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Air Chief Marshal Sir Alec Coryton

Sir (William) Alec Coryton(William) Alec         

b: 16 Feb 1895                        r: 15 May 1951                     d: 20 Oct 1981

KCB - 2 Jan 1950 (CB - 1 Jan 1942), KBE - 5 Jul 1945, MVO - 8 Aug 1919, DFC - 21 Nov 1922, LoH (K) - xx xxx 1917, LoM (Cdr) - 15 Mar 1946.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army): - 2 Lt:  22 Sep 1914, Lt: 1 Jul 1917.

(RAF): - (T) 2 Lt: 1 Apr 1918, (H) Lt: 1 Apr 1918, Flt Lt: 1 Jan 1921, Sqn Ldr: 1 Jul 1925, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1933, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1938, Act Gp Capt (unpd): 7 Mar 1938, (T) A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1940, (T) AVM: 1 Dec 1941, A/Cdre: 14 Apr 1942 [1 Jul 1940], AVM: 1 Jun 1943, Act AM: 15 Aug 1944, (T) AM: 1 Jan 1946, AM: 1 Oct 1946, ACM: 15 May 1950.  

Sir (William) Alec Coryton

by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, 26 July 1946
NPG x166753

National Portrait Gallery, London


xx xxx 1913:               Attended King's College, Cambridge University.

22 Sep 1914:               Officer, 8th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade.

1 Apr 1918:                Appointed to a Commission in the Aeroplane and Seaplane Branch.

xx xxx xxxx:                 Attended School of Special Flying, Gosport

xx xxx xxxx:                 Instructor, No 40 Training Squadron.

xx xxx 1919:                Pilot/Instructor, No 24 Sqn. (Various types Hendon)

 1 Aug 1919:                Relinquished his commission in the 5th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade

 1 Aug 1919:                Awarded Permanent Commission as a Lieutenant

10 Aug 1920:               Instructor, RAF (Cadet) College, Cranwell.

22 Dec 1920:               Flight Commander, No 31 Sqn. (Bristol F2B NWF India)

21 Oct 1924:               Air Staff, HQ Inland Area.

26 Aug 1925:               Supernumerary, No 16 Sqn. (Bristol F2B Old Sarum)

30 Sep 1925:               Officer Commanding, No 16 Sqn. (Bristol F2B Old Sarum)

 7 Nov 1928:               Staff, School of Army Co-operation.

18 Dec 1931 - 18 Jan 1932:                Placed on half pay list, scale A

18 Jan 1932:                Attended Senior Officer's (Army) School.

 7 Apr 1932:                Air Staff, Directorate of Operations and Intelligence.

xx xxx xxxx:                  Supernumerary, No 1 RAF Depot

 1 Dec 1938:                Air Staff, HQ No 2 Group

 7 Mar 1938:                Deputy Director of Operations (Overseas).

xx xxx 1940:                Director of Operations (Overseas).

xx xxx 1941:

25 Apr 1942:               AOC, No 5 Group.

xx Feb 1943:                Air Staff, Air Ministry/SASO, RAF Middle East?.

xx Aug 1943:                Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations).

25 Aug 1944:               Commander, 3rd Tactical Air Force.

 4 Dec 1944:                Commander, RAF in Bengal & Burma.

27 Feb 1945:                Air Marshal Commanding , HQ RAF Burma

14 Dec 1944 - xx May 1945:                Assistant Air Commander, Eastern Air Command.

1 Jun 1945:                  Air Marshal Commanding, AHQ Burma.

15 Oct 1945:                Controller of Research and Development, Ministry of Aircraft Production.

xx xxx 1946:                Controller of Supplies (Air), Ministry of Supply.

 4 Sep 1950:                Chief Executive Guided Weapons, Ministry of Supply.

Born in Cornwall, he attended Eton from 1908 and King's College, Cambridge from 1913, but with the outbreak of the war he volunteered for service in The Rifle Brigade, being commissioned on 22 September 1914 into the 8th Battalion.  As a Platoon Commander he was wounded at Hooge near Ypres during the first flame thrower attack.  Hit in the shoulder, by efilade machine gun fire whilst he was moving up to the front line, he was one of only four or five officers from his Battalion who survived, although all the survivors were wounded.

Joining the RFC in 1917, his obvious flair and skill with engines and other mechanical devices stood out and he was selected to be an instructor.  Having attended the School of Special Flying at Gosport, which had been set up by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Smith-Barry to train instructors, he was posted to No 40 Training Squadron.  It was here in 1919 that Alec Coryton was given the responsibility for training Prince Albert (later King George VI) to fly.  

Whilst commanding No 5 Group, he became the first group commander to operate the Lancaster.  He was  purportedly sacked by Harris in February 1943, for refusing to commit a small group of his Lancasters to a sneak raid against Berlin during bad weather.

He continued in his post at the Ministry of Supply in a civilian capacity until joining the Bristol Aeroplane Company as the Managing Director of their Engine Division in 1951, taking on the extra role of Chairman in 1955.   With the formation of Bristol Siddeley Engines Ltd, he was appointed Vice-Chairman remaining in that post until his final retirement in 1964.

Announcement and citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

CORYTON, William Alex, F/L, MVO

"in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in Waziristan"

(London Gazette - 21 November 1922)

"An excellent pilot who has shown the utmost gallantry and keenness in carrying out bombing raids during several months. 

On 7th April 1922, while he was attacking tribesmen besieging Wana Fort, another machine was forced to land in enemy territory.  Flight Lieutenant Coryton thereupon flew his machine very low with the intention of picking up the pilot and observer.  As it was impossible to land owing to the nature of the ground, he continued to fly at a low altitude and covered the retreat of the officers on the ground.  In this way he saved them from falling into the hands of the tribesmen."

(Source - Air 30/49)

This page was last updated on 24/11/22

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