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Air Chief Marshal Sir Denis Smallwood (40645)

Denis Graham               b: 13 Aug 1918                     r: 30 Jun 1976                      d: 26 Jul 1997

GBE – 14 Jun 1975 (CBE – 10 Jun 1961, MBE – 17 Jun 1951), KCB – 14 Jun 1969 (CB -1 Jan 1966), DSO – 1 Sep 1944, DFC – 22 Sep 1942, MiD - 11 Jun 1942, FRSA, FRAeS.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

Act Plt Off (P): 26 Mar 1938, Plt Off: 17 Jan 1939, Fg Off: 17 Jul 1940, Flt Lt (WS): 17 Jul 1941, Act Sqn Ldr: xx Nov 1941, (T) Sqn Ldr: 1 Jul 1943, Act Wg Cdr: 29 Apr 1943, Sqn Ldr (WS): 29 Oct 1943, Sqn Ldr: 10 Dec 1946 [1 Sep 1945], Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1951, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1957, Act A/Cdre: 21 Feb 1961, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1961, Act AVM: 4 Feb 1963, AVM: 1 Jan 1964, AM: 1 Jan 1969, ACM: 30 Jul 1973.           

ACM Sir Denis Smallwood ACM Sir Denis Smallwood


26 Mar 1938:           Granted a Short Service Commission.

 9 Apr 1938:            U/T Pilot, No 10 FTS, Tern Hill

23 Oct 1938:            Attended Instructors Course, Central Flying School.

23 Dec 1938:           Assistant Adjutant, No 605 (County of Warwick) Sqn  AAF. (arrived 29 Dec 1938)

16 Jan 1939:           Attended Anti-Gas Course, RAF Depot

 3 Sep 1939:             Flying Instructor, No 605 (County of Warwick) Sqn  AAF.

14 Sep 1939:            Instructor, No 11 Group Pool, RAF St Athan

 9 Mar 1940:            Instructor, No 6 OTU, RAF Sutton Bridge

 1 Nov 1940:            Instructor, No 56 OTU

 2 Dec 1940:            Pilot, No 87 Sqn

 4 Mar 1941:            Officer Commanding, Night Flying Flight, RNAS Roborough

19 Nov 1941:           Officer Commanding, No 87 Sqn.

17 Jan 1942:            Transferred to RAFO and re-employed

29 Apr 1943:           Wing Leader, No ? Wing. (Spitfires)

24 Mar 1945:          Attended Course No 14, RAF Staff College (Overseas), Haifa.

 9 Aug 1945:           Directing Staff, RAF Staff College (Overseas), Haifa.

xx Oct 1946:           Assistant Secretary, Chiefs of Staff Committee.

28 Nov 1946:          Air Staff Officer, HQ BAFO

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

xx Jul 1948:             Officer Commanding, No 33 Sqn.

xx Sep 1948:           ?

xx xxx 1950:            Directing Staff, Joint Staff Services College.

xx Feb 1953:           Officer Commanding,  RAF Biggin Hill.

xx Oct 1955:           ?

xx xxx 1956:            Attended Imperial Defence College.

1956                       Group Captain - Plans, Air Task Force

19 Dec 1956:          Deputy Director, Directorate of Air Defence Operations

30 Nov 1959:          Officer Commanding, RAF North Coates.

21 Feb 1961:          AOC and Commandant, College of Air Warfare.

 9 Jun 1959 - 14 Jan 1964:    ADC to The Queen

 4 Feb 1963:           Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations).

26 Nov 1965:         AOC, No 3 Group.

 3 Nov 1967:          SASO, HQ Bomber Command.

30 Apr 1968:           SASO/Deputy C in C, HQ Strike Command.

 6 May 1969:           Commander, British Forces Near East/AOC in C, Near East Air Force.

 6 May 1969:           Administrator, Sovereign Base Areas, Cyprus.

 1 Aug 1970:            Vice Chief of the Air Staff.

 1 Feb 1974:            AOC in C, Strike Command.

xx xxx 1975 - 21 May 1976:            C in C, UK Air Forces

Educated at King Edward VI School in Birmingham, Denis Smallwood joined the RAF in 1938 and was selected for training as a QFI on completion of his flying training after which he was posted to No 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force.  His main task as Assistant Adjutant and QFI was to convert the pilot's of the squadron from the bomber role to the fighter role.  When he arrived 605 was equipped with Hawker Hinds but soon received their new equipment in the form of Gloster Gladiators and soon after this, Hawker Hurricanes.

In 1940, he joined No 249 Squadron flying Hurricanes and in 1941, was given given command of No 87 Squadron, also equipped with Hurricanes.  He took part in the Dieppe raid in August 1942, gaining the DFC for his actions that day.  Promoted to Wing Commander in early 1943, he took command of a Spitfire fighter wing in Cornwall.  At the end of the war, he was sent to Staff College in Haifa and then joined the directing staff of the college.  Returning to Britain, he became assistant secretary to the Chiefs of Staff Committee and shortly after this he was awarded a permanent commission.

He then went to Germany to command No 33 Squadron, equipped with Tempest F Mk 2s, but he handed over command two months later. After another posting, he joined the directing staff of the Joint Services Staff College before taking command of RAF Biggin Hill.  During his tenure at Biggin Hill, he led a large formation flypast on 2 June 1952, to celebrate the Queen's Coronation.

Whilst studying at the Imperial Defence College in 1956, he was taken away from his studies to become a member of the planning staff of Operation 'Musketeer'.  In 1959, he assumed command of RAF North Coates, which was then home to a Wing of Bloodhound surface-to-air missiles and was seen by many, particularly politicians, as the future of the RAF.  However, the manned aircraft was not replaced and continues to provide the backbone of the RAF's air defence capability.

Various command and staff appointments followed (see above), until 1974, when he was given command of the RAF's only operational command, Strike Command.  Retiring in 1976, he became Military Adviser to British Aerospace the following year until 1983.  He is also a member of the Air League having been Chairman from 1978 to 1981 and President from 1981 until 1984 when he was created a Life Vice-President.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

" Acting Squadron Leader Denis Graham SMALLWOOD, (40645), No. 87 Squadron.

This officer is an exceptionally, keen and skilful pilot who has rendered excellent service, 1 especially in night flying operations. In the recent combined operations at Dieppe, Squadron Leader Smallwood led his squadron  on two low

level attacks on gun emplacements in the face of strong opposition from the ground  defences; his leadership proved a valuable asset. By his personal example, he has contributed materially to the high standard of morale and efficiency of his squadron."

(London Gazette - 22 September 1942)

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

“Acting Wing Commander Denis Graham SMALLWOOD, D.F.C. (40645), R.A.F.O.

This officer has displayed the highest standard of skill and gallantry in air operations.  He has participated in a very large number of sorties in which he has led large formations of aircraft on a variety of missions.  By his great tactical ability, fine fighting qualities and gallant leadership, he has contributed materially to the successes obtained.  In addition to his (work in the air, Wing Commander Smallwood has devoted much of his technical knowledge towards the training of other members of the squadron with good results.  His devotion to duty has been unfailing.”

(London Gazette – 1 September 1944)

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