Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Vice-Marshal J N Stacey (41217)

John Nicol              b:   14 Sep 1920                      r:  1 Jan 1976                          d:  25 Dec 2003

CBE – 12 Jun 1971, DSO - 22 May 1945, DFC – 5 Feb 1943, JMN - xx xxx xxxx, MiD - xx xxx xxxx, MiD -8 Jun 1944, MiD - 14 Jun 1945.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

Act Plt Off: 17 Sep 1938, Plt Off:  25 Jul 1939, Act Flt Lt: xx xxx 1940, Fg Off: 30 Oct 1940 [3 Sep 1940], Flt Lt (WS): 3 Sep 1941, Act Sqn Ldr: xx xxx xxxx, (T) Sqn Ldr: 1 Jul 1944,  Act Wg Cdr: 12 Aug 1944?, Sqn Ldr (WS): 12 Feb 1945, Sqn Ldr: 1 Aug 1947, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1953, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1959, Act A/Cdre: 18 Jun 1968, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1969, AVM: 1 Jan 1974.

xx Jul 1938:             U/T Pilot, No ? FTS

xx xxx 1939:            Attended No 1 Flying Boat Pilots' Conversion Course (War)

20 Nov 1939:          Pilot, No 240 Sqn.

xx xxx - xx xxx 1940:          Attached to No 2 Group for GR Instructor duties

24 Nov 1940:          Instructor, Flying Boat Training Sqn.

xx Dec 1940:           Pilot, No 204 Sqn

xx Oct 1941:           Pilot/Flight Commander, No 202 Sqn.

xx Jul 1942:             Flight Commander, No 205 Sqn.

25 Jul 1942:            Transferred to the RAFO and called up for air force service

xx Jul 1943:             Officer Commanding, Far East Flying Boat Training Unit.

xx Feb 1944:           Attached to Royal Navy on Special Duty.

xx Jun 1944:            Flight Commander, No 160 Sqn.

12 Aug 1944:          Officer Commanding, No 160 Sqn. (Liberator III/V/VI)

xx May 1945:          Staff Officer – Special Duties, HQ No 222 Group.

2 Apr 1946:       Appointed to Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant (retaining rank current at the time).  [effective 1 Sep 1945 antedated to 1 Dec 1942 on 25 Feb 1947]

 8 Nov 1945:           Staff, Directorate-General of Personnel (III)

10 Oct 1947:           Assistant Air Attaché, Washington.

xx Jan 1949:            Attended RAF Staff College, Bracknell.

xx Jan 1950:            Organisation Staff, HQ Bomber Command

xx Apr 1952:           Attended RAF Flying College.

xx Apr 1953:           Wing Commander – Flying, RAF Binbrook.

21 Mar 1955:          Wing Commander - Training, HQ No 3 (Bomber) Group.

xx Apr 1958:           Directing Staff, RAF Staff College, Bracknell.

28 May 1960:         Chief of the Air Staff, Malaysian Air Force.

15 Sep 1963:          Officer Commanding, RAF Laarbruch.

xx Mar 1966:           Planning Staff, RAF Staff College, Bracknell.

xx Nov 1966:           Group Captain – Plans, RAF Staff College, Bracknell.

11 Aug 1967:           Director of Command and Staff training (RAF).

18 Jun 1968:           AOC, Air Cadets/Commandant, Air Training Corps.

28 Jul 1971:            Director of Organisation and Admin Plans.

16 Feb 1974:           AOA, HQ RAF Support Command.

Born in Cardiff, but spending most of his early life in Croydon, he became a keen aircraft spotter, but on leaving school he joined the Merchant Marine as an Apprentice in 1937.  Whilst on leave he met a friend who had just joined the RAF and so he decided to do likewise and in 1938 was awarded a short service commission.  Initially posted to fly Singapore’s with 240 Squadron in the Shetlands, and in late 1940 he became an instructor at Stranraer.  This was followed by a move to Gibraltar and No 202 Squadron flying Catalina’s.  Appointed a flight commander, he led a detachment to Ceylon in April 1942 and the following July was transferred to No 205 Squadron as a flight commander.  In the process of reforming, he was soon carrying out anti-shipping, anti-submarine and air-sea rescue patrols over the Indian Ocean.  On 26 August 1942, he carried out an ASR search for a missing ship and having located three life-boats and dropped supplies to the survivors, he continued circling them for a further 10 hours when he was relieved.  Further operations including bombing attacks against Sumatra as wellas detachments to Madagascar and Mauritius.

