Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Vice-Marshal C W H Pulford

Conway Walter Heath               b: 26 Jan 1892                                                 d: 10 Mar 1942

CB - 1 Jul 1941, OBE - 1 Jan 1919, AFC - 1 Jan 1919, CdeG (F) - 17 Apr 1918, MiD - 1 Oct 1946, Winner, 'Dunning' Memorial Cup - 1919

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(RN): - Midín: xx xxx 1910,  Act Sub-Lt: 15 Sep 1912, Sub-Lt: 15 Mar 1913, Lt: 15 Dec 1914, Act Flt Lt: 18 Dec 1914, Flt Lt: 26 Mar 1915, Flt Cdr: 30 Jun 1916, Act Sqn Cdr: xx xxx xxxx, Sqn Cdr: 31 Dec 1917.

(RAF): - (T) Maj [Capt]: 1 Apr 1918, Sqn Ldr: 1 Aug 1919 [1 Apr 1918], Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1925, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1932, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1936, AVM: 1 Apr 1939.

xx xxx 1905:         Naval Cadet, Osbourne.

15 Jan 1910:         Midshipman, HMS Russell

xx Jun 1912:         Midshipman, HMS Lion.

xx xxx xxxx:        Sub Lieutenant, HMS Larne

18 Dec 1914?        Pilot, HMS Ark Royal

1915                      Pilot, RNAS Chingford

xx xxx 1915:          Staff, Aliki Seaplane Base, Imbros.

1916                      Pilot, HMS Ark Royal

xx xxx xxxx            Squadron Commander, RNAS

 1 Apr 1919:          Flight Commander/Deputy OC, No 210 Squadron

 1 Aug 1919:          Awarded Permanent Commission as a Major

22 Jan 1920:          Removed from the Navy Lists on being awarded Permanent Commission in RAF

 1 Apr 1920:          Officer Commanding, No 210 Sqn. (Cuckoo Ė Gosport)

28 Sep 1920:         Flight Commander/Deputy OC, No 210 Squadron

 1 Oct 1921:          Squadron Commander, RAF Base, Gosport

 3 Apr 1922:          Attended RAF Staff College.

 1 May 1923:         Staff, Directorate of Training and Staff Duties.

Aug/Sep 1923:       Staff, Directorate of Training.

17 Aug 1925:         Supernumerary, HQ Coastal Area.

 6 Nov 1925:          Officer Commanding, RAF Cape Flight.

 1 Sep 1926:           Officer Commanding - Flying, HMS Furious.

16 Oct 1928:          Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

14 Jan 1929:           Attended Imperial Defence College.

15 Dec 1929:          Officer Commanding, No 7 Sqn.

 9 Apr 1931:           Officer Commanding, RAF Bircham Newton.

 4 Nov 1932:          Officer Commanding, RAF Heliopolis.

 1 Oct 1934:           Officer Commanding, Air Armament School.

14 Sep 1936:          Superintendent of the Reserve and Inspector of Civil Flying Schools.

xx Dec 1937:           AOC, No 26 (Training) Group.

15 Aug 1938:          Director of Volunteer Reserve Expansion  

31 Aug 1939:          AOA, HQ Reserve Command 

 6 Mar 1941:           AOC, RAF Far East.

He was born in Agra, Uttar Pradesh in India.

Having completed an Anti-Zeppelin patrol on 1 June 1915, he was coming into land in BE2c (No 966), when he hit the top of a tree, completely wrecking the aircraft but leaving him unhurt.  However, on 8 May 1916 whilst returning to Ark Royal in Sopwith Schneider seaplane, 1578, he sideslipped and then nose dived from 100ft, wrecking the aircraft and injuring himself.   In 1919, he won the "Dunning Cup" for his experimental work on carrying out airborne torpedo attacks against shipping.

In 1926 he led the RAF Cape Flight of four Fairey IIIDs in a record breaking flight from Cairo to Cape Town, for which he was awarded the AFC.  On 31 March 1933 he accompanied personnel of No 6 Squadron, who conducted a tour from Cairo to Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

Appointed AOC, RAF Far East he was not in good health, a situation which would soon prove detrimental. With the support of his C-in-C, ACM Sir Robert Brooke-Popham he set about building up the defences and preparing for a possible Japanese invasion of Malaya.  However, at this time, the Far East was low on the priority list and their repeated requests for modern re-enforcements went unheeded.  The Japanese attacked on 8th  December 1941 and very quickly progressed down the Malayan Peninsula.  Due to the lack of senior officers, his three senior staff officer where soon having to man the Operations  Room, leaving him to deal with all the policy and administration matters.  At this point AVM P C Maltby arrived and undertook duties as his deputy.  As the situation worsened and it became obvious that the invaders would not be stopped attempts were made to evacuate as many personnel as possible.  Pulford was authorised to evacuate himself on 5 February 1942 but having opted to remain with the army commander it was another ten days  before he and his naval counterpart, Rear Admiral Spooner, where eventually amongst the last to leave.  Unfortunately their motor boat was hit and forced to run aground on a malaria ridden island in the Juju group.  The survivors managed to hold out for two months before being forced to surrender to the Japanese, but the Air Vice Marshal and Rear Admiral where not amongst them, both having died of exhaustion and malaria shortly before.  Although reported missing in 1942, the situation in the Far East was such at the time that knowledge of Pulford's death did not become known until after the Japanese surrender in 1945. He was posthumously mentioned in despatches for his service in the Far East. 

This page was last updated on 08/06/17 using FrontPage 2003©

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