iraq and other territories.

As AMP he proposed the formation of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).  On 28 January 1936 he was one of three officers representing the Air Council at the funeral of HM King George V.  Following the attack on HMS Hood by the German ship, Bismarck, was damaged by Swordfish aircraft from HMS Victorious.  However, it then managed to escape detection by its pursuers owing to the bad weather.  Bowhill, using his knowledge of the sea, plotted the Bismarck's likely course and sent a Catalina to search the area.  Spotted by the Catalina, the British ships were able to engage the Bismarck again resulting in her sinking.  After the war he was the UK Member on the Council of the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organisation, Chief Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and later a member of the Air Safety Board, finally retiring from the Ministry of Civil Aviation in 1957.

Citation for the award of the DSO: -

"Wing Cdr. Frederick William Bowhill, R.N.

In recognition of his invaluable services as Comdg. Officer of the R.N.A.S., employed in connection with military operations in East Africa.  It is due to his experience and unceasing labour that his small unit of the R.N.A.S. has  been of such assistance to the military operations.  He has instilled a high sense of discipline into those under his orders."

(London Gazette - 22 Feb 1918)

This page was last updated on 12/07/18

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