Marshal of the air force

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This article is about air force officers who rank as marshals. For the similarly named but lesser air force rank, see Air marshal.
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Captain Colonel Group captain
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Marshal of the air force is the English term for the most senior rank in a number of air forces. The ranks described by this term can properly be considered marshal ranks.

No air force in an English-speaking country formally uses the exact title "marshal of the air force", although it is sometimes used as a shortened form of the full title. In several Commonwealth air forces and many Middle Eastern air forces the most senior rank is named "marshal of the", followed by the name of the air force (e.g. marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force).

Brazil and Italy have used rank titles which literally translate as marshal of the air, whereas Portugal's rank translates as "marshal of the air force". Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe used the rank of Generalfeldmarschall (also used by the World War II German Army) The premier rank of Reichsmarschall was also held solely by Hermann Göring.

The first instance of this rank was marshal of the Royal Air Force, which was established on paper in 1919 and was first held by Lord Trenchard (from 1927 onwards). Other Commonwealth countries later adopted their own national versions of the rank but, unlike the United Kingdom, they have only used it as a ceremonial honour.

Seniority[edit]

Marshals of the air force can be properly considered marshals and such ranks are equivalent to the army rank of field marshal and the navy rank of admiral of the fleet. Marshal of the air force is a five-star rank and in NATO countries it is described by the ranking code of OF-10. As such a senior rank, it is very seldom held. It is awarded either in a ceremonial capacity to heads of state or members of royal families, or to the most senior officers in large air forces.

In the air forces of Australia, India, Thailand and the United Kingdom, marshals of the air force are immediately senior to air chief marshals. In the case of New Zealand, although the rank of marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force has been bestowed, no Royal New Zealand Air Force officer has attained higher rank than air marshal and the New Zealand rank of air chief marshal only exists on paper. A similar situation to the one in New Zealand also existed in Malaysia until the 1970s when the Royal Malaysian Air Force replaced its air-officer ranks with general-officer ranks, although it retained the rank of marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force. The rank of marshal of the Royal Canadian Air Force was never granted.[1]

During Germany's Nazi period, the Luftwaffe (air force), in common with the Heer (army), used the rank of generalfeldmarschall (field marshal), which was equivalent to großadmiral (grand admiral) in the navy. Generalfeldmarschall was immediately senior to generaloberst (colonel general) and it was the most senior German air force and army rank until the promotion of Hermann Göring, the commander of the Luftwaffe, to the even higher rank of reichsmarschall (imperial marshal or marshal of the realm) in July 1940. The German ranks of reichsmarschall and generalfeldmarschall ceased to exist with the fall of the Third Reich.

Rank insignia[edit]

There are a variety of rank insignia in use by the different air forces which maintain a rank of marshal of the air force. Some, such as the Royal Air Force, derive the pattern from the sleeve lace for an admiral of the fleet, using one broad light blue band on a wider broad black band with four narrow light blue bands each on slightly wider black bands. Others use a pattern of stars, typically numbering five in total.

Current holders of the rank[edit]

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, holds the ranks of Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force and Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

As of 2014, there are 17 living individuals who hold or have held the rank, or its equivalents, of Marshal of the Air Force. 11 of those are royalty who have been appointed to the rank in a ceremonial capacity, including Queen Sirikit of Thailand, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the current head of state of Malaysia. In the case of Malaysia, the elected Yang di-Pertuan Agong is appointed a Marshal of the Air Force for his tenure as head of state, but relinquishes the rank after completing his term in office. He can, however, be re-appointed to the rank if he later serves another term.

The Duke of Edinburgh holds the ceremonial rank of a Marshal of the Royal Air Force, as well as the honorary ranks of Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force and Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force; owing to their smaller size, however, neither of the latter two air forces have ever used the rank in an operational capacity. In the case of Canada, although the rank of Marshal of the Royal Canadian Air Force existed on paper until 1968, the Duke of Edinburgh was never appointed to this rank nor to the other Canadian 5-star ranks before they were abolished that year. In 2012, his son, the Prince of Wales, was appointed to the British rank.

