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Marshal of the RAF Sir John Slessor

MRAF Sir John SlessorJohn Cotesworth                      

b: 3 Jun 1897               r: 31 Dec 1952             d: 12 Jul 1979

GCB - 10 Jun 1948 (KCB - 2 Jun 1943, CB - 1 Jan 1942), DSO - 10 Dec 1937, MC - 1 Jan 1917, MiD - 25 Oct 1916, MiD - 18 Feb 1938, MiD - 1 Jan 1942, Leo Cdr - 27 Aug 1948 (Leo Knt - 24 Sep  1917), CdeG (B) - 11 Mar 1918, OP(GC) - 6 Sep 1946, LoH (GC) - xx xxx 194?, C de G (F) - xx xxx 194?, LoM (Cdr) - xx xxx 194?, PS - xx xxx 194?, SO (KGC) - 6 Mar 1953, OSw (GC) - xx xxx xxxx, Hgh Shf (Somerset) - 1965, DL (Somerset) - 18 Apr 1969, JP (Somerset) - 1960-74.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army): - (T) 2 Lt: 6 Jul 1915, (T) Lt: 9 Sep 1915, Lt: 1 Jul 1917, (T) Capt: 1 Dec 1916.

(RAF): - Capt: 1 Apr 1918, (T) Maj: 3 Jul 1918, Flt Lt: 24 Feb 1920 [1 Apr 1918], Sqn Ldr: 1 Jan 1925, Act Wg Cdr: 1 Jan 1932?, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1932, Act Gp Capt: 17 May 1937, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1937, A/Cdre: 1 Sep 1939, (T) AVM: 10 Jan 1941, AVM: 14 Apr 1942 [10 Jan 1941], Act AM: 5 Feb 1943, (T) AM: 1 Jun 1943, AM: 6 Jun 1945, ACM: 1 Jan 1946, MRAF: 8 Jun 1950.  

Photograph Crown Copyright

14 Jun 1915:    U/T Pilot, Brooklands

xx Jul 1915:     Pilot, No 14 Sqn, RFC. (Various types Shoreham)

xx Sep 1915:   Pilot, No 23 Sqn, RFC. (Various types Gosport)

 9 Sep 1915:    Appointed Flying Officer, RFC

xx Dec 1915:   Pilot, No 17 Sqn RFC. (BE2c Egypt/Sudan)

 1 Dec 1916:    Flight Commander, No 58 Sqn RFC. (Training types Cramlington)

 4 Apr 1917:   Flight Commander, No 5 Sqn RFC/RAF. (BE2, RE8 Western Front)

19 Nov 1917:   Attended Senior Officers' (Siege) Course, Artillery School

26 Jan 1918:    Returned to Home Establishment

15 Feb 1918:   Artillery and Infantry Co-operation Officer, HQ No 28 Wing.

 3 Jul 1918:      Officer Commanding, 'A' Squadron - Central Flying School.

xx Aug 1918:   Assistant Commandant/Act Commandant, Central Flying School.

xx xxx 1919:    Station Commander, Druid's Lodge

xx xxx 1919:    Officer Commanding,  No 14 (Training) Sqn

xx xxx 1919:    Officer Commanding, No 201 Sqn. (Cadre)

21 Aug 1919:   Transferred to Unemployed List

24 Feb 1920:   Flight Commander, No 1 Flying Training School.

17 Dec 1920:   Awarded Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant (wef 9 Mar 1919)

 4 May 1921:   Flight Commander, No 20 Sqn - India. (Bristol F2B NWF India)

 3 Dec 1922:    Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

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

 5 May 1924:   Attended RAF Staff College.

 1 Apr 1925:    Officer Commanding, No 4 Sqn. (Bristol F2B Farnborough)

15 Oct 1928:   Air Staff - Plans, Directorate of Operations and Intelligence.

 1 Oct 1930:    Staff, School of Army Co-operation.

21 Jan 1931:    Attended Army Staff College, Camberley.

 1 Jan 1932:     Directing Staff - Army Staff College, Camberley.

13 Mar 1935:  Officer Commanding No 3 (Indian) Wing.

19 - 30 Apr 1937:    Placed on half pay list, scale B

17 May 1937:  Deputy Director of Plans.

22 Dec 1938:    Director of Plans.

 1 Jan 1939:    Appointed Air ADC to the King

12 May 1941:  AOC, No 5 Group - Bomber Command.

 6 Apr 1942:    Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Policy).

 5 Feb 1943:    AOC in C Coastal Command.

14 Jan 1944:    Deputy Air C-in-C, Mediterranean Allied Air Forces/C-in-C, RAF Mediterranean and Middle East.

 5 Apr 1945:    Air Member for Personnel

 1 Jan 1948:     Commandant, Imperial Defence College.

xx xxx xxxx:      Appointed Principal Air ADC to The King

26 Apr 1949:    Title of appointment changed to Air ADC to The King 

1 Jan 1950:      Chief of the Air Staff.  

29 Jan 1953:     Placed on Half Pay

As a child, he had contracted Polio and suffered from two lame legs as a result but still managed to forge a career in the forces.  He was educated at Haileybury, but in 1915 acquiring a Commission in the RFC was only possible for those having completed their Certificate 'A' in the OTC as well as having their  application countersigned by a Colonel.  Jack Slessor managed the first easily but only just managed the second as the Colonel was entraining for France, the Colonel being his Father.  He was awarded RAeC Certificate No 1447 on 6 July 1915.

Having left the RAF at the end of WW1, he attempted various activities in civilian life including the ferrying of Bristol Fighters to the Middle East and joining an expedition to fly over the South Pole, both of which failed to take place.  He then became involved in the railway strike of 1919 assisting in keeping open a power station and organising air mail from Glasgow.  At the end of 1920 he was offered a Short Service Commission in the RAF, which he accepted but his tour in India with No 20 Sqn, was cut short from the usual five years due to a combination of pleurisy, enteric and inflammation of the liver. 

Another tour, this time in Plans, was cut short when he sustained an injury to his foot, which resulted in septicemia.   Convalescing for most of 1930 he toured Europe with his wife and wrote a 'Manual of Army Co-Operation'.   Whilst serving in India for the second time he became involved in the Quetta earthquake of 31 May 1935.  With 54 RAF personnel, 66 Indians and  two children killed and 200 injured this was the largest casualty toll suffered by the RAF in the inter-war period.

With many of those involved in the successful Middle Eastern operations returning to Britain to conduct the Overlord operations, Slessor and others found themselves posted to the Mediterranean in their places, in his case as Deputy Commander, Mediterranean Allied Air Forces.  During his period in the Med. he was directly involved  with the campaigns in Italy, Southern France and the Balkans.  This  included overseeing the formation of the Balkan Air Force within his command.  Following his retirement from the RAF, he wrote a number of books and publications and held a number of offices with various organizations and sat on the governing bodies of his old school as well as others.  He also sat on Somerset County Council from 1963 to 1974.

Further reading: -  The Central Blue,  Slessor, MRAF Sir John - Patrick Stephens Ltd (1992)

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

SLESSOR, John Cotesworth, W/C (now G/C), MC.

"For gallant and distinguished services operations in Waziristan during the period November 25, 1936 to January 16, 1937."

(Source - London Gazette dated 10 December 1937)

This page was last updated on 02/09/23

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