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Air Marshal Sir Paul Holder (36054)

Air Marshal Sir Paul Holder

Paul Davie                    b: 2 Sep 1911                     r: 30 Sep 1968                     d: 22 Apr 2001

KBE – 12 Jun 1965, CB – 13 Jun 1964, DSO – 27 Oct 1942, DFC – 31 Oct 1941, MSc (Bristol University) - 1933 (BSc - 1931), PhD - 1935, FRAeS - 1966.

Plt Off: 2 Mar 1936 [3 Jun 1934], Fg Off: 3 Sep 1936 [3 Dec 1935], Act Flt Lt: 3 Mar 1938, Flt Lt: 3 Sep 1938 [3 Dec 1937], Sqn Ldr: 1 Jun 1939, (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Jun 1941, Act Gp Capt: 9 Jun 1943, Wg Cdr (WS): 9 Dec 1943, Wg Cdr: 1 Oct 1946, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1951, Act A/Cdre: 26 Feb 1957, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1957, AVM: 1 Jan 1960, Act AM: 23 Jan 1965, AM: 1 Jul 1965.

xx xxx xxxx:             Attended University 

2 Mar 1936:           Appointed to a Permanent Commission.

 3 Mar 1936:           U/T pilot, No 3 FTS (University Entrant)

20 Dec 1936:           Pilot, No 57 Sqn

 4 Jan 1937:             Pilot, No 108 Sqn.

 8 Jan 1938:             Pilot/Flight Commander?, No 84 Sqn.

xx xxx 1940:            Station Administration Officer, RAF Habbaniya - Iraq.

xx xxx 1941:            Staff Officer, HQ Bomber Command.

xx xxx 1941:            Staff, No 12 SFTS, Grantham

 1 Jan 1942:             Officer Commanding, No 218 Sqn. (Stirling – Marham)

xx Aug 1942:   

19 Jun 1943:            SASO, Force 686, Ankara, Turkey.

 1 Mar 1944:           Group Captain - Plans, HQ Middle East Command.

xx xxx 1945:            Directing Staff, RAF Staff College.

xx xxx 1946:            Officer Commanding, RAF Broadwell.

xx xxx 1947:            Vice-President, RAF Selection Board.

xx xxx 1947:           Attended Administrative Staff College - Henley on Thames.

xx xxx 1948:            Chief Instructor, RAF Officer Cadet Training School.

xx xxx 1950:            Officer Commanding, RAF Shallufa - Egypt.

xx xxx 1952:            Officer Commanding, RAF Kabrit - Egypt.

23 Feb 1953:           Deputy Director of Air Staff Policy.

xx xxx 1956:            Attended Imperial Defence College.

26 Feb 1957:           AOC, AHQ Singapore.

13 Nov 1957:          AOC, AHQ Hong Kong.

13 Jul 1960:             Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Training).

14 Jan 1963:            AOC, No 25 (Training) Group.

23 Jan 1965:            AOC in C, Coastal Command/Commander Maritime Air, Eastern Atlantic Area and Channel Command.

Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, his family moved to Somerset when he was two.  Paul Holder had quite an academic record before joining the RAF having gained a first in his MSc in Engineering from Bristol University in 1933 (he also attended the University of Illinois), becoming a Robert Blair Fellow in 1934 and gaining his PhD in 1935.  He joined the RAF as a University entrant in 1935 and following his training at No 3 FTS, Grantham, he was posted to No 57 Squadron flying Hawker Hinds at Upper Heyford in December 1936.  However, a month later No 108 Squadron was reformed at Upper Heyford and he was posted to  it as one of its first officer.  In February the squadron moved to Farnborough and in July it moved again to Cranfield.

At the end of 1937, he was posted to the Middle East and in January 1938, he joined No 84 Squadron, which was based at Shaibah in Iraq and was equipped with Vickers Vincents.  By 1940 he was the station Administration Officer at RAF Habbaniya at when the station was attacked and besieged by the Iraqi Army in 1941 he took command of the makeshift bomber squadron assembled from the stations training aircraft.  It was during this incident that he twice managed to escape his aircraft before it exploded, on both occasions, he managed to force land and fled before the aircraft blew up.  However, on the second occasion he landed on a golf course, the aircraft turned over and he found himself upside down in a bunker.  He was awarded the DFC for these operations.

Following the 'Battle of Habbaniya, he returned to the UK and joined the air staff at HQ Bomber Command, before being given command of No 218 Squadron at RAF Marham in early 1942.  He took command just as the squadron was re-equipping from the Vickers Wellington to the four-engined Short Stirling.  By the time he relinquished command of 218, he had completed 65 operations and was awarded the DSO.

In 1943, he joined a secret planning group in Turkey and then in 1944 he was tasked with setting up the first Yugoslav fighter squadron for Marshal Tito at Benina, Lybia equipped with Hurricanes and once trained, he handed over command and returned to Britain.  Back home he joined the Staff College directing staff and remained there for the next two years.  This was followed by command of the Transport Command station at Broadwell, which was one of the centres for the repatriation of troops from the Far East.  He next became Vice-President of the RAF Selection Board, which selected suitable candidates for officer training before becoming Chief Instructor of the RAF Officer Cadet Training School.

A further spell in the Middle East began in 1950, when he was given command of RAF Shallufa in the south of the Canal Zone of Egypt and two years later she moved north to take command of RAF Kabrit. Returning home in 1953, he was posted to the Air Ministry and attended the Imperial Defence College.  His next appointment took him to an area new to him, the Far East, when he became AOC, AHQ Singapore.  Later that year he was transferred to Hong Kong in the same role, where he remained for two years.

His next appointment was a s ACAS (Training) at the Air Ministry and between November 1962 and August 1963 he led a working party which looked into the syllabus of the RAF College at Cranwell.  The findings of this working party resulted in the introduction of a revised syllabus in October 1964 which became known as the 'Holder Syllabus'.  His last two appointments were both in command, the first as AOC, No 25 (Training) Group and his final one as AOC-in-C, Coastal Command.  This appointment was a 'dual-hatted' post in that he also held the NATO appointment of Commander Maritime Air, Eastern Atlantic Area and Channel Command.  When he took command of Coastal Command, his Senior Technical Staff Officer was his younger brother, Air Commodore R. R. Holder, but he left the following month.  In 1966 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and in 1969, following his retirement, he was appointed Honorary Air Commodore of No 3 (County of Devon) Maritime Headquarters Unit, Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

"HOLDER, Paul Davie, W/C, DFC (36054, Royal Air Force) - No.218

Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, this officer has completed a number of operational sorties, including an attack on Lubeck in daylight.  Wing Commander Holder’s powers of leadership are outstanding and have done much to maintain the confidence of the crews operating with him."

(Source - Air Ministry Bulletin 8375)

This page was last updated on 12/03/24©

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