Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
8 Jul 1920,
d: 29 Jan 1985
- 31 Dec 1982 (Conferred 17 Mar 1983), KT
2 Dec 1983, GCB 12 Jun 1976 (KCB 1 Jan 1975, CB
1 Jan 1971), CBE 10 Jun 1967, DSO 2 Oct 1945, DFC
21 Nov 1944, AE - 1968, MiD - 2 Jun 1943, Fellow
King's College - 1980, Hon LLD (King's College, London)
(RAFVR): Plt Off: 31 Jul 1941, Fg Off: 4 Mar 1942, Act Flt Lt: 4 Dec 1941, Flt Lt (WS): 4 Mar 1943, Act Sqn Ldr: 31 Mar 1943,
Lt: 1 Sep 1945, Act Sqn Ldr: 22
May 1949, Sqn Ldr: 1 Jan 1950, Act
Wg Cdr: 8 Dec 1953, Wg Cdr: 1 Jan
Capt: 1 Jul 1960, A/Cdre:
1 Jul 1964, Act
AVM: 1 Feb 1968, AVM: 1
Jul 1968, Act AM: 7 Dec 1973, AM:
1 Jul 1974, ACM: 1 Nov 1975, MRAF: 31
U/T Sergeant Pilot, RAFVR. (748176)
Initial Training, No 3 Initial Training Wing - Hastings.
Elementary pilot training, No 15 EFTS.
Advanced training, No 8 SFTS.
Operational training, No 5 OTU, Aston Down (Hurricanes).
Sergeant Pilot, No 1 Sqn, Wittering (Hurricanes).
Sergeant Pilot, No 17 Sqn, Elgin/Leconfield (Hurricanes).
Pilot/Flight Commander, No 134 Sqn, North Russia/Catterick
Flight Commander, No 213 Sqn, Western Desert (Hurricanes).
Adviser, No 335 (Hellenic) Sqn, (Hurricanes).
Air Staff - Fighter Operations, HQ No 224 Group
Officer Commanding, No 258 Sqn, Far East (Hurricanes/Thunderbolts).
Appointed to Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant
(retaining rank current at the time)
[wef 1 Sep 1945]
[wef 1 Sep 1945]
Instructor, School of Air Support (Land/Air Warfare).
RAF Liaison Officer, HQ Rhine Army.
Attended RAF Staff College, Andover.
Air Staff, Directorate of Organisation (04).
Aircrew Selection Duties, London.
Directing Staff, RAF Staff College - Bracknell.
Officer Commanding, University of London Air
PSO to the Chief of the Air Staff.
Officer Commanding, RAF Abingdon.
Attended Imperial Defence College.
Principal Staff Officer to Deputy Supreme Commander Europe .
Staff, RAF College Cranwell.
Assistant Commandant (Dept of Cadets) - RAF College, Cranwell.
RAF Member of Programme Evaluation Group.
Feb 1968 Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Policy).
SASO, HQ Air Support Command/Chief of Staff, HQ No 46 Group.
Deputy Commander, RAF Germany.
AOC, No 46 Group
Air Member for Personnel
6 Aug 1976 - 31 Jul 1977: Air ADC to the Queen.
Chief of the Air Staff
31 Aug 1977
Chief of the Defence Staff
The son of a retired Company Sergeant Major in the
Seaforth Highlanders and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, his father died
three weeks after his birth, Neil was brought up in Perth and educated at the
Northern District School. In 1937
he gained a post with the Commercial Bank of Scotland in Newburgh, Fife.
He joined the RAFVR and started his training in May 1939.
Called up in September 1939, he completed his initial and flying training
and was then selected to fly fighters. Converting
to Hurricanes, he was posted
to No 1 Sqn but soon moved to No
17. Taking part in the final stages
of the Battle of Britain, after which the squadron then moved to Elgin.
However his flight was detached to Leconfield where it provided the
nucleus of a new squadron, No 134. Earmarked
for operations with No 151 Wing in North Russia, it set
in HMS Argus on 19 August 1941. In
Russia, the Wing took part in operations with the Soviet Naval Air Arm as well
as converting Russian pilots to the Hurricanes which 134 left with the Russians
on returning to Catterick, where it re-equipped with Spitfires, flying convoy
patrols over the North Sea.
