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Marshal of the RAF Lord Douglas of Kirtleside

(William) Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of KirtlesideWilliam Sholto                  b: 23 Dec 1893               r: 1 Nov 1947                        d: 31 Oct 1969

Baron - 1 Jan 1948 (Conferred 17 Feb 1948), GCB - 1 Jan 1946 (KCB - 1 Jul 1941, CB - 11 Jul 1940), MC - 14 Jan 1916, DFC - 8 Feb 1919, MiD - 1 Jan 1916, MiD - 20 May 1918, MiD - 31 Dec 1918, C de G (F) - xx xxx 1915, PR2 - 29 May 1942, WL - 12 Jan 1943, WE (S)2 - 21 Jan 1944, LoM (CC) - 28 Aug 1945 (LoM (Cdr) - 28 Jul 1944), DSM (USN) - 23 Nov 1945, SO (GC) - 9 Oct 1945, OP(GC) - 6 Sep 1946, ON(KGC) - 15 Oct 1946, LoH, GC - xx xxx 194?, CWC - xx xxx 194?, GOOC - 20 Jun 1947, Hon CRAes - xx xxx 1950, DL (County of London) - 24 Feb 1949.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army): - 2 Lt: 15 Aug 1914, Lt:  9 Jun 1915, (T) Capt: 27 Dec 1915/10 Jan 1916?, (T) Maj: 1 Jul 1916.

(RAF): - (T) Maj [Capt]: 1 Apr 1918,  (T) Lt Col: 20 Nov 1918, Sqn Ldr: 25 Mar 1920, Wg Cdr: 1 Jan 1925, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1932, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1935, AVM: 1 Jan 1938, (T) AM: 25 Nov 1940, AM: 14 Apr 1942 [25 Nov 1940], (T) ACM: 1 Jul 1942, ACM: 6 Jun 1945, MRAF: 1 Jan 1946.

(William) Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside

by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, January 1938
NPG x434

© National Portrait Gallery, London

15 Aug 1914:             Officer, Royal Field Artillery.

 7 Jan 1915:                Observer, No 2 Sqn RFC. (Various types – Western Front)

xx May 1915:              Pilot Training, France and England. (RAeC Cert. No 1301)

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

16 Aug 1915:              Pilot, No 8 Sqn RFC. (BE2c – Western Front)

27 Dec 1915:              Appointed Flight Commander.

10 Jan 1916:                Flight Commander, No 18 (Reserve) Sqn RFC. (Montrose)

15 Apr 1916:               Officer Commanding, No 43 Sqn RFC. (Sopwith 11 Strutter – UK/Western Front)

xx May 1917:              Recuperation/Airfield Selection Duties, Ireland.

10 Aug 1917:              Officer Commanding, No 84 Sqn RFC/RAF. (SE5, SE5A – Western Front)

xx xxx xxxx:                Officer Commanding, No 22 Wing.

20 Nov 1918,             Officer Commanding, No 59 Wing, Cranwell.

xx xxx 1919,               Pilot/OC, No 1 (Communications) Sqn. (Various types – Hendon)

21 Apr 1919:              Unemployed List.

25 Mar 1920:              Air Staff, HQ No 1 Group.

17 Dec 1920:               Awarded Permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader (wef 30 Mar 1919)

 4 Apr 1921:                Staff, School of Technical Training (Men). (Pending formation of No 6 FTS)

22 Jul 1921:                 CFI, No 6 FTS.

 3 Apr 1922:                Attended RAF Staff College (Course No 1).

 1 May 1923:               Head of T.1, Directorate of Training and Staff Duties

xx xxx xxxx:                 Head of T.1, Directorate of Training.

 1 Jan 1927:                 Attended Imperial Defence College.

 4 Jan 1928:                 Supernumerary, RAF North Weald

 6 Jan 1928:                 Officer Commanding, RAF North Weald

16 Aug 1929:               Air Staff, HQ Middle East Command - Khartoum.

xx Nov 1929:               Senior Air Staff Officer, Khartoum, Sudan

20 Mar 1932:               Supernumerary, RAF Depot

27 Jun 1932:                 Instructor, Imperial Defence College

 1 Jan 1936:                  Director of Staff Duties, Air Ministry  

17 Feb 1938:                Assistant Chief of the Air Staff

22 Apr 1940:                Deputy Chief of the Air Staff

25 Nov 1940:               AOC in C, Fighter Command

11 Jan 1943:                 AOC in C, Middle East Command

20 Jan 1944:                 AOC in C, Coastal Command

15 Jul 1945:                  C in C, British Air Forces of Occupation/Air Division, Control Commission for Germany

1 May 1946:                 C in C, British Forces of Occupation/UK Member of Control Commission and Military Governor, British Zone of Occupation, Germany.  

xx xxx 1948:                  Chairman, BOAC

14 Mar 1949 - xx xxx xxxx:                 Chairman, BEA

 14 Mar 1954 - xx xxx 1964:               Chairman, BEA

Educated at Tonbridge School, he was awarded an exhibition at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he started in 1913.  Here he continued as a member of the O.T.C. and although originally in the Signals section of the Infantry, he managed to wangle a transfer to the artillery.  Having found disfavour with his CO, he transferred to the RFC.   In May 1915 he began his retraining as a pilot, initially in France and after gaining his RAeC Certificate (No 1301 on 2 Jun 1915) back in England.

Unsure if he could survive in a peace time RAF which appeared to have an uncertain future he decided to leave, joining Handley Page Transport Ltd as their Chief Pilot and on 1 May 1919, the day on which the ban on civil flying was lifted, he piloted a Handley Page 0/400 on the first commercial passenger carrying flight between London and Manchester and then in July he flew the first cross-Channel commercial flight when he flew an 0/400 to Brussels.  However, he became disenchanted with civilian flying and left Handley-Page.  He considered returning to College at Oxford, following his father into the art business and even emigrating to America.  In early 1920 he was offered a job a job in India as a jute merchant and whilst considering it, he had a chance meeting with Trenchard who suggested that he "come back to the RAF", which he did being awarded a permanent commission as a Squadron Leader. 

On 28 June 1939, he and AM Sir Christopher Courtney were accompanying Sir Kingsley Wood on a visit to Belfast, when their aircraft flew into a mountainside in Cumberland.   Sholto Douglas was the least injured and he managed to make his way to a shepherd's hut where he able to summon help.  As AOC in C, Fighter Command he  moved Fighter Command from the defensive to the offensive, in an attempt to destroy the German fighter forces by enticing them into the air to combat large concentrations of fighters escorting a small number of bombers.  When he and Sir Arthur Harris were promoted to Marshal of the RAF, they become only two officers in the history of the RAF to hold the rank without having held the post of Chief of the Air Staff.  Retiring from the RAF, he held a number of positions in the post war civil aviation industry, including a Director of BOAC (1948 - 49), Chairman of BEA (1949 - xxxx and 1954 - 64), Chairman of Horizon Travel Associates Ltd (1964 - 69) and was the President of the International Air Transport Association (1956 - 57).  As a Marshal of the RAF he attended the funeral of King George VI.  In 1941 he was made a Honorary Fellow of  Lincoln College, Oxford and in 1946 a Liveryman, Dyers’ Co as well as being a Liveryman of the  Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators.

Further reading: - Years of Combat/Years of Command, Sholto Douglas – Collins (1963/1966)

This page was last updated on 16/10/22

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