Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Marshal Sir Harry Burton (39965)

Sir Harry BurtonHarry                           b: 2 May 1919                    r: 2 May 1973                    d: 30 Nov 1993

KCB 12 Jun 1971 (CB 1 Jan 1970), CBE - 1 Jan 1963 (MBE 1 Jan 1945), DSO 29 Jul 1941, MiD - 1 Jan 1942.

Act Plt Off (P): 9 Aug 1937, Plt Off: 24 May 1938, Fg Off: 24 Dec 1939, Flt Lt: 24 Dec 1940, (T) Sqn Ldr: 1 Mar 1942, Act Wg Cdr: 28 Feb 1943, Sqn Ldr (WS): 28 Aug 1943, Sqn Ldr: 1 Aug 1947, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1952, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1958, Act A/Cdre:  10 Jun 1963, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1963, Act AVM: 1 Nov 1965, AVM: 1 Jan 1966, Act AM: 1 Oct 1970, AM: 1 Jan 1971.

Sir Harry Burton

by Walter Bird
bromide print, 5 October 1967
NPG x166273

National Portrait Gallery, London


 9 Aug 1937:            Granted a Short Service Commission.

xx xxx 1937:            U/T Pilot, No ? FTS

26 Mar 1938:           Attended School of Air Navigation

11 Jun 1938:            Pilot, No 215 Sqn.

14 - 28 Jan 1940:           Attended Blind Approach Course, RAF Boscombe Down

xx xxx xxxx:             Pilot, No 149 Sqn 

 6 Sep 1940:            Prisoner of War.

12 Jul 1941:             Transferred to the Reserve and called up for Air Force Service 

22 Oct 1941:            Air Staff, HQ No 44 (Ferry) Group.

28 May 1943:          Air Staff, HQ Transport Command

xx Jan 1945:             Officer Commanding, No 242 Sqn.

xx Feb 1945:            Officer Commanding, No 238 Sqn.

23 Apr 1946:            Air Staff, HQ Transport Command

10 Dec 1946:            Appointed to Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant (retaining rank current at the time) [wef 1 Sep 1945 antedated to 1 Dec 1942 on 25 Feb 1947]

11 Dec 1950:           Seconded to Indian Air Force.


28 Jul 1958:             Group Captain - Organisation, HQ Bomber Command.

xx xxx 1960:            Officer Commanding, RAF Scampton.

10 Jun 1963:            SASO, HQ No 3 Group.

 1 Nov 1965:           Air Executive to Deputy for Nuclear Affairs, SHAPE.

15 Dec 1967:           AOC, No 23 (Training) Group.  

 6 Feb 1970:            ?

 1 Oct 1970:            AOC in C, Air Support Command.

 1 Sep 1972:            AOC, No 46 Group

Sir Harry Burton joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1937 and following his pilot training, he was posted to No 215 Squadron based at Driffield, although shortly after he joined them, the squadron moved to Honington.  With 215 he initially flew Harrows, but in July 1939 the squadron began re-equipping with Wellingtons.  By September 1940 he had transferred to No 149 Squadron in on the night of the 5-6 he was flying Wellington R3163 on a 'razzling' operation over the Black Forest when his aircraft was shot down with he and his crew being captured.  Harry Burton had no intention, however, of spending the rest of the war in 'the cage' and in 1941 managed to escape and make his way back to Britain, becoming the first man to escape from Germany and return to Britain in WW2.

No 238 Sqn was based at Adelaide in Australia and was one of three Dakota squadrons tasked with meeting the air transport requirements of the whole Far Eastern area being part of No 300 Group, Transport Command.

As AOC in C, Air Support Command, he was responsible for battlefield support of the Army which included both logistic support with fleets of strategic and tactical transports, including helicopters, and tactical offensive support with Harriers.  The absorption of these asset into Strike Command saw the disbandment of his command, however, pending the appointment of an AOC to control the strategic transport fleet, which had been designated No 46 Group, Sir Harry oversaw the transition until the New Year.

In 1995, his wife renamed the North Wing of the RAF Benevolent Fund's Princess Marina House in Sussex, the Burton Wing in Sir Harry's honour.  Sir Harry had been Chairman of the home's Management Committee  for 17 years from 1979.

This page was last updated on 27/11/23

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