Marshal of the Royal Air Force

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Marshal of the RAF Sir Hugh Trenchard

Marshal of the Royal Air Force (MRAF) is the highest rank in the Royal Air Force.[1] In peacetime it was granted to RAF officers in the appointment of Chief of the Defence Staff, and to retired Chiefs of the Air Staff, who were promoted to it on their last day of service. Promotions for such officers have ceased since the British defence cuts of the 1990s. While surviving marshals of the RAF retain the rank for life,[2] the highest rank to which officers on active service are promoted is now air chief marshal. Although general promotions have been discontinued, further promotions to marshal of the Royal Air Force are still possible in wartime and also for members of the Royal Family and possibly other very senior officers in peacetime at the discretion of the Monarch. In 2012, Charles, Prince of Wales was promoted to the rank.

Marshal of the Royal Air Force is a five-star rank[3] and unlike the air marshal ranks, can properly be considered a marshal rank. MRAF has a NATO ranking code of OF-10, equivalent to an admiral of the fleet in the Royal Navy or a field marshal in the British Army.[4]

The rank was instituted in 1919 and the first officer to be promoted to MRAF was Sir Hugh Trenchard in 1927. Since that time, including Trenchard, there have been 26 men who have held the rank. Of those, 21 have been professional RAF officers and five have been senior members of the British Royal Family. Technically King George V did not hold the rank but as the Chief of the Royal Air Force he did wear the uniform of a marshal of the RAF. The only two RAF officers ever to have held the rank without serving as Chief of the Air Staff were Lord Douglas of Kirtleside and Sir Arthur Harris.

Origins[edit]

Prior to the creation of the RAF's officer rank titles in 1919, it was proposed that by analogy with field marshal, the highest rank title should be air marshal. It was later decided to use the rank of air marshal as an equivalent rank to lieutenant general[5] and "marshal of the air" was put forward as the highest RAF rank. This new rank title was opposed by the then Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Henry Wilson, who considered that the title was "ridiculous". However, the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Hugh Trenchard was unmoved and the title was adopted. This new title, which only existed on paper, did not last long. King George V took the view that the title of marshal of the air impinged upon the attributes which should properly be reserved for God and the rank title was changed at the King's request to "marshal of the Royal Air Force."[6]

Insignia, command flag and star plate[edit]

The rank insignia consists of four narrow light blue bands (each on a slightly wider black band) above a light blue band on a broad black band. This insignia is derived from the sleeve lace of an admiral of the fleet and is worn on the both the lower sleeves of the tunic or on the shoulders of the flying suit or the service working dress uniform. Marshals of the Royal Air Force wear shoulder boards with their service dress at ceremonial events. These shoulder boards show the air officer's eagle surrounded by a wreath, two crossed marshal's batons and, since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the St Edward's Crown representing royal authority.[7] Prior to 1953, the Tudor Crown (sometimes called the King's Crown) was used.

The command flag of a marshal of the Royal Air Force has a broad red horizontal band in the centre with a thinner red band on each side of it.

The vehicle star plate for a marshal of the Royal Air Force depicts five white stars (marshal of the Royal Air Force is equivalent to a five-star rank) on an air force blue background.

The rank insignia and flag exists in some other air forces for equivalent ranks. The rank title differs slightly, often being a variation on marshal of the Air Force, usually with the name of the relevant air force in place of the words 'Royal Air Force'.

Marshals of the Royal Air Force[edit]

Year of promotion Image Officer Year of birth Year of death Notes
1927 Sir Hugh Trenchard (cropped).jpg Hugh Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard 1873 1956 Promoted 1 January 1927.[8][9]
1933 Sir John Salmond in 1925.jpg Sir John Salmond 1881 1968 Promoted 1 January 1933.[10]
1936 Edward Prince of Wales during his visit to Canada in 1919.jpg HM King Edward VIII 1894 1972 Promoted 21 January 1936.[11]
1936 HM King George VI in MRAF uniform.jpg HM King George VI 1895 1952 Honorary rank.
Promoted 11 December 1936.[12]
1937 Marshal of the RAF Sir Edward Ellington.jpg Sir Edward Ellington 1877 1967 Promoted 1 January 1937.[13]
1940 Air Chief Marshal Sir Cyril Newall (close-up).jpg Cyril Newall, 1st Baron Newall 1886 1963 Promoted 4 October 1940. Retired only 20 days later.[14]
1944 MRAF Sir Charles Portal.jpg Charles Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford 1893 1971 Promoted 1 June 1944.
1945 Tedder1943 detail.jpg Arthur Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder 1890 1967 Promoted 12 September 1945.
1946 Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas.jpg Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside 1893 1969 Promoted 1 January 1946.
1946 Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris.jpg Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris 1892 1984 Promoted 1 January 1946, several months after retirement.[15]
1950 Air Marshal Sir John Slessor.jpg Sir John Slessor 1897 1979 Promoted 8 June 1950.
1953 Prince Philip by Allan Warren 1992.jpg HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh 1921 - Honorary rank.
Promoted 15 January 1953.[16]
1954 Air Vice-Marshal Dickson near Venafro, Italy (cropped).jpg Sir William Dickson 1898 1987 Promoted 1 June 1954.
1958 Dermot Boyle.jpg Sir Dermot Boyle 1904 1993 Promoted 1 January 1958.
1958 Dukeofgloucester.jpg HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester 1900 1974 Honorary rank.
Promoted 12 June 1958.[17]
1962 Air Marshal Sir Thomas Pike.jpg Sir Thomas Pike 1906 1983 Promoted 6 April 1962.[18]
1967 Sir Charles Elworthy.jpg Charles Elworthy, Baron Elworthy 1911 1993 Promoted 1 April 1967.[19]
1971 Sir John Grandy 1913 2004 Promoted and retired on the same day (1 April 1971).[20]
1974 Sir Denis Spotswood 1916 2001 Promoted and retired on the same day (31 March 1974).[21]
1976 Sir Andrew Humphrey 1921 1977 Promoted 6 August 1976.[22]
1977 Neil Cameron, Baron Cameron of Balhousie 1920 1985 Promoted 31 July 1977.[23][24]
1982 Flt Lt M Beetham.jpg Sir Michael Beetham 1923 - Promoted and retired on the same day (14 October 1982).[25]
1985 Fond blanc.svg Sir Keith Williamson 1928 - Promoted and retired on the same day (15 October 1985).[26]
1988 Fond blanc.svg David Craig, Baron Craig of Radley 1929 - Promoted 14 November 1988.[27]
1992 Fond blanc.svg Sir Peter Harding 1933 - Promoted 6 November 1992.[28] Resigned commission 14 June 1994.[29]
2012 Carlos de Gales (2011).jpg HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales 1948 - Honorary rank. Promoted 16 June 2012.[30]
King George V in the uniform of a Marshal of the RAF

