Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Marshal Sir William Welsh

Sir William Lawrie WelshWilliam Lawrie             b: 10 Feb 1891                        r: 1 Dec 1944              d: 2 Jan 1962

KCB - 1 Jul 1941 (CB - 1 Feb 1937), DSC - 26 Apr 1918, AFC - 12 Jul 1920, MiD - 12 May 1917, Cwn O - 8 Feb 1919, C de G (F) - 8 Feb 1919, PR (GC) - 24 Sep 1943, LoM (Cdr) - 15 Mar 1946 (LoM (O) - 11 Apr 1944).  

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(RNR/RNAS): - Mid’n: 1 Jan 1910, Act Sub-Lt: 13 May 1914, Flt Sub-Lt: 7 Nov 1914, Flt Lt: 25 Jun 1915, Flt Cdr: 31 Dec 1916, Act Sqn Cdr: 1 Aug 1917?, Sqn Cdr: 31 Dec 1917.

(RAF): - Maj?:  1 Apr 1918, Sqn Ldr: 1 Aug 1919 [1 Apr 1918], Wg Cdr: 1 Jan 1922, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1930, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1934, AVM: 1  Jan 1937, Act AM: 3 Sep 1939 - 15 Jan 1940; 27 May 1940, AM: 14 Apr 1942 [1 Jul 1941].

Sir William Lawrie Welsh

by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, 1938
NPG x185996

© National Portrait Gallery, London

9 - 22 Jul 1910:        Midshipman, HMS Revenge

23 Jul - 21 Aug 1911:     Midshipman, HMS Roxburgh

23 May - 14 Jun 1914:   Sub-Lieutenant RNR, HMS Bulwark

 1 Nov 1914:        Transferred to RNAS

25 Nov 1914:       U/T Pilot, Naval Flying School, Eastchurch.

xx xxx 1915:         Pilot, HMS Campania.

xx xxx 1916:         Seaplane Pilot, Dover.

 1 Aug 1917:         Officer Commanding, Dunkirk Seaplane Station.

14 Jan 1918:         Officer Commanding , No 17 Sqn. RNAS

 1 Apr 1918:         Officer Commanding, No 217 Sqn. (DH4 – Dunkirk Area).

26 Mar 1919:       Officer Commanding (Designate), No 214 Sqn.

31 Mar 1919:       Officer Commanding, No 214 Sqn.

 1 Aug 1919:        Awarded Permanent Commission as a Major

23 Aug - 7 Oct 1919:       Officer Commanding (Temporary), Arbitive Amalgamated HQ (ex Palestine Brigade/5th Wing/40th Wing)

 9 Apr 1920:        Officer Commanding, No 14 Sqn. (Bristol F2B – Palestine)

 5 Aug 1921:         Air Staff, HQ Middle East Area.

17 Jan 1922:         Supernumerary, RAF Depot

 1 Jun 1922:          Staff Officer, HQ No 1 Group.

15 Jun 1923:         Supernumerary, HQ Coastal Area for duty with HMS Eagle.

26 Feb 1924:       Officer Commanding Flying, HMS Eagle.

 8 Apr 1925:        Officer Commanding (Temporary), RAF Mediterranean

 1 May 1923:        Officer Commanding, RAF Unit, HMS Eagle.

11 Jan 1926:        Officer Commanding, RAF Kenley.

 1 Sep 1926:         ?

21 Sep 1926:       Staff, Directorate of Operations and Intelligence.

 1 Sep 1930:        Officer Commanding, Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment.

 6 Feb 1931:        En-route to Basrah in command of Rangoon Flight to join No 203 Sqn.

21 Apr 1931:       Supernumerary, No 203 Sqn. (Southampton II, Rangoon I - Basrah)

24 Apr 1931:       Officer Commanding, No 203 Sqn. (Southampton II, Rangoon I - Basrah)

26 Oct 1933:       Posted to Home Establishment

 3 Apr 1934:        Director of Organisation.

 1 Sep 1937:        Air Member for Supply and Organisation.

15 Jan 1940:        AOC, No 11 (Fighter) Group.

22 Apr 1940:       AOC-in-C, HQ Rreserve Command

27 May 1940:      AOC in C, Technical Training Command.

7 Jul 1941:           AOC in C, Flying Training Command.

xx xxx 1942:         i/c Air operations from Gibraltar for 'Torch'.

 2 Nov 1942:        AOC, Eastern Air Command.

xx xxx 1943:         Head of RAF Delegation, Washington DC

Educated at Hitchin Grammar School, he gained his RAeC Certificate, No 1017 on 22 Dec 1914.  On 6 August 1915 William Welsh flew a Sopwith Schneider floatplane off HMS Campania, steaming at 18 knots.  In order to achieve this feat, the floats where fitted with wheels.  On 3 November, he repeated the feat, this time with the ship at full speed.  He was shot down whilst flying Sopwith Baby seaplane, No 8171, six miles North-East of Dunkirk on 23 April 1917 but was unhurt.

He carried out further developmental flying in 1921, when he surveyed  the air route from Jerusalem to Baghdad across the desert On 28 January 1936 he was a mourner at the funeral of HM King George V.  Following retirement he stayed in the USA divorcing his wife and marrying the widow of US Senator Warren Barbour in 1947.  He ultimately became the North American representative for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Assessment for the award of the Distinguished Service Cross

"WELSH, William Laurie, Squadron Commander, RNAS

Has acted as executive officer, and in the absence of the Squadron Commander, as Commanding Officer of the Seaplane Base, Dunkerque, for long periods, and has on occasions shown marked ability as an Officer and a Seaman."

(Source - Air 74/1)

Submission for the award of a Mention in Despatches

"WELSH, William Lawrie, Flight Commander - Royal Naval Air Service.

Has acted as Executive Officer, and in the absence of the Squadron Commander, as Commanding Officer of the Seaplane Base, Dunkerque, for long periods, and has on several occasions shown marked ability as an Officer and a Seaman."

(Source - Air 1/74 (folio 80))

Recommendation for the award of the Air Force Cross

when he was identified as “Temporary Commander, Palestine Group”:)

"WELSH, William Laurie, S/L, DSC - Services with No.216 Squadron, Palestine

When commanding No.214 Squadron in their flight from England to Egypt, For valuable work in bringing his squadron through by air with such conspicuous success."

(Source - Air 2/110 drafted by Air Vice-Marshal W.G.H., Salmond, 3 April 1920

Citation for the award of Officer, Order of the Crown (Belgium)

"WELSH, William Laurie, Major, DSC -) - No.217 Squadron, No 61 Wing, RAF.

Commandant d'Escadrille d'une grande valeur, a fait rendre á son unité les meilleurs résultats, au cours de l'offensive alliée dans les Flandres.  Malgré le peu d'appareils dispenibles, est parvenue á faire lancer à son Escadrille, en une seule journée, six tonnes d'explosifs."

Translation: -

"A highly valuable squadron commander, his unit achieved the best results during the Allied offensive in Flanders. Despite the few devices available, he managed to have

his squadron launch six tons of explosives in a single day."

(Source - Air 1/107/15/9/127)

This page was last updated on 17/09/23

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