Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

Home Page

Main Menu

Quick Menu

Members' Area

What New?

About this site


Help Needed?



Sign Guest Book

View Guest Book

Link to Amazon

Online Store

Contact Me

Air Vice-Marshal Sir Oliver Swann (originally Schwann)

Oliver                           b: 18 Nov 1878             r: 2 Nov 1929              d: 7 Mar 1948

KCB - 1 Jan 1924 (CB - 1 Jan 1919), CBE - 3 Jun 1919.

(RN): - Mid’n: 15 Oct 1894, Sub-Lt: 15 Apr 1898, Lt: 15 Apr 1899, Cdr: 31 Dec 1909, Capt: 30 Jun 1914,  Wg Capt: 9 Nov 1914.

(RAF): - (T) Brig-Gen (Col): 1 Apr 1918, Col: 1 Apr 1918,  Act Brig-Gen: 1 May 1919, A/Cdre: 1 Aug 1919,  AVM: 30 Jun 1922 [1 Aug 1919], A/Cdre: 28 Aug 1939.

15 Jul 1892:         Attended HMS Britannia?

19 Nov 1895:       Midshipman, HMS Narcissus.

 1 May 1897:        Midshipman, HMS Active

xx xxx 1898:        Studying at RN College, Greenwich to be a Naval Instructor

25 Aug 1899:        Lieutenant, HMS Magnificent

xx Jul 1901:          Lent to HMS Ćolus for manoeuvres

 1 Oct 1900:         Attended Torpedo Lieutenants' Course, HMS Vernon

xx xxx 1901:        Attended Gunnery Course at Royal Naval College, Greenwich

17 Mar 1903:       Torpedo Officer, HMS Ocean (loaned as shown below whilst awaiting commissioning)

17  Mar 1903:      Lent to HMS Spartiate (Torpedo and Gunnery)

13 May 1903:       Torpedo Officer, HMS Ocean

xx xxx 1905:       Torpedo Instructor, HMS Vernon

20 Jan 1906:        Torpedo Officer, HMS Duke of Edinburgh

 2 Jul 1907:         Torpedo Instructor, HMS Vernon

15 Jan 1910:       Officer Commanding, HMS Niger

26 Sep 1910:        HMS Hermione (additional) for service with Airship No 1

xx Sep 1910:        Assistant to Inspecting Captain of Airships.

20 Apr 1912:        Staff, Naval Ordnance Department (Temporary)

xx xxx 1912:        Assistant to Director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes (Temporary)

25 Nov 1912:       Assistant to Director of the Air Department, Admiralty.

 1 Jul 1914:           Assistant Director of the Air Department, Admiralty.

 1 Feb 1915:        Officer Commanding, HMS Campania.

12 Jan 1917:        Name changed by Deed Poll to Swann

16 Oct 1917:        Officer Commanding, Orkneys Division (HMS Campania and Houton Bay Seaplane Station).

12 Aug 1918:       Deputy Chief of the Air Staff.

 2 Apr 1919:        AOC, Mediterranean District.

 1 Aug 1919:        Awarded Permanent Commission as a Colonel

22 Jan 1920:        Removed from the Navy Lists on being awarded Permanent Commission in RAF

 1 Apr 1920:        AOC, Mediterranean Group.

 1 Jun 1920:         AOC, Egyptian Group.

Jan/Feb 1922        Director of Personnel.

xx xxx 1923:        Air Member for Personnel.

27 Nov 1923:       AOC, RAF Middle East.

 2 Sep 1939:         Relinquished rank of AVM on being re-employed.

 2 Sep 1939:        AOC, RAF Halton/Commandant, No 1 SoTT (Apprentices).

20 Jul 1940:          Reverted to Retired List as AVM.

20 Jul 1940 - xx xxx 1943:    Air Liaison Officer, North Midland Region.

Born with the surname Schwann, he anglicised it in 1917 after making a forced landing on Scarborough race course in a German Mars aeroplane. With a German sounding name, flying a German aircraft still in its' German markings, he was very nearly shot by the local army.  His flying career started before WW1, having gained RAeC Certificate No 203 on 16 April 1912.  Having been appointed Assistant to Captain Murray Sueter he was involved in the development and construction of the Navy’s first airship, The Mayfly.  When the Mayfly broke it’s back due to structural weaknesses, development was halted and he turned to heavier-then-air machines.  He bought himself an Avro biplane, fitted it with floats and carried out the first take off by a British pilot from salt water.  However at this point he did not possess a pilot’s licence and the following year he set about remedying this deficiency, obtaining RAeC Certificate No 203.  As Captain of HMS Campania, he was advised to prepare to accompany the Grand Fleet on the eve of the Battle of Jutland but never received the signal ordering the ship to set sail.  Two hours after the main Fleet sailed Swann gave orders to follow, only to be ordered back to port by Admiral Jellicoe.  As a result the Grand Fleet was deprived of valuable reconnaissance resources which may have produced a totally different outcome to the Battle.   He was later responsible (July 1916) in setting the first training establishment to train pilots and observers in fleet co-operation techniques.

Citation for the award of the Grand Cross of the Order of Military Merit (Spain)

SWANN, Sir Oliver, AVM -) - reported in Aeroplane, 16 May 1928,

"in recognition of the rescue of Captain Estevez and his mechanic in the desert near Amman in 1926 by the RAF." 

The Estevez flight was a planned Madrid-to-Manilla expedition.  Three aircraft were involved.  Two (piloted by Captains Loriga and Gallarze) reached Baghdad on 11 April 1926, but his machine (which carried no wireless) did not.  The next day the RAF sent four machines from Amman.  A Reuters despatch dated 13 April 1926 stated that a British airman had found the missing aircraft 100 miles east of Amman with a note stating that the two occupants had set out on foot for Amman after being forced down by engine trouble.  That same day, the other two machines took off for the next leg of the journey, reaching Karachi in 14 April 1926.  The Times. of 15 April carried a despatch dated 14 April saying, in part, “The opinion is, however, expressed that there is no need for any particular anxiety, as Captain Estevez speaks Arabic fluently and is walking through grazing country where he and his mechanic are likely to encounter friendly Arab shepherds.” That same day (the 14th) the Emir Abdullah of Jordan despatched personnel with his own automobiles to join the search.  The two men were discovered, 25 miles apart, on 17 April.  On 20 April 1926 Spanish students marched to the British Embassy in Madrid to show their gratitude, and on 26 April 1926 King Alphonso XIII sent a message to King George V, expressing his thanks for the rescue of Estevez and his mechanic from “their perilous position in the desert”.  He declared his intention to bestow decorations on those involved.  Subsequently, awards went to F/O J.S.L. Adams, F/L D.L. Blackford, F/O C.K.J. Coggle, LAC R. Driver, LAC R. Duff, F/O A.M. Glover, Corporal G.W. Grayson, A/V/M Sir Oliver Swann, and F/L H.E.P. Wigglesworth.

(Reported in Aeroplane, 16 May 1928)

This page was last updated on 08/09/23

Back to F R D Swain F R D Swain                                    [Top of Page]                                         M J E Swiney Forward to M J E Swiney