The remaining six holders of the rank were all serving air officers, four of whom served as Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal Air Force, and were promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Royal Air Force upon concluding their tenure. Of those, only Lord Craig did not retire then, as he went on to serve as Chief of the Defence Staff as a Marshal of the RAF. In June 2014, retired Air Chief Marshal the Lord Stirrup was promoted to Marshal of the RAF in a ceremonial capacity, marking the first time since 1992 that an RAF air officer had been awarded the rank; Lord Stirrup had served as Chief of the Defence Staff from 2006 to 2010. Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh, DFC, served as the first four-star Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force from 1964 to 1969, when he retired. He was promoted to the ceremonial rank of Marshal of the Indian Air Force in 2002, thus making India the only other Commonwealth nation besides the UK to have awarded the rank to an air officer.

List of marshals of the air force[edit]

Country
Year of promotion /
appointment
Officer
Rank
Year of birth
Year of death
Notes
Australia 1939 HM King George VI Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force 1895 1952 Honorary rank.
Australia 1954 HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force 1921 - Honorary rank.
Appointed 1 April 1954.[2]
Bahrain HM Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah Marshal of the Royal Bahrain Air Force 1950 - Honorary rank.[3]
Brazil 1959 Armando Figueira Trompowsky de Almeida Marechal-do-ar 1889 1964 Promoted 30 January 1959[4]
Brazil 1960 Eduardo Gomes Marechal-do-ar 1896 1981 Patron of the Brazilian Air Force. Promoted 22 September 1960.[5]
Brazil Casimiro Montenegro Filho Marechal-do-ar 1904 2000
Egypt HM King Farouk Marshal of the Royal Egyptian Air Force 1920 1965 Honorary rank.[6]
Egypt 1952 HM King Fuad II Marshal of the Royal Egyptian Air Force 1952 - Honorary rank.
Appointed 26 July 1952 at the age of six months.[6]
Ethiopia HIM Haile Selassie Marshal of the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force 1892 1975 Honorary rank.[7]
Ethiopia HIM Amha Selassie Marshal of the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force 1916 1997 Honorary rank.[8]
Germany 1938 Hermann Göring Reichsmarschall 1893 1945 Promoted to Generalfeldmarschall 4 February 1938, promoted to Reichsmarschall 19 June 1940
Germany 1940 Albert Kesselring Generalfeldmarschall 1885 1960 Promoted 19 July 1940
Germany 1940 Erhard Milch Generalfeldmarschall 1892 1972 Promoted 19 July 1940
Germany 1940 Hugo Sperrle Generalfeldmarschall 1885 1953 Promoted 19 July 1940
Germany 1943 Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen Generalfeldmarschall 1895 1945 Promoted 16 February 1943
Germany 1945 Robert Ritter von Greim Generalfeldmarschall 1892 1945 Promoted 25 April 1945
Greece George II of Greece Aitherarchis (Marshal of the Royal Hellenic Air Force) 1890 1947 Honorary rank.[9]
India 2002 Arjan Singh Marshal of the Indian Air Force 1919 - Promoted.
26 January 2002[10]
Iraq 1933 HM King Ghazi Marshal of the Royal Iraqi Air Force 1912 1939 Honorary rank.
Appointed 8 September 1933
Iraq 1939 HRH Prince Abdul Illah Marshal of the Royal Iraqi Air Force 1913 1958 Honorary rank.
Appointed 6 April 1939[11]
Iraq 1953 HM King Faisal II Marshal of the Royal Iraqi Air Force 1935 1958 Honorary rank.
Appointed 2 May 1953
Italy 1933 Italo Balbo Maresciallo dell'Aria 1896 1940 Promoted August 1933
Jordan HM King Hussein of Jordan Marshal of the Royal Jordanian Air Force 1935 1999 Honorary rank.[12]
Jordan 1999 HM King Abdullah II Marshal of the Royal Jordanian Air Force 1962 - Honorary rank.
Appointed 7 February 1999[12]
Malaysia 1970 Sultan Abdul Halim Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force 1927 - Honorary rank.
Appointed 21 September 1970.[13][14] Relinquished role as Head of State on 20 September 1975. Re-appointed Head of State on 13 December 2011.
Malaysia 1975 Sultan Yahya Petra Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force 1917 1979 Honorary rank.
Appointed 21 September 1975[14]
Malaysia 1979 Sultan Ahmad Shah Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force 1930 - Honorary rank.
Appointed 30 March 1979[14]
Malaysia 1984 Sultan Iskandar Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force 1932 2010 Honorary rank.
Appointed 26 April 1984,[14] died 22 January 2010
Malaysia 1989 Sultan Azlan Shah Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force 1928 2014 Honorary rank.
Appointed 26 April 1989[14] died 28 May 2014
Malaysia 1994 Tuanku Jaafar Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force 1922 2008 Honorary rank.
Appointed 26 April 1994,[14] died 27 December 2008.
Malaysia 1999 Salahuddin Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force 1926 2001 Honorary rank.
