Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Vice-Marshal The Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick Sykes

F H Sykes - 1911Sir Frederick Hugh SykesFrederick Hugh                        b: 23 Jul 1877              r: 1 Apr 1919              d: 30 Sep 1954

PC - 20 Nov 1928, GCSI - 2 Feb 1934, GCIE - 3 Nov 1928, GBE -26 Aug  1919, KCB - 1 Jan 1919, CMG - 14 Mar 1916, MiD - 19 Oct 1914, MiD - 22 Jun 1915, MiD - 1 Jan 1916, MiD - 14 Mar 1916, K.J.St.J - 19 Jun 1936, SV4 - 12 Apr 1916, Leo Cdr - 15 Jul 1919, DSM (US) - 15 Jul 1919, LoH Cdr - 18 Nov 1919, RS2 - 4 Jan 1921.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army): - (L) Lt: xx xxx 1900, 2 Lt: 2 Oct 1901, (L) Lt: 7 Mar 1903, Lt (15th H): 29 Jul 1903, Capt: 1 Oct 1908, (T) Maj: 13 May 1912, (B) Maj: 3 Jun 1913,  (T) Lt Col: 9 Jul 1913,  (T) Col (RFC): 22 Nov 1914,  (B) Lt Col: 18 Feb 1915,  (T) Col (RM): 24 Jul 1915 - 14 Mar 1916, Wg Capt (RNAS):24 Jul 1915 - 14 Mar 1916, (T) Brig-Gen: 8 Feb 1917, (B) Col: 3 Jun 1918.

(RAF): - Maj-Gen: 12 Apr 1918 [1 Apr 1918], AVM: 1 Aug 1919,

Photo (Far left) - taken from his RAeC Certificate

Photo (left) - Sir Frederick Hugh Sykes

by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, 1919
NPG x38876

National Portrait Gallery, London

xx xxx 189?:       Private, Imperial Yeomanry Scouts.

xx xxx 1900:       Lieutenant, Lord Robert's Bodyguard.

 2 Oct 1901:        2nd Lieutenant, 15th Hussars.

 7 Mar 1903:       Officer, West African Regiment.

22 Sep 1904:       Supernumerary Lieutenant reinstated to establishment of 15th Hussars.

xx xxx 1905:       Intelligence Staff - Simla, India.

 1 Oct 1908:       Staff College, Quetta.

25 Feb 1911:       General Staff Officer 3rd Class, Directorate of Military Operations.

13 May 1912:      Officer Commanding and Officer in charge of Records, Military Wing RFC

 9 Jul 1913:          Commandant, Military Wing, RFC.

13 Aug 1914:        Chief of Staff (GSO 1), HQ RFC in the Field.

22 Nov 1914:       Commander, RFC in the Field

10-12 Dec 1914:        Temporary duty in England

21 Dec 1914:        2nd in Command, HQ RFC in the Field.

26 Jan - 2 Feb 1915:        Temporary duty in England

26 May 1915:      Placed at the disposal of the Admiralty.

14 Jun 1915:        Embarked for Mediterranean

24 Jul 1915:         Officer Commanding, RNAS Eastern Mediterranean Station

14 Mar 1916:     Assistant Adjutant & Quartermaster-General, 4th Mounted Division.

 9 Jun 1916:      Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of Adjutant-General to the Forces.

 8 Feb 1917:      Director-General of Organisation

27 Nov 1917:     Deputy to General Wilson, Allied War Council

12 Apr 1918:       Chief of the Air Staff

19 May - 3 Jun 1918:    Temporary duty in France (No 5 Group?)

25 Oct 1918:         Air Ministry

 7 Nov 1918:        Chief of the Air Staff

 1 Apr 1919:         Controller-General of Civil Aviation

Having worked as a clerk and on a tea plantation in Ceylon he enlisted the Army on the outbreak of the Boar War. He was captured and after being forced marched across South Africa, was abandoned and returned to the British.  Commissioned he returned, only to be severely wounded in the chest, invalided back to the UK but later returning to his unit, once again.  In 1904, he was attached to Balloon units training on Salisbury Plain, following which he obtained his ballooning certificate.  Whilst working at the War Office, he learnt to fly, eventually gaining RAeC Certificate No 95 on 20 June 1911.   He served on the Sub-Committee of  the Committee for Imperial Defence, which was tasked, with looking into the use of aircraft, together with Brig-Gen Henderson and Maj. McInness.  Their plans (devised by Sykes) were accepted by the CID resulting in the formation of the RFC.  On it's formation in May 1912, Capt Sykes was appointed to command the Military Wing of the RFC.  When Henderson was appointed to command the First Division, Sykes was appointed his replacement, but on hearing of this Lord Kitchener ordered a reversal of the decision and Henderson's absence only lasted from 22 Nov 1914 to 20 Dec 1914.  In 1915 he was loaned to the RNAS to put into action the findings of a report he had already written following a visit to the Dardanelles to look into the confused air situation there.   

However, in 1916 he found himself surplus to RFC requirements and was posted to the HQ of a Territorial Cyclist Division at Colchester in his substantive rank of Captain.  Following Trenchard's resignation from the post of CAS in April 1918, Sykes found himself appointed in his place, on more or less a part-time basis, as he did not relinquish  his post in France.  With the cessation of hostilities and a General Election, Lloyd George reshuffled his Government bringing in Winston Churchill as Secretary of State for Air.  Churchill published his appointments on 1 January 1919 bringing back Trenchard as CAS but with the new post of Controller-General of Civil Aviation going to Sykes.  Sykes eventually retired from the RAF as such on 1 April 1919 as a Major General being granted the equivalent rank of Air Vice Marshal on the introduction of the RAF's rank structure in August 1919.

Post war, Sykes continued as Controller of Civil Aviation until 1922 when his term of office ended, refusing to remain for an extra year due to the lack of funds made available by the government.  Deciding to enter politics he stood for election and became MP for the Hallam division of Sheffield, until he was appointed Governor of Bombay in 1928.  In 1923 he become Chairman of the Broadcasting Committee which led to his appointment as Chairman of the BBC.   A return to Britain in 1933 brought with it numerous directorships and official posts on various committees and organisations .  In 1939 he offered his services to the Crown but these were not required so he turned to politics once more and was re-elected to Parliament in 1940 as MP for Central Nottingham until losing his seat in the 1945 election.

This page was last updated on 18/10/22

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