Oliver Swann

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Sir Oliver Swann
Born (1878-11-18)18 November 1878
Wimbledon, London
Died 7 March 1948(1948-03-07) (aged 69)
Littleton, Guildford
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy (1895–1918)
Royal Air Force (1918–40)
Years of service 1895–1929
Rank Air Vice Marshal
Commands held No. 1 School of Technical Training (1939–40)
RAF Halton (1939–40)
RAF Middle East (1923–26)
Air Member for Personnel (1922–23)
Egyptian Group (1920–21)
Mediterranean Group (1919–20)
Orkneys Division (1917–18)
HMS Campania (1915–17)
HMS Niger (1910)
Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Commander of the Order of the British Empire

Air Vice Marshal Sir Oliver Swann, KCB, CBE (18 November 1878 – 7 March 1948), born Oliver Schwann, was a leading figure in the Royal Naval Air Service and senior commander in the Royal Air Force during the first half of the 20th century.

Early years[edit]

Schwann joined the Royal Navy in 1895, and was a lieutenant when in July 1902 he was posted as junior staff to the HMS Vernon, naval torpedo school ship at Chatham dockyard.[1]

Early naval aviation[edit]

In 1910 Schwann was selected to assist Captain Murray Sueter who was conducting pioneering naval aviation work with airships.[2] Later, Schwann bought an Avro Type D landplane (at his own expense with support from friends) for £700 and fitted floats to it.[2] Despite not having qualified as a pilot, Schwann managed to fly it off the water.[2] Although Schwann crashed the aircraft,this was the first aircraft take off by a British pilot from salt water.[2]

In November 1912, after Schwann had qualified as a pilot, he was appointed Assistant Director of the Air Department at the Admiralty,[3] making him deputy to Murray Sueter.[2] Over the next two years Sueter and Schwann worked to establish the Royal Naval Air Service.[2]

First World War[edit]

In 1914, just prior to the outbreak of the First World War, Schwann was promoted to captain and assigned to port duties.[3] The following year he was appointed captain of the aircraft carrier HMS Campania, a former Cunard liner that had been converted to carry a dozen aircraft.[3] Later in the war, Schwann served as Officer Commanding the Orkneys Division.[3] In 1917 Oliver Schwann anglicized the spelling of his name to Swann.[3] With the establishment of the Royal Air Force in early 1918, Swann was transferred to the new service.[3] He served as Deputy Chief of the Air Staff during the last months of the war and into 1919.[3]

Inter-war years[edit]

In April 1919 Swann was appointed Air Officer Commanding the Mediterranean District and the following year his command was redesignated as the Mediterranean Group.[3] On 1 June 1920, Swann was posted to become Air Officer Commanding Egyptian Group.[3] On his return to Great Britain in early 1923, Swann became Director of Personnel.[3] Later that year his post was retitled Air Member for Personnel when Swann became a member of the Air Council with responsibility for personnel matters.[3] Swann did not spend long at home. On 27 November 1923 Swann was appointed Air Officer Commanding RAF Middle East.[3] He held this post until late 1926 and he retired from the RAF in 1929.[3]

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War, Swann was recalled to service as the Commandant of No. 1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton.[3] He retired from the RAF for the second time in July 1940 and afterwards worked as the Air Liaison Officer for the North Midland Region.[3] Swann died only three years after the end of the Second World War on 7 March 1948 at his home in Littleton, Guildford.[2]


  1. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (36812). London. 5 July 1902. p. 9.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sir Oliver Swann at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation – Air Vice-Marshal Sir Oliver Swann
Military offices
Preceded by
Robert Groves
Deputy Chief of the Air Staff
Succeeded by
Robert Groves
New title
Formation established
AOC Mediterranean District
AOC Mediterranean Group from 1 April 1920

Succeeded by
Eugene Gerrard
Preceded by
Robert Groves
Air Officer Commanding Egyptian Group
Succeeded by
Bertie Drew
Preceded by
Director of Personnel
Post retitled Air Member for Personnel in 1923

Succeeded by
Sir Philip Game
Preceded by
Edward Ellington
Air Officer Commanding RAF Middle East
Succeeded by
Tom Webb-Bowen
Preceded by
George Dacre
Commandant, No. 1 School of Technical Training
Succeeded by
George Dacre