Appointed 26 April 1999[14] died 21 November 2001
Malaysia 2001 Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force 1943 - Honorary rank.
Appointed 12 December 2001[14]
Malaysia 2007 Mizan Zainal Abidin Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force 1962 - Honorary rank.
Appointed 16 February 2007[14]
New Zealand 1977 HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force 1921 - Honorary rank.
Oman 1974 Sultan Qaboos Marshal of the Royal Air Force of Oman 1940 - Honorary rank.[15]
Portugal 1958 Francisco Craveiro Lopes Marechal da Força Aérea 1894 1964 Honorary rank.[16]
Portugal 1990 Humberto Delgado Marechal da Força Aérea 1906 1965 Posthumous promotion.[17]
Thailand Fuen Ronnaphagrad Ritthakhanee Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force 1900 1987
Thailand Chaloamkeit Vatthanagkol Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force 1914 1960
Thailand HM Queen Sirikit Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force 1932 - Honorary rank.
Possibly the only woman to have held such rank.
Thailand c. 1964 Thanom Kittikachorn Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force 1912 2004 Appointed himself.
United Kingdom 1927 Hugh Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1873 1956 Promoted 1 January 1927.
United Kingdom 1933 Sir John Salmond Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1881 1968 Promoted 1 January 1933.
United Kingdom 1936 HM King Edward VIII Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1894 1972 Honorary rank.
Appointed 21 January 1936.
United Kingdom 1936 HM King George VI Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1895 1952 Honorary rank.
Appointed 11 December 1936.
United Kingdom 1937 Sir Edward Ellington Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1877 1967 Promoted 1 January 1937.
United Kingdom 1940 Cyril Newall, 1st Baron Newall Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1886 1963 Promoted 4 October 1940. Retired 20 days later.[18]
United Kingdom 1944 Charles Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1893 1971 Promoted 1 June 1944.
United Kingdom 1945 Arthur Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1890 1967 Promoted 12 September 1945.
United Kingdom 1946 Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1893 1969 Promoted 1 January 1946.
United Kingdom 1946 Sir Arthur Harris Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1892 1984 Promoted 1 January 1946, several months after retirement.[19]
United Kingdom 1950 Sir John Slessor Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1897 1979 Promoted 8 June 1950.
United Kingdom 1953 HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1921 - Honorary rank.
Appointed 15 January 1953.
United Kingdom 1954 Sir William Dickson Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1898 1987 Promoted 1 June 1954.
United Kingdom 1958 Sir Dermot Boyle Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1904 1993 Promoted 1 January 1958.
United Kingdom 1958 HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1900 1974 Honorary rank.
Appointed 12 June 1958.
United Kingdom 1962 Sir Thomas Pike Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1906 1983 Promoted 6 April 1962.[20]
United Kingdom 1967 Charles Elworthy, Baron Elworthy Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1911 1993 Promoted 1 April 1967.[21]
United Kingdom 1971 Sir John Grandy Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1913 2004 Promoted and retired on the same day (1 April 1971).[22]
United Kingdom 1974 Sir Denis Spotswood Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1916 2001 Promoted and retired on the same day (31 March 1974).[23]
United Kingdom 1976 Sir Andrew Humphrey Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1921 1977 Promoted 6 August 1976.[24]
United Kingdom 1977 Neil Cameron, Baron Cameron of Balhousie Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1920 1985 Promoted 31 July 1977.[25]
United Kingdom 1982 Sir Michael Beetham Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1923 - Promoted and retired on the same day (14 October 1982).[26]
United Kingdom 1985 Sir Keith Williamson Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1928 - Promoted and retired on the same day (15 October 1985).[27]
United Kingdom 1988 David Craig, Baron Craig of Radley Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1929 - Promoted 14 November 1988.[28]
United Kingdom 1992 Sir Peter Harding Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1933 - Promoted 6 November 1992.[29] Resigned commission 14 June 1994.[30]
United Kingdom 2012 HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1948 - Honorary rank.
Appointed 16 June 2012.[31]
United Kingdom 2014 Jock Stirrup, Baron Stirrup Marshal of the Royal Air Force 1949 - Honorary rank. Promoted 13 June 2014.[32]

