Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

 

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Air Vice Marshal Sir Laurence Sinclair (26066)


Laurence Frank                 b: 13 Jun 1908                 r: 29 Jul 1960        d: 14 May 2001

GC - 21 Jan 1941, KCB - 13 Jun 1957 (CB - 1 Jan 1946), CBE - 1 Jan 1943, DSO - 13 Sep 1940, Bar - 16 Feb 1943, MiD - 1 Jan 1941, MiD - 14 Jun 1945, LoM (O) - 27 Aug 1943.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

Plt Off: 28 Jul 1928, Fg Off: 28 Jan 1930, Flt Lt: 1 Jun 1934, Sqn Ldr: 1 Feb 1938, Act Wg Cdr: xx xxx 1940?, (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Sep 1940, (T) Gp Capt: 1 Sep 1942, Act A/Cdre: 21 Mar 1943, Gp Capt (WS): 21 Sep 1943, Wg Cdr: 25 Jan 1945 [1 Jun 1944], Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1946, A/Cdre: 1 Jul  1948, AVM: 1 Jul 1952.

xx xxx 1926 :          Flight Cadet, 'B' Sqn, RAF College.

28 Jul 1928:            Pilot, No 4 Sqn.

21 Jan 1930:           Pilot, No 30 Sqn.

29 Feb 1932:          Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

16 May 1932:         Instructor's Course, Central Flying School. (Graded Category A2)

31 Jul 1932:            QFI, No 5 FTS.

21 Jan 1934:           QFI, No 501 (Bomber) Sqn.Special Reserve.

26 May 1935:         Staff, Superintendent of RAF Reserve.

 8 May 1937:          Personnel Staff Officer, HQ RAF India.

20 Jul 1939:            Air Staff, Directorate of Staff Duties.

xx xxx 1940:           Air Staff, Directorate of War Training and Tactics.

10 May 1940:         Officer Commanding, No 110 Sqn.

31 Oct 1941:          SASO, HQ No 6 Group.

11 May 1942:         SASO, HQ No 91 Group

xx xxx 1942:           Officer Commanding, No 323 Wing. (Bisley)

21 Mar 1943:         AOC, Tactical Bomber Force, NWATAF.

26 Aug 1943:         Appointed Air ADC to The King

22 Mar 1944:         Local Inspectorate General, HQ Mediterranean Allied Air Forces

xx Aug 1944:          SASO, HQ Balkan Air Force.

1945                       Director of Postings (Selection).

xx xxx 1947:           Attended Imperial Defence College.

xx xxx 1947:           SASO, No 84 Group.

15 Dec 1947:          Officer Commanding, RAF Gutersloh.

 1 Dec 1948:           AOC, No 2 Group.

xx xxx 1949:           Assistant Commandant, RAF Staff College.

27 Mar 1949:         Relinquished appointment as Air ADC to The King.

31 Jul 1950:            Commandant, RAF College.

xx xxx xxxx:            AOC, AHQ Iraq

xx xxx 1952:           Commandant, School of Land/Air Warfare.

 4 Nov 1953:          Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations).

17 Sep 1955:          AOC, British Forces Aden/Arabian Peninsula.

xx xxx 1958:           Commandant, Joint Services Staff College.

Coming from a military family, he entered the RAF College at Cranwell in 1926 and was commissioned in 1928.  His first posting was to No 4 Squadron at Farnborough, then still equipped with the Bristol F2B, although the following year Armstrong Whitworth Atlases arrived.  In 1930, he was posted to Iraq, where he joined No 30 Squadron.  Returning to Britain in 1932, he attended the Central Flying School and qualified as an instructor, before going to Sealand as an instructor for two years.  In 1934, he became the full time adjutant and Instructor for No 501 Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force and the following year he joined the staff of the Superintendent of the RAF Reserve.

