Augustus Orlebar

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Augustus Henry Orlebar
Born (1897-02-17)17 February 1897
Hinwick House, Podington, Bedfordshire
Died 4 August 1943(1943-08-04) (aged 46)
Buried St Mary's Church, Podington
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army 1915–1918
 Royal Air Force 1918–1943
Years of service 1915 – 1943
Rank Air Vice Marshal
Unit Bedfordshire Regiment
Royal Flying Corps
Commands held High Speed Flight RAF
RAF Northolt
No. 10 (Fighter) Group
Deputy Chief of Combined Operations

First World War

Second World War
Awards Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Air Force Cross & Bar
Mentioned in Despatches

Air Vice Marshal Augustus Henry Orlebar CBE AFC & Bar (17 February 1897 – 4 August 1943) was a British Army and Royal Air Force officer who served in both world wars.

After being wounded during the Gallipoli campaign he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps and subsequently the Royal Air Force. He formally transferred to the RAF after the First World War, and between the wars was involved in high speed flying, commanding the High Speed Flight RAF, competing in the Schneider Trophy, and holding the world air speed record.

By the outbreak of the Second World War he was in command of RAF Northolt. He briefly became Director of Flying Training in 1940 before going to HQ RAF Fighter Command. In July 1941 he became Air Officer Commanding, No. 10 (Fighter) Group, and in March 1943 Deputy Chief of Combined Operations. He fell ill, and died in hospital on 4 August 1943.

Early life[edit]

He was the son of Augustus Scobell Orlebar and Hester Mary Orlebar, of Podington, Bedfordshire. The Orlebars were an old established family, having built Hinwick House almost 200 years earlier, after holding the manor since the mid-17th century.[citation needed] He was educated at Rugby School.[1]

First World War[edit]

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment (Territorial Force) on 15 January 1915.[2] His battalion landed at Suvla Bay on 11 August 1915, pitching him into the Gallipoli campaign,[3] He was promoted to temporary lieutenant on 21 September 1915,[4] but was subsequently wounded in action by a sniper's bullet. He was then invalided to the United Kingdom and seconded to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) on recovery.[citation needed]

He trained as a pilot in 1916 and was appointed a flying officer in the military wing of the RFC on 17 September 1916 when he was formally seconded from his regimental duties to the RFC.[5][6] His rank of lieutenant was confirmed on 21 October.[7] He was posted to No. 19 Squadron RFC on the Western Front.[1] On 13 March 1918 he shot down and severely wounded Ltn. Lothar von Richthofen (brother of Manfred von Richthofen), near Cambrai. He was wounded in turn himself by Albatros scouts over Ham on 23 March 1918. Before his return to combat, he also served as an instructor in Essex.

He was credited with two enemy aircraft destroyed whilst serving with No 19 and a further four as a flight commander in No 73 Squadron, before being wounded. He gained his final victory with No. 43 Squadron on 29 September, bringing his total to seven.

Inter-war service[edit]

He served as a test pilot at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE), Martlesham Heath, between 1919 and 1925, being awarded the Air Force Cross in 1921 and the bar in 1929.

Air racing[edit]

He was Officer Commanding and pilot with the High Speed Flight, the RAF's team for the Schneider Trophy seaplane races of 1927-1931. Britain, having won the 1927 race, became the subsequent host for the contests, which were based at RAF Calshot on the eastern entrance to Southampton Water.

In 1929 he set an air speed record of 357.7 mph in Supermarine S.6 N247.[8]

The final contest was held in 1931, for a 3rd win gave the title to Britain in perpetuity. His report on the contest describes Flt.Lt Stainforth's achievement of a new speed record at over 400 mph.[9]

Second World War[edit]

At the outbreak of the Second World War he was the Director of Flying Training before joining the Air Staff, HQ Fighter Command in October 1940. On 22 July 1941 he became AOC of No. 10 Group then the position of Deputy Chief of Combined Operations, at RAF Northolt from 2 March 1943. He died in hospital from natural causes after a short illness and is buried at his family church of Saint Mary's, Podington, Bedfordshire.[10] He is commemorated on the War Memorial of the Church.[11]

Service career[edit]


AFC - 2 Jan 1922, bar - 3 Jun 1930, MiD - 24 Sep 1941.