Excluding monarchs and other members of the Royal Family, the only two RAF officers ever to have held the rank without serving as Chief of the Air Staff were Lord Douglas of Kirtleside and Sir Arthur Harris. Both held high command during World War II. Harris was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Bomber Command and Douglas was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Fighter Command, Middle East Command and Coastal Command.

King George V did not formally hold the rank of marshal of the RAF; rather he assumed the title of Chief of the Royal Air Force.[31] In this capacity from time to time he wore RAF uniform with the rank insignia of a marshal of the RAF. He first publicly wore such uniform in 1935, the year before his death.[32]

Unlike other MRAFs who only relinquished their appointments, Sir Peter Harding resigned from the RAF in 1994.[33] Consequently, his name is no longer to be found in the Air Force List.[34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ranks and Badges of the Royal Air Force". Royal Air Force. 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  2. ^ "Telegraph style book: the Services". The Daily Telegraph (London). 12 April 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-09-08). "Glossary". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  4. ^ "Chapter 2 Part 4" (pdf). The Queen's Regulations for the Army. Norwich: HMSO. 2000-02-28 [2000-02-28]. pp. 2–4/7. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  5. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-06-11). "Commissioned Ranks of the Royal Air Force 1919 – present". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 
  6. ^ Laffin, John (1964). Swifter than Eagles. A biography of Marshal of the RAF Sir John Salmond. William Blackwood & Sons Ltd. p. 149. 
  7. ^ Raf 1
  8. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 33235. p. 9. 31 December 1926. Retrieved 2009-05-25.
  9. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (9 October 2007). "Marshal of the RAF The Viscount Trenchard of Wolfeton". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 25 May 2009. 
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 33898. p. 15. 30 December 1932. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34251. p. 665. 31 January 1936. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34351. p. 8187. 18 December 1936. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34356. p. 17. 1 January 1937. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  14. ^ Baron Newall
  15. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-09-29). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  16. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39753. p. 349. 13 January 1953. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  17. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41409. p. 3561. 3 June 1958. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
  18. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-09-01). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Thomas Pike". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-06-16). "Marshal of the RAF Sir John Grandy". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  21. ^ Barrass, Malcolm (2007-10-07). "Marshal of the RAF Sir Denis Spotswood". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  22. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 133. ISBN 0-11-772635-4. 
  23. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 135. ISBN 0-11-772635-4. 
  24. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 47289. p. 9978. 1 August 1977. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  25. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 137. ISBN 0-11-772635-4. 
  26. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 139. ISBN 0-11-772635-4. 
  27. ^ Probert, Henry (1991). High Commanders of the Royal Air Force. London: HMSO. p. 141. ISBN 0-11-772635-4. 
  28. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53103. p. 18862. 9 November 1992. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  29. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53814. p. 14206. 10 October 1994. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  30. ^ "Prince Charles awarded highest rank in all three armed forces," Daily Telegraph, 16 June 2012. Accessed 17 June 2012.
  31. ^ "From All Quarters" (pdf). Flight. LXIII (2296): 86. 23 January 1953. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  32. ^ "The King and the Sea". Time magazine (time.com). 1935-07-29. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  33. ^ Rallings, Colin; Broughton, David (1996). "Reference Section". British Elections and Parties Yearbook. Farrell, David. Taylor & Francis. p. 179. ISBN 0-7146-4243-6. 
  34. ^ The Air Force List, 2006. HMSO ISBN 0-11-773038-6