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Air Chief Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst (24035)

Sir Harry BroadhurstHarry               b: 28 Oct 1905                     r: 1 Mar 1961                     d: 29 Aug 1995

GCB - 1 Jan 1960 (KCB - 1 Jan 1955, CB - 15 Aug 1944), KBE - 5 Jul 1945, DSO - 4 Jul 1941, Bar - 19 Dec 1941, DFC - 2 Jan 1940, Bar - 29 Sep 1942, AFC - 1 Feb 1937, MiD - 26 Jun 1931, MiD - 17 Mar 1941, MiD – 1 Jan 1946, LoM (O) - 11 Apr 1944, ON(GO) - 31 Oct 1947.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army): 2 Lt: 21 May 1925.

(RAF) Plt Off (P): 1 Oct 1926, Plt Off: 1 Oct 1927, Fg Off: 1 Apr 1928, Flt Lt: 1 Jun 1932, Sqn Ldr: 1 Jun 1937, Act Wg Cdr: 24 Jan 1940 - 10 May 1940; 10 May 1940 - 1 Jun 1940, (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Jun 1940,  Act Gp Capt: 17 Mar 1941, Wg Cdr (WS): 1 Sep 1941, (T) Gp Capt: 1 Jun 1942, Act A/Cdre: 29 Nov 1942, Wg Cdr: 20 Nov 1942 [1 Oct 1942], Act AVM: 31 Jan 1943 - 4 Jul 1946, Gp Capt (WS): 29 May 1943, A/Cdre (WS): 31 Jan 1944, Gp Capt: 1 Dec 1944, (T) A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1946 [31 Jan 1944], A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1947,  AVM: 1 Jul 1949, Act AM: 3 Dec 1953, AM: 1 Jan 1954, ACM: 14 Feb 1957.

Sir Harry Broadhurst

by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, April 1944
NPG x165556

© National Portrait Gallery, London


21 May 1925:        Officer, Hampshire Heavy Brigade, Royal Artillery (TA)

 1 Oct 1926:            Seconded to RAF

 1 Oct 1926:           U/T Pilot, No 11 Sqn (Horsley - Netheravon)

 8 Aug 1927:          Pilot, No 11 Sqn.

 9 Jan - 23 Apr 1928:           Attended Short Signals Course, Electrical and Wireless School

1 Feb 1928:           Resigned Commission in TA on appointment to Short Service Commission in RAF

25 Apr - 18 May 1928:    Attended Electrical Wiring Course, Electrical and Wireless School.

29 May 1928          Pilot/Signals Officer, No 11 Sqn (Horsley - Netheravon)

20 Aug - 1 Sep 1928:          Attended Short Course in Care and Maintenance of Parachutes, Home Aircraft Depot.

29 Dec 1928:         No 1 Sqn proceeded to India

13 Apr 1931:          Supernumerary pending transfer to Reserve, RAF Depot.

16 Sep 1931:          Pilot, No 41  Sqn. (Bulldogs – Northolt)

15 - 26 Oct 1931:          Attended Single Seat Fighter Conversion Course, No 41 Sqn (Northolt)

 1 Oct 1931:            Appointed to Medium Service Commission

 9 Feb - 1 Mar 1933:        Attended Instrument Flying Course, Central Flying School.

18 Sep - 21 Nov 1933:          Attended Flying Boat Pilot's Course (Removed from Course)

26 Nov 1933:         Flight Commander, No 19 Sqn. (Bulldogs/Gauntlets – Duxford)

29 Sep 1934:          Temporary Duty, SHQ RAF Ismailia

10 Oct 1934:          Officer Commanding, Target Towing Flight, RAF Ismailia

 9 Dec 1934 :          Proceeded to the UK on SS Chtiral

xx Jan 1935:            Flight Commander, No 19 Sqn. (Bulldogs/Gauntlets – Duxford)

