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Air Marshal Sir Harold Maguire (34048)

Harold John                            b: 12 Apr 1912                       r: 28 Sep 1968                        d: 1 Feb 2001

KCB – 1 Jan 1966 (CB – 1 Jan 1958), DSO – 1 Oct 1946, OBE – 2 Jan 1950, MiD - 20 Feb 1940, MiD - 1 Jan 1942, MiD - 1 Oct 1946.

Act Plt Off (P): 24 Mar 1933, Plt Off: 24 Mar 1934, Fg Off: 24 Sep 1935, Flt Lt: 24 Sep 1937, Sqn Ldr: 1 Jun 1939, (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Jun 1941, Sqn Ldr: 25 Feb 1947 [1 Jan 1941], Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1947 [1 Oct 1946], Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1952, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1958, Act AVM: 9 Nov 1959, AVM: 1 Jan 1960, Act AM: 23 Apr 1965, AM: 1 Jan 1966,

24 Mar 1933:          Appointed to a Short Service Commission

24 Mar 1933:          Initial Officer Training, RAF Depot. 

 8 Apr 1933:            U/T Pilot, No 3 FTS

xx xxx 1934:            Attended Flying Boat Pilots' Course.

 1 Dec 1934:           Pilot, No 230 Sqn.

29 Nov 1938:          In transit on SS Philocetes on return to Home Establishment

 6 Oct 1939:           Officer Commanding, No 229 Sqn.

 6 Sep 1940:           Squadron Leader - Flying, No 6 OTU

 1 Nov 1940:           Squadron Leader - Flying, No 56 OTU

 7 - 13 Sep 1941:            Attended No 10 Senior Officers' Anti-Gas Course, RAF Rollestone Camp

xx xxx 1941:            Officer Commanding, No 266 (Fighter) Wing - Sumatra.

xx xxx 1942:            Prisoner of War, Java.

24 Mar 1944:          Transferred to RAFO and called up for service

28 Jan 1947:             Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader (wef 1 Sep 1945) 

xx xxx 1946:            Officer Commanding, RAF Linton-on-Ouse.

xx xxx 1947:            Attended RAF Staff College.

xx xxx 1948:            Group Captain - Operations, HQ Fighter Command.

xx xxx 1950:            Officer Commanding, RAF Odiham.

24 Sep 1952:           SASO, AHQ Malta.

xx xxx 1955:            Staff, Department of CAS.

10 Dec 1956:           Director of Tactical and Air Transport Operations. (later renamed:- Fighter and Tactical Operations)

 2 Jun 1958:            SASO, HQ No 11 Group.

 9 Nov 1959:           AOC, No 13 Group.

 1 Jan 1961:             AOC, No 11 Group.

28 Feb 1962:           SASO, HQ Far East Air Force.

 7 Dec 1964:            Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Intelligence).

23 Apr 1965:           Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Intelligence).

1968 - 1972            Director-General of Defence Intelligence Staff.(Retired Post)

A native of Ireland, he was educated  at Wesley College, Dublin and Dublin University before joining the RAF in 1933.  Following completion of his flying training he was posted to No 230 Sqn on it's re-formation at Pembroke Dock, flying Short Singapore III's.   The squadron was detached to Egypt between September 1935 and July 1936 when it returned to Pembroke Dock prior to moving out to Seletar, Singapore in October 1936.  In 1939 he was given command of No 229 Squadron equipped with Blenheim night-fighters, but in early 1940, it re-equipped with Hurricanes and he continued to lead it until near the end of the Battle of Britain.

In 1941, he given command of No 226 Wing, and was sent to the Middle East, but the Japanese invasion of Malaya forced a change of plans and No 226 Wing was redirected to the Far East.   Arriving in Sumatra, he led a gallant attempt to defend his airfield (P1 - Palembang) against a Japanese parachute attack with only 20 men.  They managed to hold off the attackers long enough for the evacuation of the wounded to take place before withdrawing themselves but not before destroying stocks of petrol and the remaining aircraft.  However they eventually had no option but to surrender and he spent the remainder of the war as a POW in Java.  He was eventually awarded to DSO for this in 1946 and was mentioned in despatches for his service whilst a Prisoner of War.

After the war he was given command of the fighter station at Linton-on-Ouse, before attending the RAF Staff College.  Three years as Group Captain - Operations at HQ Fighter Command followed prior to him taking command of another  fighter station, this time Odiham in Hampshire.  A move to Malta as SASO, was followed by a couple of staff appointments at Air Ministry and then a return to Fighter Command as SASO, No 11 (Fighter) Group.  During this posting he was piloted a Spitfire during a Battle of Britain flypast over London when the aircraft developed engine trouble.  He spotted a suitable area and carried out a successful wheels up landing, only to discover that he had landed on the Oxo company sports field during a cricket match, fortunately the two teams were at tea.

After being AOC of two Fighter Groups, he returned to the Far East as SASO during the period of 'Confrontation' with Indonesia over Borneo. His final two appointments were in the field of Intelligence, first as  ACAS (Intelligence) and then Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Intelligence), before retiring in 1968.  Having retired as a full-time member of the RAF, he was re-employed as a civil servant in the capacity of Director-General of Intelligence at the Ministry of Defence from 1968 until 1972. He them joined Commercial Union Assurance Co. as Political and Economic Adviser in 1972 remaining as such until 1979, although he was made a Director on 1975 remaining in that post until 1982.

Announcement and recommendation for the award the of the Distinguished Service Order

MAGUIRE, Harold John, W/C (34048, Royal Air Force) - No.266 Wing

"in recognition of gallant and distinguished services rendered during the period of operations against the Japanese in Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies terminating in March 1942."

(Source -London Gazette dated 1 October 1946)

"When Japanese troops landed in Sumatra and isolated the airfield from which he was operating, Wing Commander Maquire took charge of the ground defences, which he organized with considerable success.  Under his leadership, many casualties were inflicted on the enemy and all unserviceable operational aircraft, equipment and petrol dumps on the airfield were destroyed before our forces were forced to withdraw.  The withdrawal was satisfactorily effected although it involved a week’s journey over unknown country before all the personnel could be safely evacuated by sea to Java. Wing Commander Maguire conducted two parleys with the Japanese, with great coolness and daring, endeavouring by bluff to persuade them to surrender.  Shortly afterwards, he took over control of the fighter defences of Batavia until they were closed down. Wing Commander Maguire was then ordered by the Air Officer Commanding to leave Java for Australia in a Dutch transport aircraft.  At the last moment, however, he gave up his place to a wounded British pilot, knowing that this act would result in his capture by the Japanese.  Whilst a prisoner of war, this officer was in command of the Royal Air Force group of prisoners in Boei Glodole Camp, Batavia.  His devotion to duty, hard work and cheerful acceptance of the arduous tasks which fell upon him were outstanding. Wing Commander Maguire has consistently set an inspiring example."

(Source - Air 2/8774)

This page was last updated on 09/12/22

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