Ranks held[edit]

Second Lieutenant 15 Jan 1915
Lieutenant Temporary 21 Sep 1915
Lieutenant 21 Oct 1916 [1 Jun 1916]
Captain Temporary 20 Dec 1917
Lieutenant 1 Apr 1918
Flight Lieutenant 1 Aug 1919 [1 Apr 1918]
Squadron Leader 1 Jul 1928
Wing Commander 1 Jan 1932
Group Captain 1 Jul 1937
Air Commodore Temporary 1 Feb 1940
Acting Air Vice Marshal 22 Jul 1941 – 1 Jan 1943
Air Commodore War substantive 22 Jul 1942
Air Commodore 1 Oct 1942 [22 Jul 1942]
Acting Air Vice Marshal 1 Mar 1943 – 21 Jun 1943


Service record[edit]


15 Jan 1915 2nd Lt, 1/5th Territorial Btn. Bedfordshire Regiment (Gallipoli)

Royal Flying Corps[edit]

17 Sep 1916 Flying Officer, RFC
1916 Pilot, No. 19 Sqn. RFC (BE12, Spad VIIWestern Front)
1917 Pilot, No. 44 (Home Defence) Sqn. RFC (CamelHainault farm [12])
19 Aug 1917 precedence backdated to 1 Jun 1916.
20 Dec 1917 Flight Commander, No. 73 Sqn. RFC (CamelWestern Front)


British team for 1929 Schneider Trophy
Left to right: Fg Off HRD Waghorn Fg Off Moon (Engineering Officer) Flt Lt D D'Arcy A Greig Sqn Ldr AH Orlebar (Flight Commander) Flt Lt GH Stainforth Fg Off RLR Atcherley
British team for 1931 Schneider Trophy
Left to right: Flt Lt E.J.L. Hope Lt RL "Jerry" Brinton (Fleet Air Arm) Flt Lt Freddy Long Flt Lt George Stainforth Sqn Ldr AH Orlebar (Flight Commander) Flt Lt John Boothman Fg Off Leonard Snaith Flt Lt W.F. Dry (Engineering Officer) In the background is a Supermarine S.6B, or possibly a S.6A
1918 Instructor
Aug 1918 Flight Commander, No. 43 Squadron RAF (Camel, SnipeWestern Front)
1 Jul 1919 Pilot, Aeroplane Experimental Station, Martlesham Heath.
1 Aug 1919 Relinquishes his commission in the Bedfordshire Regiment (retaining rank of Lieutenant)
28 Oct 1919 Granted a Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant (effective from 1 Aug)
16 Mar 1920 Pilot, at the renamed Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment
24 Jul 1923 Flight Commander, No. 22 Sqn.. Trials aircraft – Martlesham Heath
4 May 1925 Attended RAF Staff College
12 Apr 1926 Staff, HQ No. 22 Group
21 Sep 1926 supernumerary - awaiting disposal, HQ Iraq Command
3 Sep 1927 Staff, Deputy Directorate of Staff Duties.
9 Jan 1929 Test Pilot, Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment
2 Dec 1929 Officer Commanding, Flying Boat Development Flight.
11 May 1931 Officer Commanding, RAF High Speed Flight.
2 Jan 1932 Staff, HQ No. 1 Air Defence Group
22 Sep 1933 Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO), HQ Aden Command
1 May 1936 Staff, Directorate of Staff Duties
12 Jan 1937 Attended Imperial Defence College
20 Dec 1937 Officer Commanding, RAF Northolt
15 Oct 1939 Duty Air Commodore, HQ RAF Fighter Command
29 Jul 1940 Director of Flying Training
15 Oct 1940 Air Staff, HQ RAF Fighter Command
22 Jul 1941 AOC, No. 10 (Fighter) Group
4 Nov 1942
2 Mar 1943 Deputy Chief of Combined Operations


  1. ^ a b c Barrass, M. B. "Biography: Air Vice-Marshal A H Orlebar". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. 
  2. ^ "No. 29113". The London Gazette. 26 March 1915. p. 2998. 
  3. ^ Baker, Chris. "The Bedfordshire Regiment". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "No. 29359". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 November 1915. p. 11041. 
  5. ^ "No. 29775". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 October 1916. p. 9662. 
  6. ^ "No. 29798". The London Gazette. 24 October 1916. p. 10295. 
  7. ^ "No. 29818". The London Gazette. 10 November 1916. p. 10866. 
  8. ^ "Photographs of Supermarine S.6 N247 at the 1929 Schneider Trophy". Archived from the original on 3 May 2008. 
  9. ^ Sqn Ldr A Orlebar. "Schneider Trophy - Report on the 1931 Race". RAF. 
  10. ^ "Casualty Details: Orlebar, Augustus Henry". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  11. ^ "Podington church memorial". Roll of Honour. 
  12. ^ "Hainault Farm aerodrome, Essex". 

External links[edit]