 1 Jun 1936:            Awarded Permanent Commission in RAF in the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

13 Nov 1936:         Chief Ground Instructor, No 4 FTS - Abu Sueir.

10 Jul 1937:            Supernumerary, No 4 FTS.

12 Jul 1937:            Supernumerary, RAF Depot (Leave until 1 Sep 1937)

 2 Sep 1937:           Personnel Staff, HQ, No 2 Group.

24 Jan 1938:           Attended RAF Staff College.

29 Sep 1938:           Temporary duty, HQ Bomber Command.

 6 Oct -17 Dec 1938:    Supernumerary, (Leave)

17 Dec 1938:          Supernumerary Staff, RAF College, Cranwell.

31 Dec 1938:          Officer Commanding (designate), No 111 Sqn. (Hurricane)

17 Jan 1939:            Officer Commanding, No 111 Sqn.

24 Jan 1940:            Wing Commander - Training, HQ No 11 Group

10 May 1940:          Officer Commanding, RAF Coltishall

18 May 1940:          Officer Commanding, No 60 (Fighter) Wing Servicing Unit.

29 May 1940:          Officer Commanding, RAF Wittering.

20 Dec 1940:           Supernumerary, RAF Hornchurch.

23 Dec 1940:           Officer Commanding, RAF Hornchurch.

16 Oct 1941:           Special Temporary Duty with British Air Staff, Washington.

 1 Dec 1941:            Officer Commanding, RAF Hornchurch.

12 May 1942:          Deputy SASO, HQ No 11 Group.

31 Oct 1942:          Supernumerary, AHQ Western Desert.  

29 Nov 1942:        SASO, HQ Western Desert Air Force.

31 Jan 1943:           AOC, Western Desert Air Force.

10 Jul 1943:            AOC, Desert Air Force

21 Mar 1944:          Supernumerary, No 83 (Composite) Group.

25 Mar 1944:          AOC, No 83 (Composite) Group.

 1 Sep 1945:            Supernumerary, No 9 Personnel Despatch Centre (No 1 Wing)

 2 - 20 Sep 1945:    Leave.

21 Sep 1945:           Supernumerary, HQ Fighter Command.

24 Sep 1945:           AOA, HQ Fighter Command

 4 Jul 1946:              Supernumerary, HQ Fighter Command.

 1 Aug 1946:            AOC, No 61 Group.

19 - 23 Jul 1948:      Attended Special Senior Course, School of Combined Operations, Fremington.

 3 - 7 Jan 1949:         Supernumerary - Temporary Duty, Directorate of Command and Staff Training?

11 Jan 1949:            Attended Imperial Defence College.

 1 Jan 1950:              Supernumerary, Air Ministry Unit.

 1 Feb 1950:             Supernumerary, HQ, British Air Forces of Occupation.

 3 Feb 1950:            Senior Air Staff Officer, British Air Forces of Occupation.

 1 Mar 1952:            Supernumerary, HQ 2nd Tactical Air Force.

 9 Apr 1952:            Supernumerary, Air Ministry Unit - Attached to DCAS pending appointment as ACAS.

19 Apr 1952:           Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations).

 4 Nov 1953:           Supernumerary, Air Ministry Unit - Pending overseas posting.

 3 Dec 1953:            C in C, 2 Tactical Air Force

22 Jan 1956:            AOC in C, Bomber Command

20 May 1959:          Commander, Allied Air Forces Central Europe

Harry Broadhurst, known throughout the RAF as 'Broady', became one the 'characters' of the RAF in WW2 as well it's youngest Air Vice Marshal when he took command of the Western Desert Air Force.  Having attended Portsmouth Grammar School from 1915, he left to become an articled pupil to a surveyor.  In 1925, prevented joining the RAF by his father; a retired Army officer, he joined the Territorial Army. Here he was able to get his CO to sign his application for secondment to the RAF in October 1926, as he was still under age at the time.  In 1931 he was 'Mentioned in Dispatches' for  operations on the North West Frontier.   Back in Britain he joined No 41 Squadron at Northolt flying the Bristol Bulldog, where his reputation began to grow with the excellent team and solo aerobatics displays he performed at the Hendon Pageants.  He was also recognized as a fine marksman, winning the Sassoon Trophy (for air-to-air firing) three years in a row.

Joining No 19 Sqn in 1934 he quickly continued to build his reputation as a great leader when he led the squadron's display team of five Bulldogs.  In 1936 the squadron re-equipped with the Gloster Gauntlet and he continued to lead the squadron's display team with this latest aircraft.  On 29 November 1939, Harry Broadhurst opened 111's WW2 score when he spotted an Heinkel 111 behind a cloud bank.  Giving chase he closed to 500 yards when the bomber dived for cloud but Broadhurst maintained the chase, silenced the ventral gunner, closed to 150 yards and sent the Heinkel spiralling into the ground. 

