Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Vice-Marshal D C McKinley (40125)

David Cecil                  b: 18 Sep 1913                     r: 26 Mar 1968                     d: 23 Apr 2002

CB – 1 Jan 1966, CBE – 1 Jan 1958, DFC – 31 May 1940, AFC – 1 Jan 1945, Bar – 7 Sep 1945, MiD - 20 Feb 1940, FIN - 1949.

Act Plt Off (P): 5 Sep 1937, Plt Off: 12 Jul 1938, Fg Off: 12 Jan 1940, Act Flt Lt: 1 - 8 May 1939,  Flt Lt (WS): 12 Jan 1941,  (T) Sqn Ldr: 1 Mar 1942, Act Wg Cdr: 17 Jul 1944?, Sqn Ldr (WS): 17 Jan 1945, Sqn Ldr: 25 Feb 1947 [1 Sep 1945], Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1947, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1954, Act A/Cdre: 22 Dec 1958?, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1960, Act AVM: 1 Jan 1962, AVM: 1 Jan 1963.

 5 Sep 1937:            Initial Officer Training

xx xxx 1937:            U/T Pilot, No ? FTS.

 7 May 1938:           Attended School of General Reconnaissance

15 Oct 1938:           Attended Flying Boat Pilot's Course, RAF Calshot.

16 Dec 1938:          Pilot, No 228 Sqn (Sunderlands - Pembroke Dock/Middle East)

xx xxx xxxx:             Pilot/Flight Commander, No 210 Sqn

xx xxx xxxx:             Attended Specialist Navigation Course, Canada

xx xxx xxxx:             Ferry Pilot

20 Nov 1942:          Staff Officer, Specialist Navigation (New Series) Course, Central Navigation School

xx xxx 1944:            Head of the Liaison and Investigation Department, Central Navigation School/Empire Air Navigation School.

15 Sep 1945:           Seconded to British Overseas Airways Corporation

16 Apr 1946 :           Appointed to Permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader (retaining rank current at the time). [wef 1 Sep 1945]

xx xxx 1946:            Attended RAF Staff College, Bracknell.

xx xxx 1947:

xx xxx 1952:            Air Staff, Directorate of Operational Requirements

xx xxx 1954:            Staff, RAF Unit, Royal Aircraft Establishment.

xx xxx 1958:            Attended Imperial Defence College.

22 Dec 1958:           Director of Operational Requirements (C).

1962                        ? (Christmas Island)

 1 May 1963:           AOC, RAF Malta

 1 May 1963 -  1 Nov 1965:            Deputy C in C (Air), HQ Allied Forces Mediterranean.

11 Jan 1966:            SASO, HQ Transport/Air Support Command.

Born in County Tipperary in Ireland he attended Trinity College, Dublin and started work as a radio engineer for Ferranti in 1935 but left to join the RAF in 1937.  Following his flying training he was posted first to the School of General Reconnaissance, for more advanced navigation training before training as a flying boat pilot at Calshot. Posted to No 228 Squadron at Pembroke Dock, he flew Sunderlands over the Western Approaches until the squadron was sent to the Middle East in 1939.  However, with the outbreak of war, the squadron soon returned to Pembroke Dock and continued its previous duties, for which he gained a DFC in 1940.

After No 228 Squadron he was posted to No 210, which then flying Catalinas from Oban in Scotland. In June 1941 he was selected for the special task of flying US President Roosevelt's special envoy, Harry Hopkins to Russia.  The flight to Archangel from Invergordon covered a distance of 2,000 miles and took over 20 hours across some of the most dangerous seas in the world, both from nature and from enemy fighters based in Norway, he made the return journey, with Hopkins, on 1 August.  After this epic, journey he attended a Specialist Navigation Course in Canada and then became involved in the ferrying of Catalinas across the Atlantic. 

In 1942 he was appointed to the Central Navigation School at Cranage and the following year undertook the first of a series of long distance flights when he led a liaison visit to the Middle East (26 Sep - 16 Oct 1943).  Between 1 - 5 December 1943 he carried out a radar survey of the sea off Iceland using a Wellington.  After the CNS moved to Shawbury and was renamed Empire Central Navigation School, he continued to undertake such flights, including being the captain of Stirling, LK589, which left Shawbury on 2 June 1944 for a 14 day tour of Canada and arrived back at Shawbury on 26 June 1944.  From 21 October 1944, he also captained Lancaster PD328 'Aries' which carried out a 53 day tour of the USA, Pacific area and the Middle East, thereby completing the first circumnavigation of the Earth by an RAF aircraft and setting a new England to Australia record of 72 hours.  However, there was a practical purpose to the flight, that of preparing the route for RAF aircraft to make the long journey to the Pacific planned for once the war in Europe had ended.  In May 1945 he again captained ‘Aries’, in a trans-polar flight to establish the exact locations of both the geographic and magnetic north pole, followed by further flights around the Arctic from Canada, covering a distance of 17,720 miles in total.  What made the flight even more remarkable was that the auto-pilot failed shortly after take off and McKinley had to fly most that distance on manual.

He attended the RAF Staff College in 1946, but I have been able to determine his postings after that until 1952, when he joined the Directorate of Operational Requirements at the Air Ministry.  Two years later he was posted to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and in 1958 he attended the Imperial Defence College, before returning to the Air Ministry as the Director of Operational Requirements (C).  In 1962, he was sent to Christmas Island and then took command of RAF Malta in 1963.  Returning to Britain in 1966, he was appointed SASO, HQ Transport Command, which became Air Support Command in 1967.  He was made a Freeman of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in 1959 and in 1984 he moved to Alderney in the Channel Islands.

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