Other countries[edit]

The rank also exists or has existed (on paper) in Afghanistan, Bangladesh,[33] Brunei, Iran, South Korea, Nigeria,[34] Pakistan[35] and South Vietnam, but not all of these countries have ever actually used it. The Turkish Air Force maintains a rank of hava mareşalı (literally air marshal but equivalent to five-star rank). The Indonesian Air Force maintains the rank of marsekal besar (literally, "great marshal" and also a five-star rank) although no Indonesian Air Force officer has ever been promoted to the rank. The French Air Force, in common with the French Army has marshal of France as its most senior rank. However, unlike the French Army, the Air Force has never had one of its officers created a marshal of France.

The United States does not use the rank, instead using general of the air force which has only been held once and is currently retained only on paper. China also does not use a marshal rank, preferring first class general (kong jun yi ji shang jiang) which has never been held by an air force officer and was abolished in 1994. Spain uses the equivalent rank of captain general of the Air Force which is held only by HM King Felipe VI.

Fictional use[edit]

A marshal of the air force is mentioned in Roald Dahl's book the The BFG. Dahl himself was a Royal Air Force officer during World War II.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ CAP 6 Dress Orders for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Ottawa: RCAF, 1958. pp. 3–62.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 40137. p. 1959. 2 April 1954. Retrieved 2009-10-10. Announcement of the appointment of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, as admiral of the fleet in the Royal Australian Navy, field marshal in the Australian Military Forces and marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force.
  3. ^ Buyers, Christopher. "The Al-Khalifa Dynasty". The Royal Ark. Retrieved 17 December 2008. 
  4. ^ http://www.incaer.aer.mil.br/MarTrompowsky.htm
  5. ^ http://www.rudnei.cunha.nom.br/FAB/en/patrono.html
  6. ^ a b Egypt
  7. ^ Buyers, Christopher (May 2001 – July 2007). "The Solomonic Dynasty - page 1". The Royal Ark. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  8. ^ Buyers, Christopher (May 2001 – July 2007). "The Solomonic Dynasty - page 2". The Royal Ark. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  9. ^ The Who's who of the Allied Governments 2. Allied Publications. 1942. p. 62. 
  10. ^ India
  11. ^ Buyers, Christopher. "Al-Hashimi Dynasty". The Royal Ark. Retrieved 17 December 2008. 
  12. ^ a b Jordan
  13. ^ Sultan Abdul Halim
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i Maylasia
  15. ^ Oman
  16. ^ http://www.archontology.org/nations/portugal/port010/craveiro.php
  17. ^ Portugal
  18. ^ Baron Newall
  19. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-09-29). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  20. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-09-01). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Thomas Pike". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  21. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-06-16). "Marshal of the RAF The Lord Elworthy of Timaru". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2008-04-18. 
  22. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-06-16). "Marshal of the RAF Sir John Grandy". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  23. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-10-07). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Denis Spotswood". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  24. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 133. ISBN 0-11-772635-4. 
  25. ^ Probert, p. 135.
  26. ^ Probert, p. 137.
  27. ^ Probert, p. 139.
  28. ^ Probert, p. 141.
  29. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53103. p. 18862. 9 November 1992. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  30. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53814. p. 14206. 10 October 1994. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  31. ^ "Prince Charles awarded highest rank in all three armed forces," Daily Telegraph, 16 June 2012. Accessed 18 June 2012.
  32. ^ "2014 Birthday Honours for service personnel and defence civilians". Ministry of Defence. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2014. 
  33. ^ http://www.bangladeshnavy.org/ranks.html
  34. ^ http://www.nigerianairforce.net/AboutNAF/ColoursWings.aspx
  35. ^ http://www-ec.njit.edu/~axz6893/airforce.htm