Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation


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Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding of Bentley Priory

H C T Dowding - 1913Hugh Caswall Tremenheere  

b: 27 Apr 1882              r: 1 Oct 1941/15 Jul 1942               d: 15 Feb 1970

Baron - 2 Jun 1943 (Conferred 9 Jul 1943), GCB - 8 Oct 1940 (KCB - 3 Jun 1933, CB - 2 Jan 1928), GCVO - 23 Jun 1937, CMG - 1 Jan 1919, MiD - 1 Jan 1916.

(Army): - 2 Lt: 18 Aug 1900, Lt:  8 May 1902, Capt: 18 Aug 1913, (T) Maj: 17 Mar 1915, Maj: 30 Dec 1915, (T) Lt Col: 1 Feb 1916, (T) Col: 1 Jan 1917, (T) Brig-Gen: 22 Jun 1917, (B) Lt Col: 1 Jan 1918.

(RAF): - (T) Brig-Gen [Lt Col]: 1 Apr 1918, Col: 1 Apr 1918, Gp Capt: 1 Aug 1919, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1922 [1 Aug 1919], AVM: 1 Jan 1929, AM: 1 Jan 1933, ACM: 1 Jan 1937.  

Photograph (Left) Crown Copyright

xx Sep 1899:               Attended RMA Woolwich.

18 Aug 1900:               Garrison Artillery Gibraltar, Ceylon, Hong Kong.

xx xxx 1904:               No 7 Mountain Artillery Battery NWF, India

xx xxx 1911:               Preparing for Staff College

xx Jan 1912:               Attended Army Staff College.

xx xxx 1913:               Garrison Artillery - Isle of Wight

xx Jan 1914:                  U/T Pilot, Central Flying School

28 Apr 1914:               Transferred to RFC Reserve.

xx Aug 1914:               Commandant - Dover Assembly Point

xx Aug 1914:               Pilot, No 7 Sqn RFC.

 6 Oct 1914:                Pilot, No 6 Sqn RFC.  

18 Nov 1914:               GSO3, HQ RFC.

 8 Dec 1914:                Flight Commander, No 9 Sqn RFC.

27 Jan 1915:                Flight Commander, No 6 Sqn RFC.

  4 Mar 1915:               Officer i/c Wireless Flight, No 4 Sqn RFC.

17 Mar 1915:               Officer Commanding No 9 Sqn/Wireless Experimental Establishment RFC.

23 Jul 1915:                 Officer Commanding No 16 Sqn RFC (Various types)

 1 Feb 1916:                Officer Commanding, 7th Wing RFC, Farnborough

22 Jun 1916:                Officer Commanding, 9th (HQ) Wing RFC.

 1 Jan 1917:                 Officer Commanding, Southern Group Command.

 5 Aug 1917:                Brigadier-General Commanding, Southern Training Brigade.

 1 Apr 1918:                Brigadier-General (Administration), HQ No 4 Area.

 8 May 1918:               Brigadier-General (Administration), HQ North-Eastern Area.

 1 Jan 1919:                 Brigadier-General (Administration) York, HQ North-Western Area.

 1 Jun 1919:                 Brigadier-General (Administration), HQ Northern Area.  

5 - 25 Apr 1919:          Graded as Maj-Gen whilst Temporary GOC, HQ Northern Area.

 1 Aug 1919:                Gp Capt: (Administration), HQ Northern Area.

 1 Aug 1919:                Re-seconded to RAF for further two years (gazetted 27 Apr 1920)

 1 Sep 1919:                Temporary AOC, Northern Area.

18 Oct 1919:               Officer Commanding, No 16 Group

15 Feb 1920:               Officer Commanding, No 1 Group

27 Feb 1922:               Chief Staff Officer, Inland Area

19 Aug 1924:               Chief Staff Officer, HQ Iraq Command.

27 May 1926:              Director of Training

 7 Sep 1929:                Tour of Inquiry/AOC, Transjordan and Palestine

28 Dec 1929:               AOC, Fighting Area, Air Defence of Great Britain

 1 Sep 1930:                Air Member for Supply and Research.

14 Jan 1935:                Air Member for Research and Development

 1 Apr - 31 May 1936:    Placed on half pay list, scale A.

14 Jul 1936:                 AOC in C, Fighter Command.

24 Feb 1937:               Appointed Principal Air ADC to The King.

18 Dec 1940:               Head of British Air Commission, Washington.  

 5 May 1941:               

xx Nov 1941:              Review of RAF Establishments in the UK.

Educated at his father's preparatory school at Moffat and then Winchester, after which he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich.  Failing to gain a commission in the Royal Engineers, he joined the Royal Garrison Artilliery. 

He learnt to fly at the Vickers Flying School, Brooklands, gaining his RAeC Certificate (No 711 on 20 December 1913), on the day he passed out from Camberley, after 1 hour 40 minutes.  At the Central Flying School his instructor was Capt. John Salmond.  Having gained his 'Wings', he was added to the RFC Reserve List returning to his Garrison Artillery duties on the Isle of Wight.  In 1929, following the escalation of trouble in the area, he was sent to Palestine to undertake an inquiry into the need and form of possible re-inforcements for the area.  

On 28 January 1936 he was one of three officers representing the Air Council at the funeral of HM King George V.

As Air Member for Research and Development he was in a position to oversee the development of the eight gun fighters (Hurricane and Spitfire), but even more importantly his previous experience in wireless experiments gave him an excellent insight into possibilities of it's use in the detection of aircraft.  He was able to take these preparations to their logical conclusion when given command of the newly formed Fighter Command in July 1936.  He immediately set about developing a system able to make best use of his limited resources and it was this system as much as anything that ensured success in 1940.  He established the coastal chain of radar stations (then known as RDF), but the success of radar really lay in the reporting and control system he set up which allowed aircraft to be placed in the right place at the right height in time to meet the threat.

During the Battle of Britain his most difficult problem was the conflict between AVM Leigh-Mallory and AVM Park over tactics in which he supported both Group Commanders and saw that both sets of tactics had their advantages but that they were not necessarily suitable in both situations.  From 1938 Dowding was advised of five separate retirement dates, but  each one was rescinded for various reasons, therefore, his replacement in November 1940 as AOC in C Fighter Command, when flush with success in the Battle of Britain was seen as a snub by many, although it had in fact been planned.

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