Promoted to Wing Commander in early 1940 he was given command of the new fighter station at Coltishall in Norfolk.  However, with no squadrons stationed there, when a call for experienced squadron commanders to go to France was put out, he volunteered and found himself dropping a rank in command of No 85 Squadron.  Reporting to his Wing Commander, Wg Cdr Jack Boret, he found that the Wingco had suffered a nervous breakdown and therefore he found himself back as a Wing Commander in command of No 60 (Fighter) Wing.  On his return from France, he was asked by ACM Sir Hugh Dowding to tour airfields in No's 12 and 13 Groups to talk to the pilots about the lessons being learnt over France, following which he was appointed Station Commander at RAF Wittering.  He was heavily involved in the Battle of Britain often flying with the squadrons under his command, both day and night fighter units.  moving to command the Hornchurch Sector, he continued to fly on operations but on 4 July 1941, his WW2 career could have almost come an end.  Leading 54 Squadron, he was involved in a number of skirmishes with Bf109's, downing two when he himself was hit and his aircraft badly damaged.  Recovering from a spin at 1,000ft he decided to attempt the flight home but over Cap Griz Nez he was hit again, this time by flak.  However, he managed to  coax his Spitfire back to base executing a prefect belly landing.  His final claims were made on 19 August 1941, bringing his total aerial victories to 13 destroyed, seven probables and 10 damaged. 

Further promotion to Group Capt saw him move to HQ No 11 Group as Deputy SASO, where he was responsible for fighter operations and training.  During this period he was also sent on a liaison mission to the USA on behalf of his AOC, Trafford Leigh-Mallory.  Late in 1942 he moved overseas to the Middle East, initially supernumerary to George Beamish but soon afterwards replacing Beamish as SASO of the Desert Air Force. Not long afterwards, he replaced his own commander, 'Mary' Coningham on the latter's appointment as Commander in Chief, Northwest African Tactical Air Forces.  Whilst in the Desert he managed to commandeer a captured Fiesler Storch communications aircraft, which painted in British markings, he used for touring the units under his command.

With the build up of forces for Overlord, he was selected as one of the Group Commanders for the newly formed 2 Tactical Air Force.  As such he and his wings were amongst the first units of the AEAF to operate from the continent.     He continued to use the Storch to visit his forward units taking full advantage of it's STOL capability.  However, his personal means of transport came to a somewhat ignominious end in early 1945 when he suffered an engine failure on taking off from Evere.   Trying to land the aircraft on the nearest available area, the roof of a hanger, his efforts were dashed when the roof collapsed, the hanger having previously been gutted by fire, resulting in the destruction of the Storch.  Fortunately when the crowd of officers who had been seeing their AOC off arrived on the scene they found Harry Broadhurst uninjured and standing next to the aircraft.

In 1956, with the introduction of the V-Bombers and the rapid response needed to effect a creditable deterrent, it was decided to staff Bomber Command with personnel having some ex-Fighter Command experience.  Harry Broadhurst therefore found himself appointed AOC in C, tasked with creating a force capable of reacting rapidly in the event of a nuclear attack.  In Oct 1956 it was decided to show off Britain's latest V-Bomber, the Vulcan, by sending one on a world tour.  As AOC in C, Harry Broadhurst took part as the co-pilot.  After a successful tour the aircraft, XA897, ran into fog on it's return to Britain, but instead of diverting to a different airfield, the pilot elected to attempt a landing at Heathrow where the reception party was laid on.  Unfamiliar with Heathrow which was not the large airfield it is today, the aircraft landed short ripping off it's undercarriage.  The pilot and Broadhurst were able to eject but unfortunately the remaining four crew members perished in the ensuing crash.  A year later, Broadhurst was again in the co-pilot's seat of a Vulcan captained by Wg Cdr F L Dodd, OC - No 230 OCU.  Taking off from Waddington at 2:30pm they touched down in Naples at 4:37pm having covered the 1,121 miles in 1 hour 50 minutes at an average speed of 615 mph.  Another aspect of Broadhurst's tenure as AOC in C, was the introduction of the Quick Reaction Alert, in which V-Bombers were held at readiness and capable of being airborne within four minutes of receiving the 'scramble' signal. 