In 1937, he returned to India and it was here, in 1938, that he contracted a stomach problem, which led to the discovery of him being born with only one kidney.  This effectively put and end to his flying career and it seemed that he would be confined to ground based assignments.  However, his fortunes changed when war broke out in 1939 and on the same day that the Germans began their attack against France and the Low Countries, he was given command of No 110 Squadron at Wattisham, but it was almost immediately sent to France.  He led the squadron in attacks against German lines of communications, and after the evacuation the squadron returned to Wattisham and continued its attacks but now targeting the channel ports and the assembling invasion barges.

In September 1940 he was asked to assist the officer i/c flying and whilst on his way to the watch office in his car, a Blenheim of No 107 Squadron suffered an engine failure and crashed alongside the runway, with two of the four bombs exploding.  Immediately rushing to the crashed aircraft and saw the gunner lying beside it and dragged the unconscious man away from the blazing wreck.  For this action he was awarded the George Cross six months later, which had only recently been instituted.

In 1941, he was posted to HQ, No 6 Group as Senior Air Staff Officer, then responsible for the operational training within Bomber Command.  With the preparations underway for the North African landing, he was given command of No 326 Wing, equipped with Bisleys and took these to the Middle East, where he continued to fly on operations, often with No 614 Squadron.  His success at leading his Wing, saw him promoted to Air Commodore and given command of Tactical Bomber Force, a joint RAF/USAAF formation. With the fighting in North Africa over, his force was next involved in the invasion of Sicily and then the Italian mainland.  In 1944, he was appointed SASO to the newly formed Balkan Air Force, which provided air support to the Yugoslavian partisans.

After the war, he returned to Britain and a post in the Air Ministry, before attending the Imperial Defence College in 1947.  From there he moved to Germany, where he assumed command of RAF Gutersloh and a year later became AOC of No 2 Group, which was then part of the British Air Forces of Occupation.  In 1949 he was appointed Assistant Commandant of the RAF College and in 1950, he became Commandant.  On completion of this appointment, he was promoted to Air Vice-Marshal, but found himself appointed AOC in Iraq, a not too pleasant prospect in those days and he soon managed to have his posting changed and he returned home o become Commandant of the Land/Air Warfare School at Old Sarum.

In 1955, he was appointed AOC of British Forces Aden, which was soon renamed British Forces Arabian Peninsula.  This was not simply a change of name, as his new command now became autonomous meaning that he reported directly to Chiefs of Staff in Whitehall and not through HQ Middle East, as had previously been the case.  He received his knighthood for his services during this period.  Returning to Britain in 1958, his final appointment was as Commandant of the Joint Services Staff College but when his old friend Duncan Sandys told him he was moving from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Aviation, he offered Sinclair the post of Controller of Ground Services, which he accepted and took early retirement from RAF in order to take up the post.  He later became Controller of National Air Traffic Control Services.

Citation for the award of the George Cross 

“During a night in September, 1940, an aircraft burst into flames whilst taking off. Wing Commander Sinclair immediately went to the scene to render assistance, but two 250 1b. bombs exploded before he reached it. Undeterred, and knowing that two more bombs were in the aircraft, he pressed on and dashing into the fire he succeeded in dragging the air gunner to a safe distance. In this act this officer displayed the most complete disregard for his own safety. Unfortunately the rescued air gunner has since died of his injuries.”

(London Gazette  21 January 1941)

 

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Distinguished Service Order

“Group Captain Laurence Frank SINCLAIR, G.C., C.B.E., D.S.O.

This officer commands a light bomber wing which commenced operations in North Africa in November,1942.He has led his squadrons on numerous sorties, involving low level attacks on enemy targets in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire and fighter opposition.  His inspiring leadership and courageous example have--been reflected in the fine fighting spirit of the squadrons he commands.”

(London Gazette – 16 February 1943)

Sinclair's medal group (photo courtesy Terry Hissey)

Sinclair's honours group (photo courtesy Terry Hissey)

Click on the photos above to enlarge them

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