Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

 

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Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Freeman


Wilfrid Rhodes

b: 18 Jul 1888                 r: 19 Oct 1942                   d: 15 May 1953

Baronet - 14 Jun 1945 (Conferred 24 Jul 1945), GCB - 20 Oct 1942 (KCB - 11 May 1937, CB - 1 Jan 1932), DSO - 23 Nov 1916, MC - 27 Mar 1915, MiD - 22 Jun 1915, MiD - 25 Sep 1916, MiD - 11 Dec 1917, LoH, C -17 Aug 1918, FRAeS.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army): - 2 Lt:  22 Feb 1908, Lt: 27 Mar 1912, (T) Capt: xx Mar 1915, Capt: 10 Jun 1915, (T) Maj: 27 Oct 1915, (T) Lt Col: 5 Jul 1916, Bt Maj: 1 Jan 1917, 

(RAF): - Lt Col: 1 Apr 1918, Col: 22 Apr 1918, Wg Cdr: 1 Aug 1919 [1 Apr 1918], Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1923, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1929, AVM: 1 Jul 1933, AM: 1 Jan 1937, (T) ACM: 27 May 1940, ACM: 14 Apr 1942 [27 May 1940].

xx xxx xxxx:             Attended RMC Sandhurst.

22 Feb 1908:            Officer, The Manchester Regiment

xx Jan 1914:              Attended Central Flying School

28 Apr 1914:             Appointed to RFC Reserve.

28 Apr 1914:             Pilot, No 2 Sqn RFC.

xx Oct 1914:              Pilot, No 9 Sqn. RFC

17 Mar 1915:             Flight Commander, No 9 Sqn RFC.

xx Jun 1915:               Instructor, Shoreham.

27 Oct 1915:             Officer Commanding, No ? (Training) Sqn.

20 Jan 1916:              Officer Commanding, No 14 Sqn RFC

 5 Jul 1916:                Officer Commanding, No 4 Training Wing

18 Jul 1916:                Officer Commanding, No 7 Training Wing

xx Jan 1917:               Officer Commanding, 10th (Army) Wing RFC

xx Oct 1917:              Officer Commanding, 9th (HQ) Wing RFC

22 Apr 1918:             Officer Commanding, No 2 (Training) Group

 3 Jun 1918:               Attended RN  Staff College, Greenwich.

xx xxx 1919:               Holding post?, Air Pilotage School (cadre)

 1 Aug 1919:              Awarded Permanent Commission as a Lieutenant Colonel

 5 Jun 1920:               Officer Commanding, No 2 FTS, Duxford.

 3 Jan 1922:               Directing Staff, RAF Staff College

22 Apr 1925:             Commandant, Central Flying School (Upavon and Wittering).

24 Jan 1927:              Deputy Director of Operations and Intelligence.

27 Oct 1928:             Officer Commanding, RAF Base Leuchars.

15 Oct 1929:             Chief Staff Officer, HQ Inland Area

 9 Oct 1930:              Chief Staff Officer, HQ Iraq Command.

20 Nov 1930:            AOC, Transjordan and Palestine.

22 Oct 1933:             Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

12 Dec 1933:             Commandant, RAF Staff College

 1 Apr 1936:              Air Member for Research and Development.

 1 Aug 1938:              Air Member for Development and Production.

 5 Nov 1940:              Vice-Chief of the Air Staff

19 Oct 1942 - xx Mar 1945:                Chief Executive , Ministry of Aircraft Production (Retired List)

Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid FreemanHe learnt to fly at a flying school in France in 1912 and gained Flying Certificate No 1404 on 21 July 1913, transferring to the RFC on his return, becoming one of itís earliest members   On 12 September 1914, his aircraft began to seriously vibrate leaving him with only one option, to force land behind enemy lines.  Having successfully managed this, he and his observer, Lt Dawes, set off under cover of darkness to walk the eight miles back to the British lines, which they accomplished in two days, including having to swim the River Aisne.  However, on return to their squadron their euphoria at having succeeded was dashed when their CO reprimanded them for flying together (both were pilots) without instructions.  In March 1915 he was gazetted with one of the first MC's to be awarded to a member of the RFC

During his four years as Air Member for Research and Development/Development and Production, he was responsible for some of the most important decisions regarding aircraft and equipment at a most critical period for the expanding RAF.  These included the pushing for the development of four engined heavy bombers, resulting in the eventual production of Stirlings, Halifaxes and Manchesters, the latter leading to development of the excellent Lancaster.  Another project, which he sanctioned against great opposition, was the all wooden Mosquito proposed by Geoffrey DeHavilland, which initially gained the nickname of 'Freeman's Folly'.  His tour of duty as AMDP also covered the development of the eight gun fighters (Hurricane and Spitfire), Radar and he gave valuable support to Frank Whittle's work on the jet engine.  Many of these developments would have possibly floundered without his support and as a result he provided a major contribution to the final Allied victory.  During his tenure as VCAS, Freeman was sent out to the Middle East to look into the problems being encountered in that theatre.  This was at the insistence of Churchill who really wanted Freeman to replace Tedder as AOC in C, but after both Portal and Freeman threatened to resign if Tedder was replaced, Churchill was forced to back down and leave Tedder in post.   Retiring he was appointed to the post of Chief Executive at the Ministry of Aircraft Production,  Here he worked closely with Lord Beaverbrook and he soon found that this had it's disadvantages leading to a great deal of conflict between the two.  Following one particular disagreement with Beaverbrook, Freeman approached Portal and requested to be allowed to return to the RAF  in any capacity whatever.  Fortunately the problem was sorted out and it was Beaverbrook who was finally moved with Freeman remaining in his post until the end of the war.  Post war, Sir Wilfred Freeman went to work at Courthauld's where he remained until his death in 1953.  

Photograph © Crown Copyright

Citation for the award of the Military Cross

"Lieutenant W. R. Freeman, The Manchester Regiment and Royal Flying Corps.

For gallantry, ability, and very valuable work performed.  Located the position of German batteries on 10th instant, and conveyed the information by wireless messages from his aeroplane to our Artillery, and, although his propeller and planes were pierced by the enemy's bullets, he remained aloft for more than five hours during the day."

(London Gazette - 27 March 1915)

 

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