On coming to the end of his appointment at Fontainebleau, he found out that he was due to be posted to the Air Ministry in London, but not wanting to live there he decided to retire and was offered the post of Managing Director of A V Roe & Co Ltd in Manchester, a position he held from 1961 until 1966.  However, when Avro was taken over by Hawker Siddeley, he was appointed Deputy Managing Director, entailing a move to LONDON.  During his time in the aviation industry he also held the posts of Vice-Chairman, Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Society of British Aircraft Manufacturers.


Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

“Squadron Leader Harry BROADHURST, A.F.C. (24035).

This officer was in command of the duty Squadron at an East coast aerodrome during November, 1939, when he was informed of an approaching enemy aircraft. He stated that the weather conditions were unfit for formation-flying and yet, despite the rain and clouds at ground-level, he took off alone, flying blind by means of instruments. Emerging above the cloud and endeavouring to clear an iced-up windscreen, he sighted the enemy aircraft. Squadron Leader Broadhurst attacked and caused it to turn on its side and dive vertically into cloud close to sea level. In following it down he narrowly escaped from crashing into the sea.  On his return weather conditions had not improved, and it was only at the third attempt that he was able to regain his aerodrome.”

(London Gazette – 2 January 1940)

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

"Acting Group Captain Harry BROADHURST, D.F.C., A.F.C.

This officer has been almost continuously employed on active operations since the war began.  He distinguished himself during the intensive air operations over this country in August, 1940, by his determined efforts to intercept and destroy enemy bombers at night.  In December, 1940, Group  Captain Broadhurst assumed command of his present unit and throughout has performed outstanding operational work.  He has destroyed at least four enemy aircraft besides damaging several others.  One day in June, 1941, he took off alone in an endeavour to locate a pilot whom he believed had been forced down in the sea.  In his efforts to direct a rescue boat he flew some 8 miles off Cap Griz Nez but had to return owing to lack of petrol. His ability, keenness and outstanding powers of leadership have been an inspiration to all and have contributed materially to the successes obtained by the squadrons under his command."

(London Gazette – 4 July 1941)

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

"Acting Group Captain Harry BROADHURST, D.S.O., D.F.C., A.F.C.

This officer has organised and led his wing with conspicuous gallantry and success.  During a heavy engagement over Bethune, in June, 1941, Group Captain Broadhurst's aircraft was hit by a cannon shell which, besides making a large hole in the port wing, put the port wing guns out of action and also damaged the aileron thus making control difficult.  A second shell hit the side of the fuselage, causing havoc in the cockpit. Group Captain Broadhurst received many small wounds in the arm and legs and only recovered from the effects of the shell-fire at 1,000 feet over the 1 target area.  Nevertheless, he flew the aircraft back to England.  Within a few days, Group Captain Broadhurst was again leading the wing in action over Northern France.  On the return journey, he was attacked by a force of 6 Messerschmitt 109s but, by brilliant tactics, Group Captain Broadhurst fought them off and, it is believed, destroyed 2 of them before the engagement was terminated some 15 miles north of Gravelines.  Although his aircraft .was damaged by the enemy's fire, Group Captain Broadhurst flew it safely back to .this country.  Since being awarded the Distinguished Service Order in June, he has destroyed 8 and probably destroyed a further 4 enemy aircraft.  He has set an example worthy of the highest traditions of the service."

(London Gazette – 19 December 1941)

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross

"Group Captain Harry BROADHURST, D.S.O., D.F.C., A.F.C

In the combined operations against Dieppe on 18th August, 1942, this officer flew with great distinction. He completed several sorties during which he constantly flew amongst enemy bomber and fighter patrols. Although he was several times engaged by hostile aircraft, 1 of which he destroyed, Group Captain Broadhurst displayed great skill and furnished much valuable information 'regarding the trend of the air operations. In the course of his duties he flew alone for some 8 hours in an area where hostile patrols were operating in great strength. His skill and gallantry were of the highest order."

(London Gazette - 29 September 1942)

This page was last updated on 29/11/23

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