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Air Chief Marshal Sir Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman (04073)

Sir Ronald Ivelaw-ChapmanRonald                        

b: 17 Jan 1899                     

r: 29 Oct 1957                     

d: 28 Apr 1978

GCB - 13 Jun 1957 (KCB - 1 Jun 1953, CB - 9 Jun 1949), KBE - 7 Jun 1951 (CBE - 2 Jun 1943), DFC - 3 Dec 1918, AFC - 5 Apr 1929, MiD - 17 Mar 1941.

(Army):- (T) 2 Lt (P): 27 Sep 1917, (T) 2 Lt: 11 Jan 1918.

(RAF):- Lt: 1 Apr 1918, (T) Capt: xx Aug 1918, Fg Off: 1 Aug 1919, Flt Lt: 1 Jul 1925, Sqn Ldr: 1 Apr 1935, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1938, (T) Gp Capt: 1 Dec 1940, Act A/Cdre: 1 Feb 1943, (T) A/Cdre: 1 Jun 1943, Gp Capt (WS): 1 Aug 1943, 1 Dec 1943, Act AVM: 1 Aug 1945, (T) AVM: 1 Jan 1946, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1946, AVM: 1 Jul 1947, Act AM: 23 Feb 1950, AM: 1 Jan 1951, ACM: 1 Nov 1953.

Sir Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman

by Elliott & Fry
bromide print, 21 April 1952
NPG x86676

© National Portrait Gallery, London

17 Jan 1917:            3rd Class Air Mechanic, RFC.

27 Sep 1917:           U/T Pilot, No 12  FTS.

xx xxx 1917:            U/T Pilot, No 53 FTS

11 Jan 1918:            Appointed Flying Officer, RFC.

xx Feb 1918:           Pilot, No 10 Sqn RFC.

xx xxx 1918:            Flight Commander, No 10 Sqn RFC/RAF.

xx xxx 1919:            Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

 1 Aug 1919:           Awarded Permanent Commission as a Lieutenant

xx xxx 1919:            Pilot, No 97 Sqn. India and Iraq.

xx Apr 1920:           Pilot, No 60 Sqn.

 6 Mar 1922:           Supernumerary, RAF Depot

15 May 1922:          Test Pilot, Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment.

10 Jun 1926:            Pilot, No 99 Sqn. (Hyderabad)

23 Feb 1928:           Pilot, No 70 Sqn.

 8 Apr 1930:            'A' Flight Commander, No 56 Sqn.

18 Jan 1932:            Attended RAF Staff College

17 Jan 1933:            Air Staff - Intelligence, Directorate of Operations and Intelligence.

11 May 1936:          Officer Commanding, Advanced Training Squadron, No 6 FTS.

 6 Dec 1937:            Supernumerary, HQ No 6 (Auxiliary) Group.

xx xxx xxxx:             Air Staff, Air Ministry.

 2 Jan 1939:            Directing Staff, RAF Staff College

xx xxx 1939:            Air Staff - Operations, HQ Bomber Command.

28 Jul 1940:            Officer Commanding, RAF Linton-on-Ouse.

 1 Jun 1941:             Deputy Director of Plans

xx xxx 1942:            Deputy Director of Policy and Development. (established about Aug 1942)

 1 Feb 1943:            Director of Policy (Air).

 1 Feb 1944:            AOC, No 13 Base - Elsham Wolds.

 7 May 1944:           Evading.

 8 Jun 1944:            Prisoner of War.

 1 Aug 1945:             AOC, No 38 Group.

xx Dec 1946:             RAF Member, Defence Research Policy Staff.

xx Sep 1947:            Directing Staff, Imperial Defence College.

23 Feb 1950:           C in C, Indian Air Force.

xx Dec 1951:           Hospitalised.

31 Mar 1952:          AOC in C, Home Command.

 1 Nov 1952:           Deputy Chief of the Air Staff.

 9 Nov 1953:           Vice Chief of the Air Staff.

Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman was one of those young men who desperately wanted World War One to last long enough for him to get into uniform.  Enlisting in the Army whilst still at Cheltenham College in 1917, he became a 3rd Class Air Mechanic on his 18th birthday and shortly afterwards an officer cadet.  However, his training was severely interrupted when he contracted chicken pox and was then discovered to be a carrier of cerebro-spinal meningitis, resulting in his admission to the Aldershot Isolation Hospital. Eventually recovered he underwent his pilot training at Thetford and Narborough where he gained his 'Wings' on 11 January 1918.  Following conversion to the FK8 at Worthy Down, he was posted to No 10 Squadron on the Western Front.  On the 11 November 1918, he found himself on patrol between 10.30am and 11.15am, thereby carrying out one of the final flights in WW1 which ended at 11.00am.

Returning to the UK, he applied for and was awarded a permanent commission.  Determined to serve overseas, he initially volunteered for service in Russia, but when not accepted, volunteered to join a new squadron destined for service in India.  This squadron became No 97 and was initially equipped with The DH10 twin engined bomber and it was during this period, he was selected as one of the pilot's to inaugurate the Indian Air Mail service.  However, on 1 April 1920, 97 was renumbered No 60, still retaining its DH10's which were eventually replaced by DH9's around the time Fg Off Ivelaw-Chapman returned to Britain.  For the next five years he carried out service trials on a wide range of 'heavy' aircraft as a test pilot on 'B' Flight of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath, he also acted as station adjutant at some time.  Three more flying appointments followed before he attended the RAF Staff College, the first being to No 99 Squadron at Bircham Newton in Norfolk flying Handley-Page Hydrabads and the second being to No 70 Squadron in Iraq.  During his two years in Iraq he was involved in the evacuation of personnel from the British Legation in Kabul to India as a result of the civil unrest in Afghanistan at the time.  Whilst flying Victoria J7926, he suffered engine problems which resulted in him having to force land.  He was captured by the rebels and held from 29 January to 18 February 1929 before being returned later being awarded the AFC for his work during this operation.  His third flying appointment introduced him to the role of single engined fighter operations as a Flight Commander with No 56 Squadron at North Weald equipped with Siskins.