He was entrusted with the formation of a flying boat training unit at Mombassa in July 1943 before returning to operations the following year.  This involved being attached to the Royal Navy in command of ten Catalinas tasked with locating and destroying the German submarine mother ship Charlotte Schliemann. Operating from Mauritius, his aircraft and the Royal Navy eventually located and sunk the German vessel. 

He then returned to Ceylon but was now flying land planes, Liberators, with No 160 Squadron, which was engaged in anti-submarine patrols, photo-recce and 'special operations'.  Initially a flight commander, he was promoted Wing Commander in August 1944 and appointed Squadron Commander.  After assuming command, he was asked to convert the squadron to the mine-laying role and he led the first such operation in January 1945.  On 26 March 1945 he led a force of eight Liberators on the first raid against Singapore for three years, a mine laying operation involving a 3.460 mile round trip from Ceylon lasting 21 hours, one of the longest distance bombing raids of World War Two.  He was awarded an immediate DSO for this operation.  Shortly before the end of the war in the Far East, he was appointed to Group HQ in Ceylon with responsibility for special operations.

Awarded a permanent commission, he returned to the UK and the Air Ministry.  Two years in Washington, where he met his wife was followed by attendance of the RAF Staff College Course at Bracknell.  A staff post at HQ Bomber Command was followed by completion of the Air Warfare course? at the RAF Flying College at Manby after which he was appointed Wing Commander, Flying at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire, at that time the only station operating the Canberra jet bomber.  Air staff duties at HQ No 3 Group was followed by a return to the RAF Staff College as a member of the Directing Staff, during which time he was promoted to Group Captain.

His next appointment saw him return to the Far East when he was seconded to the Royal Malayan Air Force as its Chief of Staff.  Command of RAF Laarbruch was followed by yet another return to Bracknell, this time as Chairman of the planning committee tasked with re-writing the syllabus for the merger of the two Staff Colleges at Bracknell and Andover.   Completing this task, he remained at Bracknell as Group Captain – Plans until moving to the MoD as Director of Command and Staff Training.  Having been heavily involved with the development of training at the higher levels, his next appointment moved him to the other end of the training spectrum, when he was appointed AOC, Air Cadets in 1968.  However, unlike most of his predecessors, he did not retire following this posting and subsequently went on to become Director of Organisation and Admin Plans and AOA at RAF Support Command.

Following retirement, he held a number of senior posts in housing associations and voluntary organisations.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“Acting Squadron Leader John. Nicol STACEY (41207), No.205 Squadron.

This officer has completed much operational flying, involving reconnaissances over the Atlantic, Indian oceans and the Mediterranean.  He is a fearless captain, whose determination to achieve .success has set a most inspiring example.”

(London Gazette – 5 February 1943)

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order.

"Acting Wing Commander John Nicol STACEY, D.F.C. -(41217), R.A.F.O., 160 Sqn.

Distinguished Flying Cross.

Flight Lieutenant Harold Francis McNABB (151604), R.A.F.V.R., 160 Sqn.

Flight Lieutenant Leslie WATERFIELD (Can/5.23061), R.C.A.F., 160 Sqn.

Flying Officer James Duncan Alexander ROBERTSON (Can/J.29252), R.C.A.F., 160 Sqn.

Warrant Officer Leonard Toogood SUTTON (927108), R.A.F.V.R., 160 Sqn.

Distinguished Flying Medal.

1567487 Flight Sergeant James McGARRY, R.A.F.V.R., 160 Sqn.

These members of aircraft crew have taken part in many operational missions.  One night in March, 1945, they were detailed to participate in a mine-laying mission in enemy waters. The operation called for a high degree of courage and resolution and the success achieved reflects the credit on the efforts of the above-named personnel who, in various capacities displayed skill and fortitude of a high order. On reaching base at the completion of the sortie they had been in the air for some 21 hours on a, flight covering more than 3,000 miles."

(London Gazette - 22 May 1945)

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