James Robb (RAF officer)

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Sir James Milne Robb
Air Vice Marshal James Robb.jpg
Air Vice Marshal James Robb
Born (1895-01-26)26 January 1895
Hexham, Northumberland
Died 18 December 1968(1968-12-18) (aged 73)
Bognor Regis, Sussex
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1914–1951
Rank Air Chief Marshal
Commands held RAF Fighter Command
No. 15 Group RAF
No. 2 Group RAF
Central Flying School
No. 30 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars

First World War:

Iraqi revolt against the British Second World War:

Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Force Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (3)
Distinguished Service Medal (US)
Legion of Merit (US)
Légion d'honneur (France)
Order of the White Lion (Czechoslovakia)
War Cross 1939-1945 (Czechoslovakia)

Air Chief Marshal Sir James Milne Robb GCB, KBE, DSO, DFC, AFC, RAF, (26 January 1895 – 18 December 1968) was a senior Royal Air Force commander. After early service in the First World War with the Northumberland Fusiliers, Robb joined the Royal Flying Corps and became a flying ace credited with seven aerial victories. He was granted a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force in 1919 and commanded No. 30 Squadron RAF in the Iraqi revolt against the British. In 1939, Robb travelled to Canada to help establish the Empire Air Training Scheme, a massive training program that provided the Royal Air Force with trained aircrew from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia. He commanded No. 2 Group RAF of RAF Bomber Command and No. 15 Group RAF of RAF Coastal Command.

Robb became Deputy Chief of Combined Operations under Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1942. During Operation Torch he was air advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander, Lieutenant General Dwight Eisenhower and in February 1943, Eisenhower appointed him Deputy Commander of the Northwest African Air Forces. When Eisenhower became Supreme Allied Commander in Europe in January 1944, he brought Robb to his Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force as Deputy Chief of Staff (Air). Robb became Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command in 1945, and learned to fly the Gloster Meteor, the RAF's first operational jet aircraft. He became Vice-Chief of the Air Staff in 1947, and then Commander in Chief, Air Forces, Western Union Defence Organisation in 1948. In 1951 he became Inspector General of the RAF.

Early life[edit]

James Milne Robb was born in Hexham, Northumberland on 26 January 1895, the third son of a draper, James Thomas Robb, and his wife Mary Elizabeth née Weir.[1] He was educated at George Watson's School in Edinburgh and Durham University.[2]

First World War[edit]

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Robb enlisted in the 4th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers.[1] He was commissioned into the Northumberland Fusiliers as a second lieutenant on 10 November 1914,[3] and promoted to captain a year later. In August 1916 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.[1]

After learning to fly, Robb was posted to No. 32 Squadron RFC, a fighter squadron on the Western Front equipped with Airco DH.2s. Robb was wounded in March 1917 and spent some time with a training unit in England before returning to the Western Front in May 1918 as a flight commander with No. 92 Squadron RFC, flying SE5as. Robb achieved the squadron's first air victory on 22 July, shooting down a Fokker D.VII.[1] In February 1919 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation read:

This officer has destroyed seven enemy aircraft, and under his brilliant leadership his patrols have accounted for numerous others. On 13th October he attacked and silenced three hostile howitzers which were in action.[4]

Between the wars[edit]

In August 1919 he was granted a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force as a captain.He joined No. 24 Squadron RAF in February 1920. In September 1922 he was posted to No. 6 Squadron RAF in Iraq flying Bristol F.2 Fighters. He was promoted to squadron leader in 1924 and assumed command of No. 30 Squadron RAF.[3] Robb was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his service during operations in Kurdistan in 1925.[5]

Returning to the United Kingdom in 1926, Robb became chief flying instructor at the Central Flying School at RAF Upavon in Wiltshire. He married Bessie Murray on 29 December 1927. Their maarriage produced a son and a daughter. In 1932 he was promoted to the rank of wing commander and attended the Royal Naval Staff College in Greenwich, London. This was followed by a posting as senior air officer aboard the aircraft carrier Eagle in the Far East. In 1935 he became fleet aviation officer with the Mediterranean Fleet before returning to the Central Flying School as commandant. He was promoted to group captain in 1936.[1]

Second World War[edit]

In 1939, Robb travelled to Canada to help establish the Empire Air Training Scheme, a massive training program that provided the Royal Air Force with trained aircrew from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia throughout the Second World War. In January 1940 he was promoted to air commodore. He took command of No. 2 Group RAF in April.[1] In July 1940 he was awarded the Air Force Cross,[5] and in September he was promoted again, this time to air vice marshal.[6] On 1 January 1941, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath.[7] However he fell out with the head of RAF Bomber Command, Air Marshal Sir Richard Peirse, over the merits of sending Bristol Blenheims on unescorted daylight missions, which Robb regarded as suicidal. Robb was therefore transferred to RAF Coastal Command, where he command No. 15 Group RAF.[1]

Robb became Deputy Chief of Combined Operations under Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1942. During Operation Torch he was air advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander, Lieutenant General Dwight Eisenhower. In February 1943, Eisenhower appointed him Deputy Commander of the Northwest African Air Forces under Major General Carl Spaatz. When Eisenhower became Supreme Allied Commander in Europe in January 1944, he brought Robb to his Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force as Deputy Chief of Staff (Air). Robb was promoted to air marshal in October 1944 and created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in January 1945. In May 1945 he was appointed the head of RAF Fighter Command, and learned to fly the Gloster Meteor, the RAF's first operational jet aircraft. He claimed to have flown over 150 different aircraft types in his career. In August 1945 he received the U.S. Distinguished Service Medal from the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman.[1]

Post war[edit]

In 1947 Robb became Vice-Chief of the Air Staff. He then became Commander in Chief, Air Forces, Western Union Defence Organisation in 1948.[3] Finally, in 1951 he became Inspector General of the RAF.[3] He was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in June 1949, [8] and in January 1951 was elevated to a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.[9] After retiring from the RAF on account of ill health he became King of Arms of the Order of the Bath on 21 March 1952, remaining in this appointment until 26 January 1965.[3] He died at a nursing home in Bognor Regis, Sussex on 18 December 1968.[1]

Honours and decorations[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Orange 2004
  2. ^ Bomber Command Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary, retrieved 20 September 2010 
  3. ^ a b c d e Air Chief Marshal Sir James Robb Air Chief Marshal Sir James Robb, Air of Authority, retrieved 20 September 2010 
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31170. p. 2045. 7 February 1919. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  5. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 33166. p. 3458. 28 May 1926. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34960. p. 5833. 4 October 1940. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35029. p. 4. 1 January 1941. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38628. p. 2795. 3 June 1949. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39104. p. 3. 1 January 1951. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37998. p. 2940. 24 June 1947. Retrieved 30 June 2012.

References[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Roderic Hill
Commander-in-Chief Fighter Command
1945–1947
Succeeded by
Sir William Elliot
Preceded by
Sir William Dickson
Vice-Chief of the Air Staff
1947 – 1948
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Sanders
Preceded by
Sir Hugh Saunders
Inspector-General of the RAF
1951
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Williams
Heraldic offices
Preceded by
Sir Max Horton
King of Arms of the Order of the Bath
1952–1965
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Goodbody