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Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham

Sir Arthur ConinghamArthur                     b: 11 Mar 1895                        r: 7 Nov 1947                        d: 29/30 Jan 1948

KCB - 27 Nov 1942 (CB - 24 Sep 1941), KBE - 1 Jan 1946, DSO - 26 Sep 1917, MC - 17 Sep 1917, DFC - 6 Jun 1919, AFC - 1 Jan 1926, MiD - 11 Dec 1917, MiD - 11 Jun 1924, MiD - 1 Jan 1941, MiD - 11 Jun 1942, LoH, C - xx xxx 191?, C de G (F) - xx xxx 191?,  LoM (CC) - 27 Aug 1943, DSM (US) - 3 Aug 1945, Leo (GO) - 23 Nov 1945, C de G (B) (P) - 23 Nov 1945, OP(GC) - 6 Sep 1946, ON(KGC) - 18 Nov 1947.  

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army): - (P) 2 Lt: 8 Aug 1916, (T) Capt: 10 May 1917, (T) Maj: 26 Mar 1918,

(RAF): - (T) Capt [Lt]: 1 Apr 1918, Act Maj: 1 Apr 1918, Flt Lt: 1 Aug 1919 [1 Apr 1918], Sqn Ldr: 30 Jun 1923, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1931, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1937, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1939, Act AVM: 4 Oct 1940 [12 Sep 1940], (T) AVM: 1 Jun 1941, AVM: 14 Apr 1942 [1 Jun 1941], Act AM: 8 Feb 1943, (T) AM: 16 Aug 1944, AM: 1 Jan 1946.

Sir Arthur Coningham

by Howard Coster
half-plate film negative, 1940s
NPG x10918

National Portrait Gallery, London


xx xxx 1914:             Soldier, Canterbury Mounted Rifles (Samoa and Gallipoli)

 8 Aug 1916:              Appointed to RFC Special Reserve.

28 Nov 1916:             Flying Officer, RFC Special Reserve.

 8 Dec 1916:               Pilot, No 32 Sqn RFC. (DH2, DH5 Western Front)

11-19 Dec 1916:         Attended Machine School

10 May 1917:             Flight Commander, No 32 Sqn RFC.

30 Jul 1917:                Wounded and Recuperation

xx xxx xxxx:                Flight Commander, ?

26 Mar 1918:             Officer Commanding No 92 Sqn. (SE5A Western Front)

xx Feb 1919

28 Oct 1919:   Granted a Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant (effective from 1 Aug)

17 Feb 1920:               Instructor, School of Technical Training.

30 Oct 1920:               Attended Instructors' Course, Central Flying School - Upavon.

23 Feb 1921:               Instructor, Central Flying School - Upavon.

24 Feb 1922:               Flight Commander, No 55 Sqn. (DH9A - Mosul)

12 Jul 1923:                 Officer Commanding, No 55 Sqn.

23 Feb 1924:              Staff, HQ Egyptian Group.

 1 Mar 1925:               Personnel Staff, HQ RAF Middle East.

 9 May 1926:              Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

20 Dec 1926:             Officer Commanding 'B' Sqn, RAF College - Cranwell.

 5 Jul 1930:                 CFI, Central Flying School.

17 Feb 1932:              Senior RAF Officer, Sudan.

xx May 1935:             Staff Officer, Coastal Area.

xx Jan 1937:               Senior Air Staff Officer, HQ No 17 Group.

11 Jun 1937:               Officer Commanding, RAF Calshot.

 3 Jul 1939:                 AOC, No 4 Group.

30 Jul 1941:                AOC, No 204 Group.

21 Oct 1941:              AOC, AHQ Western Desert.

 1 Mar 1943:               AOC, North African Tactical Air Force.

21 Jan 1944:               AOC in C, 2nd Tactical Air Force.

 6 Oct 1945:               AOC in C, Flying Training Command.

AVM Coningham during a visit to No 112 Sqn at Gambut airfield on 28 March 1942 to present the newly authorised squadron badge.  It is being accepted by Sqn Ldr Clive 'Killer' Caldwell.

*The WOp/AG just behind AVM Coningham in this photo is probably George Kearns (info courtesy his nephew Laurie Potter)

Photos courtesy - Andrew Main (Clive Caldwell's nephew)

Born in Australia but brought up in New Zealand, he was declared medically unfit for further service on return from Egypt.  Not content to sit out the rest of the war, he traveled to England and applied to join the RFC.  It was during this period of his career that he gained the nickname 'Mary', often thought to be a contraction of 'Maori', by which he was to known throughout the rest of his life.  By the end of WW1, Coningham had been credited with 19 enemy aircraft destroyed.  In 1920, he and fellow instructor, Gerald Gibbs (later AM) took part in the first Hendon Pageant flying a display in Sopwith Snipes and in 1921 he was part of a five man team from the CFS.   Whilst serving in Egypt in 1925, he led an expedition from Helwan in the Canal Zone to Kano in Nigeria thereby pioneering the route that would be used from 1941 to re-supply the Desert Air Force which he would be commanding at that time.  As commander of what was later called the Desert Air Force, he developed a highly efficient mobile force, which could give direct support to the Army just about anywhere and at anytime required.  Much of the work carried out and the experience gained by DAF would be put to good use in the build up to the Normandy Invasion.   Following the end of hostilities he was not seen as a suitable commander for an Air Force of Occupation and as a result he was replaced by ACM Sir Sholto Douglas   Seeing this appointment almost as a snub and a 'demotion', he retired at his own request in 1947.  In January 1948, he was traveling from Britain to South America aboard the BSAA Avro Tudor IV 'Star Tiger' on a business trip.  However, after leaving the over night stop-over at Lisbon, nothing was heard from the aircraft  and no trace of it or any of the crew and passengers has ever found.

Further reading: - Coningham, Vincent Orange Methuen (1990)

Citation for the award of the Military Cross

"2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) Arthur Coningham, R.F.C., Spec. Res.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in attacking enemy aircraft. On numerous occasions he has displayed great dash and a fine offensive spirit in engaging the enemy at close range, and driving them down completely out of control."

(London Gazette 17 September 1917)

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

"2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) Arthur Coningham, M.C., R.F.C., Spec. Res.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. With three other pilots he attacked an enemy machine which was protected by ten others, shot it down, and destroyed another one the same evening. Shortly afterwards he and two others attacked five of the enemy, and although wounded and rendered unconscious for the moment, he succeeded in driving down two of the enemy.  In spite of being much exhausted by loss of blood he continued his patrol until he was sure that no more enemy machines were in the vicinity} setting a splendid example of pluck and determination."

(London Gazette 9 January 1918)

This page was last updated on 15/01/21

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