134 was soon on
the move again, this time to the
Middle East. However on arrival
they were informed that their aircraft had been lost in the Atlantic and instead
they were sent to operate with No 213 Sqn in the Western Desert.
During this period of his career, he took part in one of the few, if not
the only RAF operation from a base behind enemy lines.
Flying from a Landing Ground 200 miles south of the coast, they harassed
German and Italian lines of communication in areas thought to be outside the
range of single seat fighters. After two and a half years constant operations
he was recalled and posted to train No 335 (Hellenic) Sqn.
He was next posted to India to command a Spitfire
squadron but on arrival was
informed that the squadron was still in transit and
had a CO, he therefore, found himself at HQ No 224 Group working in the
Operations Cell. It was not long
before a squadron became available, No 258, initially flying Hurricanes and
later Thunderbolts. The squadron
took part in operations along the Arakan coast of Burma.
As a result of his experiences, he became something of an Army Support
specialist which led to his first post war posting to the School of Air Support
at Old Sarum where he was offered and accepted a permanent commission. Attendance at the RAF Staff College was followed by a posting
to the Air Ministry.
In he was taken ill with sub-acute bacterial
endocarditis, a condition which could have been fatal had it not been for the
development of anti-biotics. It was nearly two years before he was sufficiently
recovered to resume his service career. Unfortunately,
his illness resulted in the imposition of a restricted flying categorisation.
Initially not allowed to fly
as a passenger, he eventually regained his qualification as a co-pilot and then
as a captain with an experienced co-pilot. Restricted to non jet aircraft types
he was appointed CO of the University of London Air Squadron responsible for
providing air experience and initial flying training to undergraduates.
At the last minute, his
posting to Washington as a member of the NATO Standing Group, was changed
to one at the Air Ministry as PSO to the CAS first ACM Sir Dermot Boyle and then
ACM Sir Thomas Pike. He was then
appointed Station Commander at RAF Abingdon, where he was responsible for two
Beverley squadrons, No's 47 and 53 as well as No 1 Parachute Training School. Having completed a course at the Imperial
Defence College he was requested to
join his old 'boss', ACM Sir Tom Pike, now Deputy Supreme Allied Commander
Europe as his PSO.
Promoted to Air Commodore, he took up the newly
created appointment of Assistant Commandant (Cadets) at the RAF College,
Cranwell. This post resulted from the upgrading of the Commandant to an
AVM post following the amalgamation of the RAF College with the RAF Technical
College from Henlow. Joining the Programme Evaluation Group, which was
effectively a think tank for the then Minister of Defence, Mr Denis Healey,
almost ended his RAF career prematurely. This
Group composed of military, civil service and scientific members was
tasked with looking at defence issues from all angles without any
individual service bias. Unfortunately
this post and his next post as ACDS (Policy), which was created for him, led to
him being almost outcast by the traditional RAF establishment,
resulting in him remaining in the rank of AVM for six years and sidelined
into a number of posts with little likelihood of further advancement.
However, the appointment of ACM Sir Andrew Humphrey
as CAS, ended his banishment to the wilderness and he was soon back on the
promotion ladder moving through a number of posts in a reasonably short time
until he was himself chosen as Sir Andrews successor as CAS when he was
appointed Chief of the Defence Staff. However,
the untimely illness and death of Sir Andrew, after only four months in office
resulted in his own appointment as CDS.
Sir Neil soon developed a reputation for speaking his mind as CDS and he
raised the public image of the post considerably.
During his tenure of the post, he became the first CDS to pay an official
visit to the People's Republic of China as well as fighting for a substantial
pay award for servicemen and he was not adverse to the 'leaking' of official
retirement figures to strengthen the forces' case.
he accepted the post of Principle of King's College in London showing the
same tenacity and dedication to this post as he had to his RAF/Defence Staff
appointments. He was created a Life
Peer in the 1983 taking the title
Lord Cameron of Balhousie, in the District of Perth and Kinross. Unfortunately
before his final retirement, he was taken seriously ill and was admitted to
hospital, where he died of cancer.
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