Having the completed the Staff College course, he spent the following three years in the Directorate of Operations and Intelligence as a staff officer in both Operations and Intelligence.  In the later appointment, he was specifically responsible for Czechoslovakia and was able to visit the country as part of his duties flying himself in a civilian Tiger Moth.  His final flying appointment came in 1936 when he was posted to Netheravon in command of the Advanced Flying Squadron, where he and his staff were responsible for the post graduate training of newly qualified pilots.  However, this posting was to be short-lived when he was recalled to the Air Ministry to rewrite the "RAF War Manual - Operations" and having completed that task was appointed to the Directing Staff of the RAF Staff College.  On the outbreak of war he assumed his war role as a staff officer at HQ Bomber Command remaining in post for nine months before heading North to take command of RAF Linton on Ouse.  Linton was then in No 4 Group and was home to, amongst others, No 102 Squadron, equipped with Whitleys and numbering among its personnel, Plt Off Leonard (later Group Capt, VC) Cheshire.

This operational command came to an end in mid 1941 and he returned to the Air Ministry where he remained for two and half years in various posts.  During this period he was heavily involved in the planning and preparations for the invasion of Northern Europe.  Much to his relief, he returned to command in 1943 as Base Commander of No 13 Base in No 1 Group with his command centred on RAF Elsham Wold with Kirmington and North Killingholme as his satellites.  Once again, however, his command was to be cut short, this time by the enemy.  Granted permission to accompany one of his crews  on operations on the night of 6/7th May 1944, his aircraft (ND783 of No 576 Squadron) was hit by a night fighter and the crew ordered to bale out.  Only two of the crew managed to leave the aircraft, one being the bomb aimer, Sergeant Ford and the other being Air Commodore Ivelaw-Chapman.  Managing to evade capture, he was able to get in touch with the local resistance and plans were set in motion to recover him and fly him back to England.   Having heard of his loss and unknown to him at that time, Churchill immediately issued the order, owing to his knowledge of the plans for impending invasion, that rather then being allowed to be captured he should be killed.  Fortunately for him he managed to avoid capture and following the invasion on 6 June 1944, the information he held became less valuable but rescue was to elude him as he was eventually captured hiding in a French farm two days after D-Day.

Having badly injured his shoulder whilst escaping the crippled Lancaster, he spent many of his early months in captivity in hospital undergoing going treatment.  Eventually released by the  Americans on 16 April 1945, he returned to Britain and following recuperation in July 1945, he was sent to France by Portal, to assess the feasibility of setting up an RAF Escaping Society to help those in the occupied countries who had assisted British aircrew to evade capture during the war.  Following his visit he returned and reported that the scheme would be acceptable to the French and suggested Basil Embry as a suitable chairman.  He later became Vice-President of the Society.

His first post-war command was as AOC, No 38 Group.  Having been formed to transport the airborne forces, its main tasks were now to supply British servicemen with the mail and newspapers and to bring back personnel for de-mobilisation.  He then joined the Defence Research Policy Staff for 18 months before becoming Senior RAF member at the Imperial Defence College.  Promotion to Air Marshal brought with it secondment to the Indian Government.  Having left India in 1922 as a Flying Officer, he returned as the Commander in Chief of the newly independent nation's Air Force, the penultimate RAF officer to hold the post.  Nearing the end of his time in India, he contracted an obscure tropical disease resulting in his repatriation to Britain and a spell in the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London.  Initially not expected to recover, he pulled through and was soon appointed AOC in C, Home Command.  His final appointments where on the Air Council, firstly as Deputy Chief of the Air Staff before swapping roles with Sir John Baker as Vice Chief of the Air Staff.  Subsequent to the RAF he joined the Ministry of Labour as Director of Resettlement until 1961 as well as joining the Council (President) of Cheltenham College (1968 - 72) and a member of the Observer Trust (1957 - 66).  He died of abdominal cancer in 1978.

Citation for the award the of the Distinguished Flying Cross

“Lieut. (A./Capt.) Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman. (FRANCE)

This officer has rendered most valuable service in co-operation with our artillery.  In these operations he displays marked skill and devotion to duty, his keenness of observation being excellent. On more than one occasion he has carried out several successful shoots in one flight.”

(London Gazette – 3 December 1918)

Citation for the award of the Air Force Cross


"in recognition of distinguished services rendered during the recent evacuation from Kabul".

Based on the following submission:-

"This officer made a forced landing in Afghan territory owing to engine trouble.  He landed the Victoria by exercising judgement and skill in exceptionally difficult circumstances with the smallest amount of damage to the machine and passengers.  He subsequently worked his way back to Jalalabad.  Here he made arrangements which ultimately rendered the evacuation of himself and passengers possible by air.  He also made two successful evacuation trips."

(Source - Air 30/79/1-16)

This page was last updated on 19/08/23

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