Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Vice-Marshal W F MacN Foster

William Foster MacNeece          b: 21 Aug 1889            r:  6 Feb 1937               d: 28 Mar 1978

CB - 3 Jun 1933, CBE - 10 Oct 1922, DSO - 1 Jan 1917, DFC - 2 Nov 1918, MiD - 1 Jan 1941, CBD (SC) - 15 Mar 1946, LoM (Cdr) - 3 May 1946, Hon MA (Oxon) - 1941.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army): - 2 Lt:  6 Feb 1909, Lt: 2 Feb 1912, Capt: 10 Jun 1915, (T) Maj: 16 Feb 1916, (T) Lt Col: 5 Dec 1916.

(RNAS): Flt Lt: 19 Apr 1915,

(RAF): - (T) Col [Maj]: 1 Apr 1918, Wg Cdr: 1 Aug 1919 [1 Apr 1918], Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1924, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1930, Act AVM: 25 Mar 1942, (T) AVM: 1 Jun 1943, AVM: Retained.

xx xxx xxxx:              Attended RMC Sandhurst.

 6 Feb 1909:              Officer, The Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)

xx Jan 1914:                U/T Pilot, Central Flying School

28 Apr 1914:              Appointed to RFC Reserve.

1914                           Pilot, No 3 Sqn RFC. (Various types UK/Western Front)

 1 Oct 1914:                Returned to England

23 Oct 1914:               Resigned appointment as Flying Officer and returned to Regimental duty

19 Apr 1915:              Seconded for service with the Admiralty (Balloons) 

9 Sep 1915:                Appointed Flight Commander, RFC

16 Feb 1916:              Officer Commanding, No 2 (Kite Balloon) Section RNAS.

 5 Dec 1916:               Officer Commanding, 2nd  Balloon Wing RFC.

16-24 Aug 1917:        Officer Commanding (Temporary), No 5 Balloon Company

22 Nov 1917:             Returned to Home Establishment

 2 Jul 1918:                 Posted to No 5 Balloon Wing

 5 Jul 1918:                 Officer Commanding, No 5 Balloon Wing

 9 Aug 1918:               Wounded and admitted to No 61 Casualty Clearing Station (Concussion)

11 Aug 1918:              Admitted to No 8 BRX (Gun shot wound/concussion)

20 Aug 1918:              Sick leave in France

10 Sep 1918:              Sick leave in England

16 Jan 1919:               Staff Officer, 1st Class (Air)

 1 Aug 1919:           Resigned his commission in the Royal West Kent Regiment on appointment to a Permanent Commission in the RAF.

 1 Aug 1919:               Awarded Permanent Commission as a Lieutenant Colonel

 4 Dec 1919:               Staff, HQ RAF Halton.

 1 May 1920:              Officer Commanding, Record Office.

24 Mar 1921:              Chief Staff Officer, HQ Mesopotamian Group.

13 Oct 1921:               Chief Staff Officer, HQ Iraq Group.

 1 Oct 1922:                Air Staff Duties, HQ Iraq Command

29 Apr 1923:               Supernumerary - Non effective (sick), RAF Depot.

29 Jul 1923:                 Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

1924                            British Air Representative to the League of Nations.

27 Apr 1925:               Chief Staff Officer, HQ ADGB.

 7 Apr 1926:                British Air Representative to the League of Nations.

11 Nov 1929:              AOC, No 1 Air Defence Group.

29 Jul 1931:                Injured in a flying accident

 1 Jan 1934:

 6 Feb 1934:               Placed on half pay list, scale A

2 Sep 1939:                AOC, No 6 (Bomber) Group.

xx Apr 1942:               Deputy Head of RAF Delegation, Washington.

xx Dec 1942 - xx May 1943:                Member, Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee, Washington.

xx Oct 1943:               Head of Inter-Service Liaison Committee, Washington.

xx Sep 1944:               Head of RAF Training Mission, China.

Born William Foster MacNeece, he was educated at Cheltenham School before entering the RMC Sandhurst, and changed his surname to Foster by Royal Licence in 1927.  Having been awarded RAeC Certificate 671 on 31 October 1913, he later specialised in balloon work.  In 1916, he was temporarily transferred to the RNAS to train naval personnel in the operation of kite balloons.  He was awarded his CBE for services in Iraq.  Whilst inspecting No 604 Sqn at Tangmere on 29 July 1931, he was injured whilst flying in Wapiti, K1379, which crashed during a forced landing practice.  He was admitted to the Station Sick Quarters but was transferred to the RAF Officers Hospital, Uxbridge on 10 August 1931.

Retiring from the RAF at his own request, in 1937 he joined the British Commission for the Exchange of Prisoners in Spain working in this capacity until 1939, when he was recalled to active service. 

As AOC, No 6 Group he evolved one of the first forms of synthetic crew trainers, using old fuselages.  He was also responsible for suggesting that the second pilot should be replaced by a flight engineer, thereby halving the pilot requirement in Bomber Command at a stroke.  In the post war years he settled in Oxford and soon entered local politics, becoming a member of Oxford City Council in 1950.  In the 1960's he held the highest offices in Oxford, firstly that of Sheriff (1963 - 64), and then Lord Mayor (1966) and Deputy Lord Mayor (1967).

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

Lieut.-Col. William Foster MacNeece, D.S.O.(R.W.Kent R.).

An exceptionally brave and efficient officer.  From 2nd July to 9th August he was in command of a Balloon Wing, and by his energy and personal example inspired all ranks with a spirit of emulation difficult to surpass.  During this period he carried out numerous shoots in co-operation with our artillery, and obtained much valuable information for our Intelligence Department.  On 9th August his balloon was attacked by an aeroplane and shot down in flames.  Lieut.-Col. MacNeece parachuted, but received severe injuries when landing.

(D.S.O. gazetted 1st January,1917.)

(London Gazette 2 November 1918)

This page was last updated on 25/12/22

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