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Air Vice-Marshal W E Colahan (59005)

The headstone of Air Vice-Marshal William Cilahan in Cranwell churchyardWilliam Edward                        

b: 7 Aug 1923                     r: 31 Mar 1978                     d: 20 Feb 1991

CB – 3 Jun 1978, CBE – 1 Jan 1973, DFC – 13 Jul 1945, QCVSA - 1 Jan 1954.

(SAAF):-  2 Lt: xx xxx xxxx, Lt: xx xxx xxxx, Capt: xx xxx xxxx.

(RAF):- Fg Off: 29 Jan 1947 [26 Feb 1945], Flt Lt (WS): 29 Jan 1947 [26 Feb 1946], Flt Lt: 28 Aug 1947, Act Sqn Ldr: xx xxx 1952, Sqn Ldr: 1 Oct 1954, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1959, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1965, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1970, Act AVM: 1 Nov 1973, AVM: 1 Jan 1974.

xx xxx 1941:           Served in South African Air Force

xx xxx xxxx:            Pilot, No 43 Sqn

xx xxx xxxx:            Flight Commander, No 72 Sqn.

xx Apr 1945:         Officer Commanding (Act), No 72 Sqn.

29 Jan 1947:           Appointed to Permanent Commission in the rank of Flying Officer (retaining rank current at the time).

xx Jan 1957:            Attended RAF Staff College.

xx xxx 1958:

 4 Jan 1960:             Officer Commanding, Flying Wing, RAF Laarbruch.

xx Jan 1962:            Attended Joint Services Staff College.

 1 Jan 1963:             Staff Officer, Ministry of Defence

xx xxx xxxx:             

 2 Feb 1968:           Officer Commanding, RAF Valley/No 4 FTS

xx Jan 1970:            Attended Imperial Defence College.

27 Mar 1971:          Air Commander, Malta.

 1 Nov 1973:           Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations).

 19 Jul 1975:            AOC & Commandant, RAF College.

The son of two doctors, he attended the University of Cape Town before joining the South African Air Force.  Flying with RAF units in Italy, he applied for a transfer to the RAF and was accepted in 1947.

Whilst Commandant of the RAF College, his command was enlarged when the HQ of the Central Flying School was relocated to Cranwell.  Following retirement at his own request, he became an Officer Careers Councillor (RAF) until 1983 when he became a Member of the Lord Chancellor's Panel of Independent Inquiry Inspectors.  From 1985 to 1988, he was also commander of St John's Ambulance in Lincolnshire.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

“Captain William -Edward COLAHAN (328383V), S.A.A.F., 72 Sqn.

This officer is an exceptionally able pilot and a fearless fighter. He has completed very many sorties during which he has successfully attacked a wide range of enemy targets. In April, 1945, Captain Colahan led a small section of aircraft in an attack against an enemy strongpoint consisting of one large and three smaller heavily defended houses. The attack was pressed home with great skill and vigour. The objective was completely -destroyed. As a result our ground forces were able to advance for some distance. Some days later, Captain Colahan led a section in an attack against another heavily defended strongpoint.  In spite of considerable enemy fire the attack was pressed home with great success. The determination shown by this officer was in keeping with that which he has shown throughout his tour of duty.

(London Gazette – 13 July 1945)

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